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.

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/

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.

Second Opinions on Investment Performance By Sue Bergin

There was a day when you could sense when someone was looking over your shoulder. Technology, however, has made those days a thing of the past.

With the increasing number and sophistication of personal financial management software sites and mobile applications, it is getting easier for your clients to get second opinions on the investment advice you provide.

Technology-driven portfolio analysis boasts the ability to provide independent and objective investment evaluation, which is appealing to investors on a few levels. From a client’s perspective, they can get a second opinion on your recommendations at no charge, with no obligation, and relatively little effort. Once data is entered, they have a convenient place to go for aggregated and up-to-date information and continual guidance.

The functionality and sophistication of these personal financial management sites and mobile applications is evolving at warp speed. Take SigFig for an example. SigFig aggregates all investment holdings then makes recommendations based on current holdings. It compares the holdings in a user’s portfolio against other investments in the same category and share class. It then provides suggestions of other, less expensive investments that perform better than the user’s current holdings. It even goes a step further. After reviewing the user’s trading patterns, it evaluates the brokerage fees paid. Even individual advisors are evaluated based on the fees assessed and performance obtained. This functionality has led to all kinds of provocative “Find out if your financial advisor is overcharging you” headlines!

Another media darling is Jemstep, which scored a “Use Jemstep to See if Your Broker is Wasting Your Money” headline. Jemstep’s ranking engine analyzes 80 attributes of more than 20,000 mutual funds and ETFs.
Jemstep helps clients identify their financial goals, provides a ranked list of the “best investment options” for that client, and tracks aggregated investment performance.

These services and dozens of others are gaining in popularity. They are free or come at a modest fee, and they have seized the attention of both venture capitalists and the media. Your tech savvy clients are likely to be aware of them, and very well may be relying on them for a second opinion of your performance.

Bet on Success

  People are motivated by a lot of things, but money usually ranks somewhere near the top of the list.  Goals with associated financial incentives or disincentives are more often met than those without; at least that is the thinking behind a new wave of software services and mobile applications.

 New technology is giving life to creative ways to use money to incentivize success.  Take DietBet, for example.  DietBet calls itself a social dieting game.  It “supplies the motivation, support network and game structure[1]” to help users achieve their weight loss goals.  Users can challenge friends, family and co-workers to a 28-day competition to lose weight.  They can wager real money, or just bragging rights.

 Similarly, HealthyWage designs and organizes weight loss challenges and contests in which participants can win money for losing weight.  It offers challenges such as the 10% challenge wherein users who pay a $100 fee and lose 10% of their body weight in six months, win $200. 

 With GymPact, users commit to exercising a specific number of days per week.  They promise to pay at least $5 per day of the agreed-upon total that is missed.  If goals are met, there is a slight monetary reward.

 These health and wellness motivational companies have done what educators have been trying to do for years.  They’ve made something that is generally resisted into a game.  They’ve made a chore fun, and they use a motivator that works for many—money. 

 If it works for diet and exercises, would it work for another chore like budgeting or saving for a life goal?  Stickk.com is currently testing that theory.

 Stickk users can elect to pay a financial penalty if they fall short of their goals.  In the June 15 article,“The New Money Apps”, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Stickk user with the goal of paying down half of her $10,000 credit-card debt.  Any week that she doesn’t meet her desired $180 weekly goal, the system automatically transfers $20 from her account to that of a friend.[2]

 The user profiled in the WSJ isn’t the only one leveraging Stickk’s functionality.  The article goes on to state that 30% of the Stickk’s 150,000 user base elect to pay financial penalties for underperformance on goals. 

 While it may seem outlandish to suggest clients bet on their ability to meet financial goals, it is helpful to know that these tools exist, and plenty of people are using them with success.

 


[2] Anne Tergesen and Joe Light. “The New Money Apps.” The Wall Street Journal June 15, 2012

Financial Services Dipped In Chocolate

The UPS delivery person rings the doorbell.  I mentally inventory recent online purchases and realize with delight that it’s something unexpected.

Before I even get to the return address label, large letters grab my attention:

PERISHABLE:  ONCE OPENED, CONTENTS MAY DISAPPEAR IMMEDIATELY.

Oh good, something yummy.

Then more lettering beckons me.

INSTRUCTIONS:  CLOSE AND LOCK DOOR.  HIDE BEHIND LARGE PIECE OF FURNITURE. QUIETLY OPEN BOX.  SAVOR AND ENJOY!

I am so glad that the kids aren’t home!  I eagerly tear open to find a package of succulent chocolate covered strawberries, which I ate before even reading the gift giver’s note.

How Chocolate-Soaked Fruit Relates to Financial Services

Because Shari’s Berries delivered a memorable customer experience, it is now my top gift choice—no matter what the occasion.

Shari’s Berries is an excellent example of how packaging can convert a gift-recipient into a lifelong customer.

Packaging is anything that your client sees, feels, reads or handles.  In the financial service realm, packaging can refer to your:

–                     Office environment

–                     Website

–                     Social media presence

–                     Staff interactions

–                     On-hold messaging

–                     Marketing materials

–                     Communications

–                     Presentations

–                     Educational materials

–                     Client appreciation gifts and events

Whether the impact is more subconscious than conscious, packaging makes a difference in defining your clients’ experience.  It is one of those things that is difficult to measure, but packs a punch.  One might even go as far as to say that your packaging differentiates you from the advisor down the street even more than your expertise.

When it comes to the delivery of your services, think about your packaging. Are your written materials crisp and clean?  Do you refrain from using investment jargon?  Is your website readable and engaging?  Do you respect clients’ time as much as your own?  Are you using their preferred communication modes, (e.g., texts, e-mails, or phone calls)? Are your social media messages relevant and helpful?

The key is to take action that will evoke favorable emotions.  If you want your clients to feel secure, make sure your reception area is calm and inviting.  Guests are expected, welcomed, and greeted with green tea perhaps.  You are well prepared for meetings, anticipate their questions, and provide take-away’s that reinforce your message and reflect well on you.

Packaging can be a point of differentiation in a crowded market.  If done well, it can

Block It Out

Distractions are a major issue every financial professional must battle.  Although technology is pigeon of distraction, it can also be used to help you regain focus.

Bombarded by interruption technology while trying to give clients individual attention and run a successful practice, many advisors feel overwhelmed.

Interruption technology comes in many forms such as e-mail, text messages, Tweets, and Facebook pokes.  While these tools have helped us gain effectiveness in some respects, it has diminished productivity by other measures.

 Think you are multitasking?  Think again.

As its name implies, multitasking involves completing different tasks simultaneously, with the end goal of increased productivity. If you can generate a proposal while on hold with a client, you have successfully multitasked. While we used to extol multitasking abilities, the term falls short in describing what most advisors are doing today.  They are not multitasking.

Most of us switch-task, not multitask.  Our attentions are pulled from one task and drawn, most frequently by interruption technology, in another direction.

If you are composing an e-mail explaining a complex financial strategy and you impulsively toggle over to ESPN.com for last night’s scores, you have switch-tasked.  It could take several minutes to regain your focus on the e-mail, hence a decrease in productivity.  If you are Tweeting while talking to your client on your cell phone, your client is probably aware that you are listening with only half an ear.  Eventually, your retention rates will suffer.

It’s easy for us to think we can seamlessly jump from one task to the next and give everything our full attention, but we cannot.  Our brains are not hard-wired for switch-tasking.

The University of Kent sought to establish the impact of switch-tasking.  They set up an eyeball-tracking camera to monitor eye movements of 100 people.  The participants read passages on computer screens and while reading, they were interrupted with one-minute tasks, such as phone calls or e-mails.   After the interruption, they went back to their reading.

Once interrupted, it took participants 17% more time to read the original passage than if they read it straight through.

Block Distractions

There are many ways you can shield yourself from distracting digital stimuli.

You can tend to e-mail only at certain times, turn-off your mobile device, and schedule your social networking engagements. You can download productivity software to block Internet distractions.  Programs such as Freedom, Isolator, LeechBlock, Menu Eclipse, Think and Turn Off the Lights, and Anti-Social serve much like parental controls.  For many of these programs, you set an amount of time that you want to work uninterrupted, and the software blocks unwanted content during that time period. Also, many word-processing packages like Ulysses, Scrivener, WriteRoom, Dark Room and Writespace, offer full-screen, no-distraction modes.

The rationale behind these is a clear computer helps clear the mind.  If you are shielded from interruption, you can tackle the task at hand.

The bottom line is this:  if left unchecked, technology can get the best of you.   Exert control over your technology so that it adds value, helps you improve the client experience, and makes you more productive.

Will Facebook Morph into a Life Planning Tool?

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a game-changing new feature.

Users can now include “organ donation status” as part of their profiles. There is even a prompt for users to share their reasons for becoming organ donors.

A Facebook status update does not usurp the need for the official organ donor registration in your state, but it does make it clear to friends and family that it is an issue you care about.

Facebook added the organ donation feature to raise awareness to the issue after CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, took a personal interest in it, partly because of his friendship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Jobs’s liver transplant extended his life several years.

The move will raise awareness about the critical shortage of organs for people in need of life-saving transplants. It may also create social pressure that inspires Facebook friends to consider registration.

It is a game-changer for a few other reasons.

It is a public awareness campaign of epic proportions. The site has

526 million users per day worldwide . Nothing Facebook does flies under the radar screen.

The activity it has already generated dwarfs donation registrations from any other initiative. At the end of the day Zuckerberg made the announcement, 100,000 users updated their profiles to declare themselves organ donors. At least 22,000 people followed the Facebook-provided link to online registries within twenty-four hours of the announcement.1

The feature will also serve another very important purpose. It can be used as a life-planning tool that provides direction and comfort to families in times of incredible stress and grief.

The potential donor’s intentions have been declared to family and friends; depending upon the settings elected, to the public at large too. The declaration may give grieving families evidence that puts their mind at ease about their newly lost loved ones’ wishes.

As features such as the organ donor declaration evolve, Facebook may take a larger role as a life-planning tool. How far down the line is it before people start putting “Do Not Resuscitate” orders on their timelines? Profile pictures of their living wills?

Sure, privacy is an issue. As users can increase their comfort with privacy settings within Facebook; however, they may also find it useful in declaring their life goals and values.

1. Stobbe, Mike Facebook Organ Donor initiative Prompts 100,000 Users To Select New Option Huffington Post. May 2, 2012. www.huffingtonpost.com