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Social Media Strategies of High-Growth Firms

Your clients don’t want to have to rely on you for everything—they want information to make educated choices. And the way to engage them and other prospective clients is through content development and social media, found a recent study.

The study, titled “Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media,” was conducted by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn was conducted by If Not Now Research, found that was the case.

The study found that clients crave more knowledge and many high-growth advisory firms are satisfying that craving by curating content and sending it out to current and would-be clients via social media, which is termed in the report as “thought leadership.” And it’s paying off.

“The study draws an important connection between the drivers of client engagement and communications strategies that will help advisers stand out from the crowd,” said Julie Littlechild, President of If Not Now Research.

“This report aims to help financial advisers of all business models understand how their peers are engaging in social media and thought leadership, the connection between business growth and these communication tactics ,” writes Lauren Schadle, CEO and executive director of the Financial Planning Association.

Some of the study’s biggest takeaways include the following:

Clients are engaged online. All age groups surveyed engage in online searches, but different age groups do so differently. While younger clients (ages 18-44) are more likely to search prior to meeting an adviser, older clients (ages 55-64 and those over 65), are more likely to look up an adviser to validate their impression of them.

Clients are engaged in social media and they expect you to be too. The age range of those most engaged in social media is 18-44 with 62 percent of respondents active on LinkedIn, 86 percent active on Facebook, and 55 percent active on Twitter. LinkedIn is the primary site advisers are using—76 percent of those surveyed—which is a good thing because the clients surveyed said they expect their advisers to at least be on LinkedIn.

Clients want education. They sought you out because they want professional help, but they also want to be educated on the issues so they can make their own informed decisions.

Firms that curate and push out educational content grow. Firms that wrote blogs, newsletters and other informational content and pushed it out via social networking sites and email saw growth over those who didn’t. The study found that 67 percent of high-growth firms said they added new clients as a direct result of using multiple professional and social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Today we have a choice: to watch how the change plays out or to take action and be part of the change,” the report notes. “The data suggests that the leaders are the high-growth firms that are reaping the rewards of driving the change.”

You can find the full study here.

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6 Seriousness of Success Indicators

During a complimentary group coaching session with 60 financial advisers, I made a special announcement that for a limited time we would offer a very low monthly payment plan option on our upcoming group coaching series to anyone with five years or less in the business. I did this to try and help those in need who may not have the necessary funds for coaching.

The caveat: we were only taking the first 10 people who emailed me with their interest. Within minutes, we had more than 10 people contact me. However, only one ended up actually signing up for our group coaching program. My first thought was that the others simply didn’t see our follow-up email with the registration link. After calling the entire list twice and speaking with many of the advisers, I came to the realization that the real reason they were not following through on their initial interest was that they simply were not serious about their own success (and it had nothing to do with money after all).

The following are just of few examples of what I have found with my successful client advisers:

1.) They Are Serious about Commitment: Successful advisers know that making a commitment to own their success is not a gray area—either you are committed to succeed or you are not. This doesn’t eliminate setbacks but redefines them as opportunities to learn and move forward.

2.) They Are Serious about Character: Successful advisers know that doing the right thing for the client is much more important than earning a commission. They say what they mean and they stick to their word.

4.) They Are Serious about Consequences: Successful advisers know that they are responsible for their own success, not their firm, their clients, the market or the economy. They realize that it is pointless to blame others.

5.) They Are Serious about Collaboration: Successful advisers find others to help build and maintain a thriving practice. They utilize their firm’s resources and expertise. They oftentimes build teams with other like-minded advisers or hire junior advisers to delegate activities to that they themselves don’t like to do.

6.) They Are Serious about Control: Successful advisers know what is and is not in their control. They CAN control their attitude, activities and actions. They don’t worry about things that they cannot control, such as their clients’ attitudes, the market and the overall economy.

Obviously, I’m not saying you can’t have fun in your business but I am saying that if you want to get to the next level with your practice it’s time to get serious about your own success. Nobody else can, or will, do it for you.

If you read this article and would like help identify how to take your business more seriously, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

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

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Increasing Prospect-to-Client Yield for Accelerated Growth

In my previous blog post, I set the structure for an adviser’s sales funnel with an objective to achieve efficiency since the adviser’s labor content increases with each successive stage.

While efficiency addresses productivity of applied resources, it doesn’t determine if the marketing and relationship content delivered at each stage connects with the prospect’s decision criteria. Yield measures the effectiveness of converting prospects to clients, and a firm’s marketing ROI increases dramatically with small increases in yield across the stages.

The Impact on Client Acquisition
Two marketing systems that start with the same number of leads will have dramatically different results at each stage by increasing yield.

A 51 percent increase in yield at each sales-funnel stage produces a 300 percent increase in the number of clients. For a fee-on-AUM model, there’s a huge profit payoff to increased yields as the firm’s one-time client acquisition costs are offset by ongoing revenues.LouryBlogPic1

Steps to Increasing Yield

  • Lead Generation. A lead from the firm’s marketing program has a higher order value because the prospect has taken the initiative in starting a relationship. Already, some level of inertia has been broken.
  • Yield Issue: Match up the prospect’s stated needs to the benefits the firm is able to deliver.
  • Tactical Consideration: After talking to leads, if there’s a frequent mismatch between the prospect’s needs and what the firm’s benefits deliver, the first place to look is the marketing content’s messaging (e.g. websites, emails, presentations, blogs, etc.)

A prospect conducts the first-level evaluation by reviewing digital content (even if through a referral), and if this content fails to define the firm’s services, and those most able to gain benefits, there will be mismatches and lower yields.

  • Interest Qualified. During this stage, one of the firm’s advisers establishes the business relationship. The two core purposes are: 1) identifying the prospect’s top needs; and 2) making relationship connections.
  • Yield Issue: The biggest issue in hiring any professional services practitioner is the fear that what is said during the sales process will fail to materialize after the hiring decision.
  • Tactical Consideration: In every initial meeting, the adviser will hear various needs, anxieties and aspirations; these represent the content an adviser’s solution ultimately addresses. Take the prospect’s top need—say retirement planning—and schedule a follow-on meeting for a focused educational session of that need.

The prospect directly experiences the adviser’s approach and quality; it is akin to product sampling or test driving. There’s no more powerful tool for increasing yield than this type of customized educational outreach during the sales process.

  • Business Qualified. It’s now time to make planning concepts concrete by producing a proposal showing how the adviser will meet the client’s need, anxiety and aspirational inventory.
  • Yield Issue: Prior baggage with other advisers sets a risky edge to forming a new practitioner relationship.
  • Tactical Consideration: Many prospects come into an evaluation having had a poor recent experience with another adviser. Before forcing a long-term commitment, give the prospect a choice to phase into the full-service package. For example, begin by implementing a retirement plan or a portfolio restructuring using a project-based fee.

Choice offers the prospect more control in right-sizing the package to his or her risk/anxiety level in beginning a new advisory relationship. Taking a smaller—and successful—step gives a more comfortable pathway to a fuller relationship.

  • Solution Verified. The proposal will be presented.
  • Yield Issue: Advice solutions often involve complex concepts, emotional issues, and anticipated results, and it’s difficult to digest it all in a single presentation meeting.
  • Tactical Consideration: Structure the proposal with the needs/anxieties/aspirations inventory as the lead with the firm’s ROI benefits following. Then, send the proposal to the prospect a few days in advance to allow a paced initial review before the more formal meeting.

The final yield results in a prospect becoming a client is them saying, “Yes.”

  • Yield Issue: Some people have difficulty making a final decision, particularly in light of previous adviser experiences.
  • Tactical Consideration: If possible, the most powerful method for eliminating buyer’s remorse is to set up a meeting with an existing client to mentor the uncertain prospect in how the adviser delivers on the solution. The next best option is to schedule a follow-on meeting in the near term; giving a person space to get emotionally prepared for a new relationship.

Yield Determines Profitability
An adviser that increases yields in the sales process improves profitability by reducing waste and fruitless relationships, while also launching accelerated and long-term revenues through better-matched clients.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey

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Learning about Leadership through Baseball

“Baseball is this huge analogy for life,” said Rebecca Herman, Ph.D., professor of leadership and organizational development at Kaplan University’s school of business. Herman spoke to FPA volunteer leaders about leadership and volunteerism at the FPA Chapter Leaders Conference in Broomfield, Colo.

Herman, a baseball fanatic and co-author of Lead Me Out to the Ballgame: Stories and Strategies to Develop Major League Leadership, shared the following steps to effective leadership:

Lead Yourself
To be an effective leader, you must lead yourself. According to Herman, this takes passion, leading by example, and respect. “Leading by example is one of the best behavioral lessons we can give our team,” said Herman.

Leading Others
The next step to effective leadership is leading others. To do this successfully, Herman says you must cultivate relationships (spend time with the people on your team each day), communicate effectively, and support your people. After interviewing dozens of Major League Baseball players for her book, Herman was shocked to learn that what players wanted most from their managers was support; they wanted their managers to have their back.

Leading the Game
This is what Herman considers your expertise. She encouraged the planners in the room—experts in financial planning—to stay up to date on their expertise, to foster teamwork and create a winning culture.

All these steps will lead to becoming a major league leader, scoring a home run and experiencing your own version of that champagne-popping moment of winning the World Series.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO

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5 Myths about Working with the Media: Busted!

If you’re looking to build relationships with local and national media so they will call on you when they need a quote or subject matter expert on their financial planning story, here are some things to keep in mind.

This tips were shared by Ben Lewis, FPA’s public relations director, during the FPA Chapter Leaders Conference in Broomfield, Colo.

Myth 1: You need to have expertise working with the media in order to be a sought after source/expert.
Not true, says Lewis. Reporters are constantly looking for new sources, new experts and new points of view.

Myth 2: You need to be on guard at all times during an interview.
“It’s not an interview,” says Lewis. “It’s a conversation.” He suggests that planners approach every interview with a journalist as though it is a conversation with a client. Speak with confidence about what you know. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” if in fact you don’t know the answer to a journalist’s question.

Myth 3: If you are interviewed, you will be quoted in the story.
A journalist may interview you for 10 minutes or an hour, but that doesn’t mean your quotes are guaranteed to make it into the published piece. The journalist may use your interview as background, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value you as a resource.

Myth 4: Journalists are malicious and will use what you say against you.
Simply put, no journalist is out to get you. But it’s important that you prepare for the interview, by doing proper research to have solid, confident points to make. Before the actual interview, inquire about the angle of the story and know what you want to say.

Myth 5: Being a smart professional is enough to work with the media.
No matter how smart you are, if you deliver your answers to the journalist’s questions like a lead balloon, it will go over like a lead balloon, says Lewis. Your nonverbal communication is key. “It has to come from your heart as much as it comes from your head,” he says.

A few more “speaking to journalists” tips from Lewis:

  • Remember that you are never just representing yourself. You are representing your business, your FPA chapter, and your profession.
  • Always tell the truth.
  • Always have something to say.
  • At the end of the interview ask, “Did I answer all your questions?”
  • Don’t ask to see a copy of the story beforehand.
  • Always thank the interviewer.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO

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Find Your Strengths, Align Your Life

StrengthFinderThe coolest thing about the work I do is that my vision and purpose align with my strengths and passion. The vision that pulls me forward is to provide tools, knowledge and support to those who want to create a greater version of life. To do this, I need to reach as many people as possible through speaking, writing, coaching and team-building.

Those familiar with the Clifton StrengthsFinder® and identification of talents will recognize my top five in the paragraph below. Begin aligning your life by taking the StrengthsFinder assessment and exploring your top five strengths.

My “maximizer” strength leads and is all about becoming greater. My “strategic” strength allows me to discover the different ways people learn and connect. My “positivity” brings the ability to recognize, progress and celebrate success. My “futuristic” strength lights the way allowing a preview of how things can play out years ahead. My “woo” strength is the influence to help others see, feel and believe what I do. With this alignment comes the continual search for ways to enhance the value I bring to clients and to grow in the process. What a win-win!

Knowledge of your top five strengths themes will increase your confidence and highlight ways you can drive what you control. The Action-Planning Guide on the Gallup Strengths Center website allows you to create a customized action plan. You can do this all on your own by reading the books, recording your learnings and putting them into action. It will take you a long time. Work with a certified coach to shorten the learning curve and enhance your understanding.

Among the many things you will learn is that strengths are defined as the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance. Strengths deriving from talent is a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving. Add to this the investment of time spent practicing, developing and refining your talents and you have a strength.

The formula looks like this:


Developing strengths can be a challenge as our human tendency is to focus on the things we don’t do well. For example we dwell on that one “C” on the report card or “did not meet expectations” in the performance review. While criticism and negative remarks are tough to take, they can help reveal what we do really well. You cannot be all things to all people or great at every aspect that your work requires. Top performers know that in order to succeed their energies must be focused on what they do best.

What do you do best? I challenge you to find out. For less than the cost of a good lunch, you can begin to chart your own course.

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


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3 Ways to Find the Flip Side of Failure

Have you ever wondered if anything positive could come out of getting a negative result? Let’s use the example of the last time you did not close a sale—your hopes were probably deflated as the prospect walked out the door to go home and “think about it.”  Did you take time to reflect back on your conversation with the prospect and think about what you learned from the situation? Successful advisers know that the flip side of failure is being able to learn from their mistakes.

The following are just of few examples of what you might do to get better results next time.

  1. Prepare for the Presentation: Many advisers spend the majority of their appointment preparation time working on a financial plan to determine their recommendations. However, what they don’t take time to work on is preparing and practicing the actual presentation or dialogue. As a result, they rush into recommendations which oftentimes leaves the prospect feeling confused or overwhelmed.
  2. Make a Personal Connection: People tend to work with people they like. Personality-based selling is the art of understanding personality types to make and build better connections. If you don’t know much about it, you should do some homework. Remember, you must make the connection before you can make the sale!
  3. Help them Understand Why They Should Buy: People hate to be sold to but they love to buy. When you map out a series of questions to take them down a “questions path” to understand why they should buy, you are helping them come to their own conclusions before you’ve even explained your recommendations. This is one of the single most important things you can do to help close a sale.
  4. Prepare for Objections: You should ALWAYS expect objections. If you don’t, you most certainly will get them and won’t know what to do with them. Take time to write out rebuttals to at least five common objections and practice them well before your appointments.
  5. Ask for the Order: A little known secret to sales is that an interested prospect will give you buying signals by asking you questions as if to imply that they are considering owning your recommendations, such as, “How long will it take to move the money over?” When this happens, you must answer and ask for the order. One of the easiest closes is to simply say, “Are you comfortable moving ahead?” Ask this and you might get another objection—for which you have prepared a rebuttal—or you get the sale!

Turning Your Failures into Success

Obviously, there is much more to each of the aforementioned five points to ensure you find success. It is a proven fact, though, that you can turn any failure into a success if you take the time to learn from your past errors and find solutions (or best practices) to keep you from repeating them which will allow you to take your failures and find their flip side.

If you read this article and would like help techniques about how to best learn from your mistakes, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

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


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