Orange branded background image with Libby Langley in a black floral top and Neil

Libby: Welcome to this week’s episode of Social Media and Me, my little chat show where I talk to business owners about their life, their business, their experience, and how social media has helped them, particularly during the last year, which, as we know for quite a few businesses, has been a bit of a challenge. So today I am talking to Neil Wattam from WKM Wealth.

We’re going to be talking about LinkedIn specifically because Neil runs a new business, which is rather exciting just about a year in now to when they started. They predominantly use LinkedIn for their marketing, which is good to talk about for a change because I don’t often talk about LinkedIn as much, pretty much Instagram focus these days.

Welcome to your first Instagram live. I think it is.

Neil: It is. Yeah, thanks.

Libby: I was just saying in the intro there that you are still classed as a new business. You’re not quite a year yet are you?

Neil: Yeah, we’re a month away,

Libby: Which is very exciting and. Well, what a year to pick.

Neil: Yeah, a year like no other. I hope, I don’t know.

Libby: Well, who knows. I mean this just might be the continuing test of our resilience for the rest of our working lives, who knows.

Neil: Absolutely.

Libby: But it’s a shame we’ve got the dexterity, if nothing else. I’m interested in talking to you today partly because you’re a new business but also because LinkedIn has been your focus in terms of the marketing and getting the business going, which is a nice different angle. I talk to a lot of people and Instagram is pretty much people’s focus. LinkedIn is a welcome change to talk about. So do you want to do a proper intro?

Neil: Yeah. As you said, we’re a new business. We started in April 2020. Four of us started the business and we do financial planning and investment management for people, families, businesses and it’s a nearly year gone. It’s been a fantastic year. We don’t know anything else. So as a business, this is all we know. We’ve probably only seen ten percent of our clients, if that.

Otherwise, everything’s been done virtually – everything’s been online. We set up our business to be online so the fact the pandemic had kicked in as we were going live was irrelevant from a sort of set up perspective. We were expecting to have everything in the cloud. There’s no change.

Libby: Did you expect to have a slightly more, I suppose, traditional method of working in that you were planning on seeing more clients? Or was that that always planned to be online as well?

Neil: No, I think that’s probably the big change. I don’t think we expected anything like this. That said, we do have clients all over the UK, so some of them probably would, but there’s definitely more for sure.

Libby: Do you think that’s a surprise in some ways that you set up this traditional model of business, you know, financial planning, financial advice has been around for a long time. It’s something that we’re all aware of and the way of doing it has been to have people have come around to your house often and things. Have you been surprised that actually it works just as well, if not better, by having these scheduled online meetings and just doing everything bit more remote? Have you found it more difficult to engage with people, to convert people to buy your products? Or have you been surprised that it hasn’t actually made any difference?

Neil: I think the latter. I think we’ve been slightly surprised and pleasantly surprised. I think clients have as well. They almost assumed you have to do it face to face, but in reality you don’t. I think going forward, we will end up with a mix. Some people would like to see you face to face. Some people are quite happy to fit in whenever they want, whenever we want. I think because we typically deal with older people and I think a lot of people might think, well, they’re less tech savvy, but actually most of them are very, very much on it.

It’s almost maybe the industry has had a view that they’re not. And therefore, that’s how we’ve done it.

Libby: I think that I put you with legal, solicitors, estate agents, those kind of legal type businesses. I think that has been very much you must wear a suit and tie, you must have a high street presence, you must meet people face to face. But actually, the pandemic has forced you as a collective to think perhaps how I suppose people like me, much smaller businesses have been operating for years.

It’s quite refreshing, actually. I think the use even like this, tools like this, you can do exactly the same job without having to take your slippers off – it makes everything much more accessible, doesn’t it? I would imagine that you are talking to some people who perhaps might have been a bit nervous to book meeting a face-to-face meeting because it feels more like you have to commit if someone’s coming to see you, whereas a chat online ends up with the same result but it doesn’t have the same kind of barriers. Have you found that?

Neil: Yeah, I think so. I think people are just more willing to have a chat like this. It’s informal and we always badge it as that. But when it’s like you say, more formal in a sense of being a booked in person meeting. I wonder if that’s a bit of a mindset thing, again, linked to the past. But, you know, if we did two a year for a client before, it might be one person, one virtual, for example.

Libby: Yeah, I think that’s good enough. That’s a really interesting shift in the industry. I mean, we bought we bought a house last year and moved last year, so we went through the whole mortgage solicitor, all of that. We didn’t see anybody ever. A lot of it was actually just a phone call – not even Zoom or anything like that. It felt a lot easier just being able to fit things in much more. I think that’s really interesting and I think it’s probably helped the business to grow perhaps more than it would have done because you don’t have the time restrictions and you’re not wasting time by driving. The pandemic has partly contributed to your successful growth.

Neil: Yeah. I mean, we don’t know any different, but what we’ve done has worked, whether that’s tech or our approach or both or what.

Libby: So what made you choose LinkedIn to start marketing the business? Is that again a kind of tradition thing?

Neil: Well, we’ve actually tried a few, so we did set off, with LinkedIn and Twitter, but we thought Twitter because of maybe doing investment updates and more reactionary things, but actually quickly decided you need to be on there too much to make it worthwhile so, we stopped that. We are on Facebook and we’re doing a little bit on there but that’s more because it’s relatively easy. Most of us are of an age where we’re familiar and it’s another tool set that we think, well, let’s try and explore. But LinkedIn has definitely been the number one and it’s been the most successful by a long way.

Libby: I mean, part of that will be because you’re investing the most time and effort into it therefore it’s going to be the most successful. What sort of things have you found have worked best for you sharing on LinkedIn?

Neil: I think it’s just a mix – I’ve had quite a lot of feedback saying how personable I have been and we are as a business – a breath of fresh air. That’s not to say everyone else is not doing that, but we’re doing it our way, mixing a bit of personal stuff, a bit of business stuff, a bit of education, just mixing it up, but keeping a presence. You know, I think it’s probably a lot of stuff, no doubt and I know I’ve been on some of your courses. It’s stuff that we talk about, its consistency. It’s not trying to be too stuffy obviously in a regulated industry. We have to be mindful of what we but the other day, posting about some new wheels for my bike, it got a lot of attention and whether people do anything off the back of it, who cares? But it’s showing another side.

Libby: Yeah, and that’s and that’s where LinkedIn has kind of fallen down, I think previously. It’s becoming much more relaxed. I posted something recently about exactly that yesterday in fact, about letting your guard down and use an example of something that happened on LinkedIn. And I think letting people into your life a little bit more helps you to resonate with people and helps people to see, actually, you know, I’ve got a bike and so we can talk about bikes and also about the financial stuff. It just makes everything a little bit less intimidating when you’re dealing with something like that. That’s interesting. Do you do most of the marketing through the four of your profiles? Do you have a business page as well?

Neil: We do both, but most of it through ourselves as individuals – that’s probably the mix we’re going to continue. We don’t want someone coming across our corporate account and going oh they last posted in December 20 or, you know, that’s not that long ago – kind of a dormant account. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a mix. I think our personalities are us and that’s what makes our business.

Libby: Exactly. I mean, you’re a service-based business, I’m a service-based business and that’s exactly right. If you don’t communicate some of your personality, then people have, nothing to hook onto and to start to trust. The business page is definitely a different kind of feel on LinkedIn – the business page can be the more traditional kind of message, I suppose, as long as that ticks over and has consistent stuff and you guys can all share that. The personality is definitely on your individual profiles and that will be what gets the results exactly like you say. What’s been the most interesting thing that’s come out of the marketing that you’ve done? The most surprising thing, most interesting conversation or best client or whatever?

Neil: I think overall it’s been the success overall through LinkedIn in particular getting clients. We have I don’t know how many clients we have, but over a dozen clients just from LinkedIn alone, which we know some of the guys in our business, were perhaps if I say a little old school on the oh it won’t work, we won’t get anything from it, but we have. Therefore, that’s a general point that has been surprising to a degree, because do people see it as marketing or is it social media? Or is it what is it, a job search function? I think that’s probably been the biggest thing. The clients we’ve had from it do range. There’s some bigger ticket clients with some more modest but that’s the nature of our business again as well.

Libby: Well, absolutely and each client will tell a friend. That’s how it grows. That’s interesting that you that you say that really. I think that the perception of social media from some of the more traditional type businesses – it is just this fluffy social thing. There is an element of that. But it’s just networking. Solicitors and financial advisors and accountants, you know, they’re all over every single networking group that you belong to, that you visit, you go to. Why? I’ve never quite understood why they are slower, when you guys traditionally, are slower to embrace something like social media when all it is is a networking meeting on acid. You have the world at your fingertips really if you do it right. It’s great to hear that you’ve been embracing it and using it and it’s been working for you.

Neil: Yeah, exactly. That’s just a message I think in a way of just keep going. You won’t get instant results. You never do. But just keep doing the same sort of thing that feels right to you and that’s going to hopefully then come across to your potential clients or like you said, oh, I told my friend or my dad or someone, whether you do it or not.

Libby: It’s about knowing that somebody is kind of a nice person. The post that I did yesterday that I’ve mentioned was about a chap who on LinkedIn, I’m connected to him. I can’t remember where from or why, but he put something in the stories on LinkedIn, which has been kind of is relatively new and not really embraced. He was just sitting in his car and just said, well, here’s, stories I don’t know want I’m doing with this.

It was so guard down that actually I messaged him to say that was really funny. You know, that was and we had a bit of a chat and he said that actually quite a few people had been in touch and said the same thing. He’s actually got some proper conversations out of it. It’s just almost put your head above the parapet, isn’t it? Doing something, just say, look, this is me this is what I do, but I’m also a person that is so refreshing.

Neil: Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing, especially in our industry. Yes, relatively taboo. Some people don’t get it at all – it’s very personal. So, you know, trying to get interacting with people on that sort of subject can be pretty tricky.

Libby: Yeah. There are so many things that you can talk about breaking down when you say financial advice, you just thinking, well, I don’t and that’s not for me. But then actually, if you break it down into bite sized chunks and you start to appeal to a whole different audience who perhaps have never really, other than mortgages and perhaps a pension, all the other things that are available. Just by doing this, you’ve mentioned consistency, but just by consistently putting out this message and talking and being nice – it’s as simple as that really isn’t it. It’s debunking all the myths surrounding that. Well, I’m not good enough to be in that club. Well actually you are.

Neil: It’s difficult to break down those barriers. But again, just keep chipping and keep the same message on similar topics, but break them down and people will hopefully get it even if they use us. If it means that they can get a way forward that suits them, then great.

Libby: Completely agree. Just because you put one thing out and somebody doesn’t ring you immediately, it’s not a case of being disheartened. You need to put out 50 things before you have the right conversation. It becomes almost a routine and a habit, then when you start to get that first call – so this does work. So many people give up. It’s great to hear you acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t always work overnight.

What’s been the biggest challenge in this last year? I know you’ve set up a business and it’s worked really well so it’s all been fine but there will have been challenges. What have they been?

Neil: I guess it is getting going.  It’s getting process, getting into routines. We recruited as well during the year. We set up our office during the year. It’s all been go. The challenge, I guess, is getting into a routine, getting processes. It’s almost the boring stuff in the background. But to be a successful business for the next twenty-five, whatever it years, we need to lay those foundations. It is taking time to do that. That’s probably been almost difficult because you want to get out there, try and get clients and do that exciting stuff but actually focussing on the business still make sure it’s working. Yeah. Whilst you know when we designed it from scratch only, eighteen months ago in terms of the systems, the processes and then when you’re up and running we wrote that and now we need to do this. That’s been the challenge I think. Obviously bringing Loz into our team last September, imbedding her, getting her trained up and all that stuff has been difficult.

She’s our operations manager, so helps us work with clients. Again, it’s that back-office-front, but equally working with clients. Building that business, getting it working, getting the processes because we want to expand, we can’t do that if the old thing of the foundations are rubbish, then everything on top will be.

Libby: Absolutely. It is something that people often overlook because like you say, the shiny, exciting thing is working with the clients and making sales and here we go. But if you haven’t got the foundations there then you can’t scale your business. You just simply can’t it’s good that you’ve got a woman in to keep things like that.

Neil: Yeah, well, we were genuinely keen to do that. It was different, she’s not financial services, so she’s had to come into a completely alien world with four guys who are running the business. But we’re really keen to do that. And it will make us a better business, we think.

Libby: Actually, having someone who’s not got experience in the industry is often the best thing I find because they look at things in a slightly different way and won’t necessarily know the jargon so will break it down into something that’s us layman will understand. I think that’s quite a valuable asset. As long as they’ve got skills in order to be able to do the job, then the other stuff you can you can teach really.

Neil: It’s the mindset. Attitude. Ethics. The way we want to work, irrespective of whether she knows what this all about. Yes. Yeah.

Libby: I couldn’t agree more. That’s great. This year then, have you found it stressful or fun or both?

Neil: Definitely both.

Libby: Which is bigger?

Neil: Fun has to win out because working with friends is an unusual position for a lot of people. And it’s a privilege really. That has been fun. But, we have had undoubtedly stressful moments, not least getting it launched, getting FCA approval was stressful.

Libby: Oh, crikey I bet.

Neil: It absolutely was – until they had said yes, we didn’t have a business. There’s definitely been that, but since then, I would say it’s been fun definitely.

Libby: It should be if it isn’t fun what you’re doing then you might as well have a job. Get paid, annual leave and all of those sick pay and all those things that you get at a job. I mean, people who work for themselves and aren’t really loving it, it breaks my heart really, because I just think you might well have a job.

Neil: Yeah. It just comes with hard graft, which is fine. Happy to do it whenever I want to do it, you know. But it’s genuinely been fun. Definitely stressful.

Libby: No that’s all right. If you can make that happy marriage then that’s good. I mean I remember my first year in business, ten years this year I’ve doing it but it changes, things can change every day and that’s one of the beauties. Let’s go down that path and let’s implement that system. That first year, I think I was just on a massive high.

It’s so excited. Not necessarily really reflecting on how stressful it actually was. It’s funny when you look back and you think, oh, you know, working all those hours and doing all these things and learning everything new. It was bonkers really. It’s a good first year and you meet lots of new people which is really exciting and lots of other people in business. There’s this real energy around people who work for themselves. I think that was one of my favourite things, actually. First is that the people that I met and how inspiring I found them all.

Neil: Yeah, I think we’ve been also been fortunate that there is four of us or now five. It wasn’t lonely in that respect, I can imagine a lot of people will set up on their own, but therefore reach out.

LinkedIn is good in a way now or better for reaching out and looking for support and stuff. So that’s a big help.

Libby: Oh, absolutely, there are tons of places you can get support. Facebook, there’s loads of Facebook groups which are designed just for that rather than being practical rather than let’s give each other a hug. Like what do you kind of need. Social media is a great place to reach out and get that American expression, to get help. What would you say is the one key thing that you’ve learnt in your first year of business and in this pandemic year that will help another business owner either about the way you market your business or something to do with the Start-Up?

Neil: Don’t take what you’ve heard too much from focussing on maybe tech and marketing as a thing and don’t just accept oh that might not be appropriate. It might not work. Just try it. We’ve tried so many things and some things have worked. Some things we’re still trying. Some things we are still yet to try. But we’re willing. Most things cost something, whether it’s time or money. But do it, just try it.

You might be surprised. We didn’t know how certain things would work out, what we’ve done, what we’ve picked. I don’t know, 70 percent of things have probably worked without knowing what actually has but, it’s been quite high. I think some people have got into them thinking, why are we doing it that way or this way? Used to work for me. Well, let’s try this. I think it’s not rocket science. Don’t be afraid.

Libby: No, it’s a really good lesson actually. Just because it’s always been done that way. Don’t be afraid to do it. Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right there and breaking the mould and trying things that perhaps work in other industries.

Neil: Back to this oh, this doesn’t work in our industry. Well as long as you can do it in the regulatory environment, then why not.

Libby: Absolutely. One thing that I have really liked about this this last year is the fact that, everybody’s had to adapt and it has made some stuffy unapproachable industries just have to be like the rest of us and admit that they are just people, doing jobs and serving people, like we all are. That has been really, really positive. Really refreshing, actually. I think it’s been good for your business that you’ve kind of had to start like that.

I mean, I’m sure you would have done anyway because, you’ve set up new and you’re obviously innovative and all of that. But actually having to think differently, made you think even more differently than you would have done which is great. So that’s fab. Well done on your first year almost what day is it officially.

Neil: The 20th of April.

Libby: We’ve got another month yet so I’m sure it’ll be fine. You’ll be fine once you got the first year hurdle out the way then that’s it.

Neil: Actually, another thing is use professionals – reach out to people like you and like other people just for a chat. Just don’t be afraid. Message, I suppose, but lean on people with expertise, even if it’s just. Most people will happily give five, 10, 15, whatever for a chat.

Libby: You’re absolutely right. I sometimes message it mostly through Instagram, the big people in my industry, the leading people and you think, well they’re not going to reply to me, who am I? But actually, you start these quite interesting conversations and it’s remembering that all these people are just people. They’ve been through everything that we’re going through. They’re sometimes quite happy to help. I love it when I get messages from people saying, what do you think about so and so? I’m like ah-ha, yeah, let me tell you about that. It’s great. It’s really flattering to be on the expert end. When you’re on the question asking and be inquisitive it’s great to be able to be helped. So, yeah, you’re absolutely right.

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