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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode
  • How to navigate compliance and client testimonials
  • The role of AI in content creation (hint: it's not a replacement)
  • Biggest mistakes for Advisors to avoid.


This week we are taking a detour from technical tax topics and talking about how to get your tax planning message out there to prospective clients. Steven is joined by Marie Swift and Jonny Swift from Impact Communications to cover a variety of topics including how client testimonials can be compliantly used and how Advisors can effectively use AI tools to supplement their content creation without losing their voice and authenticity.

Ideas Worth Sharing:

“If you have glowing stars- five stars on all those Google reviews, people wonder, did you game the system?” - Marie Swift Click To Tweet “There's always going to be those handful of people that are just a little bit short of pleased with no matter what you do.” - Steven Jarvis Click To Tweet “It's really important to stake out as many online assets where you can be featured favorably as possible” - Jonny Swift Click To Tweet

About Retirement Tax Services:

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Read The Transcript Below:

Steven (00:51):

Hello everyone and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services podcast, financial Professionals Edition. I’m your host, Steven Jarvis, CPA, and with me this week I have a couple of very special guests who are going to help us with some of the things that go beyond the technical tax and help us make sure we’re getting things done in practice. Joining me, I have Jonny Swift, who is the VP and director of Digital media Strategy at Impact Communications, along with Marie Swift, who is the founder and CEO of Impact Communications. They’re both experts in this area and in this industry. I’m so excited to have you both on the show. So welcome! Jonny, let’s go ahead and kick things off with you. I would love for you to talk about, we’re going to weave this in a couple of ways, but let’s start with testimonials as the example of how advisors can do things in their marketing to really set themselves apart but stay compliant along the way.

Jonny (01:44):

Sure, definitely. Thanks for having us. I mean, testimonials under the new SEC marketing rule is still really fresh and fertile territory that I feel like a lot of advisors aren’t taking advantage of yet, but it’s something that can really set them apart from other advisors. It’s something that just shows prospective clients proof and credibility of how well that you serve clients. And so there are a lot of great ways to feature them. And so before we dive into disclosure requirements, compliance considerations, the best way that we’ve seen advisors harnessing testimonials is collecting them to display them on their website, whether that’s featuring them in a scroll on your homepage, setting up a standalone testimonials or client reviews page or your website, sprinkling them across the website in relevant places like maybe your about Page, your services page or even your who We Serve page. If you’re on your Who We Serve page, you have a list of different niches that you serve and you have a testimonial that’s from someone who falls within that niche and can speak to how you serve clients just like them.


That’s a great credibility booster and provides proof right there. And then you want to harness that back through all of your marketing materials, through your social media, doing graphics on social media, sprinkling them into your email newsletters alongside your other content, even putting them on brochures or other marketing collateral if you take out a digital ad in a local publication or something like that. And also alongside testimonials is collecting endorsements and reviews on other places across the web. And what’s especially important is Google reviews, which is huge for SEO that helps you show up higher in search results. It boosts your Google business profile, which is that listing that shows up in the top right and whenever anyone searches for your company. So it just provides a great first impression for anyone Googling you, and it just allows you to show up higher in search results. And so you can start collecting testimonials by setting up a survey on your own through SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, putting questions in there that are going to elicit the types of responses that you’re hoping to receive. And as part of your survey, you can even ask if respondents are willing to do a video testimonial and then capturing some videos to put back on your website and other marketing materials as well.

Steven (03:52):

Jonny, what are you seeing the advisors being successful with as far as the specific questions they’re asking? Because I would imagine it’s not just, Hey, Mr. And Mrs. Client, can you say nice things about me? What are the right prompts to be using?

Jonny (04:04):

And starting to wait into that compliance conversation? You can’t ask questions quite like that either. You can’t say, Hey, leave me a positive review, say some really nice things about me. Right? You have to lead with questions that are going to the list of the types of responses you’re looking for, but also don’t dictate whether or not they’re going to be positive or negative and you have to accept all the positive and negative comments. But we’ve seen success with clients asking things like think back to the beginning of our working relationship. How might things have been different had we not worked together or something like that, or what service do you think has been most valuable? And then you obviously want to have some questions in there that are just kind of freeform and give people the ability and freedom to leave whatever kind of comment they would like to.


Just talking more about the considerations with compliance. So when you are going to create this survey and you’re going to send it out to your client base and give them the opportunity to fill out the survey, to leave a review that they could possibly harness back into your marketing materials, every client needs to be given the same opportunity to leave a comment or leave a review. So should be sent out to your entire client base. And then obviously not every client is going to leave a review, but the ones who do when you are going to harness those on your website or marketing materials, you can’t cherry-pick. So you can’t cherry-pick specific clients to send it to. And then when you receive those comments, you can’t cherry-pick specific ones to just the positive ones. So in most cases, in all the cases that we’ve worked with advisors, over 90%, over 95% really have been positive clients.


And sometimes you get one negative comment and that does need to be included back in your marketing materials or at least needs to be indicative or an accurate representation or percentage of your overall comments. So no advisor’s going to receive a hundred reviews, but if you receive 90 reviews and 10 negative reviews, but you only want to feature 10 on your website just to give a good representation, it should be about the same percentage, the same accurate representation, nine positive, one negative. A lot of times you’re going to receive mostly positive reviews. Like I said, most advisors we’ve worked with on this have received all positive and then sometimes one negative that you sprinkle in and it actually, Marie, you always like to say how you actually think that that’s even better if a client receives one or a couple negative, right? Tell us why.

Marie (06:27):

I do. Because if you have glowing stars, five stars on all those Google reviews, people wonder, did you game the system? What did you do? Did you pay people? And Johnny, you can talk to that in a little bit about the disclosure language that you didn’t actually pay people, but the studies show that people are suspect if there isn’t a little bit of niggling here and there. I mean, when I go to look at Airbnbs, I always read for the people who say it’s a four star for me because I didn’t want shabby chic. I wanted the Marriott. Well, I love shabby chic, so give me shabby chic all day long. And that’s actually helpful for me to see the honest opinions of people who’ve been there.

Steven (07:06):

Well, the great news is that as a podcast host, I don’t have to comply with the SEC’s testimonial requirements. So I can shamelessly say, Hey, go give us a five-star review on Apple podcasts is really interesting you bring that up because I felt like it was really this milestone I hit with the podcast when it wasn’t five stars anymore because I knew I was getting a broader representation of who was listening. None of us are perfect. There’s always going to be those handful of people that are just a little bit short of pleased with no matter what you do. And so it sprinkles that dose of reality and that the podcast has 4.8 instead of five stars or that of your a hundred survey results, that there’s a handful of ’em that somebody is still expecting more.

Jonny (07:45):

And it’s certainly okay for someone to expect more. And actually you can use these surveys as a way to do a client review and see how you’re servicing clients and look for problem areas or other ways to potentially serve clients better. So there’s another benefit there of doing surveys like this and if you’re not happy with the results of your survey, you don’t have to go use them on your website or your marketing materials and you can just use it as an internal guide and tool in that way. But just a couple other things. So going back to compliance considerations. So whether you solicit or and ask people to leave reviews or you adopt, let’s say, so adoption would be like if someone goes to your Facebook page or you have a Yelp profile or goes to your Google review page when someone leaves a comment there, but you didn’t ask them to do that, they just did it on their own accord.


You don’t have to leave any disclosure language unless you have asked them to do that or you then adopt it. So if someone goes and leaves a Google review and you say, wow, those comments were so great, I’d love to add this to my testimonials page on the website, then whenever those comments are displayed online, for example, the Google Review page, you then need to go respond to that review and leave the proper disclosure language. And so you can say Thank you so much for this review and then leave your boilerplate disclosure statement and everyone’s disclosure statement is going to vary a little bit and you should always check in with your compliance officer and compliance attorney. But from my understanding, there are three main components of the disclosure statement that you need to have whenever you’re displaying these testimonials on your website or marketing materials or whenever you’re adopting comments from other places across the web.


So the first element of the disclosure statement is going to be the relationship that you have to the testimonial giver. So in most cases, that’s going to be a current client. And when you’re sending out this opportunity to people to leave a review, I highly recommend sticking to current clients, no past clients, no COIs or other contacts or anything like that, no other partners or anything like that. So the first state element would be these comments were given freely by a current client or current clients. The second element would be if they were compensated to leave the review. And so obviously we don’t recommend you compensate or pay anyone to leave a testimonial review that gets into really sticky territory, and I think that most of your clients are going to be willing to give positive reviews freely because they appreciate the service that you provide to them. And then so that the second element would just be no compensation was given in exchange for these comments, something along those lines. And then the final element would be if there are any material conflicts of interest between you and the testimonial givers. So again, sticky territory and if you try and avoid those situations in all cases. But the third element in most cases would just be there are no material conflicts of interest between this firm and the commenter.

Steven (10:37):

Johnny, I really appreciate the details there. That really helps with being able to put this into action. I can’t imagine there’s anybody listening to the podcast who isn’t aware that testimonials can now be used differently than they could in the past, but I know that’s where a lot of people get hung up. It’s the same when we talk about tax planning in general or even using tax planning in our marketing that it’s great to have a concept. It’s more important to have, how do I execute this? So I really appreciate you getting into the details there so that people walk away from this episode, they know what they can go do and start looking into.

Jonny (11:06):

Yeah, happy to. It’s still, like I said before, very fresh and fertile territory and everyone is still learning as we go and people are slowly wading into the waters. We’ve worked with about five or seven advisory firms now on testimonial campaigns and haven’t run into any issues with the SEC or any compliance issues. So we feel like we’re doing a pretty good job there. But as always, make sure to check in with your compliance officer or your compliance attorney because it’s a complicated rule and certain officers or certain attorneys have different interpretations of the rule. So Marie, what would you add?

Marie (11:41):

I would also add that we’re talking about SEC-registered investment advisors for the most part because every state is a little bit different. If you haven’t crossed the threshold or you’re filing with your state, sometimes it’s really difficult to get the guidance, but many of the more progressive states are following the SEC guidance. For instance, I think Massachusetts is one of the more progressive states, so make sure that you get an answer and that you’re comfortable pursuing this direction, but it’s so worth it, the social proof, the Google reviews, the Google Juice that you get that search engine value, it is gold. I mean, maybe Jonny, in closing before we go to the next topic, you could talk about one of our clients who had, what was it, like 150 positive Google reviews in the course of two months.

Jonny (12:29):

I think they’re up to 190 now, and they did a great job, crafted a really nice message to send out to their entire client base of about 700 clients and about 190 of them have gone to their Google Review page. You can generate a link that goes directly to your Google business page and it brings up the pop-up box where they can click the number of stars and leave a nice comment. And so they’ve received so many positive reviews there and it’s really helping them show up high in search results. When anyone, Google’s financial advisor in this area that they’re located in, they’re boosted up to the top of the search results because Google really values those ratings and those reviews there. And then they’ve even started repurposing those reviews back onto testimonials to feature on their website and throughout their marketing materials. So taking those comments that people leave on Google, reaching out to them and saying, Hey, would you also mind if we feature these on our website? And then repurposing them there and obviously leaving the required disclosure language in all the different places. So it’s been a huge boon for them, and they’re getting tons of extra leads and receiving cold calls and people are saying, we just saw your Google reviews and we’re so impressed. However, they’re not, they do have 195 star reviews, so I think they need a four-star to bump them down and make ’em more realistic a bit.

Steven (13:46):

I love hearing the client success stories that these things getting applied in practice. Let’s go ahead and shift topics just a little bit, Marie. I would love to hear your thoughts on how AI gets incorporated into marketing. I’ll be completely honest, I’m always very slow to adopt new technology. That’s just part of who I am. But I’m hearing more and more advisors ask questions about this, and really my interest comes from how do we effectively use AI in marketing without it replacing the voice or personality of the person delivering it? Because personally, I have yet to meet an advisor who has shown me how they’re effectively using AI to generate end content that I can’t immediately tell, Hey, that wasn’t you.

Marie (14:25):

Yeah, you hit on a really good point, which is voice and authenticity and in everything we do, pro-personal is the best blend, professional and personal. We want to be authentic, we want to be human beings, and that should come through in all of our content creation, whether it’s a graphic or a video or a podcast or written materials, and AI can help us with all of that. I have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic when I started playing around with some of the AI tools. Well, not even a year ago. I was like, ah, I am such a good communicator. Nobody can ever get my voice. Well, I haven’t found AI can get my voice, but what I have found is that it can be a really great springboard for new ideas. It can be a time saver. I’ve used it to get ready for interviews where it’s like, gosh, I’m just feeling brain dead at the end of the day.


Not today, of course, but I’m talking to a journalist and I need three talking points on how to work with the press. I’ll ask Chat, GPT how Give me three top points on working with the press. It’s like a duh. Of course I knew that and now I’m going to say it better because it’s going to come in my own voice and authenticity. I would say that that’s one of the pitfalls. You should never ever use AI and copy-paste. It’s never going to be you. People are going to be able to tell. It’s going to be stilted and kind of clunky and probably a little bit too precise because I think human beings ramble a little bit. Their writing style is like long, long, short, short, long, long. AI is going to be chop, chop, chop kind of precise. So I can tell AI writing or else it’s just a person who’s really a bad communicator and doesn’t want to be fluid in their verbalization. So I think that the benefits are starting to prove themselves, and the more I work with AI and different tools and train it and prompt it and I learn how to be a better prompt person, I’m prompting the AI by giving it enough material to train on my voice. And so I can talk a little bit about use cases and the tools I’m using at some point if you’d like.

Steven (16:30):

That’s really interesting. I appreciate that perspective of, hey, let’s use it as a resource to supplement what we’re doing, not as a replacement of what we’re doing because especially on a topic like tax planning, which obviously is one that we talk about on the podcast on a pretty regular basis and certainly one that I see a lot of interest from advisors on including in their marketing because it is still very much a differentiator, especially if you can produce quality content. I’d be curious to see what you guys are seeing from your side of this lens, but I see the word tax come up more often, but I still see it as more of the exception than the norm that someone is really delivering quality content and service around this topic. And so being able to use a tool like AI to supplement your content production seems like potentially a huge benefit to the people who are willing to lean in and figure it out.

Marie (17:20):

I would say on technical things like tax, there’s this pretty, you got to be accurate. You can’t just have stuff be made up. It can’t be mostly right. It needs to be all right. So one of the downfalls with some AI and probably all AI suspect is it might not be accurate. It might not be up to date. It depends on the tool and where it was trained and what the latest version of it is. So be a little wary, double check the facts, source, source your comments if you can. I use something called reword and after I run something through say, chat, GPT, or Microsoft copilot, I’ll run it through Reword and it will say, do you think that your audience would like to know statistics about? And then it prompts me and I’m like, oh, yeah, they would really like to know about where that source, or could I add something to make the point, like a statistic or a study from credible news publication or maybe a consulting firm like McKenzie, and it just makes me think harder about how to make my writing better, and then I go back through it a couple different times until I’m happy with it.


And then there’s a proofing process. But I wrote a lot for different publications, professional publications, and I don’t want anything out there with my name on it that isn’t really good and isn’t really accurate.

Steven (18:38):

Yeah, completely agree. The other piece that comes to mind, we’ve been talking about compliance a little bit. Just a reminder to not put client-sensitive data into AI tools. If you want to anonymize use cases, you’re welcome to do not feed your client tax returns into chat GPT, make sure we’re anonymizing things. Maybe I’m getting a little bit carried away or paranoid, but that is an aggressive rule that I have for my team. I am all for you using tools that supplement what we do. Please do not ever, ever, ever, never put personal client data into AI tools.

Marie (19:10):

And some of the advisors we’ve been talking with are even more concerned, like just privacy, client privacy in general, like we use Fireflies, which is an AI note taker at Impact. We use that on all of our client meetings. We love it. It saves us so much time because we get an AI-generated transcript and an AI-generated summary plus the recording, both audio and video, and it just helps us do a better job with our call recaps and follow-up. But there are industry-specific tools now that are guarding privacy even more, and I’ll look up the list of those in just a minute, but I would say just while we’re talking about things to watch out for is the hallucinations and sometimes the AI will just make something up or it will say it doesn’t know something because it’s not trained, but plagiarism, attribution, sourcing.


Just on the flip side of that, if you do want to protect some of your IPs, say your blog or a webinar, make sure you put some kind of a disclosure, a notice on that piece of material, not just on your website in the footer, but on each and every blog post. It says something like this blog post on the PESO model, paid earned share and known was sourced from the mind of Marie Swift at Impact Communications on May 24th, 2023, copyright, blah, blah. That way we have a fighting chance that when the AI comes along in the future and it scrubs my website, oh, we want to write something about the PESO model. Oh, Marie Swift said this on May 24th, 2023. So we’re starting to add that to all of our client IP, their intellectual property as well.

Steven (20:51):

That’s really interesting. It’s definitely something that’s going to continue to evolve and change over time. The other thing I’ll add, you mentioned hallucinations specifically with tax planning. Tax laws change all the time, and most websites, including the IRS, is not really great at getting rid of old and outdated data. And so especially if you are not taking the time to review the output, you can get yourself in a lot of really uncomfortable situations where you’re publishing information that’s two and three and five and 10 years out of date. I mean, sometimes even Google who spends more money on search engines than any of the rest of us combined, the top results will be IRS website links from 10 years ago that hasn’t been relevant in years. So definitely we will second that recommendation that you’re reviewing everything. You publish that your name still goes on this, you want to make sure that you feel confident about the output regardless of the tools you use to create it.

Marie (21:42):

Yeah, I looked up the names of the more compliant industry-specific note-takers, and there are two that I know of. One is Zocks, like socks only with a Z- Z-O-C-K-S, and the other one is Powder AI. But a couple other tools we all know about Chat, GPT. Canva is a great graphic design program and it has a number of AI functionalities for creating artwork. Drop a background out, put a surfboard in the background, put a parrot on Marie’s shoulder, whatever, you can just tell it in text and it’ll go find some things like that, a lion with sunglasses. It’s really great. We love Canva. I would also say Reword, I mentioned there are some specific ones in the industry that are using AI to help with portfolio analysis and recommendations such as REM AI, it’s REM AI or SOA Finance scrubs the internet and looks for better loans for your clients. Those are industry-specific. Oh, one other Advisor X, that’s a new one that I’m testing and Wealth Management, GPT. So those are more industry-specific that are geared towards advisors with, it’s almost like a training ground for being a better person for prompting and creating that content on the output and with privacy protection built in.

Steven (22:59):

Thank you so much for the list of tools that people can go out and look at before we shift here to action items to make sure that people can take this information and turn it into value. I’d love to hear from both of you on the most common mistakes you see advisors making when it comes to marketing or how they get their names out there.

Marie (23:15):

Yeah, so I think one of the biggest mistakes is failing to specialize, trying to be all things to all people. So for instance, specializing in tax, making sure that your clients have holistic advice that you’re working with a specific type of client that you have that communicated on your website and in your materials and in your elevator speech, that value proposition, who do you work with and why? And what do you do that’s beyond just the investment management? We see that wealthy clients want more than just UM services more than just financial planning services. So a lot of our RIA clients are adding estate planning services and tax planning services in-house so that they have a one-stop coordinated approach versus partnering with an outside resource such as a CPA. So failing to specialize in knowing who you serve, those are two big mistakes.

Jonny (24:11):

I’d say other mistakes could just be not expanding your online presence as much as you possibly can. Obviously, the digital age is more important than ever. Having a strong online presence is more important than ever, and I feel like a lot of advisors don’t get out there in as many places as they possibly could. So I think it’s really important to stake out as many online assets where you can be featured favorably as possible, and it’s really important to cross-link between all of them and just build up what we like to call a digital spider web in the cloud. And obviously your website’s the hub of your entire online presence, but having as many satellite entities as possible where you can feature information about yourself, who you serve, all the different services you offer, the content you’re producing, and some of the AI-generated content even are some of the testimonials that we’ve talked about. And then linking back from all the different assets and ultimately linking back to your website to drive traffic there. Bring more people into the top of your funnel. Just really widen the top of your funnel by giving yourself more places to be found easily online. 

Steven (25:17):

I really appreciate that. It’s so helpful to be able to know what to be on the lookout for to make sure that we avoid these pitfalls and learn from people who have kind of come before us. There’s a few different action items that come to mind for me as I think back through this conversation that we’re having. One of ’em is definitely that we need to be proactive with these things. And so we talked especially early about compliance and taxes and compliance come up in the same conversation quite often. So this is something that my audience has heard me say before, but it bears repeating that you are going to have better outcomes for your business, for your clients, for yourself if you are proactive and look at your compliance as part of your team. This isn’t what can we get past them. This is how do we proactively work to make sure that we’re all staying in line with what needs to be done.


Really appreciate that both of you talked about specializing in the importance of that. I can think of any reason to bring this action item up, but this highlights the importance of knowing what your specific clients need. And so when that comes to tax planning to be able to focus on what’s relevant to your clients, it’s about getting actual tax returns for your clients so that instead of just going to chat GPT and saying, Hey, give me five tax planning topics, it’s, Hey, I need five topics for taxpayers who are over the age of 65 who are concerned about IRMAA, who have large amounts of pre-tax accounts that they need to deal with at some point. And now we get to narrow it down and really focus on what’s going to be most relevant to our current audience and the audience that we’d like to have.


And then the last thing I’ll say that comes out of this conversation, at least for me, is that these things are going to keep changing. Whether that’s the specific rules around taxes, what opportunities are out there or the technology that’s there, the rules for advisors, for marketing, whatever it might be, these things are going to change. You have to lean in and either commit to figuring this out yourself or partner with someone who can help you along the way. And so Marie and Jonny, if you’ll talk real briefly about what Impact Communications does for advisors and how people can learn more because you provide resources around these topics we’re discussing today,

Marie (27:15):

We do. And anyone who would like a list of resources that pertains especially to this conversation today, just shoot an email to And the person on the other end of that email will send you back a PDF with a lot of links and things that we have collected that pertain to the SEC testimonial marketing rule and the AI content creation. And then a couple of other things about working with the media, which I don’t think we’re going to get time to talk about today, but that could be a topic for another day because we believe in that social proof and that credibility, that credibility marketing to go along with the personal marketing. And that’s what we do at Impact Communications. We work something called the PESO Model. It stands for paid, earned, shared, and owned, and it’s been around for a while, but we like to flip it on its head and say, OESP, O is for owned.


The things that you own and create that are uniquely yours. That’s the custom content that you’re probably self-publishing. And then OE, E is for earned being in the media and earning that attention where you can’t pay for that Halo effect is just that good. If you’re quoted in the New York Times, you must be Good, or even the local newspaper. So OES, S is for shared social media and that social proof that comes from communities of people endorsing your views, opinions, helping to help their friends and family by sharing what you’re putting out on social. And then OESP, the P stands for paid, and we think that in a service-based business, you really can’t throw enough money at paid advertising. Plus it looks a little less credible than the other elements of the OESP PESO model if you flip it around. So we work all of those elements for our clients. We build custom marketing plans, and then after we create the strategy, we help them execute. So we’ve been doing it for 30 years as Impact Communications. Jonny’s been around for about half that time. I’ve been around the full time. And we’re family-owned and operated, and we only work with independent advisors and allied institutions like custodians and FinTech companies.

Steven (29:21):

Wow, that’s really exciting. I appreciate you sharing all that. So if you’d like to learn more. The other thing that I’ll put out there, because Marie, you mentioned it earlier in passing, that we are doing this tax planning summit later this year in addition to fantastic resources like Impact Communications. Where I see some of the most success for advisors is when they can learn from other people who are doing these things successfully. And so getting in a room with a hundred other advisors who are doing things similar to you or things that you would love to be doing and be able to ask them that question, yes, it’s a Tax Planning Summit. I won’t kick anyone out if in between sessions they’re asking questions about marketing, being able to get in a room with people and say, Hey, what are you doing? Who are you working with? What resources are you leveraging? How are you seeing success? That’s how advisors level up year after year. So Johnny Marie, thank you so much for being here. Really enjoyed the conversation, really appreciate your time. One last time, for our listeners, it’s And until next time, good luck out there. And remember to tip your server, not the IRS!


The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.

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