Category Archives for "Business"

Why Financial Advisors Should Offer Niche Services

One of the best moves you can make when growing your financial advisor business is to offer niche services. A niche service is an offering that focuses on one specialization within a broader market that your business can serve. It could mean that you focus on serving one particular type of client, offering a particular type of service, or offer a combination of a specific client type and service.

For example, at Crystal Marketing Solutions I focus on serving financial advisors, a niche within the professional services industry – not attorneys, architects, or IT consultants. And we offer full-service marketing and marketing consulting, not business operations or accounting. 

Although many of the same marketing principles and best practices apply to a broader range of professional services, I choose to stick with financial professionals because we are experts in that industry. We could expand our services outside of marketing to become a one-stop-shop for financial advisory firms. But by focusing our service offerings on what we do best, clients are more likely to trust our experience and expertise.

Because we have niched our services, we don’t have to ramp up our knowledge about the financial industry or undergo extensive training every time we begin working with a new client. Instead, we can begin an engagement with confidence, steps ahead of a more generalist marketing agency.

Niching works for all kinds of businesses, including financial advisory firms. Many of our clients have found success by niching down to serve a particular market or offer specialized services. Here’s why this works.  

How niche services help advisors grow their businesses

The power of niching is that it can help you differentiate yourself from the competition. You can be the best financial advisor in your area, but unless potential clients can identify the factor that makes you a better choice than your competitor, you tend to blend in and get overlooked. 

Choosing a niche helps you create a memorable brand by allowing you to hone your expertise, which is a win-win for both you and your clients. You are able to offer higher value by giving consistent service to clients with similar needs, continuously learning, and sharpening your skill set through immersion in the trenches. 

Niching also makes it easier to grow your network and generate referrals. You are able to identify centers of influence in your market and build solid relationships without spreading yourself too thin. Before long, you become known in relevant circles for working with a certain kind of client or addressing a certain kind of problem. If your friend complains of tennis elbow, you’ll immediately think to refer them to your orthopedist, not your dermatologist; that’s how niching can help your business.  

The key is the ability to create consistent, clear, unmistakable messaging. Having a niche enables you to speak to the exact challenges, needs, and desires of the people you serve. Prospects will recognize right away that your financial advisory firm is one that works with clients like them. Every blog topic, social media post, workshop, webinar, video, graphic, or email series can be crafted with the niche audience in mind. You won’t waste your time muddying the waters with distracting marketing that doesn’t apply.

Claiming a niche makes it easier to get in front of audiences that need financial advisor services and reach the people you want to serve. Whether your goal is to be a podcast guest, conference speaker, guest blogger, author, or become a go-to quotable media source, a well-defined niche will make you easier to pitch and more attractive to gatekeepers, conference organizers, hosts, producers, and journalists.

Most importantly, choosing a niche allows you to love what you do. While you will need to ensure you are selecting a viable market, you get to pick one that actually excites you. You can choose to work with the kinds of clients that make you thrilled to show up at work in the morning, rather than the ones that feel like a drag. You can focus on what you find interesting and the areas where you are best equipped to make a difference. It can change the way you view your business and enhance your sense of fulfillment. 

How advisors can choose a niche

If you are a financial advisor who serves a general mix of clients, you may be wondering how you can niche your business. You may even think it would be a mistake. After all, you don’t want to get rid of your existing client base or turn away business while you are trying to grow. The good news is, you don’t have to unless you want to. 

Instead, you can pivot and begin shifting your business in a certain direction, gradually over time. You could also offer a niche program of services that branch off from your general practice, either to test the market or with no intention of making it your only offer. 

Start by thinking through exactly how you want to specialize. Answer the following questions:

  • What gets you fired up or brings out your passion? 

  • What are you most interested in or knowledgeable about? 

  • What kinds of clients do you enjoy working with most?

  • What problems do you like to solve? What problems bore or frustrate you?

  • Where do you see a void in the market? Is there a segment that’s being underserved? 

Again, you are looking to find a niche that is not only viable but also one you would enjoy. The last thing you want to do is pick a market or service that isn’t big enough, isn’t willing or able to pay you, or isn’t a group of people that you truly want to serve.

Next, you will want to determine the type of niche you want to create. You could focus on a specific industry or profession, a particular phase of life, a set of interests, net worth, values alignment, or something else. The sky is the limit and you might be surprised by how creative the niche can be.

For example, you could be a financial advisor who specializes in working with public servants, academics, military families, entrepreneurs, women breadwinners, Christian households, professional athletes, first-generation immigrants, high net worth families, recent retirees, young professionals, medical doctors, married people without children, blue-collar business owners – you name it. If the niche makes sense, chances are there’s a market for it.

Niched services might include applying a framework, formula, blueprint, or roadmap you’ve developed for your target market to solve a particular problem. Maybe you work with recent widows to help them understand their finances, high-earners with big student loan debt, people who come into a sudden windfall or inheritance – whomever – and you walk them through your program to address a challenge they are facing. 

Can you see how much opportunity there is in niching? It allows you to break away from the status quo and make a difference as you grow your financial firm. 

The bottom line

The biggest objection to niching is that people are afraid to turn down business. They don’t want to turn off their current clients or turn away prospects.  But the benefits tend to far outweigh the risks. As long as you are taking good care of your existing clients, they will not care about or even know about your niche offerings. And you still have the power to decide what new clients you will take on; you don’t need to turn anyone away.

Having a niche means having less competition. With consistent, clear, unmistakable messaging, well-honed expertise, and the respect and recognition you will be able to gain, your niche services are more likely to magnetize the clients you do want and repel those you don’t.  

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Podcast Recommendations for Financial Advisors

Podcasts can be a rich source of information for everything from DIY projects to motivational coaching and discussions of cult favorites to daily world news. There are so many out there, and it can be hard to narrow down which are worth your time. That’s why I’ve curated a list of top-rated podcasts, as well as some of my personal favorites, that can provide financial advisors with insight into running a business, tips on how other advisors navigate the financial advisory space, and advice on approaching clients with technical or hard to understand topics.

The Retirement Answer Man with Roger Whitney

  • Have you ever presented something to a client only to be met with awkward silence and a glazed-over look? The Retirement Answer Man Show was born out of years of experience, a deep need to help people, and creative restlessness. In every episode, Roger takes difficult or hard to communicate financial conversations, concepts, and strategies and makes them more approachable, often with a touch of humor.

Financial Advisor Success with Michael Kitces

  • Michael brings you real success stories and insights from the most successful financial advisors and leading industry consultants about how to take your advisory business to the next level. Get a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes building a successful advisory business and how entrepreneurial advisors navigate the inevitable highs and lows of growing a firm. Whether you’re a new financial advisor trying to get started on the right foot or an experienced advisor who’s hit a wall, Michael gives you the insights and inspiration you need to break through and reach the level of success you want to achieve.

The Elite Advisor Blueprint with Brad Johnson 

  • Brad is dedicated to sharing the "blueprint for success" in the independent financial advising world. Based on his decade of experience consulting the top advisors in the US, that could mean doubling your revenue, doubling your vacation, or both! Continuing the successful formula of idea sharing that led Advisors Excel to be the #1 player in its industry, he distills the best advice from top thought leaders and applies it to the world of independent financial advising. He interviews with top thought leaders and industry experts, providing diversity in his content.

Becoming Referable with Stephen Wershing

  • Becoming Referable is a bi-weekly podcast that will help you increase referrals. Each episode focuses on actionable ideas that you can use in your business right away. Your hosts are referral and client engagement experts, Stephen Wershing and Julie Littlechild, and, along with their guests, they’ll share current research, evidence-based strategies, and insights from experts from within financial services and beyond.

The Human Advisor with Various Hosts

  • This podcast goes beyond what it takes to run a business and brings a more client-centered conversation to the table. By hosting advisors with various backgrounds, the show revolves around changing the conversation from how big a financial advisor’s book of business is to how well do they take care of their clients and actually help people. 

The Experiments in Advisor Marketing with Taylor Schulte

  • Taylor Schulte explores the world of marketing in the financial planning industry.  He experiments with different ideas, shares his successes and failures, and interviews outside-the-box experts. He covers everything from spending tens of thousands of dollars on print ads to hiring a Harvard data nerd to run Facebook campaigns, and he admits that most of his marketing experiments have failed and he shares so you can learn from his mistakes on what works and what doesn’t.

I hope you get a chance to check out some of these recommendations. I always enjoy listening to other people's perspectives on a variety of topics.  If you want to read more of my useful tips and insights, sign up for our monthly email newsletter.

The Know, Like, Trust Factor in Your Marketing

You’ve probably heard of the “know, like, trust” factor when it comes to building your business as a financial advisor, but you might wonder if there is a need to put it to work for you at scale. After all, as a financial advisor, chances are you are a generally likable person, and your personality has played a part in your success.

You are in the business of helping people on a personal level. The “know, like, trust” factor probably isn’t a struggle for you because if you weren’t a people person, you would have chosen a different career path. You may have the foundation covered, but growing a business is different from making friends or being well-known. Getting someone to trust you with their financial decisions goes beyond just being friendly; they have to really trust you.

To scale your business, you can’t rely on your personality alone to carry you through; instead, you need to take the necessary steps to intentionally and systematically make sure more of your ideal prospects have the opportunity to get to know, like, and trust you every day.

What Is the “Know, Like, Trust” Factor?

The concept is basic, but there is a lot more to “know, like, trust” than you might have considered. Essentially, it represents the journey that your potential client makes when they are getting to know you and your professional brand. 

They have to know who you are, which means they need to know you exist, what services you offer, and why you are qualified to deliver those services. Then they need to determine whether they like what they discover – that you seem like someone they can connect with, and you appear to be qualified and capable of meeting their needs satisfactorily. And finally, once they know and like you, trust can begin to develop as they decide whether or not you seem to be an honest, dependable person or company upon whom they can rely. 

Only when you’ve overcome the “know, like, trust” hurdle, can you expect to secure them as a client and grow your relationship. At times, the journey from meeting you to signing on the dotted line is a quick one, depending on how they are introduced to you, what their circumstances are, and how discerning they are. 

But most often, you will need to take action to move the process along.

How to Boost the “Know, Like, Trust” Factor in Your Marketing

Marketing encompasses every activity you do to increase your sales and enhance your growth. Whether interacting with a prospective client one-on-one, at a seminar or speaking engagement, or through your promotional materials, both online and off, the “know, like, trust” factor should be incorporated into everything you do.

Know

The first step is to help people get to know who you are and what you stand for in your firm. If you think of the marketing journey as a funnel, “know” is the top of the funnel or the widest point. 

Share compelling biographies of yourself and your team with relevant background information. When people see that you have something in common, they are more likely to pay attention, connect with you, and want to get to know you better. Professional, friendly headshots and photographs can go a long way in making a connection, too; people are visual, and images matter more than ever.

In all of your communications, you need to be intentional and clear about exactly who your firm serves and who you are not. Every presentation you give, every piece of marketing collateral you produce, and every bit of content you publish should either attract your ideal client or repel those who are not a good fit for your firm. 

You will also need to make it crystal clear what services you provide, what benefits they can expect to gain from working with you, exactly how you work with clients, how you structure your fees, and other critical information. People are curious and skeptical; the more precise the information you can give them upfront, the better. 

Lack of clarity leads to assumptions and objections that may work against you. Providing the information they need to begin making a decision is more likely to work in your favor. When you help potential clients get to know you better, they can self-select to keep learning more or move on without wasting further time.

One of the best ways for people to get to know you more quickly and boost your credibility is to be generous about sharing your knowledge and helpful information.

Like

Knowing you does not mean liking you. The way you present your brand and demonstrate your expertise and professionalism makes a difference. In order for a prospective client to get to like you, you have to give them material to help them along the marketing journey. If you think of the marketing funnel, you are still near the widest, top part, but you are beginning to narrow your pool toward the middle.

One of the most effective ways to get people to like you more is to be authentic. Nobody connects with a stuffed suit or wants to work with a robot. Yes, a financial advisor needs to show up in a more formal manner than some professions, but you would be well served to let your personality shine through and drop the overly polished veneer. 

People connect with genuine people.

A great method for enhancing your likability is to share stories. People connect with stories when they are relatable and inspirational, so consider sharing stories whenever possible. Clients would be interested to hear or read about why you became a financial advisor, obstacles you’ve faced along the road in your life or career, and how you overcame them. Stories about you or your client’s experiences and what you or your clients learned through them can also register these same feelings.

Make an effort to be positive, upbeat, and optimistic in your communications while also being transparent and truthful. As a financial advisor, you will need to work through some tough topics – from market volatility or decline to the struggles your clients face that affect their finances, such as job loss, divorce, and illness. They want to know they will be working with someone who will be real with them and have the fortitude to get them through whatever life throws their way. 

Do the little things well, because early impressions matter. People want to work with an advisor who will be responsive and easy to reach, so be sure to respond to phone calls, emails, and even social media comments in a timely manner. Make sure your support staff understands the role they play in marketing and growing the business through the way they communicate with prospective clients as well. 

Because potential clients are likely to forget you soon after they meet you or land on your website, make sure you have measures in place to stay in touch. They can’t grow to like you if you don’t help them remember you. Create a valuable opt-in, such as a special report or worksheet, to solve a problem for them right off the bat, illustrate your expertise, and make sure they know exactly what you have to offer. If they sign up for this opt-in, they are entering the middle of your marketing funnel – the pool of people who are more likely to consider working with you.

Trust

Some people are easier to win over than others, but many people have their guard up – especially when it comes to money. Whether they’ve worked with a financial advisor who burned them in the past, they’ve never worked with an advisor before, or they simply aren’t sure if you can help them reach their goals, it’s your job at this stage to do what you can to establish your credibility, demonstrate your reliability, and prove that you are capable.

In marketing, one of the most effective ways to build trust is to keep showing up. Simply being there again and again with helpful information and resources, addressing concerns, sharing your insights, and offering your perspective can make quite an impact. It allows you to show that you are, in fact, knowledgeable, and consistency breeds trust.

Marketing online also provides an opportunity to leverage social proof, which helps instill trust. You can share testimonials from happy clients, articles that you’ve written or places you’ve been quoted, media clips, speaking engagements, examples of community service, and case studies – all putting your firm in a positive light. Social proof shows people that other people trust you, and it, in turn, signals that they can trust you too. 

Email is one of the best methods for building trust in marketing. When you offer a valuable opt-in, such as a special report, you will also want to follow that up with regular email communication. Deliver a series of emails, known as a “nurture sequence,” over the next couple of weeks, explicitly designed to amplify the “know, like, trust” factor and acclimate them to how your firm can help them. 

Within those emails, invite them to a free consultation. This is the point at which they’ve neared the bottom of the marketing funnel. These readers will be warmed up and primed to speak with you about potentially working together. 

Whether they take you up on this offer or not, be sure to stay in consistent communication with them through a regular monthly or quarterly newsletter. This will keep you top of mind, so over time, when they are ready to further explore working with a financial advisor, you will be in the running, all because you made the extra effort to establish trust.

The Bottom Line

The “know, like, trust” factor is the foundation for every relationship in business. Without it, you won’t make sales or sign new clients. With it, you are well on your way to cultivating profitable and fulfilling relationships that enable you to grow a business that you love. 

Sometimes creating a nurturing series that develops a “know, like, trust” factor can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help to craft a nurturing series that is captivating and helps develop a consistent appearance and engaging relationship with your prospects. Reach out to us to see how we can help!

Getting the Most From Marketing Photos

The series The Ultimate Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing helps financial advisors understand how content marketing all works so they can establish themselves as a financial expert by properly utilizing financial content marketing strategies.

In part five, Keyword Phrase, of The Ultimate Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing I went into detail about one of the essential elements in creating content…

Now it’s time to go beyond text and look closely at why you should never skip adding a featured image.

Why Adding a Featured Image Matters

You might be wondering if you need to include images with your content or if text alone will be sufficient. The answer is you should always include at least one featured image with every article for both visual appeal and functional purposes.

Images not only bring your words to life by illustrating meaning, but they also serve to optimize your content for search engines and help your content stand out on social media platforms where you share it.

Search engine algorithms — the criteria used to reward or penalize content based on specific characteristics — are constantly changing. But in recent years, it has become clear that Google and other top search engines increasingly favor images, reportedly because images enhance the user experience.

In other words, people like pictures and search engines aim to return the results that people want. As the importance of visual search continues to expand, image inclusion and image SEO has become more essential than ever.

What is a Featured Image

A featured image is a photo or graphic that will show up in the preview of your post on social media sites such as Facebook and often as a thumbnail on your blog list. Its purpose is to represent the content of the post at a glance and serve as a preview, providing the audience with a sneak peek to determine whether or not they want to read the content.

The featured image adds visual interest to your article and helps set expectations for both content and tone by piquing a reader’s interest. Even more than an article’s subject matter or headline, the featured image has the potential to persuade or dissuade readers from actually opening and reading your content.

How to Choose the Best Featured Image for Your Financial Content

Your featured image should always be relevant and you should never use an image that is irrelevant yet eye-catching just to grab your reader’s attention. If a reader opens an article because of an interesting photo only to find content that has nothing to do with the image, they will click away quickly, which will hurt your SEO and your reputation.

It’s best to use original images whenever possible. You can certainly take your own photos. Most phones today have a quality camera, and you can easily capture a picture yourself of something associated with your article to use.

If taking your own photos is not a good option for you, you can use stock photos as well. One thing you must realize is that most stock images require a license to use, and if you use images without a license you are violating copyright laws and could be fined.

The best thing to do is to use a stock photo service For a nominal fee, you will then have the rights to a wide variety of images for social media posts and much more. Just make sure you understand the terms and restrictions of your license. There are many stock photo options that I have used and would recommend.

Stock Photo Resources for Financial Advisor Website Content:

Because your featured image will be what shows up when you share your content on social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, it can be beneficial to superimpose or overlay the title and add your logo or brand colors. Putting the title of the post itself on the image is a great strategy because it increases the clickability of the image itself. This can easily be done with a free tool like Canva.

Keep in mind, your featured image could also be a graphic or illustration rather than a photograph. You can hire a designer to create unique and original branded graphics, or for a DIY option, use a tool such as Canva or PicMonkey to create your own designs.

Tips for Optimizing Your Featured Image for Search Engines

Use the right file name

Google should be able to tell what your image is by what you name it, so it’s important not to use the default string of characters or untitled.jpg. Also, include a keyword phrase in your file name. For example, a good file name would be common-credit-score-mistakes.jpg.

Use Alt Tags

Alt tags are the words that are associated with the image. If the image cannot be displayed, the alt tag provides alternative information for the image when a user cannot view it. It also helps significantly with SEO so be sure to include at least one of your keywords in the alt tags as well. There are YouTube videos and articles out there that show you how to do this.

Use the correct resolution and size.

Lower-resolution images at 72 DPI (dots per inch) are appropriate for digital mediums such as websites and are usually the cheaper option as well.

Conclusion

As you can see, adding a featured image is an essential part of creating an effective financial advisor website content. The right featured image will attract your intended audience’s attention, enhance their reading experience, and boost your SEO. Always take the time to select an eye-catching image and optimize it for search engines.

Download a free copy of the Financial Advisor Content Marketing & Optimization Guide here.

 Sometimes content marketing can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake on your own. This is exactly what we do for our clients! We help create and select the right content, optimize it so it is reaching the right people, and handle the scheduling to ensure it is as far-reaching as possible. Let us help you get a handle on the whole process by scheduling a discovery meeting today.

Ten Subject Line Tips to Get Your Emails Read

How do you compete with the electronic bombardment facing your clients and prospects and get your email to stand out?

Like most people, financial advisors send and receive emails constantly. It may be to (or from) an associate, a client, or a prospect. Those people are busy sending their own emails as well as receiving a slew of others every single day.

Creating an attention-grabbing subject line is a critical first step to getting your contact to open up your email. A creative subject line that will not only capture your reader’s attention but also make them curious enough about the content of your message to want to open and read it.

This is not only important in your regular interaction with clients but also essential when it comes to lead nurturing in your marketing campaigns. If you are not sure what this is or why it’s important, you can see my article, What is Lead Nurturing, or start at the beginning of the series, Marketing Funnels for Financial Advisors.

Email reaches potential clients, gets your information in front of them and builds the important “know, like, and trust” factor.

 

Ten proven subject lines and phrases.

 

“How can I help?”

There is a misconception that financial professionals are viewed as salespeople. In reality, they are advisors who help people with their financial lives. So, why not address that in the subject line of your email? People want to feel as though you are offering them help for something they need and are there because you have a genuine desire to make their stressful lives a little easier. By using this subject line you are letting your client or prospect know that you’re not trying to sell them on something but instead want to provide a service that can help them.

 

“I really enjoyed…”

Who doesn’t love a compliment every now and then? Using the subject line to pay your client or prospect a compliment not only lifts their mood, but also makes them more likely to open the email and respond to your message. Be as specific as you can when using this approach, but always be professional and appropriate.

 

“I’d like to get your thoughts on…”

The task asked of your client should be simple, such as asking their opinion on a short blog or to providing an answer to a quick question. This can be especially effective because it lets your client or prospect know that their thoughts matter and are important to you. It is also a great way to keep the conversation going and solicits future responses.

 

“Tomorrow”

This one simple word can have quite an impact as a subject line because it creates a sense of urgency. Your client or prospect will feel that there is a quickly approaching deadline that may need their attention today.

 

“Any questions, [name]?”

While it is never a good idea to use your own name in a subject line, I recommend using your recipient’s name. People enjoy seeing and hearing their own name, and using it in a subject line can be a great way to get their attention and a response in return. Also, this subject line lets your recipient know you’re available to help them.

 

“[Mutual connection] mentioned you to me…”

By referencing the name of a mutual connection you are far more likely to get your reader’s attention as well as a response. People feel more connected to you instantly if they can associate you with a trusted friend.

 

“Will you be attending [event]?”

Asking someone if they will be attending a certain event not only allows you to inform them about something they may not have previously known, but it also gives you an opportunity to know who might be going ahead of time so you can be prepared to meet them there.

 

“Saw this and thought of you”

Sometimes it is nice and beneficial to send an email with some helpful information, a relevant article, or just something enlightening to let the person know you are thinking of them. People don’t always want to be hassled with an email that requires action on their part.

 

“What would happen if…”

By using this subject line you are alerting your client or prospect to a potential unforeseen problem or solution. The curiosity of what it could be will inspire them to want to open your message and can be a great way to prompt them to respond with feedback of their own.

 

“Congratulations on…”

Bringing attention to promotions, job changes and other noteworthy events that happen in your clients’ lives is a highly effective way to spark reciprocated communication and have your email stand out among the many that they receive.

 

There are endless ways to be creative and develop an inspiring email subject line that will grab your reader’s attention. Keep the focus on providing help to your clients and always be honest about the content of your message. Nothing breaks trust and leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth like opening an email and realizing that it has nothing to do with what it said it did.

By following these simple tips, your emails will get read and you will be surprised by the response and return you get for your efforts.

If you want some help crafting your own creative subject lines in your next email marketing campaign feel free to reach out and see how Crystal Marketing Solutions can get you started.

Google’s Hidden Gems

Google dominates our online personal lives.  If you are not utilizing it in your financial advisory firm as well, you are missing out.  While there is a paid option for businesses called G Suite, there are also tons of free tools that you can use to keep your office running smoothly.

Advisors are constantly in communication with clients, other advisors, team members, and so many others that the need for seamless communication and collaboration is high on their priority list.  There is always an email to send or respond to, a document to read or approve and the never-ending responsibility of running an office – itself a daunting task.

There are a few free tools that I use in my business and always recommend to my clients when they are looking for a way to make their everyday tasks a little easier.

Gmail

Google is one of the most credible and well-known email platforms.

One of the main things I love is the large storage capacity. With Gmail, you never have to erase your email archives.  With the free version, you get 15 GB of storage and cloud-based accessibility. To upgrade to 100 GB it is $1.99/month, which is what I use. I did not need to do this in my first few years, but when I finally did need to upgrade storage, it was well worth it.

If you use the free version to set up an email account for your business, you get to choose your own email address that will follow the standard format of YourName@gmail.com. Keep it professional and keep it simple. Ideally, and what I recommend, is to go the paid route with Gmail, for $50 per user/per year and you can get your email set up on your web domain and create a customized email address (name@yourcompany.com).

Google Drive

Google Drive is another life-changing tool, not only for business but for personal use as well.  It is cloud-based storage, document management and file collaboration all in one.  It is secure and takes going paperless to a whole new level.  With Google Drive, you can store all of your documents, grant access to specific people, and determine what level of access they have.

With Google Drive also comes the use of Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Forms – all for free!

The most significant benefit to using these tools is that they automatically update as you work.  In the not-so-distant past when a team was working on a project together, there was always the string of emails and attachments and multiple versions of a document going back and forth as everyone provided input and feedback.  Now with Google’s business productivity tools you can create the document, share it, and set permissions.  All previous versions are saved for reference if they are ever needed.  You and your team can work on it, at the same time, with real-time comments and chat. Talk about true team collaboration!

With the free version you get 15 GB to store any file, but there are options to pay to expand your storage if your needs warrant more space.

Calendar

Almost everyone has moved to a digital calendar.  The one that comes free with Gmail has a few options worth mentioning.  You can sync and share events with team members.  You can even share entire calendars.  One of the best features is the ability to create multiple calendars within your main calendar view.  Let’s say you want to view your personal, work, kids’ schedules, team schedules, conference room usage and anything else. You can create separate calendars for each different need.  With a simple click in a checkbox, you can choose which ones you can see at any given time.

There is also a feature that allows you to add outside (or public) calendars by having access to the URL.  You will find anything from sports teams to local public events.  As long as they have made their calendar public and searchable you can add their calendar to your view.

Google Calendar also allows for seamless integration with Google Maps when adding locations to your appointments, reminder options and even has options to schedule, accept, and reject appointment invites all within your email. If your office is required to work with Outlook, no worries.  Google Calendar is fully compatible with Microsoft Outlook as well.

Google Hangouts

Managing a team can be hard on your email inbox, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are so many options available to limit the need for an email back and forth and to handle quick questions, comments, and updates.  One of those options is Google Hangouts.  It is a chat/messenger that is integrated within Gmail.  This tool works very much like the old AOL Messenger.  You can have conversations with one person or add a group chat.  There is even a video chat feature.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool to help you analyze your website traffic. Your website is the center of all of your online marketing efforts.  It helps to know some numbers so that you can track how you are doing. I went into more detail about the importance of tracking data in this article.

With Google Analytics you can view and track website visitors, where they came from, what they did while they are on your website, as well as useful information about each visitor.  Using this information helps you target your content to the people who are visiting your site the most and helps you see areas that are not getting as much traffic as they should.

Google My Business

I have done a completely separate blog on why you should “Google” your own business, but I will mention it again here.  It is so important to not only show up in searches but to do everything you can to ensure that the information that is showing up is correct and complete.  By using Google My Business you can verify your account, add photos and videos, and provide detailed business information like office hours, location specifics, and phone numbers.

This is where most of your potential clients are going to go to search for you for the first time. You want to make sure all of the information they find is correct.

Google Chrome and Extensions

If you are using Google platforms it is important that you are also using Google Chrome as your web browser.  There are instances where some applications created by one company don’t play nicely with software developed by someone else.  You may experience glitches and problems, so I always recommend using Google Chrome.

Chrome has a simple design that is very responsive and easy to navigate.  It is compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. It is also one of the most secure browsers with constantly released updates to resolve security concerns and fix bugs.

Last, but surely not least, are the endless number of apps that you can install and use in conjunction with Chrome.  There is a dedicated store for installing applications/extensions.  Some are free and some you have to purchase, but they all work seamlessly within Google Chrome. Some of my favorites are LastPassClick&Clean, and Grammarly. These are all programs that I use daily for my business and having them integrated into my web browser makes my life that much easier.

Integrations

Google goes a step farther than just apps and extensions for Chrome. There are also integrations with your email.

Boomerang for Gmail is an integration that lets you write an email now and schedule it to be sent automatically at another time. It also has a great reminder system that allows you to move messages from your inbox and remind you to follow up at a later date.  It also can remind you if you sent an email to someone and you haven’t gotten a response – it will just move it back to your inbox and ask you if you want to follow up.  It’s like your very own personal assistant for your email.

Streak is an internal customer relationship management (CRM) system that works inside of Gmail. The thought behind this integration is that you are communicating with most of your contacts or clients within your email, so why not track your CRM data there as well. It can pull your Gmail conversations automatically into your CRM without you having to do any manual entry. It is also very simple to install, learn and use. This cuts down on training time or complex onboarding processes.

I have touched briefly on a few of the top reasons why I use Google platforms and I hope I have been able to introduce you to a few new tips and tools that you didn’t previously know.  If you have any questions or you think that Crystal Marketing Solutions could help you with your marketing needs, please feel free to reach out.

What You Need for a Successful Onboarding Process

In my previous article in this series, I provided the how-to of lead nurturing and the actionable steps and even a few checklists and templates to get you started.

Now it is time to move on to the process of converting these prospects into clients and the onboarding process.

One of the biggest mistakes a financial advisor can make is to ignore the importance of creating a complete and cohesive client onboarding process.

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand all of the services available to them.  It a continuation of the conversation they have already been having with you during the nurturing or referral processes.

One of the biggest mistakes some financial advisors make is to assume that the onboarding process is part of their typical customer service functions or that it is just filling out some paperwork and you are on your way.  This can lead to confused and frustrated clients – that won’t be clients for long.

This process is the vital first experience a client experiences as part of your business family and will affect the impression that they have for the rest of your partnership.  Make sure that everything you sold them during the nurturing process holds true.

Who is involved in the process?

As I have written about before, a lead is someone who is aware of your business through various sources, contacts, and interactions.  Through your lead-nurturing process, you have captured their information and continued to nurture the contact into a prospect.

When does the process begin?

The onboarding process begins as soon as one of those prospects reaches out and makes contact to get more information and/or set an appointment to find out more about your services.  They now become a prospective client.  This is what you have been working for!

Benefits of having a process in place

I am a big advocate for systems, processes, and templates.  They save so much time and they help ensure that things don’t get missed.

You will be able to make changes and enhance the experience so that each client is getting only your best.  It will also help you set expectations in the client/advisor relationship.  This makes life easier and less stressful for everyone involved.

The Phases of the Onboarding Process

Now that you understand the “who, when, and why” of a client onboarding process, how do you get started?

There are several steps and key meetings that are typically included during the onboarding process that are broken into two phases: prospective client (or future client or pre-client) and new client. For each phase I want to provide you with what types of meetings are usually scheduled and a few details about each.

Prospective Client Phase

This is the pre-client stage; before someone is an actual client. This is still part of the sales process and making sure that advisor/firm and the potential client are a good fit.

Initial contact

This is what starts it all. This is the email or phone call where you will set the date and time for an introductory meeting.

Introductory Meeting / Discovery Call

This is typically a free, no-obligation meeting to get acquainted.  It is an opportunity to learn more about the potential client and assess their needs.  It is also a good time to share how your firm operates. This will help determine if you are a good fit for one another.

  • Review their needs, goals, concerns, and aspirations
  • Why did they reach out to your firm
  • Have them tell you their story, what got them to where they are, and where do they want to go
  • Share your firm’s philosophy, team, and processes
  • Explain timelines and budget expectations
  • Be sure to provide them with any handouts or documents they will need to move forward, as well as a clear explanation of the next steps they will need to take.

Information Gathering

The information gathering meeting is where all of the details and scope of work will be determined.

  • Establish goals and desired outcomes
  • Determined communication preferences (email, phone, mail, online)
  • Complete a Client Questionnaire (if not already done so)
  • Be sure to provide them with any handouts or documents they will need to move forward, as well as a clear explanation of the next steps they will need to take.

Proposal of Services

This is the piece of the process where you show the potential client how you can help them meet their goals and reach their desired outcomes.

  • Definition of services
  • Explanation of fees

Plan Presentation / Solutions Meeting

  • Present proposal
  • Answer questions
  • Receive feedback
  • Discuss partnership details

New Client Phase

Once the decision has been made to move forward it is time to get to work with your new client. This is what you have been working towards since the beginning of the marketing funnel. This phase is not always a series of meetings and may vary depending on whether the partnership is for a package of services or for ongoing services.

Once the partnership details have been worked out and the agreement has been signed there are a few extras that show you are willing to go the extra mile.

  • Be sure to introduce the entire team if you have not already done so
  • Have a professional and complete welcome pack with firm information
  • Review expectations and next steps
  • Include a thank you card and/or a small welcome gift

Suggested Tools/Resources

The client onboarding process can take trial and error and time to perfect.  A big part of developing a successful customer onboarding process is having an effective workflow to develop and track each of the steps listed above. Once you get started and document what you are doing, how it is working, and review for improvements you will start to see your hard work pay off.

There are several tools you can have in place to help you with this process:

  • CRM
  • Calendar scheduling tool
    • Set appointments
    • Send automated reminders with key information
    • Thank you emails
    • Workflow in a CRM can also help with this for clients that may not use email
  • Templates
    • This will make sure you are not reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch each time.
    • Worksheet/Questionnaire
    • Proposals
    • Meeting agendas
    • Follow up standards
  • Thank you cards or gifts
    • Nothing beats adding a personal touch.

The next part of this series covers the engage portion of the marketing funnel and client satisfaction.  There is an incredible opportunity for future revenue with long-term clients, including long-term value, beneficiaries, and referrals.

What You Should Know Before Using Stock Images

Pretty pictures could cost you a pretty penny

Stock photos are a great way to enhance your firm’s brand, but beware before you just copy and paste whatever picture grabs your attention from Google images – it could cost you! We live in a visual world – motivated and inspired by what we see as by what we hear. Your firm is known not only by its logo, but through the collection of pictures and visual imagery you include on your website and your marketing material.

You can quickly lose a client or prospect’s attention if your imagery is underwhelming or obnoxious. Most advisors don’t have the time or the desire to take original photos every time they need them/

For this reason, stock photos and images are frequently used.

There are quite a few rules and regulations behind using stock images.  Most require that you license and purchase them from the owner before using them. There are several websites you can easily buy images from such as Getty Images and iStock.  The prices can range from free to well into the thousands.

Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before using any images:

What Are You Using the Stock Image For?

Before spending your money on a bunch of pictures that inspire you, be sure you know your intentions for those images.  What do you plan to use a particular photo for – website or print publication such as marketing brochures? Photos come in different resolutions and sizes, and while a low-resolution image will work fine on a website it will look like a blurry mess when printed on a brochure. Choose the appropriate size and resolution image for your intended project and needs.

How Long Do You Need the Images For?

License agreements on images often have an expiration date, or you may only have permission to use it for a specific purpose. For example, if you purchase an image to use for your website you might not be allowed to then use that same image for a marketing brochure. Also, you may only be permitted to use a photo for a specific amount of time. After the specified amount of time has been exceeded you’ll need to renew your license to continue using that image.

Financial advisors use their website and social media platforms to attract and obtain potential clients, as well as communicate information to current clients.  The visual appearance (i.e., the images) can make or break the firm’s image and first impression. Make sure that you are following all laws and regulations in regards to choosing and using images.  If you are unsure you can always reach out to a marketing professional, otherwise, that pretty picture may end up costing you a pretty penny!

Five Tips for Effective Public Relations

Let’s start off by defining public relations and why it is important to financial advisors.

Merriam Webster defines public relations as: the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.

That’s important! Advisors work very hard to create a certain image for themselves and their firm. It doesn’t matter how good your services are if nobody knows you exist or you have a poor online reputation. From your tagline and logo, to your website content and even your social media posts, everything is carefully crafted with the consideration of how a potential client will perceive it.

Here are five tips to make sure your public relations reinforces the image you’ve worked so hard to maintain:

  1. Offer noteworthy news only: People pay attention to what interests them, not what interests you or your company. Press releases and announcements must be relevant and noteworthy to your audience. Publicity can quickly become spam if no one is interested in what you’re talking about. A new designation, associate promotion, charity involvement, or public event is newsworthy. A new wing in your office does not need to be published in the local paper (but could be great for you to share in a client newsletter).
  2. Include additional material: An announcement is great, but when was the last time anyone felt compelled to read through a long and wordy statement that didn’t have accompanying pictures or an interesting video? If you’re going to announce something, have appealing visual media to support it, especially if you’re doing it in print or on the internet. If it is hard to visualize what you’re talking about, make sure you help readers do so any way you can.
  3. Involve yourself: Communication isn’t just about talking at people and hoping they care – it’s about being a person that can also listen to others and be respected in return. Part of that is being present in the relevant community. Participate in events or involve yourself and your firm in community events. Most people will say that it’s a transparent effort to get on the good side of your clients. They’d be right, and it is a worthwhile effort that works.
  4. Know your contact: News is better promoted when more people are talking about it – so build a relationship with a journalist or editor at your local newspaper. If you keep going to them with noteworthy news, eventually they’ll start coming to you to check if there’s anything they can report.
  5. Track the results: Whatever you’re doing, if you’re doing it right, you will have results – positive and negative. After any press release or public relations campaign, check your numbers. If you have more people buying, “liking” you – or the opposite, then you’ll know whether or not to do that again or to call it an effective public relations strategy.

PR can be a bit tricky to execute, but with these five useful tips, you will ensure that your campaigns are productive and positive.

A Generational Gap in Digital Marketing?

Should financial advisors spend their digital marketing efforts on a specific generation?

The best way to promote your services through digital marketing –depends on who is your target market. That depends on the age range of the people you are trying to reach. Your choices can span from the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X to Millennials.

Can all generations be reached with the same message, through the same media?

Each generation has unique characteristics that shape the way they make decisions and how they spend their time and money. To create effective marketing campaigns it is important to understand the differences (and similarities) in how each generation prefers to receive digital content. You may be surprised by what you learn!

First, let’s look at a breakdown of the generations living in America today and some information that will help shape messages you use to reach them:

The Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) grew up in a time of rationing and saving. They are patriotic and value morals and ethics. Seeing and understanding the history of a business or product is important to them, as they appreciate established brands.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are also referred to as the “Me Generation.” They hold the majority of the country’s wealth, which is partially because women of this generation started working outside the home in record numbers. Boomers respond well to marketing that focuses on what’s in it for them.

Generation X (born 1965-very early 1980s) reached adulthood in tough economic times, and many grew up in homes where both parents worked. As a result, they are more independent and focus less on loyalty. They are currently at an age where they are busy with their career, young families, and are looking for products and services that make things easier for them.

Millennials/Generation Y (early 1980s – early 2000s) are the children of the original Baby Boomers and are set to become one of the largest living generations. This generation is growing up with technology at their fingertips and is used to information coming at them from every direction. They value friendships, so word-of-mouth marketing is effective (think of a Facebook “like” of your financial advisory firm showing up on their newsfeed).

Now that you understand the breakdown of the generations and what motivates them, how do you reach them?

Putting information online is an extremely effective way to get your message seen by a broad audience. But where do you start? What are the most popular platforms for each group?

Surprisingly enough, all generations have similar preferences for types of content and how they receive information:

Blog posts

Across all generations, blog posts are the most consumed type of online content. A blog gives you the ability to provide relevant content to your clients and potential clients, driving them to your website and social media platforms.

You can vary the messaging in each blog post to reach different audiences, which allows you to keep everyone engaged. A blog post on creating a family budget may appeal to a Generation X client whereas a post on financial planning for long-term health care may appeal to a Baby Boomer. If you provide new content on a regular basis, you will consistently draw different audiences to your business.

Facebook and other social media platforms

Even though the motives for joining Facebook may be different for each group, Facebook adoption is still growing for all ages. Creating a company Facebook page is worth the effort as long as you are also willing to use it to connect with clients and prospects.

Someone from the Silent or Baby Boomer generation may join Facebook strictly to see and post pictures of grandchildren. But if you can connect with them, your updates are likely to be more visible to this group because they typically have fewer “friends” and less showing up in their newsfeed. This will keep your business name fresh in their mind.

Gen Xers research online and if you give them a solution that is quick and easy they will like it. Using Facebook to push your blog posts, relevant articles, or maybe information about a wealth management seminar you are hosting is a great way to reach these clients efficiently.

And finally, my reference above about Millennials putting a Facebook “like” in high regards is a great example of how businesses can earn recognition and familiarity with this age group. Perhaps this group may not have an immediate need for a financial advisor but when they do you are already their “friend”!

Email

Target email campaigns are the most effective way to reach a specific segment of your client base without overwhelming other groups with non-relevant information. Tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact simplify the process of sending out information electronically.

Once you have email addresses you can create separate lists based on age and any other demographic information you are tracking. You can utilize automated emails, personalization, and activity-trend analysis. By using email marketing, you can reach a specific group in a place that they are typically checking often – their email.

Marketing across many generations may still require different messages, but by using digital media you can reach each group successfully and inexpensively. The key is to keep the content fresh and ever-changing, targeting a new audience with the next bit of information you are providing.

The fascinating thing about digital marketing is that record numbers of people are proactively going online looking for information. All you need to do is provide them with what they need, or may need and just don’t know it yet!

If you are still unclear on what is the best way to reach your target market, the right content to provide, or the right platform to use, I can help. Please reach out and see how I can help you create a customized marketing strategy that is right for your financial advisory firm and your ideal client.

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