Implementing Technology

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

You don’t necessarily need the most cutting-edge technology to get to the top of your game. According to a recent study, you can start by leveraging the technology you already have.

Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ 2013 RIA Benchmarking Study reveals that high-performing firms—those in the top quartile for growth, profitability and productivity—focused on smart technology and adoption, not getting the latest and greatest. These high-performing firms focus on optimizing their technology in three areas: portfolio management, service, and client reporting.

Here are ten steps you can take to make sure you get the most from your technology.

  1. Make adoption a priority. Commit putting in the time and effort to learn how best to maximize all of the system’s features. If you can’t do it yourself, make someone else in your office accountable.
  2. Plan. Learning a new software program is like learning a new language. It’s hard to know where to start. Your technology provider should be able to give you an implementation guide to show you the steps to follow, and milestones to hit.
  3. Set aside time. If you don’t carve out time on your schedule, it isn’t going to happen.
  4. Network. There are relatively few programs out there that haven’t already been tried and tested by others in similar positions as yours. Talk to everyone you know who has gone through the implementation process and find out what they did and what they wished they had done better.
  5. Gather resources. Request an inventory of the training your technology provider makes available. Once you know what they have for support materials, you can choose the format that best matches your learning style.
  6. Optimize Your TechnologyGet names and numbers. You need to have key information handy in a few different areas. Know the software name, version number, and license holder so that when you call or go online for help you can be sure you are asking about the right program. Also know the names and numbers of customer support persons at your technology provider.
  7. Troll the internet. Use social media find online user groups or other social media sites that could provide helpful implementation hints. For example, there may be a LinkedIn User Group already established for the purposes of optimizing your software.
  8. Monitor progress. Perform periodic self-checks to monitor your progress towards the goals set in your implementation plan.
  9. Celebrate incremental success. Even if you haven’t learned everything there is to know, make note of how the technology improves your efficiency. Success is a powerful motivator and will prompt you to plow through your learning curve.
  10. Provide feedback. Software engineers constantly strive to innovate. If there is something you don’t like about your program or would like to see handled differently, let them know. You may just have a function named after you in the next version!

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Why Some Fizzle, While Others Go Viral

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

Have you ever wondered why a silly email gets passed around the office, yet you can’t get a client to forward an interesting article you wrote to a colleague? Does it frustrate you that sports fails get millions of views, yet you’ve only had two people view your LinkedIn profile in the last 20 days? Ever wonder why your tweets don’t get favored, shared or retweeted?

The New Yorker’s recent article, “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate You,” takes a stab at solving these mysteries.

The article, which cites studies conducted by two Wharton professors, reveals the common characteristics of widely shared stories. These stories or messages typically evoke an emotion from the reader, with happy pieces faring better than sad. They also create a social currency and make the viewer feel “in the know.”

Shareable stories also typically have memory-inducing triggers. They are easy to pass along because they can be found and retrieved.

Gone ViralThe final predictor of whether a story will go viral is the quality of the content itself. The Holderness family rivaled Santa himself in spreading holiday greetings because their “Christmas Jammies” YouTube video was so well done. Otherwise, over 13 million people would not have invested the 218 seconds to watch.

So before you make your next LinkedIn post or tweet something on Twitter, make sure the content you are providing is relatable to your followers and will elicit a response. Then you can begin the journey of becoming a social media influencer and setting yourself a part from the crowd.

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.

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?

How Advisors Can Use New Media to Communicate More Effectively

Bev Flaxington, The Collaborative

Many advisors have an aging client base. Investors in their 60’s through 90’s may not care about technology, while their children and grandchildren do. The next generations are people who have grown up with the internet, playing video games and generally getting their information in a fast-paced, more interactive manner. While investment information doesn’t necessary lend itself as easily to game playing, advisors can find new and different ways to tell their story using some of the new media available.

What is new media? In many ways, it’s not that new. It involves taking information and delivering it through something other than the static email or newsletter. It is video, audio, webinars or slideshows that can be posted to an easily accessible place, such as your website, and accessed by clients and prospects.

New media can make your information come alive. If trust is a basis for relationship and selection in the investment advisory business, wouldn’t it help to see the person you might give your money to rather than just reading about them? Or would hearing an advisor give a talk about their philosophy on investing make it easier for a prospect to understand that philosophy? Would having a clip on YouTube replaying a speech that had been given, or an educational workshop for clients to pass along, help with referrals?

The answer to all of these questions is “yes.” Adult learners need to access information in a variety of manners to have it stick and make it understandable. Defaulting to the written word for all communication leaves a number of people without a way to truly comprehend why an advisor might be right for them. It is intuitive to think that many people learn and engage much more effectively through audio and video than by reading alone.

In addition, with clients and prospects busier and more preoccupied than ever, fewer and fewer are taking the time to read material on screen – let alone in hardcopy. And with the ever-increasing power of mobile devices, all media forms are available for these busy people to access regardless of where they are. Giving people choices and different access points increases your availability to them. Think of the number of places now where there is a live person to talk to you 24/7. Many firms know that data on a screen isn’t sufficient. People need to engage more actively to learn and understand.

What are some advisors doing now in this area? Many are providing audio- and video-based newsletters or commentary, firm or service overviews, and interviews with firm leaders telling the firm’s story or advisors explaining the markets (among many other examples). Some are creating a YouTube channel and posting quick snippets of their perspective on the market, or updates on trends. If an advisor lacks the time to do some of these things, there are vendors available to write copy or interview questions, record remotely or in person, and then complete all production work.

Using new media can help with marketing. Video sales letters – animated overviews sent in email blasts – are eye-catching and help increase “open rates.” Posting audio and video forms on your website, YouTube, SlideShare, iTunes and other free posting sites enhances search engine ratings and allows your existing clients or centers of influence a place to direct friends, family or clients to see what you can do.

Of course, the compliance issues are the same as with any client-oriented or marketing material. An advisor needs to consult with their internal compliance, or broker/dealer, to find out what’s acceptable and what’s not. The rules around testimonials, guarantees and making broad claims are the same. But this doesn’t mean an advisor cannot tell stories about the kinds of clients they have helped, give insight into their philosophy and approach, or talk generally about market trends and the impact on investors.

The beauty of new media is that it can be taken a step at a time. Start with an audio, or a video of a speech or educational workshop. Ask clients what kind of media they enjoy. View what others are doing to see the variety of options available. New media is going to continue to grow. See if there is a way to learn more about how it could work for you.

Combat the Fear of Missing Out

Sue BerginSue Bergin

The fear of missing out has always been a strong motivator, but its power is increasing.  Social networking exposes us to what more people are thinking and doing.  This is causing many clients to question their choices, and at times make rash decisions.

According to marketing and communications agency JWT, fear of missing out (FOMO) is the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling of missing out — that peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.

The role FOMO plays in motivating clients to action should not be underestimated.  It may be behind the Monday morning call from a client inquiring about absolute return investment strategies.  The call may leave you somewhat confounded, particularly if he rejected your previous overtures towards absolute return strategies.  The client’s change of heart can probably be attributed to a cocktail party discussion.  He may remember some of the buzz phrases and maybe even some fund names, but what sticks with him the most is that “they” are in and he is not.  He doesn’t want to be left behind, perceived as out-of-touch, or miss out on a great opportunity.  The opportunity is not immediately valued on its merits, but by whether the client wants to be part of the “in” group.

Social media adds fuel to the fear of missing out fire.  As you poke around on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or media message boards it is easy to get influenced by the perceived masses.

In the example above, your client may have been perfectly comfortable with his decision to ignore your recommendations for incorporating absolute return strategies when presented in March.  Now that he has heard that his friends all have a certain percentage of their portfolios in absolute return strategies, he suddenly wants to follow suit

Investments aren’t the only ways that FOMO can affect your practice.  Clients are also going to hear talk or be exposed to social networking chatter about the level of service, accessibility and transparency offered by their advisor.  If everyone else in their social circle or aspirational social circle is working with advisors who provide online access to an aggregated and consolidated view of their portfolios, your relationship is vulnerable unless you can match or beat that service.

The best way to ensure that FOMO doesn’t lead clients astray from their financial plans or their relationships with you is to stay ahead of the curve.  Keep the lines of communication open, and offer your thoughts on a wide range of investment strategies.  This way, clients will remember where they heard about investment strategies first.   From you.  They’ll remember that you had an opinion, and they simply have to reach out to you for your opinion as to whether it is in their best interests.

Newspaper Lampshades, Designer Cartoon Strip Handbags and the Savvy Advisor by Sue Bergin

Newspaper Lampshades, Designer Cartoon Strip Handbags and the Savvy Advisor
by Sue Bergin

Why is it that old letters from a strangers’ estate sale made into wallpaper is suddenly the “in thing” in interior design? Why would anyone in her right mind walk around in a dress that is made to look like yesterday’s newspaper? Are people really turning old, used books into cell phone docking stations? And, Dooney & Bourque’s comic strip handbags? What’s up with those?

These are all examples of what marketing and communication firm JWT calls “Objectifying Objects,” when it describes one of the top 10 trends for 2012.

According to JWT, as objects are replaced by digital and virtual counterparts, people will be drawn to the physical and tactile facsimiles.

Savvy marketers are catching on to the fact that digital messages are getting lost in the atmosphere and that “objects,” like good old fashion snail-mail, may have greater impact.

According to JWT, marketers spent nearly 25% less on direct mail campaigns in the years from 2007 to 2009. In 2010-2011, the pendulum swung. Digital mail began to see single digit gains. In further proof, JWT sites that the U.S. Postal Service projects marketing mail will rise 14% by the year 2016.

The bottom line is this. A single scrawled note on handsome stationery could make an even greater impression than a steady stream of tweets. This could explain why, despite the paperless wave and skyrocketing mobile and tablet sales, U.K. retailer John Lewis reported a 79% year-over-year increase in writing paper sales in mid-2011.

The allure of the handwritten note is best summed up by the best-selling author, Neil Pasricha, in his wildly popular bog, 1,000 Awesome Things:
“(T)he biggest reason why getting something handwritten is great is because it’s just so darned rare. I mean, for most people, you’re more likely to see Halley’s Comet crash into Big Foot while he’s riding the Loch Ness Monster than to actually get a full-blown note from a friend.
So I say treasure those handwritten notes, when you get ‘em, if you get ‘em. And if you don’t, there’s a pretty easy way to start receiving them. Man, just send a couple.”

1. http://www.jwtintelligence.com/2012/07/snail-mail-renaissance-write-home/

2. http://1000awesomethings.com/2008/11/14/895-getting-something-with-actual-handwriting-on-it-in-the-mail/

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.

What’s Your Headline? by Beverly Flaxington @BevFlaxington

Gaining exposure through publicity, social media and PR can be very fruitful for financial advisors. In too many cases, an investor does not know how to go about finding an advisor to talk with about their investments – so they may read about someone, or see a financial expert speaking, and decide to contact them. A robust PR and publicity strategy can be a great complement to other business-building efforts.
What’s the best way for an advisor to start a campaign, or infuse an existing campaign with new energy? First, it is important to determine your budget, and decide what exactly you want to do. It is awareness building? Is it positioning yourself as the obvious expert? Is it placing yourself where potential new partners and other industry professionals will see you?
Like any marketing or business-building strategy, it is critical to know – before you do anything – what you are trying accomplish, what forums are best for what you need, and what budget you can allocate to your efforts.
The next most important thing is to understand your positioning. What do you have to say to the media? What’s your publicity platform? What’s the headline you can use that will grab the attention of the people you are targeting and reel them in to learn more about you?
There are many things an advisor can do to get broader exposure. Be sure, before you commit to anything, that you get approval from your compliance department.
Some areas to think about if you want to embark on a broader publicity campaign could be:
Identify opportunities in your local area for press. Could you write a column for a local paper (online or in print)? Could you be interviewed on the local cable station?
Find timely information in the national press and make a comment about it – this can be done on your own blog, or by writing in to a columnist or sending out a press release.
Find opportunistic places for advertising. Broad-based advertising seldom works, but running an ad in the symphony brochure, or at a local play, or for some other event can get your message to a targeted audience.
If you have the time and can do your own radio show, there are many options on Blogtalk Radio and others to have your own show. Or, if you’d prefer not to have to manage your own show, find radio stations you can contact and pitch your ideas about why you’d be a great guest.
Be sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile. Periodically post new information to keep it fresh and interesting.
Consider having a Facebook page for your business. Post interesting information about local activities, or market news.
Scan the Internet for people who are writing and blogging about topics you care about. Post comments and link back to your firm if possible.
There are many ways to get your message out there more broadly. Remember to establish what you are hoping to accomplish, how much time and money you can spend, and what you’d like to see as a result. Then pick the tactics that work best for you.
Remember, though, your headline matters. Stay consistent with your messaging and reinforce your platform points and positioning every chance you get! Repetition matters a great deal in marketing.

Mapping Your Social Network by Matt Oechsli @MattOeschsli

by: Matt Oechsli

If you’re serious about targeting today’s affluent investor, it’s time to get social. We’ve become addicted to our digital toys (iPads, BlackBerrys, etc.), and social media is elbowing onto center stage. Our research tells us today’s affluent want to know their advisor on a social level in addition to their professional role.

Because the human species is such a social animal, you wouldn’t think this would be an issue for advisors. Yet many advisors are behind the curve when it comes to socializing with affluent clients, referral alliance partners, and prospects. Our research shows that investors clearly are more likely to introduce someone they know to their advisor if the investors have both a business and personal relationship with the advisor, as opposed to a relationship that was exclusively business.

Our research also shows that elite advisors intuitively recognize the importance of social media technology, and they’re early adopters. It’s the essence of both relationship management and relationship marketing. Today’s reality is that advisors who have both a business and a personal relationship with their affluent clients have more centers-of-influence penetration.

This data reinforces what we’ve learned from our rainmaker research—social prospecting in affluent circles today is what cold calling was some 25 years ago; it’s what public seminars were about some 15 years ago. And yet, at a recent workshop we sponsored on best practices of elite advisors, it was obvious that socializing in affluent circles made some advisors uncomfortable. Among the questions: “When do you talk about business? What social activities should you engage in?Do you mean that we’re supposed to mix business with pleasure?”

Socializing is directly linked to word-of-mouth-influence (WOMI), and advisors need to understand the importance of WOMI in affluent decision-making. It’s the high-octane fuel that activates the process; relationship management (affluent clients) and relationship marketing (penetrating affluent COIs) are inextricably linked in stimulating positive WOMI. This is a gift. Why? Because advisors can now schmooze with their top clients, meet their friends in a non-threatening environment, develop rapport, build personal relationships, and transition their clients’ friends into new clients. Knowing “who knows whom” is what mapping your affluent client’s social networks is all about.

Social network analysis

A quick glimpse into the budding field of social network analysis highlights the innate power of WOMI. Social network analysis, the study of social relationships between individuals and groups, goes back to the ancient Greeks. Modern theories arrived in the early 1900s, and today scientists study its implications in everything from relationships within high schools to the spread of disease.

We find this fascinating. Think about your web of contacts for a moment and ask yourself four questions:

1) If you were to chart your relationships with your top 25 clients, how many have both a business and personal relationship?

2) If you were to chart your social contacts, how many total connections could you list? How many have the means to conduct business with you?

3) If you were to chart your referral alliance partner relationships, how many connections could you list?

4) What type of branding is being broadcast through your social network?

Connected, a book by Drs. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, shares an example of how social networks play a role in marketing. They tell a story of two piano teachers in Arizona who grew their respective business only through WOMI; they never advertised or promoted their services. At the end of the year, they analyzed their clientele and discovered that 38 percent of their new business came by WOMI from people that hadn’t personally used their services. Their reputation was communicated through friends of friends of their clients—three degrees of separation.

Whether you have 25 or 125 affluent clients, imagine the power of WOMI within your business. Essentially, social prospecting is simply socializing with your affluent clients and prospects in venues that you enjoy, but with strategic intent. The idea is not to discuss business. However, whenever a business conversation surfaces, the social prospecting drill is as follows: listen; if asked, answer questions briefly; gently table that topic for another time; exchange cell phone numbers; set a time and place to discuss business; and continue socializing.

Elite advisors have turned mapping their affluent clients’ social network into an art form. If you allow yourself to get social, you can, too.