Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Brian Thorp. I believe everyone deserves help related to money matters, from someone they can trust. But most websites designed to help people find a financial advisor are trying to weed out anyone with less than a minimum sum of $500,000 to invest.
I founded Wealthtender in 2019 to help people enjoy life more with less money stress, no matter their income or stage of life. Today, more than 40,000 people visit wealthtender.com each month, where they can find financial advisors and coaches who don’t require a minimum investment. And for people who prefer to manage their money independently, we help them discover personal finance blogs and podcasts at no cost.
Wealthtender currently generates $8,000 a month in revenue from financial professionals who choose a nominal monthly subscription tier for a range of digital marketing benefits, including being featured in Wealthtender directories and articles.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before starting Wealthtender, I enjoyed a 22-year career with Invesco, a large global asset management company. The job’s best part was working with such wonderful people inside the company and throughout the financial services industry.
In the summer of 2019, I took advantage of a timely opportunity to exit stage left. While the experiences gained in the corporate world were tremendous, I always felt an entrepreneurial calling and had begun fleshing out my vision for Wealthtender.
With the shortcomings I observed in the marketplace among websites turning people away who hadn’t already accumulated a sizable nest egg, I designed Wealthtender to have an inclusive feel instead of an offputting and intimidating experience.
Throughout my career, I also observed how regulatory changes created opportunities for disruption and innovation. I anticipated a new rule could be forthcoming from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would finally reverse a rule that kept financial advisors from being able to ask their clients for testimonials or collect and promote online reviews.
When the SEC announced in late 2019 their intent to overturn the prohibition established 60 years prior, I knew we could design Wealthtender as the first financial advisor online review platform designed for SEC compliance. In 2021 as the new SEC regulations took effect, we concurrently announced the launch of our SEC-compliant online review platform for financial advisors to help consumers make more informed and educated hiring decisions.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
The rollout of Wealthtender has been an iterative process with plenty of lessons learned along the way!
Ideation for the website began in late 2018 while I was still working at my corporate job in Houston. I was fortunate to know several months in advance that my last day of employment would be in May. This afforded me several months to dedicate nights and weekends to laying the groundwork for the business while still earning a paycheck.
During this time, I began speaking with a friend who is a website developer and he recommended building the platform on WordPress which has proven years later to provide us with a flexible and scalable solution as we’ve grown.
In the fall of 2019 when we first launched the website, we focused on publishing content produced by a team of freelance writers who began contributing articles on a diverse range of personal finance topics.
We selected writers who connect with readers by sharing their own anecdotes and life experiences to ensure these personal finance articles truly feel personal. Once published, we promoted the content across our social media channels and to email subscribers.
Concurrent with the small, but steadily growing library of content, we focused on wireframing the website to include a directory platform to showcase profiles and reviews of financial professionals and online resources.
In late 2019, we launched our first directory on Wealthtender to help consumers discover personal finance blogs. Through our participation and networking in FinCon, a popular online community and annual conference among financial blog owners, we extended invitations to members of the network to create accounts and customize their profile pages on Wealthtender.
In early 2020, we expanded our platform to include a directory of financial podcasts.
As of early 2023, Wealthtender generates over 30,000 visitors each month and ranks on the first page of Google for search terms important to our business.
The early experiences and feedback we received from blog and podcast owners helped us refine and improve the platform as we worked towards rolling out a paid subscription option for financial advisors and coaches interested in being featured on Wealthtender as part of their digital marketing strategy.
We also gained advocacy from many influential personal finance content creators, creating a network of ambassadors who have helped us build our brand among their readers and listeners.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our initial launch focused on offering consumers free access to articles published on wealthtender.com, and increased visibility for personal finance blog and podcast owners featured in Wealthtender directories at no cost.
While we didn’t benefit from any revenue during the launch period, our platform gained credibility and generated site traffic that proved attractive to financial professionals as we began to offer paid subscription options to be featured in new directories for financial advisors and financial coaches.
In the first quarter of 2020, we began to acquire our first financial advisor and financial coaching clients through two organizations, the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) and FinCon, respectively. Both of these highly regarded organizations continue to represent important communities of financial professionals we partner with today.
To finance the business from launch through today, all contributions have been made from my resources as a loan to the business. Having started the business in my mid-40s after a successful corporate career, I was fortunate to have the savings available (and a very supportive wife!) to bootstrap the business.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and both the dollars loaned to the business and development timetable could have been reduced with lessons learned along the way.
For example, we briefly experimented with offshore website development using a team based in Bulgaria. While I don’t doubt the experience and knowledge this team can deliver to many clients, I realize now we were way too early to work with a team coding while we were asleep and primarily offline during US working hours.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since the rollout of paid subscription options for financial professionals, the greatest drivers of revenue and retention have been a concerted focus on exceeding client expectations in terms of service and expanded benefits to support their digital marketing needs to grow their business.
Our first significant growth spurt came from word-of-mouth referrals from existing clients telling their peers about our service and value proposition. This took the count of financial advisors in our community to over 100.
Today, Wealthtender counts over 200 paying financial professional clients in our community.
While this period of time required considerable attention to onboarding and process improvement activities to ensure future scalability, we concurrently focused on the development of our industry-first SEC-compliant online reviews platform.
As financial advisors and their compliance officers began to achieve compliance with regulatory prerequisites necessary to get started with testimonials, our next phase of growth came from “early adopter” advisors interested in being among the first to compliantly request and promote client reviews online.
To build our authority as topical experts on this new opportunity, we wrote a 50-page testimonial marketing playbook and published an educational series of articles to support financial advisors interested in a blueprint to get started.
And we began to establish our presence with industry reporters and media outlets following the launch of our May 4, 2021 press release announcing Certified Advisor Reviews from Wealthtender, the brand name we established for our SEC-compliant platform.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, Wealthtender counts over 200 paying financial professional clients in our community, primarily consisting of financial advisors and advisory firms interested in our marketing services for advisors to grow their business.On average, individual advisors pay between $40 and $50 a month to be featured on our platform.
In March 2023, the annual T3/Inside Information Advisor Software Survey of more than 3,300 advisors was published and previewed on the main stage at the T3 Technology Tools for Today conference in Tampa.
In the report, Wealthtender is prominently recognized with ‘an extraordinary average user rating‘ and stands out as the highest-rated solution in the ‘Digital Marketing Tools – Lead Capture’ category.
We’re grateful to our growing community of financial advisors for taking the time to participate in the survey and sharing their experience with other advisors interested in finding the best digital marketing tools to grow their businesses.
While the business isn’t yet profitable, our leadership position as the first SEC-compliant online reviews platform for advisors and high-quality monthly traffic to our expansive library of articles provides a defensible moat.
As of early 2023, Wealthtender generates over 30,000 visitors to our website each month and ranks on the first page of Google for search terms important to our business and financial advisor clients.
Source: Ahrefs – Traffic Growth for wealthtender.com
Below are examples of Google queries linked to the relevant articles on Wealthtender that generate visibility and introductory calls to advisors featured:
Achieving these rankings and traffic growth for highly competitive keywords hasn’t been easy with established sites like NerdWallet and Investopedia dominating the first page of Google. But by staying focused on topics to help people find financial advisors, Wealthtender has gained prominence as a topical authority.
We’ve also benefited considerably through our participation in The Money Mix Insiders, program. This community of writers and website owners collaborate on efforts that benefit each other, with knowledge sharing and access to syndication opportunities that considerably strengthen SEO and visibility across highly respected media outlets like MSN and Associated Press affiliates.
Looking ahead, we remain focused first and foremost on delivering upon our value proposition to existing clients. The satisfaction of the financial professionals in our community also contributes to an increasing number of direct referrals, in addition to indirect growth among advisors observant of their peers and outwardly visible signs of their digital marketing success.
Beyond our focus on current clients, we’re also in discussions about potential partnerships with national wealth management firms and industry vendors, while reaching out to individual advisors and advisory firms interested in signing up directly to bolster their digital marketing efforts.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our website, wealthtender.com is currently built on WordPress and hosted with WPEngine. We have an integrated private membership community platform built on the Circle.so platform.
WordPress has proven to be a great platform to build our site and I can’t say enough great things about Circle.so, the benefits they offer and the very affordable pricing.
Our CRM is HubSpot. The platform is incredibly powerful for its automations and workflows but also comes at a steep cost. In the grand scheme of things, it’s an affordable tool that becomes more cost-effective as businesses scale.
A favorite tool is Zapier to connect our platforms and streamline multiple processes.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
From a marketing perspective, the book, Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, is a highly recommended read. A timeless classic I enjoy in audiobook format at least once each quarter is The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
From an industry perspective, hands down the most influential website are Kitces. The site which started out as a blog written by financial advisor Michael Kitces has now become a business unto itself, just as Michael Kitces has become the most influential voice in the industry.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Based on my experience as an angel investor and my entrepreneurial journey, I highly recommend aspiring entrepreneurs, when possible, attempt to get as far as they can scoping out their business plan and socializing it for feedback from a mix of friends, relevant industry stakeholders during nights and weekends while still earning a paycheck.
I feel fortunate I was able to follow this approach in the early days of ideation and planning before launching Wealthtender officially after leaving my corporate career.
Of course, there are plenty of situations where this simply isn’t feasible, but entrepreneurs need to know the timetable is often longer and the capital required is often greater to reach profitability or raise external funding. Without the ability to reach this point, even the best ideas and entrepreneurs can fall short.
Where can we go to learn more?
Founder of Wealthtender
Want to find more ideas that make money?
Hey! 👋 I’m Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.