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Overcome 4 Business Challenges with Tech and Training

Advisers are being sold technology to solve their problems at every corner, said Greg Friedman, founder, CEO and president of Private Ocean.

“Technology is so oversold to all of us,” Friedman said at a recent FPA Retreat 2017 session.

It’s a combination of technology and staff training that is the key to managing business challenges, Friedman said. He knows this because during his time in the industry, he’s seen some things.

“I am the poster child for every problem this industry has,” Friedman said, who started Friedman and Associates in 1991 at age 28 with two associates—his twin toddlers—and now the company has “evolved through all stages.” Private Ocean—the result of a merger between Friedman and Associates and Salient Wealth Management—now has 24 full-time employees and seven advisers.

Friedman gave attendees tips on how to solve the four common business challenges—business development, marketing, time management and efficiency.

Utilize available technology. Prospecting becomes easier if you have software that can show you how you are possibly connected to prospects. Friedman uses Relationship Science, which allows planners to plug in a name and see all the connections that adviser potentially has with that prospect.

Marketing automation is another helpful piece of technology. When prospects enter their email on your site, the automation will automatically send the prospect something and then notify you when you have a bite, Friedman said.

Don’t forget CRM.

“CRM is core,” Friedman emphasized. “I don’t care which ones you use, but use one.”

Develop and reward employees. Friedman said having the staff on board is a must for success.

“Having that data and having those systems means nothing if people don’t know how to use it or know how to get clients,” he said, also suggesting that firms provide ongoing sales training and coaching. If advisers are uncomfortable with “sales” training, call it “relationship,” “communication,” or “consulting” training.

Designing a compensation structure that rewards top advisers while not penalizing advisers who don’t meet goals is a way to motivate advisers, Friedman said.

Implement service models effectively. It’s unsustainable to give an eclectic mix of clients the full range of your services, so pick the clients who may not be a match for you and figure out a way to gently steer them to a more appropriate firm or planner.

Also, define what your services are and make more efficient assignments, giving the simple client cases to junior associate advisers and free up time of your more experienced advisers to take on the more profitable, complex clients.

Outsource when needed. Private Ocean outsources some of its marketing efforts to a company called Set Wave, which helps it use social media in the most effective ways.


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5 Reasons Financial Advisers Can’t Afford NOT to Blog in 2017

Your relationships with clients and prospects need to be strong to weather 2017’s potential storms—the DOL fiduciary rule, a new president looking to draw back government regulation, Brexit kicking in by April, increasingly unstable international markets, and more.

Building that relationship is a matter of regular communication. While your existing clientele may communicate with you via phone, visits and email, the majority of the population is now acquainting itself with new advisers online—specifically via blogs. Yet many advisers still aren’t blogging regularly.

Here are five reasons advisers can’t afford NOT to blog in 2017.

1.) It’s the fastest, easiest way to dispel client fears in a year packed with unknowns. The markets are off to a better start than they were last year, but who knows what tomorrow holds?

Most advisers could set their watches around the calls they get from their more anxious clients when things get bumpy.

Answering client questions is a great way to connect, but answering the same questions over and over can be a major time-eater. Save yourself some time by blogging regularly and sending out links to old blogs that address their concerns when market news goes south.

2.) Last year, Google acknowledged that content is king when it comes to search rankings. While Google’s search ranking factors are largely a mystery, just last year they said that new content is one of their top measurements.

The easiest way to regularly add new content to your site? You guessed it: blogging.

Bonus tip: Google also said outbound and inbound links are high on their list.

Outbound links point to other sites from your own site. The best and easiest place to include outbound links? Your blog. Shoot for one to three in every piece.

Inbound links point to your site from other sites. These are more difficult because they require someone else linking to you. But no one wants to link to your “About Us” or “Services” page. Most links between sites point to one place: blogs.

3.) It’s a good way to build trust with prospects (although, admittedly, not the best). If everything goes through with the DOL’s upcoming fiduciary rule change, a lot of advisers will no longer be able to use their fiduciary status as a differentiator. How will you prove you can be trusted?

The best way to establish trust? Actually, it’s face to face interactions—not blogs—but your blog isn’t too far down the list. You don’t have to look far for people who have established themselves as trustworthy authorities, thanks largely to regular blogging (and a fresh perspective): Michael Kitces, Carl Richards, and Wade Pfau, among others.

4.) It’s the best digital driver of new leads. Blog posts are great because they’re a permanent fixture on your site. If you write a post on tax loss harvesting and then a year later someone is searching for that subject, they could happen upon your site.

But old blog posts have nothing on new ones. In my experience, a blog post will typically earn 98 percent of its traffic within the first five days.

The best way to keep new leads rolling in is with new blogs.

5.) Stake your claim with your personas. In the financial industry, not everyone is blogging, but 2016 saw the number increase exponentially. That means countless advisers are out there blogging directly to their desired audience, which quite possibly overlaps with your audience. If you’re not blogging about stuff your personas care about, you’re probably not on their radar.

You might have all the knowledge in the world, but if you haven’t written it down somewhere online, it might as well not exist.

So make 2017 the year you start blogging, and stop missing out on prospects. If you’re still not sure how to get your blog machine up and running, check out this offering from Mineral and Wendy J. Cook Communications, one of our favorite content providers for advisers.

zach-mcdonald

Zach McDonald
Editorial Director
Mineral Interactive
Omaha, Neb.


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Top Blog Posts of 2016

Last year, 2016, was a record-breaking year in the number of visitors and views for the Financial Planning Association’s Practice Management Blog powered by the Journal of Financial Planning.

Here are the top 10 most-viewed blog posts of 2016:

No. 10: “Becoming an Authority: Establishing Your Financial Planning Career.” Emily Fisher, marketing copywriter for Advantage Media, gave planners tips on how to put themselves out there and attract new clients.

No 9: “Top Ten Tips to Implement CRM.” Jennifer Goldman, founder of My Virtual COO, gave planners insight into the best practices in order to maximize their CRM.

No. 8: “Fiduciary Rule for the Modern World.” This post covered the key elements from the press conference that announced the Department of Labor’s Final Rule (fiduciary rule and discussed FPA’s resources for its members.

No. 7: “7 Do’s and Don’ts of Collaborating with Estate Planning Attorneys.” Attorney Gary Altman gave planners insight on what you should look for when it comes to partnering with estate planning attorneys. This post was derived from an answer to a member question on FPA Connect.

No. 6: “9 Things Clients Need to Know about an Adviser.” Regular blog and Journal contributor Kirk Loury gave readers an overview of the things you should be communicating to your clients about yourselves.

No 5: “Advising Clients During Turbulent Times.” Professors Kent Baker (0f American University) and Victor Ricciardi (of Goucher College) gave insight into how to best handle clients who may be distressed during market downturns.

No. 4: “You Cannot Do this Alone.” In this post, Daniel Crosby, behavioral finance expert, published an excerpt of his book, The Laws of WealthThis post discussed the value financial planners bring to clients

No. 3: “8 Components of Social Media Policy.” Claudio Pannunzio, president of i-Impact Group Inc., offered planners the elements that should be included in a successful social media policy, including having a purpose, identifying authorized contributors and having an employee code of conduct.

1216JFP_BestOf2016_Cvr.inddNo. 2: “Framing the Conversation: What to Say in the First 60 Seconds.” Regular blog contributor Daniel Finley, president of Advisor Solutions, gave planners an outline for what to say to potential clients in the first minute.

No. 1: “How to Create Your Ideal Client Profile.” This year’s most-viewed blog post, another by Claudio Pannunzio, discussed how to successfully create an ideal client persona to better attract the clients you want to serve.
If you want to know what we determined as being the best of the Journal of Financial Planning, check out our Best of 2016 issue (picture, right) featuring a “2016 Personal Finance Year in Review,”  by the Journal‘s Academic Editor Barbara O’Neill.

Are you interested in contributing to the FPA Practice Management Blog? Email us with story ideas or content.

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


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Are Your Blog Posts Engaging Your Audience?

Our financial adviser clients often pose this question: how do we attract readers to our blog and keep them engaged?

The sad truth is that not everyone who comes across a blog post is going to read it. Consequently, our suggestion is not to worry whether users read the whole article. The key goal is not to attract the masses, rather ensure maximum satisfaction for those who come to read your blog.

The advice we consistently give to our clients is to first and foremost attain an in-depth understanding of the audience they seek to connect with. Creating the right persona is key to running a successful blog and understanding who your readers are and what matters to them—their worries, needs and pains. Consequently, the focus must be on creating content that offers them tips, guidelines and actionable ideas that can be implemented to address their needs. However, the overall aim is to appeal not only to your aficionados but also to those who may never contact you but enjoy reading and sharing your expert advice.

An Emotional Investment

Our recommendation is to focus every blog post on how to reduce and perhaps even help stop your readers’ pains. When your content does that you have got your audience engaged. Ultimately, your audience’s engagement is a direct function of the emotional investment they make in reading your posts. You can foster their commitment by rewarding them with actionable ideas and suggestions they can put to good use over time.

Because the goal of having a blog is also to build a large audience, how then can an adviser attract and engage new readers? The fundamental idea that must be grasped here is that getting readers to read your entire blog post is not your first priority.

Experiencing Tactical Support

Every blog post ought to contain a central, compelling point. What matters is to give readers an experience of having come to a blog that consistently offers them the “tactical support” they need to address their issues. This in turn will compel them to share your insights with their family and friends and, ultimately, become your brand evangelists.

Your blog posts should be written in your own voice. It helps to create your specific style to which readers will grow accustomed and easily recognize—even if they do not read your post in its entirety.

Here are some tips and ideas that may help with your blogging activities:

  • Grab Their Attention: The headline of your blog is the most powerful tool to get your readers’ attention. A significant number of people are attracted by headlines and are more likely to read them rather than your actual post. Seek to write headlines that are clear and easy to understand and avoid technical language
  • Use the Inverted Pyramid Style: This style, also called front-loading, enables you to incorporate into the opening paragraph the vital details addressed in your post. It is a very effective blog writing technique, as web audiences tend to peter out after skimming the first paragraph.
  • Easy Does It: Make it easy for your readers to understand and consume your messages. Use headings to help them decide if they want to read or scroll on to the next paragraph. Write in a crisp clear language and avoid dense paragraphs, as well as industry jargon. Well-formatted posts prevent readers from missing your key insights and ideas.
  • Use Examples: Include in your blog real life examples. Use personal stories and anecdotes to facilitate understanding of complex concepts, ideas and strategies. Make sure to catch your readers’ attention by clearly stating what your product, idea or strategy does and give examples of how it has helped others.
  • A Strong Conclusion: Failing to appropriately conclude your article will offer your readers very little incentive for engagement. The last paragraph of your post should feature a recap of the key takeaways and a call to action to solicit comments and/or inquiries.
  • Be Social—as in Social Media: Make sure your blog features social media buttons that will enable your audience to share the posts they like. Also, make it easy for them to leave comments and/or pose questions by embedding in your blog a commenting capability, such as Disqus or IntenseDebate

Whether or not you are a blogger comments and questions are always welcome.

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

 

Editor’s Note: Other Financial Planning Association content that may be of interest to you include:

A non-FPA resource that is always helpful when it comes to writing tips is Susan B. Weiner’s Investment Writing site