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Kelly Andersen: “Always be educating yourself”

Thought leadership immediately brings people in. They want to hear more about what you are doing and what you are going to do next. I believe thought leadership is a great recruiting tool to have. You are making noise in your specific industry and people are gravitating over your way to see how and why […]

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Thought leadership immediately brings people in. They want to hear more about what you are doing and what you are going to do next. I believe thought leadership is a great recruiting tool to have. You are making noise in your specific industry and people are gravitating over your way to see how and why you are doing it.

When I first started to speak about my ideas about the importance of digital marketing and storytelling in the Financial Services industry, I took inspiration from outside industries like tech and start-ups. This allowed me to look at the Financial Services world at a different angle and realize a lot of companies and firms were focused on the sale and the product instead of talking directly to the consumer and relating to them. I started being quoted in different publications about I approach marketing for our firm and was being asked to speak at internal company events as well. Attracting the right talent started to fall into place because we were making waves and got the attention of the candidates we wanted to work with.

Being a thought leader, you are coming up with new processes and systems to replace the old way of doing things. This will help your business be more efficient and get back to what the main reason you are in business. Being a thought leader helps your bottom line.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Andersen. Kelly is the Marketing Director at Wealth Continuum Group, a financial services firm based in Wilton, CT. She works with financial advisers and their teams to create unique brand stories that correlate to their niche markets that include content strategy, website development and other marketing initiatives. In addition, Kelly is a Certified Adjunct Professor at Sacred Heart University where she teaches their entrepreneurial course.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I started working in the Financial Services sector 4+ years ago when I was brought on to the team to manage all of the marketing initiatives. I was first introduced to Wealth Continuum Group when I was in college at Sacred Heart University, I was their first ever intern. I was tasked with setting up their social media accounts. Flash forward several years later, after I graduated college and started in the workforce, I was contacted by the president of the firm, Jim Pierce, to come in and hear about an opportunity within the company. The opportunity was to start their marketing department and give support to their financial advisers and to grow their individual brands while growing the agency’s brand, starting with a complete rebranding of the firm. Since then, I have also accepted an adjunct professor job at my alma mater, Sacred Heart University, teaching their “Introduction to Business” course where my students compete in a Shark Tank scenario to develop different start-up ideas from start to finish.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Marketing is taking a much larger role in so many industries, especially in Financial Services where storytelling and content creation is becoming the new norm. When I first started my career, storytelling and trying to connect to the consumer on a personal level was a main initiative. I wanted to find out what their pain points and challenges are while finding out what successes look like for them. The wonderful thing is that everyone has a unique story to tell and I wanted to help in telling it while drawing out the educational and positive side of financial planning. I am constantly reading, studying and testing out different tactics to stay ahead of the ever changing marketing landscape. This has given me a unique point of view that I share within my industry and outside.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Before starting in the Financial Services industry, I had no previous experience within the finance sector. This gave me a unique viewpoint and allowed me to look at things differently when I accepted my role as Marketing Director with a financial services firm. Along with being a blank canvas, I am a millennial marketer — technology is my best friend.

There are a lot of statistics being thrown around the Financial Services industry about the large opportunity for next generation of advisers to enter into the business because there is going to be a large number of advisers retiring over the next several years. In addition, the retention rate for “green” advisers in the business is extremely low. I knew that there was something we could do differently to help beat the statistic. The old process of bringing on a new adviser who is just getting started in the industry was to have them fill out a legal pad of 100 people they know and could approach on business. This was a very archaic process that I could not wrap my head around. Instead, I wanted to create a SWOT analysis on their 100 names and provide the new adviser value to see if they have a target market that we can then create a marketing plan and a story around instead of just going after friends and family to get their career started. This report has helped several of our new advisers find a path to take that has allowed them to become more successful, faster. I shared my findings within our industry and other firms are adopting the same report.

This idea seemed so simple to me but no one was doing anything like it. At the moment, I really didn’t think I was doing anything extraordinary but then my team and colleagues kept explaining to me what a resource this is and how this is going to change someone’s career to be successful. I learned that day, that even though there are processes in place because that is “how it always” has been done — someone with no bias can see an opportunity and make it better.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made when I first started revolved around my understanding of industry lingo and my learning curve. I did not have any previous experience in the Financial Services sector prior to accepting my position as Marketing Director. Like every industry, there are industry words that only people in financial services would know and understand. I am a very literal person and some might even say gullible. There is a term called “First Year Commission,” and I now know that that is how the adviser is paid when they submit new business. When I first started, I heard this term and kept thinking that the adviser is only paid in their first year. Like I said, I am a literal person. This obviously did not make sense to me because why would people then dedicate their careers to this profession if they are only paid in their first year of the business. I knew I was missing something and I finally asked a teammate of mine and we had a good laugh about it. To this day, it is a great networking story and I have not been able to live it down.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Being a thought leader in your industry is more than just people listening to you, it is the idea that you broke the mold and are no longer operating like it “has always been done.” You have a unique view and ideas that excite the people around you that will have a major effect on the bottom line. When you have something interesting to say, make sure it is heard — by everyone. Being a thought leader is a great thing to invest in because it is ultimately your career’s legacy. Everyone has a unique point of view and if you hone in on different ideas, test them out, get success that can be duplicated in your industry — that is the beginning of being a thought leader. It all started with an idea and looking at something differently.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Thought leadership immediately brings people in. They want to hear more about what you are doing and what you are going to do next. I believe thought leadership is a great recruiting tool to have. You are making noise in your specific industry and people are gravitating over your way to see how and why you are doing it.

When I first started to speak about my ideas about the importance of digital marketing and storytelling in the Financial Services industry, I took inspiration from outside industries like tech and start-ups. This allowed me to look at the Financial Services world at a different angle and realize a lot of companies and firms were focused on the sale and the product instead of talking directly to the consumer and relating to them. I started being quoted in different publications about I approach marketing for our firm and was being asked to speak at internal company events as well. Attracting the right talent started to fall into place because we were making waves and got the attention of the candidates we wanted to work with.

Being a thought leader, you are coming up with new processes and systems to replace the old way of doing things. This will help your business be more efficient and get back to what the main reason you are in business. Being a thought leader helps your bottom line.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Strategy 1: Always be educating yourself. Whether it is a podcast, article, blog or any other form of content you need to absorb as much information in your industry and outside of your industry. I get most of my ideas by staying up to date on tech and start-up industry news. I get inspiration from design and the language these different companies are using and I try to think about how I can replicate that idea in my own industry. This pushes my thinking process outside of the box and allows me to come up with new ideas.

Strategy 2: Start writing about your ideas on different platforms. I started writing a LinkedIn post here and there and would add my two cents on the subject matter. I would also go to the thought leaders in my industry and start engaging on their activity by commenting on their posts and adding my own thoughts. I started getting more connections with other individuals that were validating my ideas or challenging them which was giving me the opportunity to hone in my ideas and cultivate a strong message.

Strategy 3: Share, share, share! The best decision I made was to share my ideas with others. I made it a priority to take a trending marketing topic and write a post and share it to my network but then I would also talk to others within my organization and outside of it about said topic so I can learn their thoughts and keep crafting mine on the topic. This was a great exercise that showed several people you are keeping up with what is going on in your industry but also you learned to listen. I listened to so many people’s opinions that I agreed and disagreed with. I really enjoyed to see where others were coming from and those were some of the best conversations.

Strategy 4: Put yourself out there. I started to reply to media inquiries that interested me and I had something to say about them. I was not always chosen for the topic but it got me used to writing for media and get used to the styles journalists were looking for. I held myself accountable to apply for at least one media inquiry a day. I thought it was a long shot but then I started to see the articles, quotes, follow up interviews coming in and from that moment, I knew that I had something to say that people wanted to hear.

Strategy 5: Be consistent. I was posting every day on a trending marketing topic and had to come up with interesting ways to share my ideas so that I was not adding to the white noise. I was submitting media requests every day with my fingers crossed I would get chosen. I did this over and over again and it just became part of my daily routine. I got better at articulating my thoughts and adding to the conversation, I was getting more attention for my ideas and that was the difference to get into a thought leader position. I shared my thoughts, made them purposeful and made them easy for people to share. I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary but I was consistently putting my thoughts and ideas out there for people to engage with.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

There are so many people that I am inspired by in business and marketing. But if I were to pick one person that I think is making a lot of noise but also providing a massive amount of value it would be Gary Vaynerchuk from VaynerMedia. He is extremely transparent when it comes to all of his content and really rocks the boat when it comes to marketing asking his audience to take risks. I can never scroll past his videos on both Instagram and LinkedIn because he makes me think and challenge my day-to-day marketing initiatives.

Gary Vee is a mastermind at putting out so many different forms of content and he has a very strategic process of doing so. He takes all of his long form content that comes from his public appearances, podcasts, and videos and creates micro content that will be shared on his social platforms in different ways. He plays with short video snippets, cartoons, quotes and other engaging social content forms. He takes a topic and he and his team try to find all the different ways to break it up into short form content.

He is also a thought leader that is realizing that you need to have someone always filming you because that is where the raw content comes from that audiences are looking for. He has someone on his team that is responsible for his online documentary series that highlights what Gary’s day-to-day looks like as a CEO and thought leader. This is going to be something you see that other leaders will start doing and it will be the norm.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I can see how the term “thought leader” is overused because it is a trending phrase that interests a lot of people. With that being said, I believe there are so many thought leaders out there in all different industries that have something to say.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Have a balance. Work should not over consume your life. This is something I still struggle with because I know I have the tendency to stay until my to-do list is completed when I can easily pick up the next day and finish my tasks. Taking a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk’s playbook, “you should not live for the weekend.” This hit home because for a time frame, I was working just to get to the weekend and then would have to start the process all over again. If I kept down this path, I would have 100% burnt out. I broke this mentality by holding myself accountable to leave the office at a specific time every day and immediately go to the gym. This way I had to put my phone down and no longer could respond to emails, do any follow up calls or even create content to post on social. After the gym, I had the endorphin rush and felt good on my way home. When I get home, instead of opening up my laptop and continuing down my to-do list, I try to ready 4–5 industry and outside my industry trending articles.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Being a woman in a male dominated industry, I would love to inspire more women to enter into finance and technology related fields. I am blessed that I have several female mentors that are shaping the way for the next generation but there is still a lot that can be done. I have never not felt like I had a voice at my company and that has given me every opportunity to keep growing professionally and personally. The different ideas and solutions that can be created by having different voices represented would drastically change so many different industries and ultimately the overall consumer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My team live by a saying by Kaizen, “Where we excel, we will do better. Where we are good, we will do better. Where we need development, we will do better.” This is very relevant to being a thought leader because business is constantly evolving. If you are not looking for ways to do better, you are already behind.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many people that I am inspired by in business and marketing. But if I were to pick one person that I think is making a lot of noise and is also providing a massive amount of value it would be Gary Vaynerchuk from VaynerMedia. He is extremely transparent when it comes to all of his content and really rocks the boat when it comes to marketing asking his audience to take risks. I can never scroll past his videos on both Instagram and LinkedIn because he makes me think and challenge my day-to-day marketing initiatives.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My LinkedIn URL is https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyandersen41/

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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