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For Effective Content Marketing, Think Like a PR Pro

If you’ve heard the term “content marketing” and wondered what it really means, you are not alone. Hopefully this post will help you attain a better understanding of content marketing and how it works.

Content marketing is a strategy that entails the creation and dissemination of original, valuable, relevant and consistent content to engage and motivate a well-defined audience with the aim of generating profitable customer action.

One of the crucial goals of a content marketing strategy is to trigger a two-way conversation, encouraging your audience to discuss, comment and share your content, as they find it valuable in addressing their key problems.

An effective content marketing strategy doesn’t focus solely on the prospect-to-client conversion, but instead takes into consideration audiences’ needs and interests throughout the entire relationship lifecycle. Ultimately, the main aim of your strategy is to consistently create valuable content that will empower you to establish profitable, long-term client relationships.

From Fortune 100 companies down to small businesses, the value of content marketing is being recognized for one simple reason: it works. It works because it switches the focus to “relevancy and value,” the two key characteristics that separate effective communication from the plethora of spam we are exposed to everyday.

Successful content marketing requires that you to begin thinking like a PR professional rather than a sales-oriented individual. Your attention must be diverted from writing traditional sales pitches to creating suitable content that your audience will learn to rely upon, talk about and share with their friends, family and connections. This, in turn, will generate visibility for you and your firm, drive traffic to your website and help you build a reputable online reputation.

Here are tips for how to think like a PR pro in regard to your content marketing strategy:

Define Your Audience

Establish to whom you are writing and why you are writing. Engaging in content marketing creation is like publishing your own magazine. Your goal is to know your audience, educate, inform and serve their needs.

Build Trust

The scope of your content marketing effort is to build trust in you and your firm. So, identify your audience’s most compelling issues, anticipate the questions they may pose, and focus on creating content that educates, provides guidance and helps solve such problems. This will position you as a trusted expert source in your industry.

Establish Content, Frequency and Location

Your content should be featured across multiple platforms—email, social media, blogs, etc.—in order to maximize your outreach efforts to a wide range of prospects. Create an editorial calendar and determine how often and where you want to publish new content (for example, one blog post per week, or Tweet once a day) and develop a list of topics for articles, interviews and videos.

Share and Engage

Make sure that you share your content on the platforms where your audiences are active. Leverage those platforms and email to announce new content and links to it. When someone reads or downloads your content, make sure to reach out to them thanking for their support and encourage them to visit your website.

Think and Act Like a PR Pro

Effective marketing content causes your audiences to pause, read, get engaged and take action. In reaching out to them, focus on creating thought-provoking rather than thought-leading content.

Do you have a content marketing strategy in place? Is it working for you? Share your thoughts here.

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


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Create a Magical Client Experience

How do you create magic in the experience you offer your clients? Do you surprise and delight? Are you building loyalty or simply delivering your service? I just returned from Disneyland where I witnessed mastery of The Client Experience.

We were in line at the Indiana Jones ride. Right before we boarded our vehicle, my 6-year-old daughter dropped the oversized lollipop she was enjoying. It shattered, and she started crying. No big surprise. The surprise came when the ride attendant said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you a new one.” My husband and I looked at each other and said, “Yeah, right, how are they going to pull that off?!”

Here’s the delight:  when we exited the ride, the Disney ‘cast member’ delivered a gift certificate for “one lollipop replacement” for my girl to trade in at the candy shop for a brand new one. Disney understands surprise and delight like no other brand. They have taken the time to map out exactly where the problems arise and provide not only a “fix” but an experience so delightful it leaves the whole family amazed.

Disney also demonstrates expertise in another time-tested loyalty strategy—segmentation. By integrating tiers of service into their client experience, customers feel special, privileged and desiring the high status perks:

  • If you pay up to stay at the Disneyland hotel adjacent to the park, you receive a “magic” hour in Disneyland before it opens to the general public.
  • When you commit to a ride early in the day with their Fast Pass system, you can take the No Waiting Line for the most popular rides.
  • Annual Pass holders receive discounts at every retail stop in the park (and there are many).

Disney knows how to provide special experiences to the most loyalty of customers. This is the essence of powerful segmentation. Reward the clients who are the ambassadors of your brand and they will continue to spread the word about your firm.

How can you incorporate a bit of Disney magic into your client experience?

You don’t need storybook princesses or decorative popcorn buckets to woo your clients. But you can find your own version of a Fast Pass or replacement candy.

  1. What if you set up an event that delivered a high value service that your clients never got around to doing for themselves? At my firm, we hired a photographer and invited clients to come in for the family photo they never seemed to have the time to schedule.
  1. Could you have a team member look up unclaimed property on behalf of your clients to see if they have dollars locked up with the state waiting for them? Everyone likes to recover hidden treasure.
  1. How do you express your thanks? Try a handwritten thank you note. No one gets personal mail anymore, let alone something written by hand. Break through the clutter and jot a “how are you” note, remember an occasion in their life, or simply wish them a happy birthday.

 

These are all simple, yet often overlooked, gestures as we direct our attention to finding new clients or deal with running a business. Take a few moments to create the magic in your client’s experience with you. You’ll see a sparkle in their eye as shimmery as Cinderella’s tiara.

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
www.themercato.net
@KristinHarad
San Francisco, CA

 


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Performance Reporting: The Plan’s Tangible Evidence

As humans, we have five senses allowing us to have a first-hand, physical experience with this world. The more tangibility in our relationships, the more connected we become as our brains write memories of an experience’s sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches. The converse is true too, the fewer senses engaged, the less memorable (or meaningful) the experience.

A client is much more able to recall details of a face-to-face meeting than the words written in an email or heard in a phone conversation. Making lasting memories has a high ROI shown through clients’ satisfaction and loyalty.

While professional services are inherently intangible—advice/counsel/wisdom—we transform this intangibility into a physical or tangible experience when we meet a client face to face, send a handwritten note or produce a document. Think of it this way: the more an experience is tangible, the more lasting the memory.

“I Want to Meet with You”

The Oechsli Institute and Cetera report, “The Practice of the Future,” listed clients’ expectations for meeting frequency.

Loury Oct 2014

In a world growing accustomed to arms-length, digital relationships, the wonder of the advisory business is almost 70 percent of clients expect to meet with you at least twice per year. This is a marvelous invitation to create tangible memories.

Here’s What I’d Like to Talk about When We Meet”

What do clients most want to hear at these meetings? Investment performance. But, more specific to this question: “How’s the investment solution working to solve my needs, anxieties and aspirations?”

Many pundits express discomfort with a focus on short-term investment performance, but this concern misses the point that the investment program (defined in all forms from taxable and tax-deferred portfolios, to trusts, to insurance products) is the execution element of the wealth plan itself. In other words, without execution, the plan—in all its potential influence—is meaningless. While the race is a marathon, a runner takes the first step and then monitors the pace beginning with the first mile.

In my previous post (Neutralizing a Client’s Negative External Influences), I highlighted a couple studies that identified investment performance as the most common reason why clients stay with an adviser. Whether misdirected or not, clients expect to hear about investment performance at every client meeting.

Meetings Are Memory Makers

In the same Oechsli/Cetera study, 63 percent of clients said they preferred face-to-face meetings (33 percent wanted phone calls; only 4.7 percent wanted e-mail). Clients want you to be personally and physically engaged, and when you do so, you produce a richer sensory experience. These meetings are memory-making opportunities, pure and simple.

Making Memories with Performance Reporting

As investment performance is an expected topic at these meetings, the performance report is the tangible delivery tool. Too often performance reporting is treated as an accounting task and not the relationship-building tool it truly is. Consider these tactics to make performance content memorable.

  1. Report presentation. Make sure your performance reports are attractively visual (sense: sight) with quality paper (sense: touch). The presentation of colors, graphics and text represents your firm (and the money a client is paying).
  1. The plan summary. The financial plan directs the meeting’s agenda and a one-page summary of the plan’s key elements is always the foundation for talking about performance (sense: hearing). By reviewing the plan at each meeting, you continually reinforce this point: “Your needs are the focus of my attention.” It’s really a simple formula: A. (focus on the client’s needs) + B. (illustrate the investment solution’s connection) = C. (understanding and satisfaction result).
  1. Performance summary. The “planning with execution” linkage guides a performance summary. People primarily understand dollars, and while statistics matter in assessing relative performance, this is a secondary focus to always answering a core yearning: “Am I on track to having enough money to do what I need and want?”
  1. Investment performance content. Each performance page must have a purpose that draws a clear line from the content: “This page matters to you because … ” If you can’t draw such a conclusion from the page’s headings, text and graphics, then it should be excluded.

 

The Payoff

Performance reporting isn’t really about investing’s mechanics. It’s actually a reflective process on the plan’s execution. Each time you tangibly connect to this construct, in conjunction with your physical presence and high-quality reports, the client’s mind imprints these thoughts: “My needs are understood.” “Results are happening.” “I’m on my way.” Any meeting with such outcomes creates reinforcing memories.

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

 

 


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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
www.advisorwebsites.com
Vancouver, British Columbia


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Solid Advice from Those Older and Wiser

The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20, and I think we can agree that in many cases this is true. With that in mind, let’s picture the last day of your career. You have spent many years in the financial services industry and now it’s time to retire. Picture shutting the lights off, locking the office door and walking to your car. What would your older self, on that final day, offer as nuggets of wisdom to your younger self (the person you are today)? What are some last lessons you would share? If you think along these lines, the nuggets of wisdoms you come up with are things you already (consciously or unconsciously) know you should be utilizing now!

Here’s a look at some solid advice I have received from veteran advisers over my last 20-plus years in this business.

It’s Not About the Money, It’s About the Mission

At some point in your career you will go from just trying to survive to feeling comfortable with your level of success. When that day happens, you will realize that it’s not really about the money, it’s about your mission, whatever your purpose is for deciding to be in this business. For many advisers, their mission is to help people prepare for financial security. If you are not in the business for the mission but for the money, you won’t last long as your clients will eventually figure that out and take their assets elsewhere.

You Never Help Others by Holding Yourself Back

There are no excuses for failing to be successful. The fear of rejection, complacency, insecurity, lack of technical knowledge and expertise are all challenges that others have faced and overcome. You can never help others by holding yourself back with excuses. The key is to figure out (sometimes with the assistance of a mentor, colleague or coach) what your challenges are, then research the appropriate solutions and implement them.

Action Alleviates Anxiety

The antidote for a worried mind is to fill your day with productive activities. If you don’t have enough in your pipeline, get busy prospecting. If you do, you will soon find that your anxiety is replaced with the excitement about opportunities presenting themselves.

You Determine Your Own Success

Success is a choice. Nobody can succeed for you. It’s your responsibility to become dedicated to do so. Many tools, techniques, strategies and solutions have worked for hundreds of financial advisers that I’ve coached over the past decade, but only you can choose to take steps toward determining and defining your own success.

Take a moment to think about what last lessons you would like to begin incorporating into your practice now rather than waiting until you wrap up your professional days. Sometimes by thinking ahead (sometimes way ahead) we can climb out from under the clutter of the present and gain clarity on what our focus truly should be from now into the future.

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

 


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What Are You Doing to Invest in Others?

The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity founded with the mission of encouraging and supporting the philanthropic and volunteer activities of financial advisers. And it is those same talented and successful advisers who make a difference in the lives of others in communities across the country and around the world who are the inspiration for this organization.

I recently attended the eighth annual Invest in Others Community Leadership Awards dinner, which showcases and celebrates this remarkable philanthropic work. The purpose of the evening was to recognize advisers who had made outstanding contributions in the following five categories:

  1. Catalyst
  2. Community Service
  3. Volunteer of the Year
  4. Global Community Impact
  5. Lifetime Achievement

 

All of the nominated advisers seemed so very deserving, and I was awed by their stories. From Bridges Out of Poverty, to the Wiskott-Aldrich Foundation, to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, to Children’s World Impact in Haiti, the nominees and winners humbled me. These are some of the busiest people you can imagine—and yet it often seems like those who are busiest are the ones who make time to give back.

I was lucky to sit at a table with Alexandra Armstrong of Armstrong, Fleming & Moore, in Washington, D.C., and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Alex is impressive on so many fronts, not least of which is the work she has done to help raise $10 million for the Foundation for Financial Planning, which provides pro bono financial planning services to those in need. But that’s just part of Alex’s legacy. There aren’t enough women in our industry now. Can you imagine what it was like for her nearly four decades ago when she was starting out?

My experiences on this evening made me reflect on my own charitable contributions. I always thought organizations simply wanted my money. But my gut tells me that while most charitable organizations might like more financial support, they want more volunteer time, too. According to www.volunteeringinamerica.gov, in 2012, one in four adults (26.5 percent) volunteered through an organization. This figure surprised me, and I think it confronts all of us with how we choose to prioritize our time. We are so blessed in this country and in this industry. Many of us could probably afford to press the pause button on our businesses and think about what we are doing to give back.

As one of the night’s speakers, Anne Mahlum, founder and former chief executive of the nonprofit Back on My Feet, said, to effect change, “One person has to do something—[stuff] doesn’t happen any other way.”

What do you want to change?

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


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The 2-Prong Approach to Marketing: Simplify Efforts and Improve Results

Have you ever felt like you’re not doing enough to attract new clients? If you are like many planners, you feel that constant nagging that you should be doing more to get more leads.

With half-done initiatives and a slew of marketing possibilities bombarding you, the urgency you feel amplifies. You react instead of proactively driving what you want to do. The result: frustration, anxiety, and not many new clients.

What if you could simplify your efforts and improve your results? For relief, adopt my two-prong approach to marketing:

Prong 1: Foundation

When you establish a solid foundation for your marketing, you put yourself on a path to profits and sanity.

Clarity on Target Audience

Select your first target client you would like to attract. Who is that next person you want to sign on? To whom will you focus your marketing efforts for the next 12 months? You need to be clear on this person to evaluate opportunities and keep your sanity. Relax; this is your first target, not necessarily your forever target.

Lead Capture & Communication System 

A target client-focused capture and communication system is the single fastest way to get more leads that matter. The majority who land on your site just want information and are not ready to schedule a consultation. Ease them into the prospect experience. When you give away free educational information in exchange for a name and email address (a freemium) your follow-up communications build trust over time.  With this automated system working for you around the clock, you can rest assured that you do not miss out on the people who will most likely convert to clients.

Online Presence and Profile Management

Whether they initiate their own search or do due diligence on a referral, people look for you online. Does the information they find paint the picture you want? Are you crafting messages you want to reinforce, or do you leave it up to chance?

Be sure to “claim your profile” on the online directories and places pages. Start with Google (www.google.com/mybusiness‎), and Bing (www.bingplaces.com). Add your photo, logo and video to your profile. Describe your target audience and mention your freemium. Do the same on your FPA PlannerSearch profile, your NAPFA profile, and other organizations where you are a member.

Prong 2: Freedom

Freedom is where you embrace your personal expression and creativity.  With the confidence of knowing your foundation elements are solid (or soon will be) you are free to engage proactively with your target audience.

Remember, you are not online to sell—you are there to market. In today’s environment, to market is to create and share content that educates, empowers, editorializes or entertains.  Each piece of content you share online—posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, articles—builds out your story. This overwhelming concept may stop you from taking action.

Here’s how to get past the inertia of content marketing: Pick one marketing channel.

Claim Your Home Base

You “home base” marketing channel is the one content marketing effort you will do no matter what, each week or every two weeks. Select a single outlet and commit to it. It may be your blog, a YouTube channel or a podcast. Share your content on a regular basis in this first channel. Remember that consistency, over quantity, is essential.

Only after you establish your cadence for this single channel do you begin to layer on new initiatives.

Keep it simple and you’ll keep your sanity … and don’t be surprised when more of the right clients give you a call.

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
www.themercato.net
San Francisco

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