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Persuading through Themes

Effective advertising centers on repetition. Only after a certain level of exposure will the target audience gain familiarity with the message and visuals. And, only with familiarity will persuasive messages motivate the audience to purchase. This core tenet is nothing more than how humans naturally learn.

The typical advisory firm is a small business with a limited budget for marketing outreach. The good news is the resource for persuasion today—marketing through digital means—is readily available and low cost (if not free of hard-dollar costs).

Thematic Repetition
There are many resources available to guide advisers in establishing an effective digital and social media presence; that’s not the focus here. This post emphasizes persuasion through using strategic marketing themes merchandised through various digital outlets.

A theme can be reflected in content on an adviser’s home page, detailed in a blog, merchandised in an email blast or newsletter, summarized via Twitter, captured visually in a Facebook feed and tailored in an email message. To an adviser’s relationships, the theme—and the benefits it delivers—is internalized through exposure to these different communication channels.

The WIIFM Reality
WIIFM—an acronym for “what’s in it for me”—in many ways determines the willingness for a message recipient to be moved persuasively.

While we like to think that simply imparting our wisdom and advice should be enough, the market wants the benefits clearly presented and immediate. It’s essential to understand that WIIFM isn’t just the benefits at the final sale, but at every desired interaction.

Another WIIFM marketing aspect is the trust building from successfully delivering a string of benefits, even small ones within the larger theme itself. The more a recipient experiences valuable interactions, the more likely he or she will be to engage in intensive communication indicative of meetings deeper in the sales process.

Themes Linked to Business Strategies
Think of a theme as a story. The story tells a reader what the problem is, who is involved and the outcome. The same story can be told with gripping character details in a lengthy book, as a picture book or a simple two-sentence synopsis.

A marketing theme supports a strategic service. A lot of marketing money is wasted because an adviser’s service solution, and its associated benefits, don’t explicitly demonstrate how a market’s needs are satisfied.

A Thematic Delivery Hierarchy
A properly executed theme produces persuasive content in different forms and scope. At the top level in the hierarchy, the theme is explained in its fullest form while at the bottom the theme is tailored to particular client/prospect circumstances.

Marketing Content Hierarchy“Explain” Level: In many ways, this level is the most formative since the theme is fully presented and detailed. From here, each other level can be traced.

  • Delivery Method: White papers and presentations
  • Marketing Role: During the writing process, the theme shows itself as a prototype. As ideas are described and linked, any logic, persuasion or process weaknesses are exposed before the theme becomes operationally active. Once finalized, the document—attractively presented and written persuasively—becomes a guidebook illustrating the theme’s full benefit inventory to the client/prospect audience.

“Segment” Level: A marketing theme is actually comprised of key segments (i.e. features or functions) and each has associated benefits. Think of a segment as a subplot or episode in a larger story.

  • Delivery Method: Blogs, e-newsletters and website content
  • Marketing Role: Presenting focused segments one by one results in a content calendar. A segment has its own benefits, and these are spotlighted (and especially meaningful for those clients/prospects needing one set of benefits more than others).

“Point” Level: This level emphasizes specific WIIFM benefits.

  • Delivery Method: Email blasts, Facebook feeds and website visuals/photographs
  • Marketing Role: A single, key benefit is presented to motivate recipients to learn more (through the two higher levels).

“Fit” Level: This engagement level answers a client/prospect’s questions through the theme itself. Some people call this “staying on message,” but it’s more accurate to view it as retelling the theme directly through the client/prospect’s circumstances.

  • Delivery Method: Email replies, phone calls, face-to-face meetings and Facebook posts.

Persuasion Culminates in Conversion
Today, people have many defenses to persuasion. People want to take in information on their own time and under their control. Yet, persuasion happens every day when a mind is opened because a message hits a need and a solution’s benefits are there to fulfill it. A strategic marketing theme persuades through delivered benefits.

Kirk Loury

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


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Step Up Cybersecurity

As planners incorporate more technology into their offerings to clients, it’s imperative they stay on top of their cybersecurity measures.

“Cybersecurity is a major issue for financial planners in today’s highly technical, digital world,” writes Ben Lewis, FPA’s public relations team leader on an FPA Connect post calling for participants for a cybersecurity assessment that has since ended.

Anthony Stitch explains in the forthcoming August issue of the Journal of Financial Planning that planners who don’t provide the technology clients want these days may lose those clients to firms they like less but that offer the technology they prefer. This, he writes, is called digital attrition. Members, you’ll get to read the full article when it comes out. And if you’re not yet a member, maybe now is the time. Learn more here.

“As you incorporate more technology into the running of your firm, it’s important that you stay educated on best practices for cybersecurity,” Blane Warren, an industry leader in financial services marketing, compliance, and technology, writes on XY Planning Network’s website.

But planners this move toward providing more technology options means planners need to step up their cybersecurity game in order to keep their clients and themselves safe. Something they’re not currently doing very well, according to a report from External IT titled “Financial Services Firms Face Further Scrutiny of Their Cybersecurity Practices: Is Your Frim Ready?”

InvestmentNews reports that that report found three key areas were lacking in terms of financial cybersecurity: security policy, firms failing to audit their IT security; accountability when moving data, moving data to personal and home devices without tracking measures; and disaster recovery, not having emergency business continuity plans.

This isn’t to say that planners don’t want to address cybersecurity issues, rather they don’t know where to go to get their information, Brian Edelman, chief executive of Financial Computer Services told InvestmentNews.

Edelman recommends using a cybersecurity firm that understands financial services.

In a recent article, ThinkAdvisor recommended planners check out the following resources: National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist.gov) and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (fsisac.com).

AnaHeadshot

 

Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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In Praise of Good Financial Advisers (You Know Who You Are)

Ours is an industry that gets a hefty dose of negative publicity. True, there are scoundrels perpetrating Ponzi schemes and conducting other nefarious activities—and they cast a pall over the public’s perception of the well-meaning and competent financial professionals out there.

The good news is, these bad guys are few and far between. The bad news is, with our heavily regulated industry, sometimes the good guys may feel they are being micromanaged as a result. Still, there are so many financial advisers out there who are doing excellent work for their clients.

The Well-Adjusted Retiree
I recently had the opportunity to see this excellent work firsthand when I attended a client event hosted by an ensemble practice. At the event, a panel of recently retired individuals and couples answered questions from an audience of pre-retirees. The questions varied from cash flow, social security, Medicare and investment performance to how to align a couple’s “vision” of retirement, which included things like whether to downsize their home and how to stay connected and social with friends and family.

I was especially curious how the panel would respond when an audience member asked if the peaks and valleys of the market affected the panel’s daily decisions about drawing down on their nest egg. This question was especially timely, as the market had just dropped more than 870 points in the prior week due to the Brexit vote. The response? Daily markets weren’t a showstopper. In general, the panelists said:

  • They had their goals.
  • They had their nest egg.
  • They didn’t pay much attention to the markets unless their advisers said they should.

One couple talked about how they met with their financial adviser, estate attorney and CPA for an annual meeting. That meeting gave them the confidence that not only were their investments on solid ground despite market volatility, but that tax efficiency and an integrated estate plan were being managed by a team of professionals working together to help them achieve their retirement goals.

Helping Clients Not Sweat the Small Stuff
Financial advisers enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with their clients. Sometimes they garner appreciation and recognition for what they do. But just in case you haven’t gotten a dose of it lately, as one of the good guys in the industry, know that because of your competence and caring, your clients don’t need to sweat the small stuff like daily market volatility. Instead, they can focus on enjoying the retirement lifestyle you helped them achieve.

Thank you for all you do, financial advisers!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

 

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


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Framing the Conversation: What to Say in the First 60 Seconds

During individual coaching sessions, I typically assume that if an adviser has been working with me for any length of time that they are utilizing some of the fundamental tools that we have been discussing. Unfortunately, sometimes that assumption is incorrect.

Take for instance, my client John T., a financial adviser with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. During our recent coaching session, I asked John what he thought was the biggest clog in his pipeline. He replied, “I guess it’s just getting new prospects and former clients to be interested in meeting with me.”

This is the first of many possible clogs because if you cannot connect during an initial conversation, then a prospect (or former client in John’s case) never actually gets funneled into the pipeline. Knowing that John had learned from me how to frame the conversation, which is a process for what to say in the first 60 seconds of your initial call, I was confused about why he was having this challenge. “John, let’s role play what you say when you call someone,” I suggested, and so we began.

Within the first minute of role play I realized that John had no structure or framework for his calls. He was saying whatever came to mind at the time! So I coached John to do the following:

Frame the Conversation

  • Introduction: State your name, the company you are with and its location. This is important to establish with the prospect so that they know right upfront who you are and with whom you work for.
  1. Reason: Next, you incorporate “The reason I am calling” statement, which is designed to help busy prospects know the reason you are contacting them and for them to then determine whether or not they may feel your products and services can bring value to them.
  1. Benefits: Then comes, “The benefit” statements, which are designed to establish credibility and to help a prospect relate to what value you have brought to others that have had similar challenges.
  1. Close: The close is designed to elicit a desired response, such as setting up an appointment. 

Creating a Compelling Conversation
It didn’t take John long to fully understand and apply the process during a future role play coaching session. Then in our next conversation he explained that he was finding success.

“So, why do you think this tool has been helping you?” I asked.

“It’s because I now have structure to my conversations and I’m giving prospects or former clients a reason to want to speak with me by explaining the benefits of what I do,” he said. “I used to just try and make small talk and hope that they would like me and want to meet with me. With this new framework, I create a compelling enough conversation so they understand how I can actually help them! I only wish I would have started with this “tool” thirty years ago!”

If you read this article and would like helpful techniques about how to customize your own ways to frame the conversation, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

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


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Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion: The Pillars of Better Client Relationships

Put succinctly, emotions and finances go hand in hand.

Many emotions are associated with financial decisions—so many that clients and prospects may have a hard time talking about it with anyone in their circles, and often even with an expert like a financial adviser.

So what can advisers do to enable their clients to circumvent emotional barriers and make them feel more at ease in talking about their dreams, need and fears?

There is an abundance of literature offering instructions, tips and guidelines on this topic. Frequently it is stated that exercising sympathy, empathy and compassion toward clients can help advisers attain a more in-depth understanding of their clients’ needs and emotions and develop more solid relationships. However, the often-inappropriate use of these three terms seems to lead to confusion. Below, I provide more accurate definitions of the terms and how they relate to client relationships.

Sympathy
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. We feel sympathy toward a client experiencing an unusual chain of negative family events. However, sympathy is characterized by a degree of emotional distance because we are not experiencing the pain ourselves. Ultimately, sympathy is the ability to express culturally acceptable condolences to someone else’s plight. Sympathy, however, fosters disconnection. This is because it sparks in us the desire to identify a silver lining in the situation—lamentably and in some cases a banal cliché—which does not really help relieve an individual’s suffering.

Empathy
Empathy goes beyond sympathy. While the latter focuses on finding a response that does not necessarily help make things better, empathy aims at establishing an emotional connection with someone. Empathy makes us vulnerable, because to create a real emotional connection with the one who is suffering we must first connect with that part of ourselves that knows that feeling.

Subsequently, empathy forces us to experience some of the pains that the other person is experiencing. Research conducted by neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolati, proves that about 20 percent of our neurons possess mirroring functions. Accordingly, when we witness another human being’s emotion through their body language, voice intonation or spoken word, those neurons dispatch signals that enable us to feel and know what that emotion is. For this reason, we do not have to work hard at developing empathy, as we have an inherent disposition to it. Real empathy requires being mindfully present with our clients and prospects, listening wholeheartedly to what they say, recognizing their emotions and reflecting them back.

Compassion
Compassion is empathy in action. The word compassion is composed of com (together with) and passion (to suffer). Despite the word’s etymology, exercising compassion does not mean that we have to suffer to help someone. A financial adviser just like a doctor can relieve suffering without having to experience a client/patient’s exact pain.

Compassionate listening may be hard to master, particularly when it requires listening to the suffering of others. The fact that we all experience pain and grief makes it very difficult for us to listen to others. To be able to truly listen to someone’s suffering, we need to first listen and transform the suffering that dwells within ourselves. The foundation of compassionate listening is self-awareness. This may sound paradoxical, but lacking clarity in our relationship with ourselves severely impairs our ability to improve relationships with others.

Compassion is the ability to listen in a receptive, generous, supportive and non-judgmental way. Ultimately, it is the practice of abandoning our self-oriented, reactive and opinionated thinking and expanding our awareness to make room for the suffering of another human being. A client or prospect brings more than words to a meeting. There is a plethora of unexpressed feelings, anxieties, fears and thoughts that only compassion enables you to recognize, understand and speak about.

I exhort you to master the art of compassion. In addition to being pleasant and caring, compassion makes you trustworthy. Eventually, it will contribute to elevate your professional image, build enduring relationships and make a difference in your life and those of your clients.

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


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Survey: Advisers’ Use of ETFs Continues to Rise

2016 Trends in Investing Survey ReportExchange-Traded Funds remain the most popular investment among financial advisers, according to results from a recent survey conducted by the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Research and Practice Institute™, a program of the Financial Planning Association®.

FPA recently released results of its 2016 Trends in Investing Survey, which showed that 83 percent of financial advisers surveyed are currently using or recommending the use of ETFs with their clients. When the survey was first conducted in 2006, only 40 percent of advisers surveyed said they’d used or recommended ETFs. That number has steadily grown over the years, up to 79 percent in 2014 and 81 percent in 2015.

That number may grow next year as 46 percent of respondents indicated they plan to increase their use or recommendation of ETFs with clients in the next 12 months.

ETFs are popular, according to respondents, because they have lower costs, are more tax efficient, have a higher trading flexibility and have increased transparency of holdings.

“The vast majority of ETFs are based on indexes, including those that focus on ‘smart beta,’ and I think the growth in popularity is to a significant degree reflective of the ongoing shift among financial planners toward more ‘passive’ approaches to investing client assets,” Dr. Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, Practitioner Editor of the Journal of Financial Planning, said in a news release. “Even planners who still use ‘active’ investment strategies will often start with a core portfolio built around index funds, increasingly in the form of ETFs.“

The 2016 Trends in Investing Survey also found that advisers continue to move away from variable annuities—39 percent of respondents are currently using/recommending variable annuities, versus 49 percent in 2012, which was down from 58 percent in both 2006 and 2008.

The survey was conducted online in April 2016 and was completed by 283 financial advisers. Among respondents, 98 percent are Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) professionals and 49 percent work as independent IARs/RIAs.

Read the full survey findings here. FPA members can read a more detailed overview of the findings in the June issue of the Journal of Financial Planning.


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Create Time Budgets to Produce Results

An adviser’s time is precious. For each available work hour, there are countless ways to consume it, and with each hour productively applied, the adviser and his or her business prospers. However, advisers are not machines that can simply be programmed for completing tasks. There is a person at hand, a person with talents, skills, histories, ambitions and preferences.

Professional services firms connect an adviser’s work effort (see the blog “Your Product is You”) to the business. Essentially, the adviser and the business become one.

Important Business Work
An adviser’s direct client service—the firm’s product—can be captured within the broad categories of wealth and investment planning such that a client’s plan leads to investment execution. Advisers trained for these specialties find these activities intellectually appealing and personally fulfilling; it is a pleasure to do this work.

The business connection to these services arrives when a client pays the fee and the firm’s revenue increases. So far, so good.

A vibrant operating business requires much more than service delivery. Sales calls must be made to fill a sales pipeline; client reports must be produced; bills must be paid; employees hired, managed and nurtured; technology vendors evaluated and selected; investment research conducted; compliance requirements completed.

This list comprises many important activities that many advisers do not like to do. They are chores and are often held in limbo due to procrastination or even neglect.

Budgeting Time for Business Advancement

Like a financial budget that allocates limited monetary resources to the most important priorities, a time budget ensures that a business’s essential tasks are completed on time and within the optimal operating range. Tasks are linked together in order for efficient use of every employee’s time. Greater efficiency means less time on a task, and this is a worthy trade-off for important tasks, but those that are not personally fulfilling.

How a Time Budget Works
Foremost, a time budget is a planning document that considers specific allocations of time (i.e. a time block) according to business priorities, job responsibilities and task sequence. While similar to a project plan, a time budget integrates a person’s assigned tasks into a single view based on a rolling week-to-week evolution.

A time budget is not for regimentation but to be a guide as executed using these steps:

  1. While formal tools are available, an Excel or Word table suffices. Or, your CRM can be used to schedule activities through the workflow function.
  2. Divide the rows into one-hour time blocks and the columns into the days of the week.
  3. List the week’s tasks to be completed keeping in mind these parameters: tasks related to the firm’s strategic and operational priorities need to be given precedence.
  4. Batch related activities together.
  5. Without considering whether a task is loved or hated, ask yourself this question: what is the best time for this task to be completed optimally? For example, schedule sales and client service activities for the peak periods in the day. Place planning tasks at the beginning of the week (for assignment) and the end (for reflection).
  6. Place each task into its best time block day by day.
  7. For unappealing tasks, spread out the work over several consecutive days in order to have bursts of focus and avoid drudgery.
  8. Important tasks are scheduled when execution will be crispest such as in the morning or the beginning of the week.

Connecting Time Budgets
At the end of each week, evaluate the results from the time budget with these thoughts in mind:

  • If a task wasn’t completed, determine if it was from procrastination, interruptions or insufficient allocated time.
  • For repeating tasks week to week, consider if the results could have been better if allocated to a different time block.
  • For the next time budget, experiment with different sequences and time periods.
  • At the end of each month, compare the previous weeks’ time budgets and summarize the results achieved and the nuggets of learning.
  • Take the monthly summaries and use them with the chain of command for the next period’s business planning as well as employee reviews.

Time Budget Warnings
A time budget is a guide to reinforce results (good behaviors) and to inform about weak spots (procrastination).

Few things are more satisfying than looking into the rearview mirror of a year’s set of time budgets and seeing significant business results, on-time delivery, improved efficiency, personal growth and the absence of regret.

Kirk Loury

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

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