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 Implications Of The 2012 Presidential Election

This Tuesday marked the end of the 2012 Presidential Election campaign, with Barack Obama heading back to the White House.  In a campaign marked by elements of vitriol and an astronomical amount of money spent, most experts ballpark it around $6 billion in total, the results were status quo.   Republicans maintained their majority in the House, while the Democrats, after picking up a few surprise seats, remain in control of the Senate and Presidency.

As the new(ish) regime begins to game-plan for the next four years, a number of issues to address lay in wait.  The first, and potentially most significant, is the fiscal cliff the government must face before January 1, 2013.  With the Bush-era tax cuts expiring in conjunction with spending cuts, the U.S. economy will see about a 4% drag on GDP, forcing policymakers to address the looming recession.  The most likely scenario is an extension of most of the provisions already in place, which would result in a drag on GDP closer to 1%.

A key proponent in all of this is a compromise of tax increases on high-income earners—a significant area of compromise for President Obama. It would seem that the majority of investors are anticipating such a short-term deal to take place, but if no deal is signed before the end of the year, the market will react to the disappointment.

Next on tap for the President is a defined, long-term fiscal package. And while it will be a difficult task with a split government, it has been done before.  It is important for investors to have a roadmap to address our fiscal issues as it would reduce uncertainties, provide businesses and consumers with a higher level of confidence, and ultimately spend and contribute to positive growth. One strong point here is our high demand for U.S. Treasuries, even at current low rates.

With possible changes facing the Federal Reserve and tax increases, we are faced with a number of uncertainties.  We’ve crossed the election off our list of concerns and now turn our heads to the fiscal cliff. So as we head into year end, we will prepare for market volatility while keeping a close eye on what Congress is planning.

Becoming an Obvious Expert Beverly D. Flaxington for Brinker Capital

One of the best ways for financial advisors to generate new business is to become “known”. Known as the expert, as the advisor with insights, and as the person who has something important to say. Many investors like to work with someone they perceive as knowledgeable and well-rounded.
How best to become an obvious expert? The first important piece is to be seen and heard. This can be done through using a PR (public relations) strategy and through social media. PR includes things like being interviewed on radio and television, being written about in newspapers and periodicals, and issuing press releases or other news stories. Social media includes things like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and means engaging in online discussion and information boards to talk about your expertise.
Some advisors shy away from the media because they don’t know what to say. As a first step, think about what interesting angles you can address relative to important topics in the news. Don’t limit your thinking to just the stock and bond market movements; think about trends for retirees and/or divorcees, multi-generational issues, or any other newsworthy trend that can connect back to your process or philosophy with regard to investing or planning.
Consider some of the following to establish your credibility as the obvious expert:
(1) Radio and television interviews are “free” advertising. Read and watch different journalists and reporters. Find out what they often report on. Write an email or a note to respond to some information they’ve given and your angle on their story. Make friends with your local media. Reporters and journalists are looking for new, fresh angles all the time.
(2) If you want to put more effort into it, consider doing your own blog talk radio show. You can pay a nominal fee to get set up on one of the major networks such as Live365 or blogtalkradio. With your own show you are responsible for coming up with content for each program, but you can always leverage other relationships such as COIs (Centers of Influence) like realtors, attorneys or accountants. Having your own show means you would be the interviewer instead of the interviewee. However, it allows you to get your thoughts and ideas across to an audience each week or month, depending on the show schedule.
(3) Create audio or video recordings of any interviews you have, or just record yourself telling case stories about how you work with clients. Circulate the audio or video to the press and also post it on your website.
(4) Issue a press release about something interesting happening at your firm. This could be the launch of a new website, a new angle on your service offerings, or a new hire to your firm. Anything happening at your firm can be newsworthy. Send press releases out over many of the free services available, such as this or this
(5) Engage in social media. As you pursue relationships with the younger generation (i.e. anyone under 40 years of age), they will immediately search you out on Google or some other engine to find whatever they can about you. It’s imperative to have a presence of some kind. Have an updated LinkedIn account, follow people on Twitter or create an account, if your compliance department allows it. Have a blog if you can, or at minimum post to other’s blogs when you have a response or idea to share.
Put a focus on becoming known, being seen and staying out in the public eye.

There are many opportunities to do so. Consider the ones that are right for your practice.

Central Bank’s Sway Stock, Market Commentary by Joe Preisser

Aided by a broad based reassessment of comments issued by European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi on Thursday, and the release of better than anticipated employment figures for the month of July in the United States, stocks rallied strongly on Friday to reverse the losses suffered earlier in the week and reclaim their upward trajectory.

Following a meeting of the American Central Bank’s policy making committee this week, the decision to forbear enacting any additionally accommodative monetary policy at present was announced in tandem with indications that measures designed to stimulate the world’s largest economy may be forthcoming.  The Federal Open Market Committee said in its official statement that they, “will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions.”  As the recovery in the world’s largest economy has continued at a frustratingly slow pace, hope has pervaded the marketplace that increased liquidity will be provided by policy makers in order to encourage growth should they deem it necessary.  In its most recent communiqué, the Federal Reserve has reinforced this belief thus offering support for risk based assets.  Brian Jacobsen, the Chief Portfolio Strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “They probably are closer to providing, as they say, ‘additional accommodation as needed’, but I still think that they want more data before they actually pull the trigger.”

Investors across the globe registered their disappointment on Thursday with the decision rendered by the European Central Bank, to refrain from immediately employing any additional measures to support the Eurozone’s economy, by selling shares of companies listed around the world.  Hope for the announcement of the commencement of an aggressive sovereign bond buying program, designed to lower borrowing costs for the heavily indebted members of the currency union, which blossomed in the wake of comments made by Central Bank President Mario Draghi last week were temporarily dashed during Thursday’s press conference.  Although Mr. Draghi pledged to defend the euro, and stated that the common currency is, “irreversible” (New York Times), the absence of a substantive plan to aid the ailing nations of the monetary union was disparaged by the marketplace and precipitated a steep decline in international indices.

Friday morning brought with it a large scale reinterpretation of the message conveyed by European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi the day before, as investors parsed the meaning of his words and concluded that the E.C.B. is in fact moving closer to employing the debt purchasing program the market has been clamoring for.  The release of better than expected news from the labor market in the United States combined with the improvement in sentiment on the Continent to send shares markedly higher across the globe.  According to the New York Times, “on Friday, stocks on Wall Street and in Europe advanced as investors digested the announcement alongside data showing the U.S. added 163,000 jobs.”  Although the absence of immediate action served to initially unnerve traders, further reflection upon the President’s comments revealed the resolve of the Central Bank to support the currency union and fostered optimism for its maintenance. A statement released by French bank Credit Agricole on Friday captured the marked change in market sentiment, “Mr. Draghi’s strong words should not be understated, in our view.  The ECB President made it perfectly clear that the governing council was ready to address rising sovereign yields…Overall, notwithstanding the lack of detail at this stage, we believe the ECB will deliver a bold policy response in due time”(Wall Street Journal).

The Phone that Knows You Better than You Do by Sue Bergin

Every day, the mobile device in your pocket gets just a little bit smarter.

The latest example of how mobile devices can help organize your life comes in the form of the Android app, Friday. Friday is a personal assistant and is billed as a passive automated journal of your life. It tracks all of your mobile activities, collects and indexes them, and builds your own personal “Wikipedia.”

When did you last reach out to your top clients?

Friday knows, and can even tell you how long the call lasted.

How long does it take to get from Client A’s office to Client B’s office? Friday can tell you how long it took last time you did it, and the time before that too.

Are you spreading your business throughout town enough? Friday can tell you how many times you’ve eaten at each of your four favorite eateries this month.

Friday is a passive data collector that leads to “self discovery.” Continue using your mobile device the way you’ve grown to use it, and Friday will collect a treasure trove of information about you. You might even forget your phone is spying on you … I mean, collecting data on you. But, it is. Everything you do is chronicled just in case you might want to go back and examine it at a later date.

The creepiness of this app may outweigh its usefulness, but it is important to know that the data is out there and Silicon Valley (or India in the case of this app) is rapidly finding ways to curate it for us.

Tough Negotiators See Red By Sue Bergin

Want to best position yourself next time you are negotiating fees, haggling with the broker dealer on issuance requirements, or trying to get your client the best rate on a mortgage?  Put a quick PowerPoint slide together with your key points and put it on a blue background.  
 
Or grey.  
 
Anything but red.
 
Researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia recently released a study describing how colors affect consumers’ willingness to pay in purchase settings like auctions and negotiations. They found that the color red influences how much participants were willing to pay in competitive situations.
 
The color red has long been known to invoke feelings of aggression.  Red is an emotionally intense color that enhances metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.  It is also one of the easiest colors to see, which explains why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red.
 
Study participants who “saw red” entered higher bid jumps in auctions and made lower offers in negotiation settings.  In both cases, they took a competitive stance.  In bidding situations, they were willing to increase bids to ensure that they “won” the item and were not outbid.
 
In negotiation settings, participants who gained their information on a red background also wanted to “win.”  Their initial offers were low.  For example, when participants were shown vacation packages that were displayed on a blue background and were asked to make their best offer, the average was $712.  The same package set against a red background yielded an average offer of $684.  
 
The researchers concluded that the red background induced greater aggression, which caused participants to implicitly compete against the seller for the best deal.
 
Advisors typically avoid showing their clients anything that includes the color red.  This study gives us one more reason to love blue.

Understanding Behavioral Style in Developing New Business – Part 2 by Bev Flaxington

In Part 1 of this two-part blog on behavioral selling, we discussed how behavior style impacts communication and why it is crucial for the successful advisor, business development representative or client services person to understand this science. Now, in Part 2, we give some sales examples.

If an advisor learns how to identify her or his own behavioral style, and learns all the nuances around it, he or she can learn the styles of buyers and influencers. Then, he or she can adapt their behavioral style to increase the probability of true connection with prospects and for developing long-term relationships – even with people very different from themselves. For business development people, this leads to an increased ability to close more business with new and existing prospects and clients. For client service folks, this means the ability to manage a long-term relationship even when there’s no real “click” of personalities.

In Part 1 we described the four styles – D for Dominance, I for Influencing, S for Steadiness and C for Compliance. Everyone has a “core” style, e.g. one dominant style out of these four; having determined that your prospect or client prominently displays the characteristics of one, your objective is to communicate with him or her accordingly. Here are some characteristics of each and how you’d approach them.

“D” – Interested in new & unique services or products; very “results” focused; makes quick decisions
“I” – Interested in showy and flashy products; focused on the “experience” (is it, or does it allow for, fun!); makes quick decisions
“S” – Interested in traditional products; very trusting and is looking for trust; is slow in decision making
“C” – Interested in proven, time-tested products; needs and seeks information; is very slow in decision making

As an example of communicating based on this knowledge, we’ll take the “I”. We’ll call this client Mr. Jones. He, like other core “I”s, is effusive and upbeat – an extrovert. They have a high need to verbalize ideas and their key emotion is optimism. Their expectations of others are high and their conflict response is to run away. Their stress reliever is interaction and socializing with people. Descriptors for them include inspiring, persuasive and trusting.

To further help you determine what core style you’re dealing with, there are four communication factors that are giveaways for each of the four styles. These factors are 1) Tone of Voice, 2) Pace of Speech and Action, 3) Words Used and 4) Body Language. In our example, how can you tell you’re interacting with a core “I”? Key on the communication factors for instant clues:
• Tone of Voice – it will be energized, enthusiastic, friendly and colorful
• Pace of Speech and Action – s/he will exhibit fast speech and fast action, and be fast toward people
• Words Used – fun, excitement, immediate, now, today, new and unique
• Body Language – you’ll feel the fast pace, the fast movement and orientation toward people.

Now that you’ve identified Mr. Jones as a high “I”, you must calibrate your own natural style for communicating with him. So if you are, say, a high “C” – as many advisors are – you need to make sure that you pick up your pace a bit, smile and nod your head to show that you’re fully engaged with the high “I,” keep the focus on them and ask questions, respond to their small talk and give them as much time as possible to verbalize. For a core “C” (or “S”) advisor, this can be exhausting – but you can relax after the meeting, which will be more successful if you adapt!

By taking the time to listen, observe and ask good questions, advisors can discern the behavior style of prospects and clients – and open whole new relational opportunities in the process. Next time, we’ll discuss some of the questions you can ask to help you determine style.

Understanding Behavioral Style in Developing New Business – Part 1 by Bev Flaxington

Have you ever been taken completely by surprise by a client or prospect? Or have you ever been unable to close a sale because you just couldn’t “get through” to them? Today, investors are being bombarded by so many advisors and business development people – all trying to connect and persuade them to become clients. However, one of the most fundamental ways to connect with prospects is often overlooked by those in a selling role: understanding behavioral styles and adapting one’s communication approach to the people s/he’s trying to persuade.

You may have at one time taken a training course on relationship-building, face-to-face selling skills, or something similar, but the key to understanding the buyer’s perspective necessarily begins with an understanding of behavioral style. This is because behavioral style is the crux of understanding communication style – and true communication is the key to developing great relationships in both your personal and professional life.
So, is it really true that your likelihood of signing new clients could come down to your behavioral style? Research conducted in 1984 and validated again every year since has proven three things: 1) people buy from people with similar behavioral styles to their own, 2) people in a selling type of role tend to gravitate towards people with behavioral styles similar to their own, and 3) if people in a selling or business development type role adapt their behavioral style to that of the prospect, sales increase.

Many advisors, business development and client service personnel have excellent communication skills, but have difficulty in relationships with prospects and clients – and don’t understand why. Something just doesn’t feel right, but they’re not sure how to diagnose the problem or modify their behavior for greater success. Often times, it’s not technique (i.e. the questions asked, presentation or negotiating skills, etc.) but rather a lack of understanding of one’s own behavioral style and motivators, and of knowing that behavioral differences can cause significant communication difficulties that hamstring closing a prospect or an ongoing relationship with clients.
One scientific way to understand behavioral style is through an assessment called DISC (Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, Compliance). Based upon the work of Carl Jung, the DISC approach was invented by William Moulton Marston, inventor of the lie detector and holder of a Harvard MBA, over 80 years ago. The statistically based profiles show a person’s preferred styles on four scales of behavior – Problems, People, Pace and Procedures:

• Dominance (“D” factor) How one handles problems and challenges
• Influence (“I” factor) How one handles people and influences others
• Steadiness (“S” factor) How one handles work environment, change and pace
• Compliance (“C” factor) How one handles rules and procedures set by others

Depending on our differences in style and approach, we can either get along very easily together (because we’re so much alike!) or we can have significant clashes in our relationship.

A person’s behavioral preferences have everything to do with their communication approach and style. People who operate with very different styles have a difficult time “hearing” one another and communicating effectively. For instance, if I communicate only within my own behavioral comfort zone, I will only be effective with people who are just like me. However, in the corporate environment we are dealing every day with colleagues, prospects, clients and management – all of whom can be very different behaviorally. Not only is communication difficult where there are differences, but often individuals become hostile and conflict-oriented toward one another. Significant time, effort and corporate money is wasted because people are unable to “get along” and work together effectively toward common corporate goals. (Refer to the Brinker blog “Dealing with Difficult Clients” for a complementary discussion of this topic.)

In the next blog, we’ll take a “deeper dive” into behavior style – how you can identify it in your prospects and use this knowledge to improve your selling effectiveness.

Your Parents’ and Children’s Annoying Communication Habits Can Help Improve Client Relationships by Sue Bergin

Do you have someone in your life that has a cell phone, but refuses to turn it on? For me, it’s my parents. It doesn’t matter if my 76-year-old father is riding his Harley Davidson through the Blue Ridge Mountains and no one has heard from him in three days. We just have to sit tight until he gets sick of camping and checks into a hotel. Then, he’ll call us. We can tell him to keep his phone on until we are blue in the face. We can buy him an unlimited calling plan for his next birthday. It isn’t going to make a difference. The phone is for emergencies only. As long as he is ok, it stays off.

Have you ever threatened to take away your daughter’s cell phone because they won’t pick up your calls? You don’t understand why she doesn’t take your calls when she knows it’s you, and she knows you want to reach her. She doesn’t understand why you have to talk to her when you can just send a text. She probably doesn’t want her friends to know she must actually talk to her parents. She definitely doesn’t want her friends to hear how she talks to her parents. She would much rather you text her. That way she can whine in private. On the contrary, you’d prefer to hear her voice so that you can better gauge the situation.

With varying degrees of aggravation, we have learned to conform to communication preferences in our personal relationships.

When it comes to your relationships with clients, however, you want to avoid communication frustration. Recognize that clients have their pet tools, and demonstrate a willingness to communicate with them according to their preferences, not yours.

Ask clients how they want their appointments confirmed. Do they want a text, e-mail or a phone call? Would they rather your newsletters and routine correspondence come in the mail to their home or office, or would they rather have them e-mailed. Would they prefer Skype sessions to face-to-face meetings? What is the best number to reach them? Are they among the 33% of American’s that have chucked their landlines in favor of cell phone service?

Keep in mind, communication frustration is a two way street. A client you’ve worked with for years could now be tossing out your newsletters, when he or she used to pour over them. It isn’t because they no longer value your insights, but rather they read their “news” online. You won’t know this until you ask about their preferences. Maybe it is during the intake process, or the annual review, or even a midsummer survey. The key is to get ahead of the issue before it becomes an issue.

Using your clients’ favored communication methods is as much of an offensive play as a defensive play. You become more efficient and eliminate some frustration in your day. You also ensure that you never unwittingly earn the label, “that annoying caller/texter/e-mailer/snail-mailer/Skyper/or Facebook messenger.”

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/business-brains/one-third-of-us-households-chuck-landlines-now-use-mobile-only/20746

Accessibility Outweighs Investment Advice as Barometer of Trust by Sue Bergin

According to a recent survey, clients are more forgiving of bad investment advice from their advisor than they are of poor communication skills.

The findings were drawn from the John Hancock Trust Survey™, which polled mass affluent investors (household income of at least $100,000, investable assets of at least $200,000) in mid-April 2012.

Twenty-five percent of the survey respondents indicated that inaccessibility and unresponsiveness as the top reason 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.

While it is helpful to know that the quickest way to lose trust is to dodge calls, delete e-mails without responding, and ignore client text messages, it is also useful to know what you can do to build trust.

According to the survey, trust is most inspired by the following factors:

• Clear explanations of investment recommendations (54%)
• Knowledge and timeliness about products and trends (54%)
• Fee disclosure (51%)
• Responsiveness (49%)

Somewhat surprisingly, the following factors ranked relatively low in terms of the number of respondents who felt they were important in building trust in an advisor:

• Recommendation by family or friend (21%)
• User-friendly tools and calculators (16%)
• Informative website (11%)
• Community involvement (5%)

The results point to the importance of blending both expertise and communication. Clients want to work with advisors who understand and can explain sophisticated financial concepts, and who are accessible when needed and as needed.