Videos – Vanity or Value?

In this latest post in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, we briefly set out our thinking on the benefits of video marketing.

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 video style, 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 60 – 90 seconds.

StepChange works with financial advisers and other organisations in developing excellent scripts that will achieve real “cut through” with your audience. We also regularly collaborate with a leading video production company to bring these scripts to final production, using a variety of different video styles. These videos can then be used across all of your digital platforms.

Should you want to add this engaging medium to your marketing mix, maybe it’s time to get some expert help with it? We look forward to your call.

 

Are you punching your weight on social media?

Most Financial Brokers today are using social media to some extent. Some are using it very effectively and view it as a core part of their marketing mix, others see it as a bit of a necessary evil and grudgingly engage with it to a much lesser degree.

At StepChange, we are firm believers in the power of social media for Financial Brokers. But it has to be used consistently and relatively frequently, and therein lies the challenge. So here’s our starting point.

  • A social media presence is so important to enable you to be found online, for people to engage with you and for you to connect with people and demonstrate expertise.
  • LinkedIn is still the most powerful platform for Financial Brokers, particularly if your target market includes professionals and business owners. Twitter is second.
  • I’m not a fan of using Facebook pages to engage with friends and followers. I can’t find examples of advisers doing this well, and who are not interrupting their friends and followers who are on Facebook for other reasons (looking for a laugh, sharing photos etc.).
  • Email marketing is the most under-utilised tool in online marketing. How can you ignore a tool where you end up in the inboxes of your target market, a place they visit every day?
  • Generating a constant and consistent stream of content remains the biggest challenge, bar none. Everybody can produce a on-off piece, the challenge is consistency.
  • Some people spend their time finding links to good articles and sharing these. Yes, this is valuable, but on its own is simply not enough. Your connections want to hear your views. So at a minimum, add your take on the article in the introduction to the article before you share it. But better still, write your own content and share that.

How StepChange can help you

We work with Financial Brokers looking to build a social media presence. We help you develop an effective profile, demonstrate how to build a relevant network of connections and we then show you how to actually use the platform effectively.

However the big challenge is content. We develop content for Financial Brokers to share and also find other excellent content online for you to share, to increase the engagement with your followers. We provide the A-Z of social media for Financial Brokers.

 

Is it time for you to talk to us about how you can develop and leverage your social media presence?

8 great apps I use nearly every day

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’m mentioning 8 apps that I use regularly and that make my work / financial life a little easier to manage. In the list, there are 2 apps in each of the following categories;

  • Banking
  • Finance
  • Content management
  • Every day apps

 

Banking App 1: Stripe

Last year an adviser asked me could he pay me for a service by credit card. This prompted me to go looking for solutions. Literally an hour later I had a Stripe account set up (which receives credit card payments) that was fully integrated into Xero (see below). So now I can receive payment on any invoice by credit card, and my accounting system knows about it. The Stripe app is great, providing notifications when money is received and giving me all of the information I need to manage this new form of payment.

 

Banking App 2: Curve

Curve is a bank card, linked to an app on your phone. It’s clever because it becomes an umbrella card for all of your other cards, both debit and credit cards, giving you access to all these cards using your single Curve card. I hate a bulky wallet and as a result of Curve, I only now need to carry one card – my Curve card. Using the app, you choose the account / card that you want your transaction to apply to (e.g. personal debit card, personal credit card, company credit card). You can change cards easily between transactions. It also has a natty feature that if you apply a transaction to the wrong credit / debit card when using your Curve card, you can “go back in time” and reapply a transaction to the right account later.

Details of all of your cards are not stored on your Curve card which is important if it falls into the wrong hands. Also you get immediate notifications (if you want) every time the card is used, which is a great security feature, and you can block your card yourself via the app too.

 

 Finance App 1: Xero

I was introduced to Xero, an online accounting system a couple of years ago. It has had a transformational effect on the financial management side of my business. I now have real-time profit & loss statements, balance sheet and a host of other useful reports that are available at the press of a button. All my invoicing and bank reconciliations are done through Xero, as is management of expenses. My accountant and I can both view the up to the minute real time information about my business, I’m saving hours every month with this software and have much better information available to me.

Specifically with the app, a great overview of business bank accounts, invoices and purchases is provided. I’ve full view of my outstanding invoices in the App and other important information. I now have all the information I need, and the time spent on “the books” is now a fraction of what it once was.

 

Finance App 2: Revenue

Am I serious? Yes I am! I think the Revenue app (RevApp) is great, allowing you to log a whole range of expenses throughout the year (health expenses etc.) which makes completing your tax return very easy. You can also log a whole range of other tax relievable expenses (e.g. the home improvement tax relief scheme) and you can get lots of useful information about your tax records.

 

Content App 1: Feedly

Feedly is an app that I use all of the time in seeking out useful content from the web to share, and indeed for content ideas to write about. It enables me to track blogs / news feeds that provide content I don’t want to miss. Rather than receiving an email every time there’s a new blog post or news article,  instead the new content is sent to Feedly which gathers all of these articles in one place. It is like a magazine rack for online articles, waiting for me to go through them.

I can then flick down through hundreds of articles in minutes, reading only the headlines, dipping into an introduction or indeed the full article if I think it is actually worth reading. And I can mark them all as “Read” very easily as I go along, ensuring those particular articles don’t appear again. I’ve categorised the different feeds into groups, which further speeds up the process too. The benefit of Feedly is the time it saves me in getting through huge numbers of articles.

 

Content App 2: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which is my scrapbook of articles that I’ve “cut out” and saved for later. As I see articles of interest on the web or that come through to Feedly, some catch my attention to be read later when I’ve a bit more time on my hands. With 2 clicks, I put them in my Pocket and can also tag the articles for different purposes – it might be to share out later, to rewrite with my perspective, maybe to help me develop a new angle for my proposition etc.

I can then go back into Pocket when I want to carry out an activity and simply click on the article that I’ve saved for that very purpose. It’s all very easy and it means you don’t lose great articles that you’ve read.

 

Every day App 1: Ring

This is an app linked to the doorbell at the front door of my house. What has this got to do with work you may ask… Well my office is in my back garden and gone now are the days of missing couriers, missing bulky post deliveries or having to work inside the house while waiting for a caller. Now when my doorbell rings, it comes through to my phone. There’s a camera , microphone and speaker in the doorbell so I can see who it is and talk to the caller as necessary from my desk. It makes life easy. The doorbell itself has no wiring and can be installed quickly and easily yourself – trust me, I’ve no reputation for advanced DIY skills…

 

Every day app 2: Parking Tag

This app has been around for a good few years now, but it still amazes me the number of people who drive around Dublin during the day and who don’t use the app. They waste time looking for loose change and feeding parking machines. Then when meetings run over a bit, they need to run out and top up their parking. With the app, all of this is simply done from your phone. This app originally only worked in the city centre, but now covers most if not all of Dublin. Again, it makes life easy.

 

I hope there’s an app here for you to try to make your life a bit easier.

When did you last refresh your website?

This is the latest instalment in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, where we explain some of the services that StepChange brings to our financial adviser clients. This month it’s the turn of websites.

 

Creating a world class website is within the reach of financial advisers. The secret to it is to follow some simple guidelines, put a lot of work into creating excellent content and then pay a very high level of attention to the detail. If you’ve an old website or haven’t revisited your content in a while, it just might be time for a refresh.

At StepChange, we assist advisers and planners in establishing top quality, effective websites that portray a very professional look for your business online. In doing so, we follow a couple of basic rules.

 

We Keep it Simple

The days are long gone of auto-loading videos, animated graphics and the latest technical fads. The best websites today are ones that guide the user quickly to what they want and communicate in concise, engaging content. We focus on simplicity and getting your message across quickly – long explanations and technical details about every product available will just bore users. We help you refine your messages in as few words as possible.

 

We Make it Easy to Navigate

We make sure it is very easy for a user to find their way to the specific information they want, while also enticing them to “have a look around” the site. A coherent site navigation approach is critical to retaining the user’s engagement with the site for as long as possible.

 

We Focus on Financial Planning

Too many adviser websites talk at length about products, while not focusing on the real value that you add – helping your clients to make sense of their financial circumstances and to plan effectively for their financial future. This is the focus of the sites that we develop.

 

We Like Nice Design

While simplicity sits at the heart of the websites we develop, this is not a substitute for nice design. We’ll deliver an attractive site layout, will help you source beautiful images and we’ll give your site that wow factor!

 

We Demonstrate your Credentials

Client testimonials, particularly where the name (and better still a photo) of the client is included, are a very valuable asset. We’ll help you request these in a professional manner from your best clients and get maximum visibility for these much-valued endorsements of you and your business.

 

We Identify Clear Calls to Action

You want to make it easy for users to “do something” when they visit your website, rather than simply leaving. This may be connecting on social media, signing up to your newsletter or picking up the phone to you. We’ll identify a number of different Calls to Action and will include them in an effective way.

 

We Know Mobile is Key

The number of views from mobile devices is rising all the time. We develop sites that reflect the importance of the user experience when viewing your site on a mobile device. Mobile users are often looking for different information than desktop users. Our sites recognise this and provide that key information at a glance.

 

We Keep it Fresh

For many of our clients, we continue to work with you after your website is developed. We help you communicate effectively with your clients on an ongoing basis, and as part of this we help you to continually add fresh content to your website. This ensures that users of your site will see that you are an active business, looking to add value to users on an ongoing basis.

 

For some of you, these changes will mean a few hours work. For others they might mean a new site. For everyone though they are worth it. Is it time to give us a call to discuss how we can help you establish a great presence on the web?

Help your clients retire properly

One of the primary reasons why clients reach out to financial planners is to plan for financial security in retirement. Of course, financial planners today deliver far more than helping clients to simply save money for the future. You help clients to visualise what their retirement will look like, you put a cost on this life and then develop a plan to help your clients to achieve the life that they want.

This is very valuable, but clients need more help than this.

Retirement has a huge impact on clients, who overnight go from being very busy people to well, maybe not having a lot to do… Not working any more creates a huge void in their life. Of course for some, this is a very welcome space, for others it brings a range of issues with it. When they’ve hung up their boots, it is often only then that people recognise how important their colleagues were as part of their social fabric. When this daily interaction is no longer there, loneliness can ensue. Of course on top of this is the loss of a sense of purpose every day. Before retirement, your client got out of bed every morning to go to work, to earn money and to achieve their work objectives. Now these are no longer there, what drives them every day?

As their financial planner, you can help your client prepare fully for retirement by expanding your conversations far beyond the financial aspects of their later lives. Here are some areas that you might help them consider,

 

Being with their partner every day

This is not a punishment! But it will definitely take adjustment for both your client and their partner. Routines will now change for each. Your client needs to develop a new routine and the immediate thought might be to hang out with their spouse every day. However their spouse may be happy with their own existing routine (that doesn’t include your client) and might not want to change it.

Of course the answer is in finding a balanced approach. It is about awareness of each other’s space, routines and hopes for the future together. The key to this is talking about it and working through it together. As their financial planner, you can gently guide this conversation.

 

There is time to fill

The thinking around this needs to begin long before retirement. The working day, including commuting time often punched in 11 or 12 hours every day. That’s a lot of time to fill now, so how is your client going to do it? Are they going to play lots of golf? Are they going to study or do voluntary work? Are they going to travel to all those places they had long promised themselves to see?

Your clients need an activity plan, as well as a financial plan. You have worked with many clients as they transition into retirement. Tell the stories of these other clients, how they transitioned, the activities they carried out, how they made retirement work for them. Hearing other people’s experiences is always a useful guide.

 

Encourage clients to mind their health

You have seen the cost of clients getting ill. Bring good health practices into both your client’s financial plan for retirement and also their activity plan. Will they join a golf club or a leisure club with a pool and gym? Will they go for a walk every day?

Also encourage your clients to stay sharp mentally too. Their plan should include cashflow for meeting friends, getting out and about and maybe even going back to college to study? All of these will help your clients stay fit and strong.

 

Remind your clients of their value

Your client has so much to offer in terms of experience, expertise and time. Some people can retire with a perceived loss of value. Previously a company and colleagues relied upon them, and now that is gone. All that actually needs to change here though is that while previously your client was paid for their time and expertise, they can still use their skills, but maybe without payment or for lower payment. Your client will now work on their terms, for someone / a charity that they want to work for, at times that suit them and in ways that make them feel good about themselves. Your client will add enormous value, whether that’s to a voluntary organisation, coaching a sports team or mentoring less experienced business owners. Many retired people build up nice little income streams for themselves in retirement, by putting their skills and expertise to work, all on their own terms.

 

Helping your clients to get their finances in order is very important for them to enjoy a happy and satisfying retirement. But it’s the other factors that will make them feel good about themselves and will help them to live their life to the full for many years to come. As their financial planner, you can guide your clients to think about these areas and help them achieve a full life after retirement.

What questions are you most often asked?

Financial planning is a fairly simple concept. There, I’ve said it! It is at least in the eyes of clients, who consider it broadly as sorting out their money stuff. Of course, effective financial planning is anything but simple. It takes a lot of expertise, talent and a really good process to transform the financial lives of your clients.

Towards the end of last year, FT Money carried out a piece of research among 300 UK clients of financial advisers, with the aim of uncovering their most common questions and the solutions that advisers are offering. The survey results were quite insightful and would likely be relatively similar if carried out in Ireland.

For a start, the top 10 issues that clients want to discuss with their advisers are in the following areas,

  • Retirement/pension planning
  • Tax planning
  • Brexit/political uncertainty
  • Inheritance tax
  • Future financial planning
  • Investment returns/dividends
  • Portfolio review/diversification
  • Global politics/likelihood of market crash
  • Pension drawdown
  • Pension transfer

Maybe no great surprises in the above? It is interesting though that there is nothing directly relating to protection of wealth in there – does financial security fade into the background during times of economic growth?

However, there were four questions that featured frequently in the concerns of clients – do they reflect the conversations that you are having with your clients?

 

Can I afford to retire?

This was the number one question that FT readers wanted to discuss with an adviser, with more than 20 per cent of respondents naming retirement and pension planning as their top concern. With state pensions providing only basic subsistence support to people, clients are rightly focused on how they will live when their income earning days are behind them. Retirement planning is a critical element of financial planning today through both the accumulation and decumulation phases of life. No surprises here!

 

How can I pay less tax?

Tax planning was cited by over 17 per cent of readers as a topic they wanted to discuss with a financial adviser. Many financial planners today are expert in tax matters and indeed many of you have additional taxation specific qualifications. This all makes a huge amount of sense as tax is a significant drag on wealth accumulation and good tax advice has a huge impact. Being a personal tax expert is a necessary requirement for advisers today.

This is an area of potential improvement for some advisers. Do you shy away from giving tax advice and guide your clients towards an accountant or tax adviser? Is this always the right approach? Can you really give expert financial planning advice without being a personal tax expert? I’m not so sure…

 

How can I reduce the impact of inheritance tax?

In addition to general concerns about tax, inheritance tax (IHT) was also a key, specific concern for readers. Although only 5 per cent of estates nationally (in UK) pay the tax, many readers nevertheless fear the impact of IHT — and need an adviser’s help to understand the system.

Of course you are all aware of how penal the Irish IHT system is, with thresholds slashed since the economic crash and IHT rates increased. When you layer increased wealth over the last decade and the recovery of property values, IHT can take a big chunk out of estates. There are ways of reducing these tax bills – you play a really valuable role in helping your clients to take advantage of them.

 

How will Brexit impact my finances?

Obviously this topic is not going to be of such concern to Irish clients. What it does demonstrate though is that clients rightly worry about significant external events beyond their control. One of the most important roles for you as a financial planner is to reassure clients and to keep them focused on the plan. You are all aware that irrational behaviour by investors is often the single biggest drag on growing wealth. You are the voice of reason, helping clients to keep a long-term perspective.

 

While these may be the most common questions that clients ask, one important point comes to the surface. The questions that clients have are about themselves and their money, not about the products that they hold. This further confirms the value that you add is as an expert financial guide… and not as someone who chooses the best products and times the markets.

Are you ready to answer the big questions of your clients?