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Your Service, Your Story, Your Value

A financial planning practice must be able to articulate and demonstrate a planner’s value, story, service menu and deliverables—these remain the most fundamental elements of your business. After all, if you can’t convey and verbalize what you do, how will you attract people to your business and grow? And, if you don’t consistently deliver your value, how will you retain clients and sustain success? As we enter the fall, it is a good time to go back to the basics.

How well can you—and every team member regardless of role—answer the following fundamental questions?

Positioning: Who are You?

  1. What is your identity as a business? How does your community perceive who you are and what you do?
  2. Do you go beyond your title and firm name when someone asks you what you do for a living?
  3. Do you have a differentiating and intriguing story? Does each team member articulate a cohesive message?

Purpose: Why Do You Do What You Do?

  1. Why are you in this business?
  2. What is your vision? What is the team’s vision?
  3. Where are you leading the team? Where are you leading your clients?

Proposition: What Do You Offer and to Whom?

  1. Can you delineate the solutionsservices and deliverables that you offer to each client segment?
  2. What problems do you solve and for whom?
  3. What is your reactive service strategy? What is included in your proactive service matrix?
  4. How do you define and delineate the ultimate client experience?

Price: How Much Do You Charge for Your Deliverables?

  1. Do you consistently execute on your pricing model or are there more exceptions than standards?
  2. How transparent are you with pricing? Do your clients understand what they are paying and what they are receiving for that fee?

Process: How Do You Do What You Do?

  1. What is your defined process for working with prospects and clients and do you consistently execute it?
  2. Do your prospects have clear expectations on what they will experience when working with your team?
  3. How efficient and systemized is your business?

Differential: What Makes You Different?

  1. Can each team member answer the question, “Why should I do business with you?”

We recommend that you schedule quarterly off-site team sessions to focus on the strategic side of your financial planning practice. You should reflect and identify successes and challenges, and then look ahead and plan for the future. The questions listed above are a starting point. Consider the strength of your value today and what changes may need to take place as you head into the future.

Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights, where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions.

 

 


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New York Planners: Time Is Running Out for Your Firm to Qualify for The NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation Limited Exemption

Under the new NYDFS cybersecurity regulation (23 NYCRR Part 500), any individual operating with a license, registration, or similar authorization under New York banking, insurance or financial services is required to assess their security risk profile, design a cyber program that addresses their risks and file an annual certification that confirms they are in compliance with regulations.

September 27, 2017 is the deadline for filing your Notices of Exemption and failure to do so on time will cost your firm thousands if it would have qualified for the Limited Exemption.

You may qualify for a limited exemption if you meet any one of the following (the following information is from the New York Department of Financial services and is available here):

Section 500.19 (a)(1): Have fewer than 10 employees, including any independent contractors, of the Covered Entity or its Affiliates located in New York or responsible for business of the Covered Entity

Section 500.19 (a)(2): Less than $5,000,000 in gross annual revenue in each of the last three fiscal years from New York business operations of the Covered Entity and its Affiliates

Section 500.19 (a)(3): Less than $10,000,000 in year-end total assets, calculated in accordance with generally accepted principles, including assets of all Affiliates

Section 500.19 (b): An employee, agent, representative or designee of a Covered Entity, who is itself a Covered Entity, is exempt from this Part and need to develop its own cybersecurity program to the extent that the employee, agent, representative or designee is covered by the cybersecurity program of the Covered Entity

Section 500.19 (c): A Covered Entity that does not directly or indirectly operate, maintain, utilize or control any Information Systems, and that does not, and is not required to, directly or indirectly control, own, access, generate, receive or possess Nonpublic Information shall be exempt from the requirements of sections 500.02, 500.03, 500.04, 500.05, 500.06, 500.07, 500.08, 500.10, 500.12, 500.14, 500.15 and 500.16 of this Part

Section 500.19 (d): A Covered Entity under Article 70 of the Insurance Law that does not and is not required to directly or indirectly control, own, access, generate, receive or possess Nonpublic Information other than information relating to its corporate parent company (or Affiliates) shall be exempt from the requirements of sections 500.02, 500.03, 500.04, 500.05, 500.06, 500.07, 500.08, 500.10, 500.12, 500.14, 500.15, and 500.16 of this Part

To file for an exemption: log into the NYDFS Portal and file. Save the email you receive after filing for evidence.

Key Dates Under New York’s Cybersecurity Regulation (23 NYCRR Part 500)

 Here are other important dates to know when it comes to the new regulation (the following information is from the New York Department of Financial services and is available here):

  • March 1, 2017: 23 NYCRR Part 500 becomes effective.
  • August 28, 2017: 180-day transitional period ends. Covered Entities are required to be in compliance with requirements of 23 NYCRR Part 500 unless otherwise specified.
  • September 27, 2017: Initial 30-day period for filing Notices of Exemption under 23 NYCRR 500.19(e) ends. Covered Entities that have determined that they qualify for a limited exemption under 23 NYCRR 500.19(a)-(d) as of August 28, 2017 are required to file a Notice of Exemption on or prior to this date.
  • February 15, 2018: Covered Entities are required to submit the first certification under 23 NYCRR 500.17(b) on or prior to this date.
  • March 1, 2018: One year transitional period ends. Covered Entities are required to be in compliance with the requirements of sections 500.04(b), 500.05, 500.09, 500.12 and 500.14(b) of 23 NYCRR Part 500.
  • September 3, 2018: Eighteen-month transitional period ends. Covered Entities are required to be in compliance with the requirements of sections 500.06, 500.08, 500.13, 500.14(a) and 500.15 of 23 NYCRR Part 500.
  • March 1, 2019: Two-year transitional period ends. Covered Entities are required to be in compliance with the requirements of 23 NYCRR 500.11.

If you need assistance filing for an exemption, Financial Computer is providing complimentary assistance for FPA members. Click here to schedule some time with one of our cybersecurity experts.

Brian E
Brian Edelman is a cybersecurity expert and the CEO of Financial Computer, Inc., a company that provides cybersecurity, integrations and IT support to the financial services community.

 


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Adviser Blackout: Why Isn’t Your Site Showing Up in Google Results?

One of the top reasons advisers come to us for help is to get their site to show up early in Google search results. It makes perfect sense. You’re a great adviser, so you want to be front and center when someone searches for “financial adviser [your city].”

Before we get started, let’s look at why search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, matters. (Many thanks to Hubspot for compiling all these statistics.)

  • Google gets more than 100 billion searches per month
  • 81 percent of shoppers do online research before making a decision
  • 51 percent of smartphone users have discovered a new company while performing a search on their phone

With so many people researching and finding new companies through search engines—especially Google—advisers need to make search ranking a priority.

The problem is that Google’s algorithms (which determine the results of searches) are constantly evolving. According to Google, they change their algorithm at least once a day, and they’re reported to make up to 600 changes per year.

So how are we supposed to keep up? These three factors have been proven to play a big role in determining results.

1.) Establish Authority. SEO experts are always talking about the importance of establishing something called authority. It can seem like a vague and difficult concept when it comes to web search, but it’s really fairly simple.

For the same reason I don’t show up until page six of the results when I Google “Zach McDonald,” you have to prove that you are one of the items people want to find when they search for “financial adviser [city/state].”

If your site is brand new and your visits are fairly minimal, Google won’t ascribe much importance to you.

You have to establish authority first by publishing useful blogs and promoting those blogs via social and paid ads. After that, you have to give Google a little time to recognize that people now want to see your website. Once that’s established, you’ll see your rankings rise. And when I say “give Google a little time,” I mean anywhere from six months to more than a year.

2.) Make Sure Your Mobile and Desktop Sites Match Up. Mobile searches first outpaced desktop a couple years ago and have continued to do so ever since. As a result, Google has continuously tweaked their algorithms to place more and more importance on mobile sites.

Last November, Google announced they will be adopting a mobile-first indexing strategy.

Basically, they’ve been evaluating websites using desktop content for years, but a lot of sites have “lite” mobile versions to make them easier to navigate on a phone. That leads to issues when the majority of people use their phones for searches, then get results based on desktop content, and end up on the mobile site, which may or may not have the content they searched for.

So Google’s going mobile-first (probably sometime in 2018), and that means your mobile site needs to have the same information as your desktop site. While they may not fully implement mobile-first indexing for a little while, chances are their algorithms are already leaning heavily in that direction, so now’s the time to fix this problem.

Bottom line: You don’t want Google’s bots, which determine if you belong in their search results, scanning your mobile “lite” site and missing essential blogs and other information that could boost your standing.

If you have a responsive site—where your website looks different on mobile than desktop but the content is all the same—then you’re fine. That’s one of the reasons we only develop websites in WordPress: responsiveness comes standard.

If you have different mobile and desktop versions, here are some tips from Google on how you can bring your site up to speed.

Want to talk about how we can help your website achieve true mobile-friendliness? Drop us a line.

3.) Follow These Three Simple Rules of Local SEO. One of the first rules of SEO is that content is king. Produce quality blogs and videos regularly, attract people to your site, and your search ranking will improve.

And that’s absolutely true—except when it comes to local SEO. Getting into local searches has little to nothing to do with blogs (although getting to the top of those searches is a different story). It’s typically established through your site’s pages.

Here are three simple things you (or even your intern!) can do today that can make a big difference when people search for “financial adviser [your city].”

Make sure your firm name, address, and phone number are on every page, and that they’re always cited in the same way. This one’s so important that SEO experts have even designated an acronym for it: NAP (name, address, phone number). It’s easy to do—just insert that info into your site’s footer. As simple as that seems, this is one of the most common mistakes on business websites. Wherever you insert your NAP info, do your best to keep it consistent. There is some debate in the SEO community over whether NAP formatting inconsistencies affect your site’s rankings, but it’s better better to be safe than sorry.

Register with Google My Business and Bing Places. This takes just a few minutes. Fill out your profile using the links above, and make it as full as possible. Google loves it when people play by their rules, so if you only put your name and phone number in there, chances are they’re dinging you for that. Put in your website, appointment URL, phone number, address, office hours, and even add a couple pictures. Same with Bing.

You won’t see results immediately on this one. After you register, they’ll mail you a postcard with a PIN to confirm that you’re actually affiliated with the business. It took about two weeks for our postcard to come when we registered.

Register with online directories. Claim your firm’s profile on sites like MerchantCircle, Yelp, Local.com, your local newspaper’s directory, and chamber of commerce, just to name a few. That way you can make sure your firm’s information is correct (not to mention you can easily respond to reviews if you feel so inclined). When your NAP information on directory listings matches the information on your website, the Google gods will smile upon thee. If Yelp has your number wrong and somebody tries to call you, they’ll probably either assume you went out of business or just move on to another firm.

Don’t expect overnight results. SEO is a long process. We helped a client edit, publish and release a book last year. Now, almost a year later, their book is at the top of Google results. That success story required planning, strategizing and promotion (and patience), but the end result is worth it.

Your digital presence doesn’t just happen; it’s what you make it. Follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way up in Google’s results.

zach-mcdonald
Zach McDonald is the editorial director at Mineral Interactive, which partners with client-focused firms looking for custom marketing solutions.  


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5 Top Tips to Target Your Niche Better with Video

“The riches are in the niches,” is a saying that’s still true. When you specialize in a narrow niche, it opens up broad opportunities for you. There is so much abundance in the world, and paradoxically the best way to gain a wide open field of opportunity is to go deep into one narrow area and become a rock star expert in that specialty.

When you focus on a niche, it makes everything easier. You’ll attract and capture clients more easily because you’re perceived as an expert; you’ll know where to find your ideal client to market to them more effectively; and you’ll become world-class in your level of service because you’re focused on one thing that you do extraordinarily well.

Here are five ways to make your marketing to your niche specialty irresistible using the most effective marketing tool available today: video.

1.) Get custom videos that are laser focused on your niche. When you demonstrate your expertise in your niche with video content, you show your prospects and clients that you are truly an authority and an expert, to the point that you have your own video series about your specialty!

2.) Make sure your videos are short and sweet. The ideal length for marketing videos is 1-2 minutes, so don’t make the mistake of believing that people will give you their time in our rushed world. Keep your marketing succinct. You’ll find that you’ll be a better communicator when you force yourself to be brief.

3.) Educate, Don’t Sell. The new direction of marketing is “Content Marketing”, which means that you provide valuable educational content about your niche to attract your ideal client. When you demonstrate your expertise through your digital marketing, you’ll build good will and be seen as a valuable resource for the financial questions your prospects and clients are asking themselves.

4.) Feature a mix of “talking head” and animated videos. These two styles of videos bring very different advantages. “Talking head” videos help people feel like they know you personally, which helps them like and trust you, and makes them more likely to become your client. Animated videos are usually more entertaining and engaging than talking head videos, which keeps your audience watching longer. The visual aspect of animation helps make complex concepts simple, which is a perfect fit for conveying complicated financial information.

5.) Leverage your video content on multiple digital platforms. Video is like a super tool that makes every other digital marketing strategy more effective. Post your videos on your website, your blog, your social media, and in your email newsletter to get maximum return on investment.

Editor’s note: Jill Addison will be a panelist at the Women and Finance Knowledge Circle for the 2017 FPA Knowledge Circle Summit pre-conference event in Nashville on Sunday, October 3. To sign up, click here to register for the FPA Annual Conference, and check the box next to “FPA Knowledge Circle Summit” near the bottom of the registration form. If you’ve already registered, but would like to attend the Knowledge Circle Summit, contact the FPA Member Engagement Team at (800) 322-4237, Option 2.

Jill Addison
Jill Addison is the founder and president of FA Client Machine, a digital media company specializing in helping financial advisers automate marketing, stand out with educational and entertaining videos and engage prospects and clients with a digital presence.


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Taking the Emergency Brake Off

Fear has an ugly way of stopping many advisers in their tracks. Fear of failure, fear of success (yes, even that) and fear of the unknown can leave you driving with the emergency brake on, slowing your pace and forcing you to work harder.

For advisers and agents who let fear affect how they manage their tasks, they shouldn’t focus so much on eliminating fear altogether but more on illuminating fear. Advisers and agents should try to understand how some of their beliefs or fears hold them and their advisory business from reaching a greater level. If this sounds like something you’re experiencing, you are not the first to experience this sometimes paralyzing crossroad. However, this post can teach you how to take that emergency brake off and put motivation and momentum back into your daily activities.

5 Steps to Overcoming Fear

The following are steps are for overcoming fear—both in your personal and professional lives. Apply each step when you are faced with a situation where you experience fear and/or anxiety and watch how quickly you can conquer it.

Step 1: Gain Emotional Awareness. Rick T. is a veteran financial adviser client of mine with 20 years of experience. He called late on a Friday afternoon concerned about a situation in which he’d emailed one client another client’s information by accident. The two clients have the same first name, so it was a simple mistake of typing the first name in the “to” box of his outgoing email. I asked him how he felt about what happened in order to give him a chance to identify and articulate his emotional awareness.

Step 2: Realize and Release. He was fearful and anxious because his compliance department was the one who notified him of the error. Unfortunately, it had occurred several other times this year so he was even more concerned about what this could mean for him. His mind was racing towards the worst-case scenario.

Putting into words how you feel and why is a great beginning. You need to let yourself recognize the fear and/or anxiety so you can work through it. It will release itself over time and you will feel better, but it’s important to sensibly talk through the situation with someone you trust until you find a stronger sense of calm.

Step 3: Get the Facts. It didn’t take Rick long to start thinking and getting worked up again about the situation. It’s common to keep experiencing the original emotion as most people’s mind tends to wander, ruminate and head back toward doubt, so I helped him refocus his thoughts by explaining the facts.

I’ve been in the financial services industry for 24 years—both as a financial adviser and a coach—and I’ve never, ever heard of anyone getting fired for sending out emails to the wrong client.

Step 4: Form a Plan and Take Action. Rick quickly asked me what he should do and we formed a plan and mapped out what he should say to his compliance department. When we hung up, he acted and made the call. By preparing for that call, we in fact refocused his energy toward something that he could control—which was trying to rectify the situation.

Step 5: Repeat the Process. It didn’t take long before Rick called me back, informing me that his compliance department was helpful and reminded him to slow down and double check when sending out any correspondence. I recommended to him that he repeat the process we used with this specific event for any situation that arose in the future that served up fear and anxiety for him.

Why Taking the Emergency Brake off Works

When Rick realized that he didn’t have to run from the fear, but instead embrace and face it, he felt empowered with hope (and equipped with a coping mechanism for bringing him to a calmer state). We all become reactive to some extent in these types of situations. That’s why taking the emergency brake off works, it takes you out of focusing on the immediate fear and allows you to focus on the process to hopefully remedy the outcome and move in the right direction.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

 


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Life After the Storm

Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and came for parts of Louisiana in late August. More than 51 inches of rain inundated Houston, according the National Weather Service. USA Today reports that more than 30,000 people have piled in to Houston shelters.

Now that the storm waters are starting to recede, the full scope of the damage is starting to come into focus. According to AccuWeather, the total damage is expected to reach $190 billion, almost four times the amount of damage caused by 2005’s catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. Insured losses, according to CNBC, are expected to reach $20 billion.

There is a long road to recovery ahead. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to assess and address the damage to your businesses and to your clients:

Take care of you first. With 475 members in the FPA of Houston chapter, no doubt you are suffering yourselves. Carolyn McClanahan wrote in Financial Planning that you must help yourselves before you help others. But when you do have some semblance of starting to recover and you’re ready to reach out to your clients.

Let your family, friends, and clients know you’re OK. You can Tweet, post on your firm’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Jonathan Swanburg, CFP®, an adviser affected by Harvey, wrote in Financial Planning how when he reached out to his clients, they only wanted to ensure that he was safe.

“When I sent out an email on Friday morning praying for our client’s families and explaining our firm’s contingency plans for flooding and loss of power, none responded on the business issues at hand,” Swanburg wrote. “Instead, they all expressed concern for my team and our families.”

Make sure they’re OK. Call them when you get a chance. Many of them might not answer but try until they do. Ensure they are physically and mentally alright before tackling the concrete financial issues. The emotional toll of this catastrophe will be just as high as the financial toll.

Many might need extensive repairs not covered by their insurance. According to the Washington Post, majority of the homeowners in areas hit hardest by Harvey don’t have flood insurance. Citing data form the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Washington Post reports that only 17 percent of homeowners in the Texas counties hardest hit have flood insurance.

“Unfortunately, most families in Houston do not have flood insurance and are going to be struggling for a very long time,” Swanburg wrote.

If your clients are among those without flood insurance, look into federal disaster relief aid (go to DisasterAssistance.gov), U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans, or home equity loans. Be advised that homes must first be repaired before a home equity line is approved.

Help with the insurance processes. CNBC reports that insured losses from this storm could reach up to $20 billion. And it will likely be some time before adjusters can get in and assess the damage. Advise clients to make only repairs that prevent further damage until adjusters can come. Have them take pictures of everything. Save all receipts for materials, housing, meals, and storage. Encourage them to file claims as quickly as possible. Keeping receipts will also help with claiming a casualty loss on their tax returns.

Utilize your contacts to expedite getting your clients the help they need. McClanahan said that insurance agents are overwhelmed during disasters. Adjusters work on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you have connections in the insurance industry, utilize them to better serve your clients.

“While Harvey was a catastrophe for millions of people,” Swanburg wrote, “it was also a reminder that at its best, financial planning is a uniquely personal business built around wonderful people and lifelong relationships.”

If you are an FPA member set to renew this month and were affected by Harvey, FPA will extend your membership while you’re recovering. If members affected by Harvey have registered for FPA Annual Conference, refunds will be issued if you are unable to make it. Contact Member Services for more information, 1-800-322-4237 or email MemberServices@OneFPA.org.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Guided Mastery: Helping Your Clients Find (or Re-Discover) Investing Confidence

As you’re scrolling through your daily videos (we all do it), you may come across an Olympic-level skier falling right out of the gate, an accomplished stage actor flubbing his lines or a famous crooner forgetting the words to the National Anthem on live TV. Besides the fact that, for some reason, many of us are unable to stop watching these types of videos, one thing unites each incident: a crisis of confidence.

Confidence is a fickle, erratic thing. It can take years of hard work to gain, and only seconds to lose. In the world of investing, confidence can be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to staying on track toward our goals, and yet it doesn’t receive nearly the same amount of coverage as topics like becoming a successful investor.

How do we help our clients go about getting, or re-discovering, the self-assurance we need to get to our goals?

The Root Cause: What Are We Really Afraid Of?

Money remains the single top stressor for Americans. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, money has been our top concern since 2007, the first year the organization ran the Stress in America survey. It comes as no surprise that money was on the minds of many in late 2007 (and still is) given the market environment during that time.

On October 1, 2007, the S&P 500 closed at a level of 1,549.38, a high at that time. From there, things went steadily downhill, with the index bottoming out at 735.09 on February 1, 2009. This brutal bear market likely took a toll on the confidence of all investors.

David Kelley, international influencer and co-founder of innovative design firm IDEO, believes that a loss of confidence is often comes from our fear of judgment.

In his popular TED Talk “How to Build Your Creative Confidence,” Kelley discusses a situation in his third-grade classroom where his friend Brian was making a horse out of clay. A girl sitting at Brian’s table leaned over and said, “That’s terrible. That doesn’t look anything like a horse.” Brian’s shoulders sank, and he threw the clay back into the bin, never to use it again.

I have a similar story involving struggling with multiplication tables when I was a child, and I still vividly remember how many years it took to feel even remotely confident in anything that requires math (I still ask my wife to double-check tips at restaurants). According to Kelley, these types of stories are common, resulting in many of us growing into adulthood feeling like we’re “not creative,” “not good at math” or “not the investing type.”

Kelley dug deeper into the issue of confidence loss to try to find a solution. He began working with Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist and innovator in the field of phobias. Specifically, Bandura pioneered a process he terms “guided mastery,” in which, by taking small steps, a person can move from debilitating fear to complete confidence (or “self-efficacy”). To illustrate the “guided mastery” process, Kelley described Bandura’s experiment with ophidiophobia, or the abnormal fear of snakes where Bandura guided a group of people terrified of snakes from refusing to go into a room with a snake to holding the snake in their laps.

If you’ve ever known anyone with a crippling fear of snakes, you can understand how amazing this truly is.

While Kelley’s point is about creative confidence, I believe the process of “guided mastery” has interesting parallels and potential applications to the world of investing.

In many ways—especially for those who are exposed only to the constant stream of negative retirement savings statistics, scare tactics designed to initiate sales conversations and forecasts of another impending financial crisis—investing in the markets can be a truly scary proposition.

If you use the parallel to a phobia, one false move can be enough to make us lose our confidence, possibly for good. Kelley and Bandura show us that, through small steps and minor victories, even the most powerful phobias can be overcome. Here are a few tips to help clients get started.

1.) Recommend Clients Make a List of What They Don’t Know

When it comes to finding a place to start in building investing confidence, it might make sense to have clients start with what they know they don’t know.

By encouraging clients to make a list of the top five or 10 things they know they want or need to know about finance or investing, you have provided them with an all-important foundation. From that list, you can work together to come up with search terms to put into Google or their search engine of choice.

Once they’ve read a few articles and/or watched a few videos, they will be able to check a few of the basic items off their list, and will also begin to understand what type of educational content works best for them. The more they consume, the more they understand what they like and what truly helps them build knowledge and confidence.

The rise of the do-it-yourself culture, powered by video platforms like YouTube, has made learning the basics of almost any skill and/or industry more accessible than ever before. In addition to holding an amazing library of educational content, YouTube is also the second-largest search engine in the world by volume, and thus can provide a great place to start checking items off of their list.

As you help clients move through their list, I think you will find that you’re able to help them add new questions and topics to a larger list as you go. Not only will they be able to dip their toes into more advanced ideas as they move forward, but they will also be able to connect the original terms they learned with new terms, which will lead to a wider understanding of the topics themselves.

2.) Encourage Clients to Celebrate the Small Things

As you work toward helping clients gain knowledge and build confidence, don’t forget to encourage them to celebrate the small successes along the way. Yes, it’s a cliché, but I believe there’s quite a bit of truth behind the common platitude for a couple of reasons.

First, the road to investing confidence can be long, and focusing solely on the ultimate goal can be overwhelming. While a focus on the finish line is certainly important, adding a few horizon lines along each step of the journey can make the goal seem more achievable. Our brains are actually not wired to hone in on the distant future, so maintaining short-term benchmarks is generally a more effective way of staying on track.

Second, never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Because saving and investing success generally happens over the long term, it can be difficult for clients to see how much of an impact their hard work and diligence is making from month to month. Celebrating the fact that they saved 10 percent of their paycheck over a three-month period or that they made it through a whole year without taking any money out of their retirement savings can help them maintain perspective beyond what the numbers are showing over the short term.

3.) Help Your Clients Avoid Dwelling on Their Mistakes

Investing over a lifetime is a marathon, and it’s natural to make mistakes along the way. As you well know from your daily meetings, when investors do make an error or miss an opportunity, it is often magnified by the fact that they are forced to watch constant coverage of the teenage billionaire who went right when they chose to go left. It’s not a great feeling, but few things can hurt our confidence more than attempting to compare our situations to others. It’s certainly easier said than done, but it can pay to take a moment to remind our clients (and help them come to the same conclusion), for the most important things at least, that they are the best judge of their own success.

As it pertains to investing and the financial markets, clients have to give themselves a break when it comes to a tough week or month in the market. I encourage you to help clients take it to the next level and to completely get away from thinking about the markets in terms of “winning and losing.” The potential to win or lose implies a game, and it shouldn’t be a game when it comes to their hard-earned money.

Instead, help clients think of each bump in the road as the next step toward confidence. When I was first starting out and knew very little about investing basics, when I saw or heard something telling me I was behind in some way, I committed to making sure I understood exactly what that meant.

If you can help train your clients to either do the research on their own or come directly to you when they receive an email telling them about a decision they must make right away, see a term they don’t understand or come to a crossroads at which they struggle to make a decision, you can serve as that calming element that makes each mistake or stumble a lesson.

4.) Help Prospects Know That Expert Help Is Available

Each of us has instant access to an unbelievable amount of information on almost every topic imaginable. Like anything else, it’s up to every investor to decide if they want to go it alone, or enlist expert support.

It’s certainly open to interpretation, but in my opinion, the concept of guided mastery can work both ways in the investing world. Whether an investor chooses to work with a financial professional or not, the creation of a plan, the diligence to stick with it and the commitment to build knowledge one step at a time are all important parts of the process. There are, of course, pros and cons to both strategies, and the decision all comes down to each investor’s specific needs, goals, and unique financial situation.

Because the world of investing is so vast and complex, I truly believe financial confidence and even skill require a commitment beyond simply mastering the nuts, bolts and basics. At some point, most investors will reach the point where they can no longer manage their financial landscape on their own. From a prospecting standpoint, this is why creating (or at least sharing educational content) can be so important. When that investor reaches the point of wanting or needing help, I believe they are more likely to go with someone who has already provided them some value along the way.

All else being equal, I believe that, at the very least, investing confidence is something that is attainable for us all. Just as Kelley encourages those who have lost their creative confidence, through a series of small steps and successes, you can be the guide who helps clients work toward a place where they feel they have done what they set out to do, and eventually, take the last step and touch the snake.

Dan_Martin_Headshot
Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association®, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. He is an award-winning author with a diverse financial services industry background in marketing and communications. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Denver and his MBA in marketing from the Daniels College of Business.