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Email Prospecting: 4 Tips to Make the Most of 2.7 Seconds

email-on-ipadOne of the biggest challenges for advisers when prospecting is to secure that initial meeting. Often the preliminary outreach to a prospect may take place via email and in that case getting a positive response—or a response at all—can be an arduous mission to accomplish.

According to The Radicati Group, a technology research firm, 1.9 billion non-spam emails are sent every day. To stand a chance to be acknowledged, email messages must be smartly crafted to grab recipients’ attention and motivate them to respond. Other consumer studies also revealed that it takes only 2.7 seconds for an average person to decide if they want to read, delete or reply to an email. This is in part courtesy of our increased use of handheld devices, which currently represent a preponderant portion of all email interactions.

A couple of industry statistics will help you gauge the impressive growth and usage of email on mobile devices:

  • 53 percent of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q3 2014, from 48 percent in Q2 2014.
    (Experian, “Quarterly email benchmark report,” Q3 2014)
  • Mobile email opens up 180 percent in three years, from 15 percent, Q1 2011 to 42 percent in Q1 2014.
    (Campaign Monitor, “Email interaction across mobile and desktop, Q1 2014)

What are some of the key factors that prompt prospects to delete emails? Key culprits traditionally include convoluted language, use of industry jargon and failure to make a strong case for value—are you worth your prospect’s time? Will you be for her or him a valuable source?

Ultimately, it is not the service or product that you are pitching that will prompt your prospects to take action. Rather, your capacity to convince them that you understand their challenges and that you can help them achieve their goals will be the deciding factor. This is what will persuade them that getting additional information or requesting to meet with you will be a good investment of their time.

Here are some of the crucial factors you must bear in mind when crafting an email:

  1. Grabbing Subject Line: Use concise language. Do not exceed 50 characters. Be clear, consistent, use action words to inspire and, when possible, consider adding the recipient’s first name
    Length: The statistics above make a compelling case for prospects reading emails on mobile devices. Consequently, keep your emails short—preferably under 100 words
  2. Personalize: According to HubSpot Science of Email research, personalizing an email increase click through rates by 14 percent. So, conduct some specific research that can help address the recipient’s challenges and openly quote it in the text.
  3. Credibility: Do not shy away from name-dropping. If the prospect was referred to you by a third party, mentioning that individual’s name may significantly increase the odds of a response
    Value: The first couple of sentences should unequivocally state what you are offering and why it is valuable. To accomplish this goal, clearly state your value proposition. Also, go the extra mile by sharing any educational material you may have on the topic and clearly enunciate to the reader the benefits she will derive from reading such material.
  4. Closing: In closing your email, remember that your goal is to establish an ongoing conversation. Include a call-to-action and word it in a personal and engaging manner, be it a meeting request or a telephone call.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

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Diamonds and Your Social Presence are Forever

The internet was once regarded as an “other” space that existed beyond the reaches of “the real world.” What happened on the Internet wasn’t to be taken seriously–it wasn’t real. This rather strange concept of the Internet is now changing, due in large part to the rise of social media.

While some continue to miss the Tweet, there is a growing consensus that what is said or done online has a direct and measurable impact on the physical, tangible world.

And all of this mass communicating we’re doing, every think-piece, Tweet, status update, and picture we post, is being cataloged–it’s been said that history is now recorded faster than it’s actually taking place. The Internet is one large encyclopedia of the human experience, and unlike the hardcover collection on our shelves in the basement, it cannot be destroyed by flood nor fire.

Diamonds and your social presence are forever.

In other words, navigating an online presence is hard, and two social media sites in particular get people into the most trouble.

On Facebook, keeping your personal and professional self separated is a must. For many of us, even before we considered our future careers, Facebook was around to make sure we wouldn’t have one. Depending on how long you’ve been active on the site, Facebook tends to be a place of old college buddies, new babies of those old college buddies, and beer. Probably of you consuming it. With your old college buddies.

Instead of mixing business and pleasure on your profile, create a business page for your firm. This way you can guarantee that what you post is professional and in keeping with your business brand. Most of your clients aren’t interested in seeing you in your college glory days. In that same vein, restrict access to your profile to only include friends–they’re less likely to tattle on you if you make a blunder.

Twitter’s an odd bird. If you’re a professional, it likes a mix of business speak; unrelated yet interesting articles from around the web; and the odd pithy personal update. Unless you have something akin to an obsession with declaring the veracity of unicorns, it’s not imperative to maintain a personal Twitter account as well as a professional one. If you do have said passion, create a cleverly disguised pseudonym and Tweet to your heart’s content–just remember which account you’re logged into.

While the readership of Twitter is generally accepting of a variety of posts, the deceptively open and on-the-fly nature of it makes it prime real estate for gaffs. You may be Tweeting from the comfort of your own home, but your Tweet is out roaming the world. And once it’s out, it’s almost impossible to stuff that bird back in the cage.

The big takeaway?
While it’s true there’s a potential landmine waiting to explode with every social media post, it’s also true that how we conduct ourselves online shouldn’t be any different than how we conduct ourselves in person. Unless what you have to say qualifies for the Whistleblower Protection Act, if you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t say it online.

Absolutely speak to your audience, but also give thought to the possible reaction outside of it. And before you wade into whichever moral issue is up for debate, do a quick cost-benefit analysis to determine whether your opinion is worth the potential loss.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!

Kellie GibsonKellie Gibson
Marketing Writer
Advisor Websites

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Tapping Technology for Review Meetings

Many advisers have replaced at least some in-person review meetings with technology-supported meetings (e.g. via Skype) This practice is becoming more popular for several reasons:

  • Clients want to save time or may prefer the comfort of their own home or office instead of driving to the adviser’s office.
  • Advisers may prefer the efficiency of review meetings aided by technology.
  • People in general are more technologically savvy and comfortable with the notion of technology-supported meetings.

On the other hand, it is unlikely that one would use a technology-supported meeting as a vehicle for developing or strengthening a client relationship.

Pros and Cons
Advisers who conduct technology-based review meetings report that these meetings set up win/win scenarios—they’re more efficient for the adviser and more convenient for the clients. Typically, there is less chitchat and a tendency to get down to business sooner, so review meetings end in half the time that in-person reviews take. Still, there are some differences and possible downsides to be aware of:

  • Less chitchat may be efficient, but it can rob the adviser of tidbits of information that enhance the client relationship or provide cues about a client’s understanding of, or comfort with, his or her financial status.
  • Most likely, the adviser’s staff isn’t involved in technology-supported meetings, resulting in less input for the adviser. In addition, some staff may miss having the opportunity to interact with clients, an experience that gives purpose to mundane tasks such as filling out paperwork.
  • Both clients and advisers need to assume the added responsibility of ensuring that personal information passes only via secure lines.
  • Although advisers may have trained both spouses to participate in in-person client meetings, it may be easier to tap only one spouse or partner when the move is made to technology-aided meetings, which could open the door to some miscommunication.

Change Happens
This isn’t the first major transition in client meetings. Many tenured advisers remember transitioning from appointments in their clients’ homes to meetings in their own offices. That shift happened approximately a decade ago, and no harm was done. Nevertheless, advisers may want to keep these tips in mind as this change unrolls.

  • Be sure that both spouses are involved in at least some technology-aided review meetings.
  • Prepare clients for the importance of cyber security. 
  • Practice video technology before using it. For example, depending on camera placement, looking directly into a client’s eyes on the screen can appear as if the adviser is looking elsewhere. Looking into the camera, however, though not intuitive, comes across as looking directly at the client.
  • Consider adding staff to some technology-aided meetings, depending on your staff’s relationship with a client.
  • Offer in-person meetings as an option. Even if clients don’t want to take advantage of this offer, giving them the opportunity for in-person interaction is advised.

Financial planners are relationship people. Efficiency is wonderful. But efficiency that takes precedence over relationships is dangerous.

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


Editor’s note: Read an article in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Financial Planning that focuses on how to prevent identity theft here. Also, listen to an FPA webinar titled “Leveraging Cloud Technology to Overcome Cybersecurity & Compliance Risk” here. Another helpful webinar, titled “Mobile Security: Defending the Devices that Power Client Productivity” can be found here.

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Information Overload and Content Marketing

Organized MindIn his book, The Organized Mind, Montreal neuroscientist Daniel Levitin posits that we now consume the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of information a day—five times what we consumed back in 1986. Unfortunately our brains still have the same limited processing capacity.

This may help explain why we’re exhausted after spending a day online, even if most of that day is spent looking at pictures of cats.

A few things are at play here. The advent of the Internet has given us instant access to information—no more waking up to the morning newspaper, hitting up the local library, or waiting for the nightly news. Missed your favorite radio show? No matter, it is waiting for you. The concept of time, namely its passing, ceases to exist in the realm of the Internet. The Internet is always, always present—both in ubiquity and in tense. It is now.

And boy, do we love it. Not only do humans have a natural thirst for knowledge but we are hard-wired for novelty, and all of this online information is hitting that pleasure center and leaving us insatiably hungry for more.

And with demand comes supply.

Enter stage left: content marketing.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, which we found on Google (via a search that took a slothful 0.38 seconds to perform), content marketing is defined as:

“The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

People want information that tells them who you are, what you do, and why they should trust you. At that point, maybe then they’ll part with their hard-earned sheckles in your direction. Creating content that delivers this information is a great approach. It combines the technology of the times with the demands of the day.

But maybe you’re starting to see the potential catch inherent in the plan.

As so many businesses have embarked upon a content marketing strategy, surfers of the web have gotten exactly what they asked for—a metric ton of information.

In fact, more information than they know what to do with.

There is so much information that supply has now arguably surpassed demand. And while technology might be operating in the future, our ability to actually process all of this information is still stuck in the Stone Age. We’re not very advanced machines.

But there’s no going home. Now that we’ve been given exactly what we want, there’s no going back. As a business, you can’t simply stop producing information (the cost and devaluing of this information is a discussion for another time).

So in a space flooded with information, what are some ways to navigate content marketing without running yourself ragged and inundating your readers?

  1. Think it through. What kind of content are you producing? Is it directly related to your product or service, or only tangentially so? While informing your readers and establishing yourself as a trustworthy source are important aspects of content marketing, conversion is essential. If your content is not converting visitors into leads, you need to re-evaluate your strategy. A good approach is to use your content to teach the value of your product or service.
  2. Produce quality over quantity. It may seem counterintuitive, what with the sheer amount of content you have to fight with to be seen, but by and large, good content performs better than more content. It’s hard to do both but if you have the time and resources, keep at it; if you have to sacrifice one for the other, quality should win over quantity every time. It’s important to note that ‘good’ and ‘quality’ depend on your approach—the BBC and Buzzfeed operate on entirely different concepts of each, and both are wildly popular.
  3. Create incentive. Make it worth the wait. If you are producing thoughtful, engaging content, your visitors will want to keep returning to see if there’s more, and will be delighted when you have delivered. If you’re producing an abundance with little value, the incentive decreases and visitors might only check back occasionally—if at all.

Another approach is to erect a barrier between visitors and your content. Build a call-to-action that requires their email or phone number in exchange for an e-book or whitepaper. This might sound strange, but arbitrarily ascribing value makes something valuable, and therefore more enticing to visitors. Just don’t disappoint.

Kellie Gibson

Kellie Gibson
Marketing Writer
Advisor Websites


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3 Powerful Stats That Affect Website Usability

Whether you’re a financial adviser or a web designer, it’s easy to understand why it’s important to build a website that visitors can use. When a visitor arrives on any adviser’s website for the first time can they inherently, fluidly find the information they’re looking for? Recently, I came across this article from Smashing Magazine that cites evidence on the importance of creating a user-friendly site. Here are three science-backed usability stats that I found especially interesting:

Let’s back up… what is website usability?

Website usability is a fancy tech term that refers to how user-friendly a site it. According to Google, web usability is:

“… the ease of use of a website. Some broad goals of usability are the presentation of information and choices in a clear and concise way, a lack of ambiguity and the placement of important items in appropriate areas.”

Scroll Call

After nearly a decade of research on how people use the internet, Nielsen Norman Group discovered 77 percent of first-time visitors don’t scroll. At all. Let’s rephrase: when a visitor arrives at your adviser website for the first time, they only see what is “above the fold.”

This data represents how important the homepage of a site is. First-time web visitors come to a site with three *big* questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why should I care? (this is the most important)

While it’s not a good idea to cram every detail about a firm on the homepage, it’s important to make the best use of the space that’s available. The best adviser websites are designed to draw in first-time visitors and are compelling enough to make them want to stick around.

White Space Helps Us Focus

White space on a site is kind of a valuable commodity, but it’s all about balance. Too much white space can be perceived as uninformative or boring, while not enough white space often leaves visitors feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Smashing Magazine referenced a study by Lin (2004) that found a “good use of white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 percent.”

Optimizing the amount of white space on a page helps visitors understand and process the information they’re taking in and focus.

It’s also worth noting that white space doesn’t have to be white. The term refers to the empty space between other stuff (words, pictures, buttons, forms, etc.) on a page.

“Quality of Design Is an Indicator of Credibility”

According to this article from Smashing Magazine, many researchers and institutions have questioned what factors influence how web users perceive a site’s credibility. Of the research that’s been performed, there are a few elements we all agree are important:

  • Layout and design
  • Consistency
  • Typography
  • Color
  • Frequency of updates

Long story short, web visitors are shallow and distracted (often by hundreds of other websites). According to the most research performed to date, web users definitely judge a book by its cover, forming their own ideas about your firm based on the quality of the design. A well-designed, professional-looking website increases perceived credibility among web visitors, while a disorganized, outdated adviser website does the opposite.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

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21 Questions Your Website Needs to Answer (Fast!)

As an adviser, your website is one of the most essential marketing tools and is likely the only member of your team working 24/7 to represent your brand. Determining its focus and direction should be the cornerstone of your firm’s online marketing strategy. You can bet that your target market is looking for you online. Make sure they find you, as well as find answers to all of their questions about your firm.

So, what do people do on the Internet? The majority of web users are seeking information. To give your website a chance, focus on its visitors’ intentions. What information are they looking for, and how can you help them find it? Focus on making your website easily navigable and chock-full of answers.

Most advisers feel they need a website to validate their firm and provide legitimacy to the organization—and that’s true! But when visitors arrive to your company’s site, they’ll want to know more than whether or not you exist. In fact, they’ll want to know a lot more. Many of these questions are answered within the subconscious. (Is this company good or bad? Trustworthy? Credible?) And many of these questions are answered rather quickly. In 2012, a research team from Carlton University discovered that people make a decision about the appeal of a website in only 50 milliseconds—that’s 50/1,000 of one second!

The bottom line is, you have very little time to win over web visitors. Here is a list of 21 questions that web visitors want answered when they arrive to your website. Make sure answers to these questions can be found easily and quickly. A good rule of thumb is to have answers to the following questions answered within three clicks of entering your site.

  1. Am I in the right place?
  2. Is this company real?
  3. Is it credible?
  4. Is this website up-to-date?
  5. Is it trustworthy? Why should I trust the people who work here?
  6. Is this a professional company?
  7. Is this company stable?
  8. Does this site make me feel welcome?
  9. Is the navigation easy to find and use?
  10. Can I find the information I’m looking for?
  11. Is this company affiliated with other financial institutions?
  12. Does this company have a physical location? Where is it?
  13. How many people work here? Is the team large enough to fulfill my needs?
  14. What is the company culture like?
  15. How is this firm different than the last firm I looked into?
  16. What is it like to work with your company?
  17. How do other people feel about this company?
  18. Why should I spend money here?
  19. How can you help me?
  20. I’m not ready to make a decision, but I want to stay in touch. Can I subscribe to a blog or newsletter?
  21. What should I do next?


Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia


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Be An Inboxer

Endeavoring to be an Inboxer isn’t a call to jump in the ring and fight, nor a call to sport hip underwear.

This is all about what you can do to get more of your emails into your recipient’s inbox. Financial service providers rely on email delivery to enhance marketing campaigns such as newsletters, updates, invites to events and webinars and the list goes on, as far as your marketing budget will allow.

Techniques to optimize the chances of an email getting to an inbox—rather than a spam or junk mail folder—in some cases can help you incrementally, while in other cases the impact is dramatic.

For the Greatest Impact …

Watch your subject line. Almost all email clients have spam filtering in place and they look at a variety of factors, but none as important as the subject line. Here is an excellent resource for crafting a non-spammy subject line that also has great tips for getting the email opened.

Don’t send emails to bad email addresses. When the time comes for your marketing aspirations to outgrow Constant Contact or MailChimp, make sure to not import bad and bounced email addresses into your new email service provider’s (ESP’s) system. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) track how many bounces come from your domain and email address and issue a “sender score” (also called a “sender reputation”), a sort of credit rating for email-sending credibility. The goal is to keep bounces at a minimum to have a high sender score. This also means if you have a dated list (one that is over a year old with no sends, for example) use an email validation service to avoid lowering your and your ESP’s sender score. It will be perhaps the best $10 you will ever spend on a marketing endeavor.

For Modest Impact …

When upgrading from one ESP to another, there is a process called “inbox warming.” While not nearly as exciting as it sounds, the process involves sending your emails out on the new platform to only the most engaged contacts—that is, those who open your emails the most. Doing this the first couple of times you send an email campaign will bolster your sender score on the new platform for future sends.

Lastly, there is the issue of alignment. Typically, the “reply to” field in email transmissions contain your domain (like tim@eMarketeer.com uses the domain eMarketeer.com). Your ISP often makes use of a “sender policy framework,” which basically lists which ESP hosts are allowed to send on behalf of your domain. Add your ESP’s server IPs (the addresses of the email servers) to your SPF record before sending. Further, higher-end ESPs allow you to use your own subdomain as the URL address of the email (for example, email.yourcompany.com/email title rather than MailChimp.com/email title), which is worth the nominal amount of effort it takes to set up. Your ESP vendor can and should help with all of this.

Taking these steps will assure greater deliverability over the life of your company. Like compounding interest, incremental gains that are leveraged over the course of time can make a huge difference in your email marketing potency.

tim handleyTim Handley
eMarketeer USA
Santa Cruz, Calif.


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