Jul 01 2023 / Round the Table Magazine
'Brother Chao' reinvents himself in the middle of a crisis
Chao Lin Yu had already built an impressive career as a financial services advisor in Shanghai, China, by early 2020. The 13-year MDRT member had a strong book of business and consistently earned MDRT production for a full decade prior to the onset of the pandemic, but once the virus spread to every corner of the globe, Chao Lin, along with the rest of the world, found himself having to quickly adapt.
He realized early on that he would have to reinvent how he connected with his clients, and in doing so, he would transform how he presented himself to the world.
“I started experimenting with short videos and livestreaming when I couldn’t meet my clients face to face,” Chao Lin explained. In a time when video conferences became the norm for millions around the globe, Chao Lin took it a step further and rebranded himself as “Brother Chao.” Under this name, he began producing short videos about wealth management and other topics.
His video channel “Opinions on Wealth with Brother Chao” has been so successful, people have started to recognize him out in public. “Now when I walk on the streets, strangers often greet me and call me Brother Chao,” he said. “They’ll tell me they’ve seen my videos, and they think what I said makes a lot of sense, which makes me very happy.”
Scripted videos aren’t the only way Chao Lin connects with clients. He also creates video events known as livestreams, which are similar to his Brother Chao videos but take place in real time and allow him to interact with the audience. “If the audience has questions about the livestreaming content, they can be answered directly during the broadcast,” he said.
He typically connects with clients on WeChat, the Chinese app used for social media, instant messaging and a variety of other functions. His WeChat channel currently has about 1,000 followers, but Chao Lin posts his videos on several smaller Chinese channels as well, such as Douyin, Red and Bilibili, he said. The WeChat platform also provides him data about his followers. About 26% are ages 30 to 39, 27% are 40 to 49, and 28% are 50 and older.
When face-to-face meetings were not possible, video creation — whether live or recorded — was among the only ways to reach people and continue to grow his business. “At times, I think, if I weren’t creating short videos, how else would I be doing client outreach from home? The answers may be very limited,” he said.
Meeting in person is a key step in closing a sale, and the inability to do that meant lost revenue, Chao Lin explained. “Under such circumstances, financial advisors have to find new ways — such as making sales online — to make up for lost production,” he said.
Behind the scenes
But what does it take to create powerful video content that attracts new clients? Chao Lin said consistency is key when developing your online persona. “I wear the same type of clothes with the same hairstyle in every video,” he said.
He also carefully scripts each video and keeps them to about three minutes long, focusing on professional topics of interest to Chinese people, such as parenting, wealth management, restaurants, tax planning and personal pensions, among others. “I talk about wealth from several perspectives, such as insurance and lifestyle,” Chao Lin added. “I also like to highlight the perspectives of world-class insurance professionals and business leaders such as investor magnate Warren Buffett and billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio.”
Chao Lin has posted 221 short videos on his WeChat channel to date and typically highlights three differing perspectives on whatever topic he is addressing for the episode. The videos usually draw hundreds of views, and some of the most popular have attracted more than 1,000, Chao Lin said.
Focusing on professional themes not only attracts those interested in learning about the topic, but also creates and reinforces Chao Lin’s professional image for those unfamiliar with his work ethic and level of expertise. “This focus on professional content has played an important role in establishing my online brand and professional image,” he said. “And I got some significant prospects because of that.” Chao Lin said that one of the clients he met through his videos has purchased more than 10 million renminbi in insurance policies, but he has still never met the client in person.
While many advisors had to adjust during the COVID crisis, Chao Lin’s response to the pandemic was more than just a temporary pivot; it has permanently changed the way he approaches the business and for the better. Video conferences have become the primary way he meets with his clients these days, which saves travel time, and online videos have become one of his strongest ways to attract new customers. “When the audience sees the blogger Chao Lin Yu, they will know what kind of content they can expect to hear,” he said. “Meanwhile, when they need expertise in wealth management, they will search for Chao Lin Yu accordingly.”