5 Tips to Optimising your LinkedIn Presence

A lot of financial advisers now realise that LinkedIn has emerged as the premier medium for building and retaining a network of business contacts. However many don’t realise the full potential that LinkedIn offers them. In this article, I offer 5 tips that will help advisers to maximise the benefits that they can get from LinkedIn.

1. Build up your Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your own professional shop window to the world. Most financial advisers now have a website that is their online shop window and sets out the types of services offered by your business. LinkedIn complements this by enabling you to communicate important information about yourself, helping to convince people that you are a business contact worth having! In a business such as ours where your reputation and business profile are critical assets, this is a very useful personal shop window.

So make sure your profile is clear, accurate and sets out why you are someone people should connect to. Put effort into completing every section as this information could help a prospective client to decide whether to deal with you or not. You should aim to be a sought after connection!

2. Build up your Connections

LinkedIn helps you to build up your network of connections. First of all, you can easily check which of your email contacts are on LinkedIn and then connect with them. You can then easily identify past and former colleagues and former school and university classmates and then connect with them too. Finally LinkedIn will suggest people for you to connect with based on your current LinkedIn network connections.

An extra tip. Personalise every invitation. Even if it’s just “Hi Eamonn, I’d like to add you to……” everyone loves that little bit of extra, personal effort!

A word of warning…… Don’t start firing off invitations to connect to people that you don’t know, no matter how much you might like to know them! You run the risk of being seen as “spam” and LinkedIn can then restrict you in the future to only sending invitations to people where you have their email address.

3. Use LinkedIn for Research

Before you go to meet a prospective client, check them out on LinkedIn. You might uncover a nugget that will help your meeting. Maybe you went to the same school, have an interest in common or have some mutual connections. Even if none of these, knowing a little bit about them will show them your interest in them and what they do.

When you come back from the meeting, invite them to connect, thanking them for the meeting. Now you’ve the opportunity to stay on their radar into the future!

4. Join and Participate in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are a great place for like-minded people to share ideas, seek help, discuss issues and solve problems. One of the best examples of this is the Qualified Financial Advisors of Ireland group which now has over700 members! These QFAs have a very active forum in which they seek help from each other in relation to products and technical challenges, and also discuss industry related issues. Sometimes in a very robust fashion too!! I know a good number of QFAs really value the interaction within this group.

There are many other groups you can join too that can help you in a variety of areas relating to your business. These groups are only as good as the participation in them so join the conversation!

5. Add Value to your Connections

LinkedIn is not just a fancy “little black book” where the aim is to have as many connections as possible. It is an interactive tool that allows you to provide great content to your connections; whether this is content you developed yourself or indeed useful content you found on the web. The key question is, will it add value to your connections? As a financial adviser, there are many opportunities for you to provide useful financial content, helping you establish a thought leadership position among your contacts. Your aim is that your connections really welcome and value your updates.

So develop a plan to deliver content. Start adding value and as a result, build stronger relationships.

I hope you found this useful. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking on the button at the top of the page! If you ask me in the invitation, I’ll happily give you some quick feedback on your own current profile!

5 Tips for Engaging Presentations by Financial Advisers

A popular sales tool used by financial advisers is hosting seminars for both prospective and current clients. In this article I’m assuming that you are crystal clear on your objectives for the presentation and on your message to be delivered. Here are 5 tips to maximise the impact of your presentation at the seminar and to keep your audience engaged.

1.     Cut down your number of slides, and then cut them down again!

The number one presentation killer…… You have a very good message to deliver, an excellent product to sell but you can’t understand halfway through why people are starting to nod off! More often than not, it’s because your presentation is just too long. The audience has just got bored!

A useful rule of thumb is to allow at least 2 minutes per slide (excluding the cover and end slides). That means if your presentation is 20 minutes long, there definitely should not be more than 10 slides. Otherwise you’re just flicking through slides and not engaging anyone, or else you end up rushing through the last few slides. Often these are the important selling slides too!

2.     Reduce the content on each slide

There should not be more than 5/6 lines of text on a single slide. Why does this make sense? Because the audience have come to listen to you, not to read your slides! Otherwise they could just have asked you to email them a copy of the slides the next day. You are the main act and your slides are a summary of what you’re saying, not the other way around! Also if you don’t give them every little detail, this increases the chance of an engaging Q&A session afterwards.

If your presentation requires the audience to be given every detail, give them a hand-out at the end – how bad is it if they ring you the next day with a question?

3.     Make your presentation engaging

OK, so now you’ve cut your content right down to the minimum amount of points. The next thing to do is to make the presentation more engaging. The last thing your audience wants is a load of slides with just a series of bullet points on each. I’m not suggesting you use lots of meaningless pictures and cartoons. However everyone loves some visuals so bring in graphs and diagrams to make points. A single video (no more) can add a lot but only if it is very relevant.

This can be a lot of effort but is really worth it. If you don’t have the PowerPoint skills yourself, use someone who does. You’ve gone to the bother of getting a room full of people together, it is so important now that you engage the audience fully. Oh and talk to your audience, not your slides!

4.     Make sure everything works at the venue – perfectly!

Check out the venue beforehand and then on the day, get to the venue with loads of time to spare in case time is needed for any unforeseen problems. Nothing will damage your confidence and ultimately the delivery of your presentation more than rushing to try and sort out issues…. If possible, have someone there as a support to deal with any potential problems for you.

Is there enough parking nearby? Is the sound good enough in the room and are there enough chairs? What about the temperature in the room? Also, do a complete run through of the entire presentation with someone at the back of the room – not just the first few slides. Can they read the slides or is the typeface too small? Is the projector strong enough? Do all the links in the presentation work and will your video play properly? Once you see everything working perfectly, you will relax and can go and greet your guests.

5.     Practice, practice, practice

I know, this is really obvious but so often ignored! The benefits of practice? Well first of all, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the better your delivery will be! How many times have you finished a presentation and thought “I meant to say…… but just forgot”. This is less likely to happen if you practice. If you practice, you are more likely to stay on track in terms of the message and also your timings so you’ll probably finish the presentation stronger.

Finally spend some time thinking about the Q&A. What are the likely questions and how will you respond? What are the potential curveballs and how will you deal with them? How will you deal with any unexpected and very negative question – think how you’ll cut this off cleanly and quickly and enable yourself to move on. Listen to the news that day. If there’s a current and relevant story, develop a position on it. If you want an easy start to the Q&A, plant a question in the room to get the conversation going.

5 Tips for Effective Marketing Planning by Financial Advisers

At least every year, financial advisers need to take time out from their day to day business and put structured plans in place to help drive their business forwards. . Central to this process is (or should be!) a well-developed marketing plan that will support you and your staff in achieving your business objectives. This article looks at 5 critical areas to be incorporated when developing the marketing plan for your business. Is a plan important? Yes it is, in fact it is essential. Without one, you’re throwing mud at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks.

1. Build the Foundations

All good plans are built on a foundation of solid research. This is particularly true in relation to the marketing plan of a financial advice business.  First of all, you’ve got to understand the environment that you’re operating in and the impacts that this external world has on your business. There are external factors out there over which you’ve no control that could decide the fate of your business in the future. You then need to get clear on what makes you different from other advisers by taking a hard look internally at your own business. Finally you need to get clear on who are the customers you want to reach through your marketing plan.

2. Develop your Marketing Positioning

This is all about identifying how you’re going to stand out from the crowd, that is from other financial advisers. It’s no accident that the more effort you’ve put into the research and the more thinking you’ve done at stage one, the easier this piece becomes. In fact if your research phase is very strong, your market positioning will often just fall out in front of you! It becomes very obvious how you’ll differentiate yourself. This is really important as this sets the theme and the backdrop for the marketing plan and will really guide you as you move towards delivery of the plan.

3. Get Crystal Clear on your Objectives

While all 5 points are really important, this is the most critical of the lot. Are you trying to grow the brand of your business, are you trying to get new customers? Or is it all about hanging on to and developing your existing customer base? Is it about developing partnerships? Until you get absolutely clear on what your objectives are, you’re really just throwing whatever at the wall….. The answer is usually not “all of the above” as this will result in a huge range of unnecessary activities at significant cost. You need to focus and make hard choices that are deliverable. Once you get clear on your objectives, now (and only now) can you identify which are the right marketing activities for you to carry out.

In my business in which I help advisers with their planning and their marketing activities, I see a lot of wasted effort and money, and also some poor results. In 99% of cases, it’s down to a lack of focus on the above 3 areas or a financial adviser not having the skills to complete this work themselves. Sometimes it’s right to call in some expert help!

4. Make sure you’ve the Capacity to Deliver

A plan is not just a wish list of all the things you’d like to do. A plan needs to be achievable and to make a marketing plan achievable; first of all, it needs to be written down. The plan then needs to clearly identify how much money it will take to deliver and either who in your organisation will deliver it or how much it will cost to have the activities delivered externally. If need be, you then make choices to fit your budget. Now you have activities that you’re confident can be delivered.

Then put dates and measures against each activity too. Yes, I agree it can be difficult to link every marketing activity directly to sales – how do you know how much of your sales came from the monthly column you write in your local newspaper? However every single marketing activity is measureable in some form or another so a target should be set for each activity.

5. Make sure the plan is Reviewable. And then Review it!

A marketing plan does not have to be a 20 page document that will sit in a drawer and be forgotten forever! In fact, I’m a huge fan of marketing plans that can fit on 1 page or 2 pages at a real stretch. These plans can be reviewed in 10 minutes at a staff meeting, or indeed can be just taken out by you and reviewed. If there are clear dates for delivery and names of people responsible for delivery, it becomes obvious where and why your plan might be falling behind.

Then with the measures that you used for your targets, you can see if the activities delivered as expected. This is invaluable in helping you decide whether to repeat these activities in the future.

I hope you found this article useful. A well-developed marketing plan will save you money, increase the chances of success of your marketing activities and will help to build your business through connecting better with potential and existing customers. I’d love the opportunity to help you!

5 Tips about Social Media for Financial Advisers

In this article, I look at the phenomenon of Social Media. These points are worth considering by financial advisers who haven’t as yet ventured into this new world and indeed are useful reminders for those of us who have!

1.            It’s a conversation, not a presentation

Social media is very different to your website – compare both to a client seminar. Your website is like your presentation – this is your opportunity for you to showcase your business and products to the audience, it’s your sales pitch. Social Media however is the days before the seminar, the morning of it, the coffee break and after it’s all over! Social media is your tool to attract both existing and potential clients to attend, to converse with them about your content and then to follow-up afterwards with the key points from your sales pitch! It then offers you the opportunity to stay on their radar as they potentially consider other financial decisions in the future.

Social Media is growing, very rapidly. It’s not going to go away!

2.            Which Social Media platform is right for you?

I’ll consider the 3 main platforms. Facebook, which now tops Google for weekly traffic, originally started out as a platform for friends and family to share photos, stories and gossip! But now businesses see the opportunity to both advertise to and engage with potential customers on Facebook because of the huge numbers spending significant amounts of time on it! There are not many examples as yet of financial advisers gaining great leverage from Facebook. However some are bravely trying and good luck to them!

LinkedIn is really a must for advisers now. Think of it as Facebook for professionals at work. LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to network, meet potential customers, interact regularly with existing customers and remind all of them why they  are glad that they know you! LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to share useful information with a wide group of people that you want to transact business with. Talk to someone who knows what they’re doing and start building your personal online profile!

Twitter is a medium that allows you send messages of up to 140 characters only. However this can include links to your website, video, blog of other interesting online content. It’s very quick and easy to use. It is definitely worth considering but not as critical as LinkedIn for financial advisers at this stage. Some of your peers are tweeting (sending messages) very effectively already!

3.            Should you get rid of your website in favour of Social Media?

Definitely not! Social Media will help you to engage your customers, to want them to learn more about you as an adviser and the products you sell. However to find out this information, they are likely to look at your website. This then becomes your opportunity to really draw them in and to encourage them to pick up the phone to talk to you about their pension, investment or insurance product. Now you’ve got to make sure that the content on your website is 100% up to date and displaying the sales messages that will ensure the customer picks up the phone to meet you!

4.            Are there any pitfalls?

Yes there are. Remember what goes online, stay online – forever! So don’t update your LinkedIn status at 2am after a long night in the pub! Once you send out an update, you can’t take it back….. Also LinkedIn is for networking with other professionals. If you start using it to chat with friends and arrange social events, the people in your network will get tired of getting updates from you. They may go as far as to block any further updates from you. Now you’re just doing yourself damage by effectively pushing clients away from you. You wouldn’t do it offline, so don’t do it online!

5.            So, where should you start?

I suggest you start with LinkedIn and take it slowly. Get some assistance to develop your LinkedIn profile to a point that you are really proud of it. Get very clear about your objectives and how you will achieve them through making connections with people and then communicating with them. Some LinkedIn users have lots of connections but never converse with them. That’s like having a very full address book but never contacting anyone…..Then start making connections with people. At this stage it is best to sit back and see what others are doing. This will give you a sense of how some people are using LinkedIn effectively. Once you decide to join the conversation, commit to it and like a normal conversation, the more interesting you are, the better! Once you get comfortable, you’ll enjoy it. Best of luck!

 

5 Common Marketing Mistakes by Financial Advisers

In this column, I look at 5 of the most common mistakes I see financial advisers making when it comes to Marketing.

 1.   Unclear Objectives

Since the recession really began to bite, many advisers have realised the importance that Marketing plays in attracting and retaining clients. However a lot of money has been  wasted on activities that unfortunately were doomed from the outset. The main reason that I have discovered is that there was no clarity around exactly what was to be  achieved from the marketing activity – was it to increase the brand presence, attract new clients or hold onto existing ones? If you’re not clear about what you’re trying to achieve, unfortunately you’ve little chance of achieving success…

2.   Content – or lack of it

I think we all know this one… “Let’s do a Newsletter” says someone with a burst of enthusiasm! Two torturous months later, Issue 1 is finally sent out. Everyone is relieved but exhausted and yes, Issue 2 never sees the light of day! As a result, it becomes a nagging sore and really, you’d be better off never having started on it at all. For all your marketing activities, you need to think through the future content or indeed find a source to write the content for you. If you’re going to start a regular activity, you’ve got to commit fully to it for it to say positive things about your business and your brand. By the way, the same applies to out of date content…how up to date is your website?

3.   Focusing too early on the Product

As I work with more and more financial advisers, I see another quite common theme. A huge amount of work going into presentations, brochures, websites etc. that set out in great detail the products that we want to sell without ever engaging the audience first by putting yourself in their world. Trust me; we’re all guilty of this one! The problem is that you need to engage the audience first and then slowly reel them in, instead of launching straight in to the solution. Identify their need to stimulate their interest and then engage them in the benefits to them of addressing that need. Now they’re ready and want to hear the solution – your product!

4.   No Measures or Focus on Results

A good number of advisers have expressed strong views to me in relation to previous Marketing activities that they’ve carried out. However when pressed, they’ve had unclear targets set around the activities and little or no analysis of the actual results. I often hear “I think we got 10 leads out of that, but would need to check”. The actual results are often wildly different – sometimes much more positive, sometimes more negative. When I ask what result they had hoped to get, there often was no target.  The problem is that if you don’t set targets and rigorously measure the results of each activity, how are you supposed to know next year which activities to repeat and which ones to ditch?

5.   Poor Production Quality

Finally you get your content together – be it written content or speakers for your seminar etc. But then the newsletter goes out with typos on it or on wafer thin paper that looks and feels terrible, or at your seminar no-one can read the slides because the typeface is too small or the projector is not strong enough…we’ve all been there. Your audience disengage and in a worst case scenario, will place a big black mark against your brand. Make sure you’re really proud of what you produce – or else get an expert to look after it for you! Wow your audience, don’t disappoint them!