Social Media Strategies: Yield to Client Preferences

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

Every investor has his or her unique communication and learning style.  Some prefer face-to-face meetings, while a quick text message will suffice for others.  Some investors are highly analytical and need to understand the data behind their investment philosophy while others take a “just give me the bottom line” approach.

Most successful advisors have become adept at assessing the communication and learning styles of their clients and adapting accordingly.  When it comes to a social media strategy, advisors should use a similar approach.

10.15.13_Men are From LinkedInAccording to the recent survey[1] sponsored by MassMutual and conducted by Brightwork Partners, “women are from Facebook, men are from LinkedIn,” various demographic groups are congregating around their social media channel of choice.  Consider these stats:

  • 70% of women routinely use Facebook vs. 59% of men
  • 57% of survey respondents over the age of 50 use Facebook
  • 32% of men use LinkedIn, compared to 15% of women
  • 17% of men versus 10% of women rely on Twitter as an information source
  • 36% of LinkedIn users have household incomes that exceed $100,000
  • 15% of LinkedIn users have household incomes of $50,000 or less
  • Survey respondents in their 30s are 14% more likely to use social media for retirement and investment education than their older counterparts
  • 80% of Pinterest’s 70 million users are women[2]

MassMutual’s study is the latest in a line of research that demonstrates the role social media can play in educating clients.  From a tactical perspective, it is helpful to note that a Tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn message or Pinterest post will reach only the audience following that channel.

From a practical standpoint, you may want to synchronize your social media messages.  So, for example, if you sync your Twitter and LinkedIn files, LinkedIn contacts will see your Twitter updates and vice versa.  Keep in mind that some content is more appropriate for certain channels over others.  For example, tweets can only accommodate 140 characters but Facebook posts may be more extensive. Pinterest is most appropriate for visual content, like the inspiring image below originally pinned by ForexRin.

10.15.13_Men are From LinkedIn_1In the end, social media is about listening and engaging with your clients.  Services like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and GoGoStat can help monitor and track your social media engagement so that you will know which channels are most valuable to your practice.

The Importance of Generational Listening

CoyneJohn E. Coyne, III, Vice Chairman, Brinker Capital

I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Nexus Global Youth Summit in New York City last week. More importantly, I had the chance to listen to and speak with a number of those in attendance.

Nexus is a global movement founded in 2011 whose network consists of over 1,000 young philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and influencers. Their unified goal is to increase and improve philanthropy and the social impact of investing. They come from more than 60 countries and represent more than $100 billion in assets. They have the commitment, intelligence, passion and clout to act on it.

I was in awe of the debate and discussion I witnessed among these ambitious, young leaders.  What they shared, how they felt, how they deviated from each other in plan but matched in vigor and passion—it was among the most intelligent discourses I have listened to in some time. The mindset of the social entrepreneurs in attendance turned the ways I have defined this area upside down.

If financial advisors, family offices and wealth managers wish to remain relevant, it is incumbent on us to help facilitate the dialogue within and across generations, understanding that if properly equipped, this rising generation will accomplish things on an unprecedented global scale. And if we, the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers of the world, don’t adapt to the methods of investing and communicating they are evolving towards, we will be left in the dust.

I want to thank Logan Morris at Snowden Capital for including me and congratulate Rachel Cohen Gerrol on this incredible event. I must give a particular shout out to the woman who spoke from Kopali Organic chocolates.  They are delicious, and you have made a convert.

7.30.13_Coyne_NexusSummitFor a more in-depth look into this year’s  Global Youth Summit, please read this event summary published by Forbes, or take a page out of the Generation Y book and check out their Facebook page.

Show and Tell: Five Points to Make with Prospects

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

The best storytellers are the ones that have mastered the art of “show, don’t tell.” Their ghost stories, for example, have descriptions of settings and physical manifestations of emotions. Sentences like “it was a scary place,” serve only to punctuate what the reader or listener already concluded.

The same can be said of advisors. Telling someone that you can help them achieve their financial goals does not make nearly as big of an impact as when you show them how.

The following are five areas where it is important to show clients why you are the best choice.

Five Points to Make with Prospects:

  1. How you will organize their financial lives. While most clients don’t come out and admit it, their financial lives are chaotic. They may not know how many assets they truly have and how they can put them all to work to increase purchasing power. The first step for advisors is to show clients the before and after. Explain to them what they currently have now versus what their potential growth may look like. Demonstrate how you will make them feel more in control of their financial lives. It could be something as simple as taking out your iPad and showing them the client portal of wealth management tools.
  2. 6.11.13_Bergin_Show&TellHow you will help them make good investment decisions. The term “good investment decisions” is too opaque to resonate with clients. Instead, walk clients through the process used to create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Talk to the client about how an IPS helps to guide future decisions. In the recent Brinker Barometer, we learned that 72% of advisors use a written IPS to help clients make non-emotional investment decisions when the market is in flux. The IPS is tangible proof of a disciplined process that will benefit the client.
  3. What you do to ensure that clients get the best advice and service possible. Marketing-darling phrases like independent, objective and unbiased, fall flat. Instead, describe the process that you go through to ensure that your recommendations are appropriate for the need you are trying to solve.
  4. You have been there, done that. Your experience does not speak for itself. You have to give it a voice. If you just say, “I have been an advisor 22 years,” you miss the opportunity to highlight what you have seen throughout your career. It is more impressive to learn that you have helped others thrive in all market climates than to know that you’ve been at this for a while.
  5. You appreciate their business. It’s easy to say “I value your business,” but to convey that message through action takes a concerted effort. Personal touches such as the just-checking-in phone calls, handwritten notes, and occasional invitations to social events let clients know that their business and their well-being matter to you.

Hang Your Hat on This: Watermark Consulting’s Consumer Experience ROI Study

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

Lacking a crystal ball, many investors, advisors, analysts and researchers look for something dependable that may aid in their ability to predict stock performance.  The trends and studies sought out can range from analyzing relationships between the countries of origin of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, Super Bowl Champion football teams, and Boston snow accumulations and the stock market.[1]

For a more enlightening stock market predictor, however, turn to Watermark Consulting’s 2013 Consumer Experience ROI Study.

Watermark’s research shows a substantial performance gulf between companies who deliver a positive customer experience and those that do not.

Using model portfolios of the Top 10 (Leaders) and Bottom 10 (Laggards) publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking, Watermark has demonstrated a compelling link between consumer experience and stock price.

Over a six-year period, customer experience leaders outperformed the broader market, generating a total return three times higher on average than the S&P 500.  By contrast, the Laggards trailed the S&P 500 by a wide margin.

As Watermark Founder Jon Picoult points out, the analysis reflects over half a decade of performance results spanning an entire economic cycle, from the pre-recession market peak in 2007 to the post-recession recovery that continues today.

Customer Experience Leaders Outperform the MarketWhile it’s important not to make investment decisions based solely off of one dataset, Watermark’s study is one that you can hang your proverbial hat on when considering investments in people or processes that enhance your clients’ experience.


[1] MSNBC’s 11 Most Shocking Stock Indexes. http://www.cnbc.com/id/29257460/page/1

Brinker Capital Crystal Strategies Suite Wins Advisory Solutions Product of the Year

BeamanNoreen Beaman, Chief Executive Officer, Brinker Capital

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that our Crystal Strategies Suite of absolute return portfolios has been awarded the Money Management Institute’s Advisory Solutions Product of the Year!

The Money Management Institute (MMI) is the national organization for the advisory solutions industry.  They represent portfolio manager firms and sponsors of investment consulting programs. MMI serves as the leading forum for the industry’s leaders to address common concerns, discuss industry issues, and ultimately, work together to better serve investors.

MMI Award WinnerAt Brinker Capital, our goal is to provide financial advisors with innovative products and solutions so that they can best serve their clients. With this award, I am proud to see that we are getting it right.

Please click here for the official press release

Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Rely on Year-End Statements for Tax Reporting Purposes

Sue BerginSue Bergin

Many investors are confused by discrepancies between year-end figures and those that appear on 1099 tax reporting documents from fund companies. Typically, these discoveries come to light around midnight when it is most difficult to get someone on the phone that can explain the discrepancies.

If you come upon a discrepancy, resist the temptation to jump to the conclusion that there is a problem. Instead, know that discrepancies sometimes happen, which is why experts advise against using year-end reports for tax reporting purposes.

10 Reasons Year-End Statements Should Not Be Used for Tax Reporting

  1. Fund companies explicitly caution against using the figures provided in year-end reports for tax reporting purposes. There is a reason that it has become industry standard to include such disclaimers. The industry is trying to prevent tax preparers from a commonly made mistake.
  2. The gross proceeds amount on the 1099 will rarely match the proceeds amounts show on a year-end statement’s realized gain/loss statement.
  3. Reclassifications often occur after year-end.
  4. RICs or spillover payments aren’t made until January of the next year, but have to be reported for the prior year. These occur with mutual funds, Real Estate Investment Trusts and Unit Investment Trusts that post distributions with record dates in October, November and/or December of the prior year, but make payment in January of the next year.
  5. Payments described as dividends on monthly statements, but paid on shares selected in the substitute payment lottery process are reported as miscellaneous income on Form 1099-MISC.
  6. Income payments on certain preferred securities must be reported as interest, even though they are often shown as payments and dividends on the monthly statement.
  7. Original issue discount (OID) accruals may be identified and processed after year-end.
  8. Reporting on short-term discount securities (like Treasury Bills).
  9. Shares received as part of an optional stock dividend offering are valued and reported as income on the 1099-DIV.
  10. Corporate reorganizations, recapitalization, mergers and spin-offs creating stock or cash distributions are considered taxable events reportable on Form 1099-B.

Your year-end statements provide valuable information, however for tax reporting purposes, your best bet is to use the information contained on your 1099s.

This information represents our understanding of federal income tax laws and regulations, but does not constitute legal or tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor, attorney or financial professional for personalized assistance.

What to Do With All Those Receipts?

Sue BerginSue Bergin

There are many little annoyances that an advisor must deal with as a cost of doing business. Tracking expenses is a prime example. Out of necessity, advisors have developed systems for tracking expenses that vary in sophistication. Ranking high on the list is the empty-the-pockets-on-the-assistant’s-desk-and-let-her-deal-with-it system and the stack-the-receipts-in-a-pile-for-a-slow-day-project approach.

While these systems are second nature, the beauty of living in the digital era is that annoying tasks have spawned clever digital solutions.

Such is the case with tracking business expenses. For those who have embraced mobile devices, the days of the crinkled and barely legible receipts can be gone forever. Shoeboxed, Lemon Wallet and ABUKAI Expenses are some of the apps available that make managing receipts painless and efficient. You can download these apps on your Apple, Blackberry or Android device(s), and then simply take photos of your receipts. The expenses are digitally categorized and stored, and in many cases, the data can be imported into a spreadsheet or an accounting program like Quickbooks. With Shoeboxed, you can mail in old receipts and they will make digital copies for you. You can even get multiple “seats” on an ABUKAI account, allowing staff members in your office to contribute to the expense report. Other expenses management software programs, like Expensify and Xpenser, also have mobile applications that result in efficiency gains.

shutterstock_111610157Neat Receipts takes a slightly different approach. They offer a mobile scanner and digital filing system that allows you to scan receipts, business cares and documents. The Neat Receipts software system then identifies, extracts and organizes key information. While these applications might help you to make your practice more efficient, they could also help clients who own businesses. Clients often look to their advisor for tips on how to gain more control over their financial world.

With tax deadlines rapidly approaching, the inefficiencies of traditional approaches are top of mind. Take this opportunity to suggest this small way to remove one of the little annoyances in their lives. You may find that they are quite receptive and appreciative of your efforts.

New Ideas for Growth

Bev Flaxington@BevFlaxington, The Collaborative

Finding creative ways to continue to grow an advisory business isn’t always easy. We asked advisors all over the country what some of the more interesting ideas are for marketing and business building. This blog is devoted to those advisors who are thinking outside of the box and trying new ideas.

Leveraging Social Media
In Greenwood Village, CO, Kelly O’Connor and her team researched the power of video. They realized they already had great information and material to share, so they produced short video commentaries. They have posted these on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and the like. Clients, prospects, and centers of influence, forward these clips to others. Kelly says they’ve found that while people may not read a report or a white paper, they’ll watch a brief video if a friend forwards it and asks them to!

Loving What you Do – and Sharing it!
Sarah Wilson, CGA and CFP of T.E. Wealth in Calgary, Alberta, says that she enjoys financial planning so much that she feels compelled to talk to others “about their lives, goals, and financial aspirations.” She claims she is naturally “nosy,” but the truth is that advisors who are truly interested in others and take the time to talk, listen, and learn, even when a sale may not be imminent, are often open to opportunities that other advisors may miss.

3.4.13_Flaxington_Ideas_for_GrowthFinding Outside Resources
Safe Harbor Asset Management in Huntington, NY, has expanded their client base by doing everything from purchasing leads from specialized marketing companies to sponsoring seminars. They have had success using a service provided by Platinum Advisory Marketing Services, which creates a weekly market update for their clients that can be forwarded to a friend to join the mailing list and receive the same update.  John Boyd, an attorney, launched a site called MeetingWave.com that helps professional service practitioners arrange targeted networking meetings with the type of people desired as invitees. You can arrange coffee, lunch, or general networking via email.  Jennifer Dziubeck of Kel & Partners in Boston shared information about their firm – GiftsonTime.com, a free web-based tool that enables financial advisors to select and schedule clients’ gifts. This system allows you to put in a year’s worth of events, and with one click, find a vendor or gift that is appropriate for your client base.

Niche Marketing
Kristin Harad, founder of the VitaVie Financial Planning firm in California, targets new parents and families with young children in the Bay area. Because it can be challenging for parents of younger children to get out to a meeting, Kristin’s firm has created “weekend workshops at indoor play spaces.” She says, “The kids have a great time jumping around and having unsupervised play, while we get the parents’ undivided attention for a 90-minute presentation on the financial issues parents of young children face.” At a financial planning firm in Beverly Hills, Ara Oghoorian, CFA, has created marketing materials such as promotional prescription vials filled with jelly beans – the Rx sticker includes their logo and contact information. It’s a fun way to say, “We know our niche!” They also belong to ProVisors – a networking group consisting of CEO and high-level executives. Because they are speaking to the medical community, they spend time contacting medical associations and getting articles published in their newsletters on topics related to retirement, financial planning, and concerns that may resonate with medical professionals.

Try One On
What can your firm do that’s a little different to gain the attention of investors in a crowded market?

Gain Access and Build Trust

Sue BerginSue Bergin

A training manual from a decade ago may have highlighted the importance of mapping your traits to one of three communication styles: aggressive, passive or assertive. Awareness of your own communication style helps you understand how others perceive your interactions, and allows you to adapt your approach with clients who have different styles.

While the advice is still relevant, there is another communication style to consider—mobile.

The mobile communicator believes in access. He or she should be accessible to clients 24/7, and vice versa.

Advisors with a more aggressive communication style should be able to alter their style when working with passive clients, but they must also demonstrate flexibility to move across the mobility spectrum.

Spectrem Group recently reported that 55% of high-net-worth clients use mobile devices to correspond with their advisors.[1]  Most mobile devices offer a variety of communication methods including telephone calls, text messages, e-mails, video chats, and social networking.  How do you know which is the best to use with which clients?

1.19.13_Bergin_GainAccess_BuildTrustThe answer is quite simple. Don’t make assumptions. Find out if the clients want their appointments confirmed via text, e-mail or a phone call. Do they want newsletters and routine correspondence delivered in their mailbox at home, or their inbox? Would they prefer Skype sessions in lieu of face-to-face meetings? Is the landline number you have on file in service, or are they exclusively mobile users?

Adjusting to your clients’ communication method of choice will win you favor in a highly valued category. According to a recent survey, clients are more forgiving of poor investment advice from their advisor than they are of poor communication skills.

25% of the survey respondents indicated inaccessibility and unresponsiveness as the top reasons for lack of trust in a financial advisor. Coming in a distant second, at 13%, was poor investment advice. The third most prevalent reason for losing trust in a financial advisor was the lack of a personalized approach.

As with behavioral nuance, you must learn to respect other styles and adjust accordingly. By using your clients’ preferred communication methods, you will gain efficiency and build trust.

Turning Satisfied Clients Into Referring Clients

Bev Flaxington@BevFlaxington, The Collaborative

One of the eternal frustrations for many advisors is that they have happy, satisfied clients who don’t refer on a regular basis. Ask an advisor how many satisfied clients they have and they may say upwards of 90%, but then ask that same advisor what percentage refer and the number usually drops below 10%!

What kinds of things can an advisor do to increase referrals more consistently? Let’s look at the five most common problems, and then the options for re-energizing your client base toward referring:

  1. Just because they like you doesn’t mean they will refer you. Although you are doing a great job for them, they may have very busy lives. You are not “top of mind” all of the time. They don’t think about you outside of the time they interact with you. In order to stay top of mind, make sure you have ways to connect with them on a consistent and ongoing basis. It isn’t enough to just send the monthly newsletter. Find articles of interest to pass along. Write a blog. Have ongoing events—in person and via webinars. Hold client conference calls. Reach out often in different ways to remind clients, more subtly, of the value you add.
  2. They know what you do for them, sort of. But they can’t translate it for other people and it isn’t enough to say, “I like my financial advisor and you should, too!” Be sure you are clear about the type of people you serve, the ways you serve them, and the problems you solve. Take the time to share stories and vignettes with clients about others you have helped and how you have helped them. Ask them directly if they know people in situations like the ones you are describing. Paint the picture clearly enough so they know who they are looking for, on your behalf. Turning clients into evangelists means you have to arm them with the story to tell.
  3. Practice ManagementClients think you give such high-touch service you could not possibly be interested in taking on new clients – it would just be too much! They may not realize you want referrals. While the idea of “just ask” falls short, making it clear to clients that your best source of new business is them is very important. Keep reminding them that you are hoping to be connected to others just like them over time in order to build your business, by serving clients well.
  4. There isn’t enough active engagement for clients to have a chance to refer. Your annual meeting is probably for the purpose of reviewing the client’s portfolio and life situation. Truth? They want the conversation to be about them, not about you. Now enough about their friends and family! They want the focus on them. You need to find other ways to build in engagement. Take them to lunch just to check in once per year. Invite them to a client advisory board meeting that is focused on steps to take to grow your business. Hold networking and referral meetings where they can bring others and perhaps enhance their relationships, while also enhancing yours. Build in these opportunities to your regular day-to-day activities.
  5. There may be nothing in it for them. Why should a client refer to you? Just because they are happy doesn’t mean they have to do anything more about it – after all, they are paying you a fee for services. It’s important to set up the desire for referrals at the outset. “What would have to happen in our relationship that you might want to refer us business? What steps would we need to take together to make this comfortable for you?” Or have a way to reward clients for referring. Send them tickets, or flowers or candy to say “thank you!” Be sure you get in their shoes and realize that referrals are for you, not for them. They may want to help a friend, but ultimately they might like to be acknowledged somehow, too.

If you are frustrated by the lack of referrals your satisfied clients bring, review this list. See if there is an area you could focus on to reenergize client referrals for 2013. Take it one step at a time.