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6 Tips for Effective Media Outreach

Leveraging the power of media to grow your business is an investment that can pay attractive returns.

A few column inches in a newspaper or a three-minute interview on your local TV or radio station offer a rewarding opportunity to get your company name noticed by your target audiences. More importantly, it empowers you and your firm with the most powerful third-party endorsements.

Because many small firms cannot afford to hire a PR expert to build their media relations, here are some guidelines on how to effectively approach the media on your own:

1. Is Your Story Newsworthy?

The mission of reporters is to “report” about new developments that will engage and resonate with their audiences. Before contacting the media, ask yourself: I am very excited about this story idea, but will anyone else be? If you can’t honestly answer this question, refrain from contacting the media and wait for a better opportunity.

2. Research, Read & Familiarize

Prior to approaching a media outlet, do in-depth research about the type of news they cover and the audience they serve. The more you understand their audience and the stories they typically cover, the more likely your pitch will be successful. Read their reporters’ articles to learn their beats (topics they write about). Make sure your idea is a match and prepare to explain how it would help them further expand on their subject matter. If a reporter has recently written about the topic you have in mind, abstain from calling her and wait a few months.

3. Establish Your Contact List

A great number of media websites publish their journalist’s contact details in the Contact Us section. Some outlets ask to submit story ideas to generic email addresses, like editors@, news@ or features@. Do not use them, as those email inboxes get clogged and are not regularly checked. Ring up the publication’s general number and get the name and contacts of the journalist who is in charge of selecting stories. Try to follow on Twitter the journalist(s) you are planning to contact. In many instances, they may respond much faster to a direct Twitter message than they would to your email or call.

4. The Power of 3 in 30

Whether you are planning to contact a reporter by email or phone, your first task is to encapsulate your idea in a clear and concise manner. Here’s a tip that will help you.  Write down the three key concepts you want to convey in maximum 30 words. At first it may be difficult, but picture yourself as a radio or TV presenter announcing it in sound bites.

5. Be Brief!

Limit your pitch email to a maximum of two paragraphs. In the subject line write “story idea” or “editorial inquiry.” Use the first sentence to convey the essence of your story and the remaining two paragraphs to expand on it. When applicable, include data or statistics and reference them. Although it sounds obvious, do not forget to include your name, that of your firm and your phone number. If a journalist likes your story idea, she will likely contact you by phone. Remember: You are pitching a story idea, not your company!

6. Follow Up

A journalist who takes an interest in your story will usually call you back within 48 hours. If you do not hear back from a reporter, ring her up. When you call, first ask “Are you on deadline?” If she is, find out when is a good time to call back. If she is not, state concisely your desire for an interview to discuss your story idea underscoring why you think it would be good for the publication. Reference the email you sent her and provide date, time and subject line. If the journalist requests to interview you at a specific date and a time, make sure to make yourself available.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
President
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

 


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7 Steps to a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

If you’re like most financial planners, your workday is filled with client meetings, planning, employee management, and the many other tasks that keep your business running. Sure, you’d like to spend time composing thoughtful marketing emails to send to prospects, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. With a little work up front, you can “set it and forget it.”

Autoresponder systems are great marketing tools that every financial planner should be taking advantage of. They’re inexpensive, and they allow you to create a personalized series of messages and then schedule them to go out over a period of time. The best news is that you can automate the entire process so that it runs completely on autopilot.

These messages should focus on client problems that are evergreen or timeless, such as the fear of running out of money during retirement—that’s a concern people have had (and will have) forever.

Here’s an overview of the seven emails needed for a successful email marketing campaign:

Message 1: Create a free report to entice prospects to receive more information from you and eventually become a paying customer. (For instance, your report might be “5 Myths about Saving for Retirement.”) Your first message template offers the recipient the link they can use to download your free report.

Message 1 subject line: “Here’s the ‘5 Myths about Saving for Retirement’ Report You Requested.”

Message 2: This message will go out one day after your prospect signs up. It should be a quick follow-up message to make sure they received email No. 1. Make sure you include the link to access the free information again.

Message 2 subject line: “Quick Follow-up.”

Message 3: You’re going to focus on a particular section contained in the free report. It might be a particularly interesting story that you tell in the report, or the one nugget of information you think is the most relevant to your audience. Anyone who emails you with feedback is beginning to engage with you on a personal level. So, regardless of whether you agree with their feedback, acknowledge their comments.

Message 3 subject line: “A Quick Question, (First Name).” (You are more likely to convert a prospect into a client if they read your report, so this is another way to motivate them to look at it.)

Message 4: You’ll be telling a story about someone who has used the information in your report. You don’t need to mention a specific name or company. The idea is to communicate that others who are similar to the reader solved their problems by following your advice.

Message 4 subject line: “How (Name) (what he or she accomplished)” (e.g., “How Sarah Created Her Nest Egg”)

Message 5: You will share something that you “forgot” to include in the free report, such as an additional tip or idea. To choose a topic, ask yourself:

  • What benefit or result do your clients or customers want that you might not have mentioned yet?
  • Can you make a list of dos and don’ts?
  • What’s a big mistake people often make that they need to avoid?
  • What success stories do you have that you haven’t used yet?

Message 5 subject line: “(First Name), I Forgot To Mention This”

Message 6: Use this message to answer a question a client recently asked you. Ideally, you want to either show off another benefit that comes from working with you, answer a question that overcomes a typical objection that stops people from working with you, or pick something that adds to your credibility as an expert.

Message 6 subject line: “A Question Many Investors Are Asking.”

Message 7: The next step after your prospects get to know you through your emails and your report is to speak one-on-one with them. So, in your final message, you’ll offer a free 30-minute consultation.

Message 7 subject line: “Of Potential Interest to Some.”

After you’ve created your series of messages, all you have to do is load them into your autoresponder. It’s quick and easy.

Mark SatterfieldMark Satterfield
Founder and CEO
Gentle Rain Marketing Inc.
Alpharetta, GA
Author of The One Week Marketing Plan

TheOneWeekMarketingPlan_FrontCover


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What’s Your Intention?

This is the time of year when we spend time thinking ahead—whether we do so professionally through the business planning process or personally by making New Year’s resolutions. Plans and resolutions both ask us to be clear about how we want to use our time and what we want to focus on. In my role leading the Practice Management team at Commonwealth, we often speak of setting SMART goals—those that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bounded. But there’s another dimension that correlates with goal setting—and that’s intention.

Exploring Your Intention

In the coaching world, the word intention is a big deal between client and coach. You may remember your own coach asking you about yours. Basically, intention is one’s determination to act in a certain way. Putting it in the context of setting and achieving goals, without intention, the process can be rather flat if all you do is tick items off a list or, worse, brag about the multimillion-dollar 401(k) client you just landed or your expensive marketing budget. But if you focus equally on the goal and how you want to behave while you go about achieving it, you’ve raised the bar for yourself!

When talking with a friend recently, I discovered (or rediscovered?) that a key component underlying intention is attitude. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the competition of life—competition for clients, recognition, approval, budget, staff, promotions, raises, airtime, and so on. What if we chose instead to simply assume that there is an abundance of opportunities to go around for everyone? How would that change our intention as we work on pursuing our goals? You might find that being intentional helps you frame your goals so that, when you achieve them, you’re proud of the way you went about it.

This brings me back to this time of year. Do you think someone designed the holidays on purpose? First, Thanksgiving helps us to see and be grateful for the abundance we enjoy. Then, New Year’s helps us plan ahead, with hope and intention about our design for the future.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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Finding Value in Ancillary Learning

It’s no surprise that those who do not learn from the error of their ways are destined to repeat them. We should learn from our mistakes as well as those of our peers. Obviously, most advisers would love to reduce “working harder” if they could simply “work smarter.” As a coach, this is one of the messages I emphasize.

Wouldn’t it be great to learn from our colleague’s successes as well? Mastering ancillary learning is essential in taking your business to the next level.

Let’s take a look at how ancillary learning worked for three of my client advisers.

Remain Calm

During a weekly coaching session, Seth—a veteran financial adviser with 10 plus years in the business—wanted to review an upcoming appointment he was going to have with a prospect. I’ve created a tool, The Second Appointment Worksheet, which outlines a psychological step-by-step process for closing an appointment. After learning the process and then practicing it through role playing, Seth felt he was ready. Unfortunately, the next morning his computer crashed just minutes before the prospects were to arrive. However, he had his recommendations already printed out, had filled out his Second Appointment Worksheet and knew what the structure for the appointment was going to be. He remained calm despite the computer glitch and closed the prospects.

Be Prepared

Chris, a veteran with eight years in the business, wanted to review an upcoming appointment with a $2 million prospect who lived four hours away. As we role played, I realized that he was missing some crucial psychological steps, so I told him Seth’s success story. We went to work duplicating the process using the same tool. After learning the process and practicing it by role playing the appointment, Chris felt he was ready. The next morning, Chris was surprised when he received a call from the prospect (a few days before their scheduled meeting) who was in town and wanted to meet that day. In fact, he was right around the corner and could stop into Chris’s office anytime. Chris agreed to meet, got off the call and reviewed our coaching conversation from the day before. After his meeting, he called to tell me that he closed the prospect with very little notice thanks to our dialogue.

Replicate the Process

It didn’t take long to put the step-by-step process to the test when my coaching client, Stephen, explained that he had two insurance cases he wanted to close. We went to work replicating the process that Seth and Chris had both had success with. During our next group coaching call, Stephen announced that he closed both prospects.

Part Art and Part Science

These advisers were successful because they learned how to connect with the process, customizing it to fit their own personality and scenario. In other words, “the art” was to make it their own, and “the science” was to use a proven process. They became more successful by simply learning how others in their field had done so.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.



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Applying the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to Your Business

With a nod to the season and to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, here is how each of these “ghosts” can help you develop a stronger business:

The Past

“Review” and “reflect” is about measuring your output from this past year.

Review. Using a year-over-year comparison, look at your financial metrics. How do revenue and expenses compare? Adjust for unusual events such as staffing changes, a physical move and the gain or loss of key relationships. How do actual expenses compare to the budget? What about projected revenue? Where are the differences and is there an identifiable reason? Use this information to outline a budget or spending plan for next year.

This information will also advise your marketing efforts. What initiatives did you undertake this past year to grow your client base or increase service utilization by current clients? How effective were those efforts? Run a new money report to separate market performance from new assets for those that manage money. What contributed to the success or failure of your efforts?

Are there initiatives or goals from the past year that just didn’t make it out of the starting blocks? Reevaluate. Do they make the grade for next year’s efforts? If so, what stopped you from starting this year? Lack of time, energy or direction? Determine what is needed and reset for the upcoming year. If the initiative is no longer relevant, drop it.

Reflect. Metrics and numbers are only part of the equation. Reflection provides insight into results achieved or not. It is an opportunity to celebrate the successes and reflect on the failures. While you would just as soon forget those failures, reflection provides the opportunity to observe what can be done differently and learn from the experience. That also stops the replay loop in your head!

On the other side, success is often dismissed. If you did a good job of setting goals, the end result, the success, can sometimes be anticlimactic. For the achiever in many of you, success becomes “done,” a box checked. Now, what is next?

Without reflection on successes you also miss out on the learning. What contributed to the success? Was it the design of the action plan? Was it advance preparation for an opportunity you could not have seen coming? What does your success teach you so that you can replicate it, again and again? How long will you keep reaching for bigger and better goals if you don’t acknowledge what you have accomplished?

The Present

Where are you now? This is the opportunity for your SWOT analysis and open-ended questions to stimulate thinking. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Strengths. What aided you in your wins? Who is key to your success? What distinguishes you from other financial advisers?

Weaknesses. What hampered results? Is there a weak link and what can be done about it? What subject matter or skill needs improvement?

Opportunities. Where can you take advantage with your strengths? What can you do to drive awareness of your services? What outside forces are creating favorable circumstances?

Threats. Who or what has taken clients or opportunities? Are you competitive? What outside forces are creating unfavorable circumstances?

The Future

This is your opportunity to shape and change the trajectory of your business. Much like Scrooge, you have the opportunity for things to be different for your practice and for your life. What actions will you take to do so? Not sure where to start? The past and present provide insight and the Practice Directions Assessment will help you determine the inputs needed to get you where you want to be. Download it here.

For more about inputs, join us for the first Expert Series Interview in 2015 on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. CST. We will be taking the insight gathered from the past and the present to create the future (input and goals) for the new year. More details will be in my January blog post, or you can register here to receive an invitation to the webinar.

Barbara StewartBarbara Stewart, CFP®
Coach to financial advisers
Owner and founder
Accelus Partners
Houston, Texas


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How to Identify the Best Niche Market for Your Planning Practice

If you’re like many financial planners, you may be reluctant to funnel your time and money into niche marketing. After all, shouldn’t you try to reach as many potential clients as possible with your marketing efforts? Won’t you be missing out on a lot of opportunities when you tailor your message to appeal to a smaller group? Surprisingly, the answer is “no.” In fact, when you cast your net too wide or try to be all things to all people, you’re more likely to fail.

The truth is, focusing on a niche helps you stand out from your competition and eliminates many of the potential objections people have about doing business with you. The key to attracting lots of new clients is to have a marketing message that speaks directly to a specific group.

That said, there are a lot of people out there who might be interested in your financial planning services. How do you narrow your focus and accurately pinpoint which group is best for your business … and vice versa?

First, I recommend starting with your current list of clients. Look for commonalities: whether one group is spending more on your services than another, who you enjoyed working with, and so on. For instance, maybe you notice that a significant portion of your new clients are widows or widowers, or couples who have just had a child. Building on your current strengths is one of the easiest ways to become the predominant expert in a particular area.

Once you have an idea of what your general niche market might be, here are five questions to ask yourself:

What Is the Size of the Market?

You don’t want to look back a year down the road and realize that the market isn’t as big as you assumed.

Is the Marketplace Growing or Shrinking?

How many new people are entering the niche who may need your products or services? For instance, if you’re planning on targeting recent college grads, your market isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. But if you target baby boomers, you have to assume that your pool of potential clients will eventually dry up.

Can You Easily Reach Key Decision Makers?

Are there magazines just for the market you are targeting? Associations? Websites? Are there other people selling products or services to this group that you can joint-venture with or rent a mailing list from? This can trip up people who define their niche through attitudes or behaviors such as “I market to people who want to take control of their financial futures.” It’s tougher than you think to find those people.

How Much Money Is Your Niche Able or Willing to Spend?

You can accept as gospel that some of your prospects will think your prices or commissions are too high. In reality, that has more to do with how well you communicate the benefits of your financial planning services, but the market you choose to sell to will also influence how much you can charge.

Is There Potential for Additional Business?

It’s easier to sell something additional to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new customer. Not surprisingly, a niche that will use your services often is far more attractive than one that uses them only occasionally.

And finally, a friendly reminder of what you already know: You need to be aware of any legal or regulatory issues that govern your services or niche market. For example, as a financial planner, compliance issues may limit what you can communicate on websites and in your marketing materials.

Mark SatterfieldMark Satterfield
Founder and CEO
Gentle Rain Marketing Inc.
Alpharetta, GA
Author of The One Week Marketing Plan

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In Their Own Words: Best Practices for Mentors and Mentees

For the past year, I have been working with 10 young advisers as part of a mentoring program. The program is based on the concept that it takes a village to raise an adviser. Over the course of a year, all of the junior advisers, along with their sponsoring senior advisers, attend three workshops, giving these up-and-coming professionals the chance to see and learn from other seasoned advisers and gain a different perspective on the financial services business.

As an exercise, at the conclusion of this year’s program, I asked the junior and senior advisers to prioritize two lists of best practices for mentors and mentees. Here they are, in their own words:

Best Practices for Mentors
As expressed by the mentors

  1. Communicate clear expectations
  2. Be patient
  3. Listen
  4. Be a role model
  5. Provide leadership

 

As expressed by the mentees

  1. Set up a block of time each week to meet with the mentee.
  2. Use specific tools, such as checklists for processes and the 20-point system for production, and maintain clear, realistic goals in writing.
  3. Allow junior advisers to find solutions for themselves—and sometimes even fail in the process.
  4. Believe in a symbiotic relationship, where both parties bring value to and benefit from the relationship.
  5. Have a finger on the pulse of junior advisers to demonstrate sincere, constructive empathy.

 

As you can see, there isn’t much overlap between these lists, which is a bit surprising to me. Clearly, though, younger advisers value the gift of routine meetings with their mentors.

What about the best practices for mentees?

Best Practices for Mentees
As expressed by the mentees

  1. Be coachable and eager to learn.
  2. Be willing to make sacrifices for your career.
  3. Be proactive.
  4. Be willing to fail and learn from mistakes.
  5. Be attentive to detail.

 

As expressed by the mentors

  1. Demonstrate entrepreneurial ownership—for example, proactively set up regular meetings with the mentor to receive feedback.
  2. Set BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) and self-manage activity consistent with those goals.
  3. Look for ways to continue education and apply learning to goals.
  4. Be a team player who sets a good example in the workplace.
  5. Initiate learning by asking questions.

 

Again, there isn’t as much overlap as I would have expected. What does stand out to me is the difference in goal-setting between the groups; junior advisers want to set realistic goals, while senior advisers want them to set stretch goals or BHAGs. Also curious is the fact that both mentors and mentees seem to have found it easier to be more specific in describing the best practices for the other group than in articulating the best practices for their own.

If you are a mentor or a mentee, what might you take away as a best practice for yourself? Both mentors and mentees should make sure they have regularly scheduled meetings, as well as document specific goals—perhaps realistic and stretch goals—in writing.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

 

Editor’s note: Take advantage of FPA MentorMatch to connect with an experienced financial planner to get advice and tips on your career. Learn more about this FPA member program.

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