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Letting your communications drift

So you finally decided to start sending out a regular email newsletter or regularly updating the blog on your website. Well done to you! The first issue of your newsletter is full of promises about your new newsletter keeping clients and other contacts informed and educated. And then the newsletter delivers this in spades! Roll on to a month or two later and the next edition is due to go out. You’re busy, it’s the middle of pensions season and the markets are in turmoil. You just about manage to cobble the newsletter together, everyone moaning about not having enough time. And then that’s it, the next edition never see the light of day…

Unfortunately this happens a little too frequently among financial advice firms. So apart from a bit of a gnawing sense of failure within your own firm, what messages does letting your communications drift say to your audience?

You don’t have an opinion

Your clients and prospective clients want to hear your opinions about current events. Whether they are about how they should (or shouldn’t!) react in the current market turmoil, your views of any changing legislation that will impact the personal finance world or indeed developments within the life and pensions market. Your opinions may reassure investors, allow you to demonstrate your expertise and show that you have your finger on the pulse.

Of course if you’re not sending out these opinions, exactly the opposite applies. And then your clients don’t know where you stand on these topics. And of course then there is the very real risk that they will find their way on to the email database of another Financial Broker who provides them with this expert opinion all of the time. Who will they want to deal with – the person with their finger on the pulse or the person without?

You’ve run out of ideas

Of course email newsletters also offer you the opportunity to educate your clients and prospects. You can remind them of the value of getting advice from a Financial Broker, set out the benefits of having a risk appropriate investment portfolio, remind them of the importance of having the right income protection plan in place and how to ensure that their legacy on death is not a worrying tax burden for their loved ones.

But then when you stop, have you demonstrated all that you know, that you’ve shown the breadth of your knowledge? So what about the topics that are worrying your clients that you haven’t covered? You don’t want them thinking that maybe you just don’t have knowledge in that particular area…

At the end of the day, your clients can be a rich source of content ideas. Ask them for topics that they would like covered and then write about them!

You just don’t care

Of course this is the real worry… that your clients will think that you simply have lost interest and don’t really care about your marketing and your business. That you have simply slowed down a bit and are coasting…Of course this will set off alarm bells in their heads about your approach to your wider business, your clients and their personal financial affairs. Are you just punching in time there too?

At best, your clients might just see all of this as a bit unprofessional – starting a marketing initiative that you’re unable to continue. Is this how you want them to view your business?

StepChange provides content to Financial Brokers who don’t have time to write it themselves and a newsletter service to manage the whole process of sending out regular fully personalised and branded communications to your clients. And we’ll deliver these on time, every time!

Networking

6 Steps to better Networking

Networking is a really important business activity, but it’s one that fills a lot of people with dread… They think of standing around in crowded rooms with no one to talk to, or being pinned in the corner with somebody talking endlessly about some mind-numbingly boring topic. And so while most people recognise the importance of networking, very few people do enough of it. In fact, I find it’s the one activity that causes the most discomfort when it ends up on the marketing plan for a Financial Broker!

So what can you do to make it easier and more effective? After all, if it actually works and helps you generate new clients, you are much more likely to continue to do it.

Recognise that it isn’t easy

It isn’t easy… but it isn’t easy for anyone. So while you might think that it’s so easy for certain people, that tends to be because they’ve worked really hard at becoming good at networking.  However, while some people might appear to find it easier than others, everyone at least has a common purpose  – they are there to build connections. So approach it from the point of view that at least everyone has the same goal and are open to talking to you.

You must have a strategy

At the end of the day, you’ve got to be standing in the traffic if you want to get knocked down! But it’s not enough to wander blindly into a networking event without a clue of how you’re about to approach it. This starts before the event where you try and get a handle on who is likely to be there. Are there lists of attendees available in advance? Can you check out who members of the business group / conference attendees are? Once you’ve an idea of who will be there, you can start thinking about who your preferred “targets” are. And then you can start doing some quick research on them through their website and LinkedIn profile. And this research will hopefully come in very handy later…

Be a first mover

Don’t just head for your pals and spend your night in deep conversation with them! By all means, if they are in a group of people that you want to meet, take the opportunity to get introduced into the group. But be active and make the first move to start conversations. Others will thank you for this and it also gives you the opportunity to guide the conversation.

Be interested

And this is where your research comes in really useful! If you can show a level of interest in the people you meet – some knowledge of their business, some connections you have in common, it might even be that you know about some quirky interest of theirs, this will ease them into the conversation as you are opening the door for them to talk about themselves. And then be interested because your interest in them will come back in spades. They will naturally want to reciprocate and turn the conversation towards you, which of course is then your opening…

Hone your own pitch

When you get over the initial chit-chat and move on to talking about your reason for being at the event and what you have to offer, this simply must be interesting and must grab their attention. At the end of the day, they will be talking to many people that day so you must be in some way memorable. If you are pitching your wares, paint pictures of solutions, not saying why you’re such a great financial planner. Let people see how you will solve problems for them and enrich their lives in some way.

Follow up brilliantly!

Then when all the hard work is done, make sure you take the final step. Contact people after the event saying how it was great to meet them and thanking them for their time. Connect with them on LinkedIn and if you send out a company newsletter, suggest that they be added to the circulation list. Send them information if this makes sense. If there’s a favour you can do for them, maybe there’s someone else you can introduce them to – well then this is even better.

So yes, networking is not easy. But hopefully these few thoughts might make the task a little less daunting for you!

Bowl your Clients over with your Content!

One of the main marketing challenges faced by many of the financial advice businesses that I meet, is around the production of good quality content that will really help them engage their clients. Here are a few thoughts to help you overcome this challenge.

Be Organised & Committed

The secret ingredient! We’ve all faced that looming deadline for “my turn” to produce that article we’d promised to go into a newsletter or as an update on the website. It’s tough when you’ve no idea what you’re going to write about! The good news is that you’re not alone, this is the single biggest challenge faced by everyone tasked with writing content.

To avoid this, set up a “Content Calendar” for the year. Get all the potential contributors into a room for an hour or so and brainstorm loads of article topics. As potential subject areas come to mind, drop them into the calendar with a few bullet points of what the article might cover.

What will this achieve? First of all, it gets you started each month – you know what you’re going to be writing about. Secondly and as important, as new ideas come along over the year, they get inserted ahead of other articles that mightn’t be as strong. So now you’re driving up the quality of your topics. You’ll actually find after a while that you’ve too much content and now can actually start being selective about what you write. Hard to believe but it happens, every time you have a Content Calendar.

And once you start, stay committed to the process. Don’t stop now!

Be Relevant

Your audience are far more likely to engage with your content if it is relevant to them. So as you develop out your content topics, spend some time thinking about them from your audience’s perspective. The latest developments in investment software or some obscure technical point about pensions might be of interest to you. But your clients probably won’t give a hoot!

They want to know about topics that will impact their lives, so put yourself in their shoes and develop your content with them in mind. Of course you need to know who your audience is before you can do this. Are they business owners, professionals or are you focused on personal protection etc. for families? If you have very diverse audiences, you might need to target specific content at specific people. All pretty straightforward to do with the wonders of modern technology!

Be an Educator, not a Salesman

Your audience will switch off if you spend your time pushing sales messages at them. At the end of the day, they will see your content as simply an ongoing sales campaign and will disengage.  Add value by writing about financial issues or challenges that affect them in their lives, in which you can exhibit your expertise. Aim to be seen as an expert, an educator, someone with valuable insights that will help your clients, rather than a salesperson.

To make this easier for yourself, write about topics you know. This means that you won’t have to spend loads of time researching topics, and this familiarity with the subject will help you write better content too!

You see the world of marketing has changed. Rather than trying to constantly interrupt people with messages to sell, sell, sell; successful advice businesses are establishing themselves as thought leaders, as educators and as experts. So then when potential clients at their own time of choosing have a financial need, they will naturally gravitate towards these advice firms that they already see as valuable.

Be Alert

Great topics to write about will emerge from a range of sources. Presentations you attend, conversations you have, comments from other clients. Once your antenna is up, you’ll start to identify nuggets from what other people say – their challenges, their areas of interest, the issues they want to read about. So write about these!

Also when reading a newspaper or surfing the web, you’ll come across loads of topics of potential interest to your audience. Put your own spin on these topics and write about them too.

Be Brief

Be expert but also be brief. The purpose of your content is to engage your audience, not to demonstrate that you know every intimate detail of a topic. Typically an article of 750 to 1,000 words can be read (and written!) quickly and will perform well in search results. If you only have 500 (good) words though, go with that – don’t pad it out to get to 750 words.

Make your content easy to read too. Use headings and/or bullet points to make it easier for the reader. If the topic is just not capable of being explained in anything close to 1,000 words, break it out into a series of articles. And now the challenge next month has just got easier…

Be Found

What has this got to do with Content? Well, one of the key drivers of strong performance in Google search results is original, good quality content. While this might not have been a driver behind your efforts to produce a regular stream of good content, it’s a very valuable bonus!

At the end of the day, I reckon the initial thought of producing a lot of content is far more daunting than the reality! I hope these thoughts help you with your challenge.






image courtesy of Flickr / Mohammad ALNajdi

4 Financial Adviser Videos that really work!

Financial advisers often raise the question of the effectiveness of video marketing. Some see it as a vanity project, as an expensive activity that yields very poor results. And sometimes that is exactly the case! But certainly not always…

Video offers a number of great opportunities to financial advisers. First of all, it offers a different, engaging medium to communicate an important message – maybe an overview of your business, your financial planning approach or indeed different aspects of your client proposition. Some visitors to a website prefer clicking on a video than reading paragraphs of text, so video gives you the opportunity to hang on to that visitor to your website a little longer.

Also, YouTube is now the 2nd most frequently used search engine in the world after Google, so video also offers great opportunities as an entry point to your website from searches.

However quality is critically important where video is concerned. To produce a good video takes a lot of time and effort – careful scripting, a lot of thought about production including the location, use of graphics, the cast, the right music etc., and the key messages to be communicated. And all of this to produce a video that should be kept really brief – the preferred length for most videos is no more than one to two minutes.

There are lots of examples out there of average (or worse!) videos. However, here are 4 examples of videos that I believe work really well. I picked from advisers outside of Ireland only, to avoid any accusations of favouritism! I’ve also gone for four very different approaches that hopefully give you a sense of what can be achieved through this medium.

 

Does your Wealth Manager talk too much? (UK)

This video (click here) is the first in a series of four videos produced by Yellowtail Financial Planning in the UK, setting out the benefits of working with a financial planner as opposed to a wealth management company that is selling their own investment solutions.

It’s worth reading their thinking behind the video and the production of it, which can be found here. I’d also encourage you to watch the others in this series too which can be found on their website. What really works for me in these videos is the excellent script, the clarity of the message and the gentle irreverence of the videos – this firm gets a great message across without taking itself too seriously! It all just works really well.

 

The Latte Habit (US)

This video is very different. This video was developed by Michigan Financial Advisors Corp. and centres on a simple message of small amounts of money adding up. Again the script is excellent, the video is kept tight (approx. 2 minutes) and the graphics are really easy to watch and well produced.

To view this video, click here and this will bring you to the company’s video gallery. When you get there, just click on “The Latte Habit” (and then give it a few seconds to load). This one is the best of the videos on that page – some of the others are also worth a view though.

 

Meaningful Money (UK)

Do videos take a lot work to produce? Well this is the guy to ask, a UK Certified Financial Planner by the name of Pete Matthew of Meaningful Money. I’ve provided a link here to Episode Number 288 (!) in his series of videos. He covers a very broad range of financial topics in his videos, one topic in each video and shoots them in a wide range of different locations, many in very scenic spots. He even has a sponsor of his videos now!

What I like about these videos is his commitment to the medium, the range of topics covered which really give him the opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of his expertise and again, that he obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously while getting serious messages across.

If you want to see more in this series of videos, click here and you will see that each item in the main navigation bar leads to a range of videos.

Plan4Life (UK)

This video is a bit longer than the optimal length, but what I like about it is the refusal to succumb to the old adage of “Never work with kids or animals!” This video looks at each of the stages in our lives and the financial objectives of each of them. And using kids to make the video in the process.

What I like about this video is the focus on financial objectives and again, a business not taking itself too seriously in the process. Click on the link here to be taken to this video.

Click on the homepage of this site too – they’ve a nice introduction video to their business using graphics rather than people.

 

And finally, one other video with nothing to do with financial services! You may have seen it already, it was made about 18 months ago, but it’s a great demonstration of how a serious message can be delivered in an engaging fashion. It’s a safety video by Metro trains in Melbourne, Australia that has started a whole cult of copycat videos, online games etc. and has already been viewed by more than 80 million people! Now that’s viral!! Be careful, the tune will stick in your head for ages too…

 

Have you seen any other excellent videos by Financial Advisers? Come on, don’t keep them to yourself, please leave links to them in the comments below!

What do you Measure in your Financial Advice Business?

At the end of the day for most advisers, there’s one measure that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance – profitability.

Until recently, many firms actually didn’t view profitability as their key metric; their main focus was on income. This was usually backwards looking, i.e. examining income in the last 12 months, or sometimes also looking out at the next 12 months. Many firms have now switched this focus to looking further forwards – based on their increasing trail commission and fee incomes, what is income forecasted to be next year / in 5 years time / in 10 years time? This now gives a real sense of the future health of the business.

While income is a very important metric, profitability tells a truer story of the health of the firm as it takes account of the expenses of the firm, and helps to better determine the future value of the business. Now this is what you (or other shareholders) are really interested in!

However there are so many factors that can impact your profitability, most firms will look to dig a little deeper to examine some of those factors that are impacting their profitability. Set out below are just some of the metrics used currently by different advice firms, that help them to determine the performance of key inputs to their profitability. Which ones might it make sense for you to start tracking?

 

Client metrics

There is a range of metrics that can be used to measure the success of your client activities. These include;

  • Number of clients: this can be measured at an overall level and also within segments of your target client groups.
  • Average revenue per client: this will give you a sense of whether you are building greater value into your propositions and whether you are reaching your ideal clients. Again this may be carried out at a segment level.
  • Average recurring revenue per client: this will give you a good sense of the future health of your business.
  • Number of new clients: always a good measure of whether you are growing as a business or not!
  • Client satisfaction: this will give you a sense of your likelihood to hang onto your clients into the future. Again this can be carried out at a segment level. The Net Promoter Score is a very simple but useful measure of client satisfaction.
  • Risk register: Are there problem cases that need to be monitored? If so, a firm oversight needs to be maintained, both in relation to the number of cases and progress of these cases towards a solution.

 

Staff measures

Again, there is a range of measures that you can use to ensure your staff are performing to their maximum potential;

  • Sales Performance: This may be based on volume, margin or other relevant measures.
  • Activity: This may be the number of new clients secured, first meetings secured, financial plans completed etc. It is always useful to get a good sense of the activity levels of each of your sales team.
  • Staff satisfaction: Similar to client satisfaction, this is important too! Are your staff happy and committed to the long term health of your business or are they just waiting for an opportunity to jump ship? Staff satisfaction measures can help you uncover these insights.

 

Marketing Metrics

Yes, most marketing activities can actually be measured! Here are a few that will help inform your marketing activities;

  • Contact data quality: This might be as simple initially as tracking the number of client email addresses you have secured. Email offers you a no cost method of getting marketing messages out to your clients.
  • Numbers and source of leads: Tracking the numbers and source of new lead is one of the best inputs into decision making around future marketing activities. If it worked before, it might be worth repeating!
  • Website analytics: Google analytics will give you a wealth of data in relation to your online marketing activities. For more detailed information in relation to how Google Analytics can help financial advisers, check out our previous article here. Google analytics can tell you;
    • The number of people finding your website
    • Where website visitors came from – Search terms, social media, directly accessing your website.
    • The content that attracts people to your site…. and also drives them away.
  • Social media interactions: Likes, +1’s, comments, Retweets! These terms are “Double Dutch” to some people, highly valued endorsements of your content to others!

There are of course many other measures available to be used within your business, these are just a few that are available to you. However the list is also potentially endless! For most advisers, the starting point is to identify a few metrics that you feel will make a real difference to your business, and then track them diligently.

There are many metrics that people use that are not listed above. Which ones do you find particularly useful? All your comments are welcome below.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/glitch_nitch/

How does a Financial Broker rank higher on Google searches?

Many financial brokers see an effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy as the Holy Grail. Consumers search for a financial broker. You appear at the top of the Google search results. The consumer clicks on your website, likes what they see and picks up the phone to you. Oh, if life was only that simple!

The first point you need to realise with SEO is that you are actually pitching the quality of your website to Google rather than the consumers. At the end of the day, Google’s success as a search engine is dependent on them delivering the best results for the search term that is input. If you search for a product or service and the results don’t deliver what you’re looking for, eventually you’ll start to use a different search engine. So Google constantly move the goalposts, by developing new algorithms to ensure the most relevant results are delivered.

Long gone are the days where you simply loaded your pages with the keywords that you wanted to be associated with (pensions, investments, protection etc.). In fact in the early days of search your content didn’t need to make any sense, it just needed to feature the keywords lots of times. These day are thankfully long gone!

So how do you climb the Google rankings today?

 

Set your pages up correctly

This is not the be all and end all any more, but still important. You need to ensure that as pages are added to your website, that they are structured properly. This is usually made easy now by in-built SEO packages but some of the main features to ensure are

  • Your URLs (web page addresses) must be relevant
  • You must use the correct Headings structure
  • You need to give the page a relevant title and description for search results

 

It’s all about content

Content is the juice behind an effective SEO strategy. Original, relevant, fresh content regularly published through a blog / news section on your website is central to successful SEO. Remember that Google want to point searchers to the most relevant websites. Relevancy is achieved by demonstrating expertise and authority in the keyword area, on an ongoing basis through the production of a consistent stream of quality content. Establish yourself as a voice to be listened to and a thought leader in the keyword area, and Google will reward you by lifting you up the search rankings!

 

Social media activity is key

Once you produce great content, the next step is to get it out in front of as many eyes as possible. So lead people to your content, using all the routes available to you. These are primarily via email marketing and also via your social media channels.

Google reward you for this when your network then endorse your content by “liking” it, commenting or better still, by sharing the content with their own network. Google are paying increasing heed to content being shared by 3rd parties, as they view this as an endorsement of the quality and authority of the content.

 

Don’t ignore Google+

Most people don’t want to hear this as the last thing they want is yet another social media channel to manage. However Google+ is not going away, it is slowly but surely gaining in relevance as a channel. One of the main reasons for this is the weight that Google gives to activity on Google+. Sharing content on Google+ and gaining endorsement from a wide number of followers will really help your performance in search results.

 

Establish your Google+ Authorship

Google have introduced a new feature on Google+ called Authorship. It enables you to establish yourself as the confirmed author of your content. To do this, I reckon the best way for most financial advisers is to talk to their web developer who will be able to set this up for you.

The benefits of actually doing it are twofold. First of all, it helps your performance in search results as it is another positive indicator of your credibility as a relevant voice and secondly, it improves how your search results are displayed. Rather than a simple results line, it will display your photo and name too. This in turn may well help your chances of your link being clicked – compare the difference in the 2 links below.

Search results

 

So, as you can see, improving your ranking in search results is no longer simply about stuffing your content with keywords. Google is full of smart people and we also need to be smart to gain their approval!

I hope some of these points help you in improving your search results. If you’ve any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below.