6 Apps I’m working with nearly every day

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’ve zoned in on 6 apps that I use very regularly, in some cases many times each day. I’ve ignored meeting apps such as Zoom or MS Teams as these are used by everyone today.

 

App 1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

When writing this piece, I first considered giving each AI app a section of its own. But as AI is now infiltrating just about every aspect of our working lives, I thought I would simply set out an overview of the uses that I’m getting from it at this stage. There are so many good AI apps now, that this article would be too long and could never do them justice. New apps are also emerging every day, so any specific apps might have been overtaken by better ones by the time you read this piece!

The bottom line is, that AI is now part of our lives. If you have been avoiding learning about it, I’m afraid you’re going to have to rethink your approach. AI is likely to have a similar impact on our working lives in the same way that the beginning of the Internet did all those years ago… While your uses of AI as a financial adviser will be slightly different to mine, here are a few areas in which I’m finding it useful.

Chat GPT: This is the one most people are familiar with, I’m finding myself using it for a wider range of functions now – whether that’s in carrying out research, as an alternative search platform to Google and as an assistant in content development. However I know I’m still only tipping around the edges of it.

Gamma AI: This is an app that is useful in helping you to create presentations from scratch. It can help with other design tasks too, for website pages for example. You tell it what you want your presentation to be about and it goes to work, creating a slide deck for you. You can then change and refine the deck my getting tighter on your requirements in relation to content and design etc. Again, there is a lot to get your head around with this, but an investment of time in making it work will save lots of time in the long run.

Zoom AI: I primarily use Zoom for online meetings and have started using their AI assistant for the creation of meeting notes after a call. I get an email with a review of the meeting immediately after each meeting. The AI assistant interprets the meeting, summarises key points and captures actions. To be honest, it is far from perfect at this stage – with sometimes some weird and wonderful thoughts (!), but it is a very useful starting point in recording the outputs of a meeting and is improving all the time…

 

App 2: Capture

Capture is a new tool introduced by Dropbox, my primary file storage service. Capture enables me to create short explainer videos and screen recordings with amazing ease. If clients ask me how to carry out certain task online or within other programs, Capture has made explaining them really easy. There are good alternatives to this (such as Loom), but Capture works well for me as a Dropbox user.

 

App 3: Ayoa

For any of you that I’ve been fortunate to develop strategies and plans with, you’ll have seen this one in action. Ayoa is the replacement for iMindmap, which was the business established by the king of mindmaps, Tony Buzan. I use this all the time when brainstorming, whether on my own or with clients as part of the planning process. Because of the highly visual nature of them, mindmaps are far more effective to capture ideas than using a flipchart, as you can easily edit items, move them around, expand ideas or simply lose the weak ones. You then also have a digital record of the work which can be shared with others or can be exported into other programmes for further use. I’d struggle to cope without this one!

 

App 4: Canva

While I don’t use this app every day, it is really handy from time to time. It is effectively a DIY design tool. While it will never replace the skills of a good graphic designer, it is very useful for those simple design jobs where you just want to create or manipulate a nice image for use maybe in a social media post. It’s definitely one worth checking out.

 

App 5: Feedly

An old favourite that I know some of you now use. 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.

 

App 6: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which I see as my sister App to Feedly – another old favourite. This 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.

 

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

6 Apps that make my working life much easier

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’ve zoned in on 6 apps that I use very regularly, in some cases many times each day. I’ve ignored meeting apps such as Zoom or MS Teams as these are used by everyone today.

 

App 1: ChatGPT

So where do we start with this one? As Artificial Intelligence (AI) is heralded as the greatest technological revolution in decades and about to change how we live and work beyond our comprehension, ChatGPT is the poster child for AI – certainly at the moment. It has grabbed most of the headlines as it is so simple to get started with, enabling many people to harness the power of AI. However, to use it well and to its full potential is another matter altogether…

I’m finding myself using it for a wider range of functions now – whether that’s in carrying out research, as an alternative search platform to Google and as an assistant in content development. However I know I’m still only tipping around the edges of it. I’m beginning to see how it can help in a much broader range of business tasks – and this applies equally to the work that financial advisers carry out every day. The power of ChatGPT and AI more broadly is quite mind-blowing.

I’m also wondering though about when I write a similar article in a year’s time. Will ChatGPT be the headline on the list or will it be “old hat” at that stage?

 

App 2: 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 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. 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 a fraction of what it once was.

 

App 3: Ayoa

For any of you that I’ve been fortunate to develop strategies and plans with, you’ll have seen this one in action. Ayoa is the replacement for iMindmap, which was the business established by the king of mindmaps, Tony Buzan. I use this all the time when brainstorming, whether on my own or with clients as part of the planning process. Because of the highly visual nature of them, mindmaps are far more effective to capture ideas than using a flipchart, as you can easily edit items, move them around, expand ideas or simply lose the weak ones. You then also have a digital record of the work which can be shared with others or can be exported into other programmes for further use. I’d struggle to cope without this one!

 

App 4: Canva

While I don’t use this app every day, it is really handy from time to time. It is effectively a DIY design tool. While it will never replace the skills of a good graphic designer, it is very useful for those simple design jobs where you just want to create or manipulate a nice image for use maybe in a social media post. It’s definitely one worth checking out.

 

App 5: Feedly

An old favourite that I know some of you now use. 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.

 

App 6: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which I see as my sister App to Feedly – another old favourite. This 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.

 

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

Apps that I’m using more and more

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’ve steered clear of any financial apps and have focused on apps (desktop and/or phone) that make my working life easier. I’m finding that the more I use them, the more uses I find for them.

 

App 1: Ayoa

For any of you that I’ve been fortunate to develop strategies and plans with, you’ll have seen this one in action. Ayoa is the replacement for iMindmap, which was the business established by the king of mindmaps, Tony Buzan. I use this all the time when brainstorming, whether on my own or with clients as part of the planning process. Because of the highly visual nature of them, mindmaps are far more effective to capture ideas than using a flipchart, as you can easily edit items, move them around, expand ideas or simply lose the weak ones. You then also have a digital record of the work which can be shared with others or can be exported into other programmes for further use. I’d struggle to cope without this one!

 

App 2: Canva

While I don’t use this app every day, it is really handy from time to time. It is effectively a DIY design tool. While it will never replace the skills of a good graphic designer, it is very useful for those simple design jobs where you just want to create or manipulate a nice image for use maybe in a social media post. It’s definitely one worth checking out.

 

App 3: Notes (by Apple)

For everyone with an iPhone, this is an app that is automatically installed on your phone. It sat unused on mine for many years until a few years ago when I used it to capture a list of things I needed to bring on a holiday. Then I started using it for a number of different things outside of work. However in the last year or two, I’ve started using it a lot for just capturing different thoughts about my business in general or about specific projects that I’m working on.

I’m a bit of an Apple fan – all my devices (phone / tablet / laptop / desktop) are Apple devices. The beauty of this app is that no matter where I’m working, I’m only a click or two away from the specific note that I want to read or update. The interface is excellent too – it’s so easy to create notes, create lists within notes and set up folders of associated notes etc. I know there are similar apps available from Google and others – this is the one that works best for me.

 

App 4: Feedly

An old favourite that I know some of you now use. 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.

 

App 5: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which I see as my sister App to Feedly – another old favourite. This 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.

 

App 6: Ring

One for those of you who continue working from home… 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 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. The doorbell itself has no wiring and can be installed quickly and easily yourself – trust me, I’ve no reputation for advanced DIY skills… Even if your office is in the house, it might help you decide when on a Zoom call whether you need to run to answer the front door or not.

 

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

6 great apps that make my life easier

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’m mentioning 6 apps that I use regularly and that make my work / financial life a little easier to manage. I’ve mentioned some of these before – the more I use them, the more useful I find them.

 

App 1: Stripe

I started using Stripe when 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 immediately 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 credit card payments.

 

App 2: 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 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. 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 a fraction of what it once was.

 

App 3: 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.

 

App 4: Feedly

An old favourite that I know some of you now use. 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.

 

App 5: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which I see as my sister App to Feedly – another old favourite. This 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.

 

App 6: Ring

One for those of you who will continue working from home… 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 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… Even if your office is in the house, it might help you decide when on a Zoom call whether you need to run to answer the front door or not.

 

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

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.

 

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

6 “no no’s” on LinkedIn

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn and have been for the last decade. While some people (too quickly) dismiss it as just another route for recruiters to target your staff, I believe it offers significant benefits to financial planners in building and engaging a valuable network. However it’s not perfect, and as a follow-on piece to the above linked article, I think it’s useful to set out a few practices that people should avoid when using LinkedIn.

 

LinkedIn is not for selling

If you’re thinking about using LinkedIn for selling, think again. LinkedIn is a platform for setting out a professional profile on the web, building a valuable network and then engaging with this network over time. There is nothing worse than accepting a connection request, only for it to be followed by a sales pitch from my new connection. It is by far my number one gripe and will result in me not engaging with you…ever. Think about it – it’s like walking into a room, introducing yourself and then shoving your product or service in the other person’s face. You never do it in real life, don’t do it online either.

 

Never send out the stock LinkedIn connection request

This one is the second biggest sin in my book! I urge you to always personalise a connection request. If you know or have previously met your target connection, remind them of this. Otherwise find something in their profile or on their website which demonstrates that you want to connect specifically with them. It’s too easy and lazy to send out a bunch of standard connection requests hoping that some of them will land… but is that not just spam?

 

There’s no point being secretive and hidden

Remember that LinkedIn is a networking tool. This is important, and the best physical networks are ones where people are open with other, introduce new people, collaborate together and help each other. So why do some people keep their connections hidden online? I’ve been using LinkedIn for about 15 years now and still haven’t heard of a single example of a client being “stolen” or even approached, as a result of being identified as a connection of another adviser.

In this vein too, I always advise that you remain visible yourself and identifiable when looking at other people’s connections. What’s the harm in someone seeing that you are considering connecting with them or otherwise researching them? Is that not an integral part of networking?

 

Don’t leave your profile unfinished

This is one that we’re all guilty of. Review your profile regularly as this is your personal showcase on the web. Make sure the information is up to date and that you’re putting your best foot forward in each of the profile sections. LinkedIn make this very easy for you, by asking you all of the relevant questions in each of the sections.

One area in particular that carries a lot of weight and adds hugely to your profile is the Recommendations section. Why don’t you approach that recent, delighted client to whom you have just delivered clarity, valuable advice and a roadmap to achieving their financial goals. They will probably be delighted to recommend you, but they won’t think of it – you need to ask!

 

Less haste, more speed

It’s very easy to share updates on LinkedIn. But it takes a little bit longer if you want to maximise the impact of your posts and the value that you add. It is worth that extra minute or two to go and find a good image to use, as opposed to not using an image. Posts without images have far lower click rates. In the same vein, if you are sharing 3rd party content, add your own take on it or a question that you think it poses. It might take a minute to think of it and type it in, but it’s worth it rather than just sharing a link.

 

Don’t give up

It take time to build an effective network and to then engage your network. I’m a long-time user of LinkedIn and really believe that with a little bit of effort, it can pay big dividends. For me it has been a consistent and valuable source of new clients, and that is without ever “selling” on LinkedIn. Instead through trying to add value with what I hope is useful content, LinkedIn has got me on to radars that I otherwise probably would never have appeared.

It does take a little bit of time and some effort, but it’s worth it. If it’s not happening quickly for you, stick with it. It is worth persevering.