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.

 

Is LinkedIn worth the trouble?

For those looking for the shortened version – the answer is a resounding YES!

In fact LinkedIn is really not optional for financial advisers any more, as the opportunity cost of not using it is simply too great to ignore now. You must have a presence on it and it must be a very strong presence.

Why? Well here are a few reasons.

 

Your professional profile

Your website tells people about your business and the services that you provide. Your LinkedIn profile on the other hand gives you the opportunity to tell people about you, the businessperson. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your career credentials, your skills and your experience. You also have the opportunity to include recommendations from happy clients. Your LinkedIn profile offers you the opportunity to connect on a personal level with prospective clients.

 

Give yourself a head start

It’s always great to have something in common with a prospect when you meet them, to get off on the right footing! Maybe you went to the same school, shared a common previous employer, are in the same sports club or have an unusual interest in common. This gives you a conversation topic for those first few minutes as you draw each other out into the conversation. LinkedIn is a rich source of this information and might help you to press the “happy” buttons from the word go…

 

A valuable research resource for prospects too

We all use Google to check out potential suppliers before we contact them. The same applies to financial advisers. I think it’s safe to assume that almost 100% of prospective clients will carry out some research of you and your business before entrusting their money with you! Your search (Google) results hopefully will list your website and your LinkedIn profile.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, what does this say about you? To many people, it shows a lack of professionalism, not having your finger on the business pulse. Equally damaging is having a very poor presence on LinkedIn. A badly created profile, with a very small number of connections hardly sends out the message that you are the best provider in town to meet the needs of a potential client.

 

Driving traffic to your website

It’s all well and good having a great website, however you’ve got to ensure that people actually get to visit it and see your content. And this is where LinkedIn plays such an important role. You can share content that is housed on your website out via LinkedIn. And of course if any of your network interact with your content by liking it or sharing it themselves, your content then is highlighted to a whole new network of contacts, leading these people back to your website where they hopefully will learn all about you.

  

Helping your search engine results

Social media in general and LinkedIn as one of the main platforms now plays a significant role in achieving excellent search engine results. While of course it remains very important to have your website pages set up correctly, with well written content featuring your chosen keywords, that on its own is not enough. Fresh, original content that is endorsed by other people earns a lot of brownie points with Google and helps push your site up the search results. And LinkedIn is one of the most effective places for this to happen for you in a business context – when you share your business related content and your insights, and others then interact with them.

 

Providing great insights

Another benefit of LinkedIn is the insights that you can get. You can a real sense of whether your content is of interest to people, and more importantly, who is actually finding it interesting. As people, like, comment upon or share your content, you learn who is reading and finding your content of interest, in a way that no other medium (except email marketing) will deliver. Maybe it’s worth your while reaching out to these people and suggesting a coffee?

 

The benefits of LinkedIn are huge and can’t be ignored by financial advisers. Is it time that you learned how to get the full benefit from it?

 

3 apps and 3 phone actions that will save you hours every month

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’m taking a slightly different route… I’m only going to highlight 3 apps that I use pretty much every day, however they each save me hours of work over the course of every month. I’m then going to set out 3 actions you can take with your mobile phone that will also give you back many hours every month.

First of all, let’s take  a look at my 3 most useful apps.

 

Xero

I’ve been a very satisfied user of Xero, an online accounting system for a number of years now. It has had a transformational effect on the financial management side of my business. It delivers 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, and my accountant and I can both view the up to the minute real time information about my business.

Specifically the phone app provides a great overview of business bank accounts and of invoices and purchases. Bank accounts are reconciled with Xero as transactions happen, and I’ve a full view of my outstanding invoices and other important information. I now have all the information I need, and am saving hours (if not more) every month with Xero. If you’re still sending files / receipts etc. to your accountant every month and manually issuing invoices, you need to have a chat with your accountant. There’s a better way…

 

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 “Already 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.

 

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.

 

And now for 3 actions you can take with your mobile phone that will also save you hours every month.

 

Delete the Facebook app

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be on Facebook, I’m simply saying to get rid of the app from your phone. It has to be the greatest distraction out there. Facebook is so clever at putting content that you want to read in front of you, it is next to impossible to just quickly dip in and out of. I deleted the app from my phone, and this saves me lots of time now during the working day. Because I can only access it through a browser, I rarely bother. Facebook is something I now really only access in the evenings when I’m chilling out…

 

Turn off notifications

Push notifications on your phone and computer provide major distractions. They are rarely urgent, but they are great attention grabbers and are very hard to ignore. But do I need to see the 25 “Yes” responses for my son’s football training tonight? Of course not.

Mute noisy WhatsApp groups for the day and even turn off notifications for some apps that you never need to see. You’ll work more effectively and free up more time for yourself.

 

Turn on Downtime

Many of us think of the Downtime setting on iPhones in relation to getting kids off their phones. But many of us need help in staying away from our own phones! Downtime is a setting within the Screen Time settings on iPhones that allows you to turn off some or all apps for specific time periods. This can be really useful if you need time to concentrate on a task, as you simply can’t access the apps that might distract you. It’s like a “full metal jacket” alternative to turning off your notifications. I now have a few set periods during the week where my phone turns into my old Nokia phone (calls and text only). These are the hours when I need quiet time to get work done.

 

Take a few minutes to explore some of these – you might find a way of getting a few valuable hours back each month.

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?