Assessing the Digital Landscape for Financial Institutions

Assessing the Digital Landscape for Financial Institutions: How to Lead the Charge With People and Technology

Read the eBook on Liferay’s Website

Veriday is a Liferay Platinum Partner. We’ve been successfully designing and implementing solutions using Liferay since 2005. We are one of Liferay’s strongest partners because we do more than just development. At Veriday, we combine design thinking and technical engineering to create high performing digital and user experiences. We help you transform your whole enterprise by developing great customer experiences and modernizing business operations. Our ground up approach ensures you are creating a sustainable long-term platform for business agility and growth.

Liferay DXP is a digital experience platform that has many use cases. The flexibility and power of the Liferay platform are some of the reasons Veriday believes so staunchly in it. That’s why we use it to build digital experience solutions.

At Veriday, we also have an interest in building digital marketing solutions for financial institutions. Our product, Digital Agent, is created with financial agents in mind. Recently, I was perusing the Liferay blog and discovered an excellent eBook that can help financial institutions answer some questions they might have about digital transformation.

Assessing the Digital Landscape for Financial Institutions: How to Lead the Charge with People and Technology

Read the eBook

Assessing the Digital Landscape for Financial Institutions: How to Lead the Charge With People and Technology contains insights into the state of digital transformation at financial institutions. It answers the questions: What are the barriers to digital transformation? What role does technology play in customer experience? How can the customer experience be improved by breaking down silos?

These questions (and more) are answered in this eBook by Liferay. I strongly recommend you check it out if you work at a financial institution that is considering undergoing the process of digital transformation.

Remember, we are a Liferay Platinum Partner. With over a decade of experience developing on Liferay, Veriday can strategize, design and build a technology solution that helps meet your business’ goals. Feel free to reach out to us with questions about how we can assist in creating better digital experiences using Liferay DXP. 

Follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ,

5 Useful Movie Quotes for Financial Agents

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In 2012, movie theaters sold just under 1.2 billion movie tickets. Those tickets resulted in over $11.4 billion in revenue for the film industry. People enjoy movies, and they should, as movies are one of the most efficient storytelling mediums.

If you watch movies with a keen eye, you will notice pieces of wisdom that apply to a variety of situations. Quotes spoken by characters (in nearly every movie) contain those nuggets of wisdom. We have already examined quotes by athletes that can apply to your business, Harry Potter quotes, and Star Wars quotes that can apply to financial agents, but this time around we will look at something more general.

Today, we are looking at 5 Useful Movie Quotes for Financial Agents:

  • “There is nothing cheap about loyalty.” – Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air (2009)

Gaining customer loyalty is one of the most important tasks for any financial services organization. If you work hard to engender loyalty among your client base, they will be less likely to leave your business for that of a competitor’s. It costs between four and ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one and some experts estimate the costs are even higher than that. With such a high cost associated with acquiring new customers, it is unlikely that financial services professionals want to have to replace customers to maintain their revenue on a regular basis. There is nothing cheap about loyalty.

  • “Normally, it takes years to work your way up to the 27th floor, but it only takes 30 seconds to be out on the street again.” – Mr. Sheldrake, The Apartment (1960)

Customers are challenging and expensive to acquire, especially in financial services. One bad experience can send your customers running for the hills. “Working your way up to the 27th floor” can be seen as a metaphor for nurturing a relationship and building trust with your customers.

Building those relationships involves working hard to show your level of commitment to your client base. A financial agent needs to consistently maintain a positive attitude, focus on adhering to exceptional communication standards, acknowledge the individuality of the customer and exceed customer expectations. Even if you are regularly showing your warmth and competence to clients (and potential clients), it will take time to nurture those relationships.

Despite the time and effort, it takes to build a relationship with your clients; one mistake can swiftly end any relationship you built with your clients. Be careful to always act in your customer’s best interest, while communicating your intentions, so you don’t end up “out on the street again.”

  • “I’m washing lettuce. Soon, I’ll be on fries. In a few years, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.” –Maurice, Coming to America (1988)

This quote from 1988’s Coming to America represents the qualities of hard work and patience, two essential characteristics for success in financial services. From the perspective of a financial agent, hard work and patience usually pay benefits for their clients.

For financial service professionals, hard work is, of course, necessary. Having the information and skill set to make responsible decisions for your clients requires a great deal of hard work. Research, consultations and eventually assuring your client that your plan of action will work out for them all require hard work. Patience is another requirement for financial agents. You need to be patient enough to stick with a plan through the dramatic peaks and valleys of an economic cycle. If you make hasty decisions, your clients may suffer in some way.

  • “The key to this business is personal relationships.” – Dicky Fox, Jerry Maguire (1996)

This quote is straight on the nose for financial services, especially outside of the personal banking sector. Consumers want some form of personal relationship when making the difficult decisions about who to trust with their finances. The average consumer is more likely to trust their financial advisor than the monolithic financial institution behind that advisor. As the graph from Edelman (below) shows, employees are the most trusted bank spokespersons to communicate information about key topics.

Why are the most trusted spokespeople in financial services employees? Employees are most trusted because consumers can build relationships with them. The more a customer interacts with the person managing their finances, the more they will grow to trust them. For more information on developing trust with consumers, check out our article on how warmth and competence affect customer perceptions.

Useful Movie Quotes (employees)
  • “Trying is having the intention to fail. You’ve got to scrap that word from your vocab. Say you’re gonna do it and you will.” – Sydney Fife, I Love You, Man (2009)

In I Love You, Man, Sydney, played by Jason Segel, helps his new friend Peter develop confidence in himself. The goal of those actions was to help Peter reach his goals and dreams. A large part of that process involved introducing Peter to the benefits of maintaining a positive mindset. As a financial agent, you should keep the same positive mindset that Sydney would want you to have.

You are a capable, well-trained financial agent, ready to manage, grow or ensure your client’s assets. You should not “try” to reach your goal, “trying” should not even be a part of your vocabulary. By maintaining a “will accomplish” mindset, your productivity will increase dramatically. The Mayo Clinic found that by thinking in positive terms (such as “I WILL do it”) will lower stress, reduce your level of depression and increase your lifespan.

With those benefits available, why would you allow yourself to think negatively? Just go out and do it!

As always, thank you for reading! Movies can entertain us, but they can also teach us lessons about life if we listen carefully. If you enjoyed this article, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn here.

9 Characteristics of Successful Content

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Creating engaging content can be a difficult task for any marketer. However, there are several steps that you can take to ensure your content experiences the most success possible. To get the best return from the time and resources invested in an attempt to attract customers, try to create each piece of content with these nine points in mind.

  • Targeted

Before you even begin writing, you should know WHO you are writing for and center the content around a topic that will peak their interest. Having a comprehensive understanding of your target audience will allow content to speak to their unique needs and interests. By targeting content at a particular group, you can highlight specific benefits and information that will be relevant to them.

One can target content at their audience by utilizing buyer personas for each segment of their target audience. Also, website analytics can be used to see who is visiting your site and viewing your content.

Half the challenge of content marketing is getting an audience to consume the content. In addition to writing directly to a specific audience, you can use search optimization to make your content more discoverable.

  • Optimized

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy to have your original content rank higher in search results. It is used by individuals and organizations to increase the visibility of their content. It has become so common that an industry of “growth hackers” and “SEO gurus” has developed to help businesses rank higher in search results.

SEO has proven to bring results. Keywords, the quality of the content, how much activity the website that hosts the content experiences, and several other factors contribute to the success of SEO efforts. Another form of optimization is Social Media Optimization (SMO). SMO deals with increasing your business’ visibility and improving your reputation using social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Successful content needs to be written for the audience first, with optimization in the back of your mind throughout the process. You put in the effort to create valuable, high-performing content. SEO and SMO will make it easily discoverable by members of the intended audience.

  • Provides Value

Perhaps the most important question to ask about content is “Does it provide value to the intended audience?” You can provide value in many ways. To provide value, you should educate, entertain or solve a problem your audience might be having. Your content should not only be used to promote your services. It should be created to benefit your audience. If the target audience does not see value in what you are sharing, they will ignore you.

To learn more about providing value through content, take a look at our article: The One Thing You Need To Include in Your Newsletter. Newsletters are just like any other form of content; they need to be a valuable use of the reader’s’ time.

  • Tells a Story

Storytelling is among the most effective methods for communicating information. The way stories speak to the human brain is unique, effectively motivating action centers within the brain. This phenomenon does not occur with any other methods of communicating information. It might not always be possible to tell a story through your content, but the more you can do it, the more value you can add to your content marketing efforts.

To learn more about how to tell engaging stories in your business, our article: The Power of Storytelling in the Business World examines why storytelling can be a great tool for businesses to communicate information to their audience.

  • Educational

Your content should be somewhat educational for your audience. There is little point in simply rehashing information that the user already knows. Content should have the purpose of informing your readers about something they need to know about your product, service, business or industry. You can educate your audience with any content imaginable.

Content written well below your audience’s level of knowledge may offend them, pushing them away from your website and towards your competitors.

  • Captivating

Capturing your audience’s attention is a difficult task, something that many content marketers struggle with on a daily basis. You want to captivate the attention of your readers, so they become engaged with the message. Engaged users are members of your audience who actively pay attention to your content. Those users are “listening” to what you are saying.

How can you captivate an audience? Some tactics go a long way towards engaging your readers. By speaking directly to your audience, asking them questions and using a consistent tone of voice, you can engage and captivate your readers. Content should always aim to grab and hold the attention of an audience.

  • Shareable

Your content needs to find a way to get in front of the of members of your target audience. One way for that to happen is by creating highly shareable content. You need to distribute content through channels where you know you can find your audience. At the very least you should use digital channels where you know your content can get in front of the users with interest.

If your content is flawless but doesn’t get seen, is it as valuable as it should be? Writing content that aligns with your business strategy does not have to be an overly complicated endeavor. Just create a website that can host your content (a blog or resources section) and share that content across various social platforms, email and other relevant forums.

If your audience can find your content, and that content is high-quality, then they will share it with other individuals. Thus, spreading the reach of your content.

  • Persuasive

Regardless of which stage of the buyer’s journey the reader is in, your content should aim to motivate action. If the reader is in the early stages of the purchase cycle, your content should convince them to learn more about your brand (or products/services). If they are in the later legs of the journey, it should persuade or motivate them to take that next step, finally becoming a customer. Target every piece of content towards a particular stage of the sales process with a focus on the beginning and ending stages.

A technique exists called pre-suasion, which means priming your audience to convert to customers using content. This method positions your message so that before you even deliver it,  the audience already agrees. “Pre-suasion” involves using visuals, phrasing, how you order details in the content and understanding why your brand (or content) appeals to customers. The book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Robert Cialdini,  examines how effective persuasion does not lie in the message itself, but in the critical moment right before the delivery of that message. Persuasive content can lead to conversions, helping you gain customers and grow your business.

  • Converting

What’s the end goal of content marketing? It’s likely to attract profitable customers to your business. That’s why it’s important for your content to contain a call-to-action CTA. That CTA does not have to motivate a purchase, that is not always appropriate, but a good marketer will always include a call-to-action.

That might mean asking your audience to like, comment, share or retweet your content on social media. The CTA might encourage the audience to visit other resources or to subscribe to your newsletter or Youtube channel. Regardless of what you want to motivate, your content should nudge the audience into the next step of the journey. For more information on creating CTA’s, read our article: 6 Tips for Creating Better Calls-to-Action for Financial Advisors.

If your content has these nine characteristics, and you aim to consistently create content that engages and converts your audience into customers, your content marketing efforts can lead to fantastic success.

Does the content your business produces have any of these nine characteristics? Do you produce engaging content? Have you found success in content marketing? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ! If you thought this article was helpful, check out our eBook: Unlocking Digital: How Financial Companies Master Modern Marketing

How Digital Experiences Create Personal Connections

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According to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. This shift means, to stay competitive and retain your customer base, your brand will need to work towards providing a better customer experience (CX).

In 2017, consumers are using mobile devices to research and interact with businesses at a never-before-seen rate. They now expect a seamless omnichannel experience, where your business is available through whichever channel the customer prefers.

That means the onus is now on businesses, across all industries (but especially in financial services), to provide better mobile and digital experiences.

Today, we will examine why creating personal connections through digital and mobile experiences is so critical to financial services professionals in the modern world.

Great Digital Experiences Create Connections

Brands need to utilize digital channels to foster personal relationships between their business and its customers. There was once a time where relationships could be built between a business and their customers based purely on in-person interactions. Those days are no more. Today, a strong digital presence is required to create personal connections with your clients.

47% of millennials claim that social media has helped introduce them to new brands. A whopping 71% are more likely to buy from brands they ‘like’ on Facebook or follow on Twitter. These stats help illustrate a growing trend for marketers; that research and purchase decisions are made using digital channels.

It’s not just millennials who are making the move to digital. All generations are using online content, social media, and web searches to research products and services. If you can provide a customer an answer on social media, if you have a beautiful, informative website, or an engaging blog, you will leave a positive impression on potential clients. If you can leave a positive impression on somebody, they might begin to follow you on social media, liking and sharing your content and joining online discussions. At that point, your followers are promoting your business for you.

The whole process is similar to getting referrals, only instead of clients recommending you to their networks (cousins, friends, etc.), the recommendations are made to their social networks by liking, sharing, and otherwise interacting with you online. This process creates a personal connection, as the person you provided a valuable answer to, now feels as if they have a relationship with your brand. In 2017, relationships between businesses and consumers are built mostly online.

Personalized Digital Experiences are Valuable and Expected

A study in the academic journal, Brain Research, found that people react differently when hearing their name instead of somebody else’s name. There is activity in all parts of the brain when a person hears their name. People react differently when spoken to directly, and you can use this insight when creating your digital strategy. 

A personalized digital experience will make your customer feel special. This personalized experience will develop a sense of brand intimacy. More than 85% of mobile marketers report success with personalization, leading to higher engagement, revenue, and conversions. As a result, consumers have begun to expect personalized experiences online.

56% of consumers are more likely to shop with retailers who offer a personalized experience, and a whopping 74% get frustrated by seeing content that doesn’t match their interests. That frustrated reaction is similar to what would occur during a poorly executed in-person interaction.

Imagine if you were having a conversation with a financial service professional about getting approved for a mortgage. Throughout the conversation, the financial service professional kept bringing the conversation back to why you need a credit card. It’s likely that you would become frustrated by the attempts to have you sign up for a credit card. The same reasoning applies to digital experiences. If a brand continually produces and shares content about topics you have no interest in, you will eventually become frustrated and stop following that brand.

Not personalizing your digital marketing and communication efforts will result in frustrating your audience. That frustration will eventually cause you to lose the chance to build a personal connection with that customer.

Fostering Personal Connections Through Digital Experiences

So the question now becomes, how can a brand build personal connections with their clients through digital experiences? All things considered, there are a few ways to do it:

  • Provide Access to Real People Online

One way you can foster personal connections with customers is by providing access to employees online. Providing customers access to real people can easily be accomplished by providing a name and contact information to relevant employees. Instead of a “black-box” email form, where the client needs to fill out their information and describe the nature of their problem, provide an email address attached to a real person so they can contact them directly. In fact, the most requested improvement from customers was “better human service.” 

Providing access to real people online will allow customers to feel personally connected to your business. Therefore, the customer will feel connected because they know they are interacting with a person. Our article, Don’t Eliminate Human Interaction speaks to the need for the “human touch” in your business and how you can provide those interactions.

  • Personalized Communications

Personalizing communications has never been easier. Thanks to a variety of automation platforms, you can personalize newsletters and share content only with relevant audiences. As stated above, people react differently when addressed by their name. It evokes a personal connection that does not occur from generalized communications. Personalization has evolved beyond just placing the recipient’s name at the beginning of an email; now personalization involves crafting messages that will speak to an individual’s unique interests.

You can utilize consumer data to target communications and marketing efforts on a one-to-one level. Consumer data can come from a variety of sources. It can come from anywhere, from forms on your website to data gathered from tracking systems (IP addresses, etc.). For more information on using data to segment and target your audience, check out our article: You Don’t Know Your Customer…. Because You Haven’t Asked.

  • Use Social Media to Make Your Voice Heard

Social media platforms are some of the most effective tools for creating personal connections with your audience. Over 69% of adults in the United States use social media. There is a very high likelihood that your target audience uses at least one social media platform.

You can use these platforms to share informative content with your target audience. A study by AOL/Nielsen showed that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day. You can reach out, and provide your target audience with relevant content that will help educate them about topics of interest. Getting the information directly from their financial services professional will nurture the audience’s connection to your brand.

Personalizing your digital experiences will make your digital marketing efforts more effective and help you foster personal connections with customers. To learn more about personalizing experiences, check out our article: What is Personalized Marketing? Finally, follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ if you’re interested in content marketing, digital customer experiences and how businesses can thrive in the digital age. In fact, while you’re at it, you may want to check us out on LinkedIn as well!

 

6 KPIs of Customer Experience in Financial Services

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Every business, regardless of industry, wants engaged and happy customers. In fact, in the financial services sector, customers who are fully engaged bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than those who are actively disengaged. There are direct benefits for financial service institutions with fully engaged customers.

It is important to understand the quality of your customer engagement efforts so your business can improve the customer experience, and drive revenue. These six key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential for understanding the quality of your customer experience.

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

    Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a number that represents the general sentiment surrounding your brand. Consumers are broken into three categories depending on how they view your brand: promoters, passives, and detractors.

    Promoters are evangelists of your products or services. They use several of your products or services and share how great your services are with their network.

    Detractors are not fans of your brand or what you offer. They are not likely to do business with you again, and at worst, they might damage your reputation through negative reviews.

    Passives fall somewhere in the middle, they are somewhat satisfied but are willing to switch to a competitor if given an opportunity.

    To determine sentiment, you will need to ask your customers how they feel. Do this either through surveys, or a “Voice of the Customer” program. Understanding the concerns of your customers, whether they be promoters or detractors, can help you bridge the gap between your services and customer expectations. Bridging that gap will help you improve the quality of your customer experience.

    NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of brand detractors from the percentage of brand promoters.  The higher your NPS is, the better you are doing.

  2. Conversion Rate

    Conversion Rate is a percentage of converted leads. It’s a relatively straightforward metric that demonstrates the effectiveness of your sales funnel. The conversion rate is measured by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of leads for the same period. A buyer’s journey with high friction will lead to a low conversion rate. Conversion rate can be used to measure the quality of the pre-sales portion of the customer journey.

    Conversion Rate should be monitored and recorded through every reporting period as it can highlight areas of high-friction in the buyer’s journey. Your goal should be to find and eliminate those points of friction.

    A short sales funnel that gets a customer from lead to sale quickly and smoothly will yield a high conversion rate. A low conversion rate could mean your sales funnel has points of friction that prevent a conversion. Find those friction points, eliminate them, and you make the customer experience an easier one while improving your conversion rate.

    Conversion rates vary between industries. Use a benchmark that is relevant for your business. In financial services, conversion rates can be quite low, with many visitors never making contact. In other situations, such as an app on the Google Play store, conversion rates are as high as 30%. A general rule to follow is: the more expensive the purchase is, the lower the conversion rate will be.

  3. Time on Site

    The time somebody spends on your digital property (website, portal, app, etc.) is an excellent indication of the quality of customer experience. A well-designed digital property will provide the audience with content to interact with, which keeps them on the site longer. This is important because the more time a prospect spends interacting with your website, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

    An extended amount of time spent on your digital properties, coupled with a high number of page views is an indication that you have engaging, informative content and you’re doing a good job managing your digital properties.

    Time on the website should not be examined on its own, but always viewed in the context of your overall engagement strategy. Time on site needs to be analyzed alongside page views and click-through rate to avoid scenarios where the tab was left open, but the customer is not interacting with it. As with all KPI’s of customer engagement, it needs to be viewed in a broader context.

  4. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

    Customer lifetime value (CLV) is a metric that assesses the total financial value of each customer. CLV is an important metric in financial services because of how wealth grows. Instead of making one-off purchases, customers in financial services entrust professionals to manage and grow their wealth over the course of years. That means a customer’s lifetime value is highly correlated to how long they remain loyal customers. In other industries, such as aviation, one big purchase can yield the entirety of a customer’s CLV. In financial services, CLV is often grown through recurring management fees and successful growth of the customer’s assets. For that reason, it is an excellent long-term indicator of customer experience.

    CLV is an even better indicator of your customer experience quality if it’s viewed as a progression over time. If the average CLV is growing over time, it is a good indication that you provide a high-quality experience and clients want to keep doing business with you. If your CLV is shrinking, something might be amiss.

    Engaged customers spend more money and are loyal to a business over time. For those reasons, Customer Lifetime Value might be the purest indicator of the long-term quality of your customer experience.

  5. Customer Effort Score (CES)

    Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric that represents how much effort your customers have to expend to proceed through the buyer’s journey. A low effort score means it’s easy for your customers to accomplish tasks and get information. Frictionless service generates a low CES, which in turn creates loyal customers.

    To determine CES, organizations are looking at data across multiple channels, from in-branch interactions to social postings, to determine just how difficult it is for customers to interact with your brand. Of course, various points of the journey will have varying scores. Therefore, it is possible to have very low scores in some parts of your journey and very high scores in other parts. In any case, it’s important to determine the level of friction in various sales and marketing channels.

    CES should be used to determine how much friction there is over the course of the buyer’s journey. A high CES can explain low customer acquisition rates and high amounts of customer churn. Your goal should be to have the lowest CES possible, meaning prospects moving through your buyer’s journey face an easy and painless process.

6. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who navigate away without clicking on anything. A high bounce rate means that more people are not interested in the content on the page. Bounce rate is an important metric to analyze because it shows the percentage of visitors who show a lack of interest in your website. There are a few factors that may contribute to a higher bounce rate, but regardless of the cause, you do not want visitors bouncing from your site.

One explanation for a high bounce rate would be a lack of content on the website. If nothing is interesting to click (or nothing at all), many visitors will try to find their information elsewhere. That likely means they will go to a competitors website.

Another explanation for a high bounce rate could be a poorly designed website. If the visitor cannot determine how to navigate through your site, and as a result, they will leave. A high bounce rate means you are not engaging visitors, and changes need to be made to your digital properties.

Takeaways

Many metrics can be used as performance indicators that speak to the quality of your customer experience. You should use a combination of metrics to gauge the success of your customer experience initiatives. No one metric is “bulletproof,” they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, metrics need to be tailored to a specific business activity. For example, some metrics are purely for digital channels; others are designed specifically for one platform. Other KPIs can be applied across an entire omnichannel experience. It’s up to you to decide which ones are most relevant for your business and track those metrics accordingly.

Monitoring KPIs should be done to gain an understanding of how your customers perceive their experience. Above all, you should use the information to determine how you can improve your customer experience.

What do you think the most useful KPIs of customer experience are? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ and follow us on LinkedIn! As always, thank you for reading, have a great day! In a previous post: Metrics to Measure Online Success we looked at performance indicators that measure online engagement.

Branding, Investing and Emotions: What Financial Agents can Learn from Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series is the highest selling book series of all time, selling over 500 million combined copies. The books and the movies based on those books contain several quotes that can apply to various aspects of the financial services industry. Today we will examine how 7 Harry Potter quotes can help you become a better financial agent.

  • “I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!” – Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

The evilest wizard in the entire Harry Potter Universe is an expert in personal branding. He was once known simply as “Tom Riddle.” But at an early age he realized that if he wanted to achieve his goals, he would need a new, more evil-sounding name: Voldemort. The new brand was so powerful that people in the Harry Potter world would say “he who must not be named” in place of Voldemort. But, of course, people still knew who they were discussing. He was the first thing associated with evil.

When you’re trying to establish your personal brand, you need to have an understanding of what that brand will represent. Voldemort wanted his brand to convey great evil because he is evil. Your personal brand needs to express who you are, which, hopefully, isn’t evil. Perhaps you want to be seen as “the best advisor for divorced women under the age of 30 in Mesa, Arizona” or “The advisor in Bozeman, Montana that specializes in planning retirement for high net worth individuals.”

Regardless of how you want to be seen by the public, you need to ensure your personal brand fits that view.

  • “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” – Arthur Weasley, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Proprietary technology solutions exist for many problems in the world. There are proprietary software solutions for payroll processing, scheduling communications and much more. These solutions should be viewed with caution because they are typically “black-box” solutions.

A “black-box” solution is defined as a:

Device, process, or system, whose inputs and outputs (and the relationships between them) are known, but whose internal structure is not.

If you don’t know how the technology works, how it handles workflows, or where it stores information, you should be cautious about trusting it. Fully understanding technology solutions is a requirement to maintain adequate control over your data. The proprietary nature of many “black-box” solutions means you will never be able to understand how that solution works fully.

Open source solutions offer greater transparency, allowing you to gain a more in-depth understanding of the technology. This added transparency can give you greater control of your data and workflows, which allows you to understand how and where your data is being stored and gives you the option to change aspects of your technology solution.  

  • “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”— Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

With the rate at which the world moves, you cannot dwell on dreams; you must constantly be “living.” That general idea has been promoted throughout history, used many times in pop culture and is the focus of several books.

In business, people always want more. More business, more money, more clients, and more success are goals of nearly every professional. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you need to take your focus off where you’re going, and show appreciation to those that helped you get to where you are.

Take some of your clients out for lunch or do something else that shows your appreciation. Building and keeping a customer base is hard work. Show your clients that you appreciate them. They will notice and appreciate what you do for them even more. By adding a personal touch and building strong connections with your clients, you will ensure that you can continue to reach for your dreams knowing you have a committed, loyal client base to build on.

  • “No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” –Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

This quote from the Hogwarts gamekeeper goes hand-in-hand with the last quote on this list. The last quote can be taken as a warning not to worry about “seeing the future” and not being discouraged from missed opportunities. This quote can be viewed as a call for patience and also as a call to action.

There is no need to rush into buying a growth stock, adopting the newest technology solution or doing anything. Your actions will not change the way things play out in a market. Rushing into things is a recipe for disaster. “What’s comin’ will come,” be patient and don’t expose yourself to undue risk.  

At the same time, when “what’s coming” finally arrives, you will have to meet it. That can mean many things in different situations, perhaps it’s finally time to adopt social media as a marketing channel. Perhaps it’s time to abandon a stock you believed would be successful. Regardless of the situation, it’s important not to rush, but also to react when necessary. Always move at the pace you feel comfortable with and adapt to change when you have to.

  • ‘It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Choices are a big part of defining who you are. Every aspect of your life involves making decisions. Do I wear blue or black today? Should I have eggs or cereal for breakfast? What time should I leave for work? These choices may be minor, but every choice affects your life. Decisions have consequences, regardless of how small the decision seems.

As a financial agent, you have made decisions that defined your client base. Am I better at making investments or planning for retirements? Should I focus on millionaire Millennials or working-class baby boomers? Should I become a fiduciary or sell branded-investments?

These decisions impact how your brand is perceived by clients and the public at large. How do you want to be viewed? Your choices define who you are, not your abilities. How do you choose to market your services to clients? Are you going to rely on word-of-mouth referrals to grow your business? Are you going to advertise online? Or are you going to adopt content marketing as your tactic of choice?

The choice of whether or not to use digital marketing practices, is perhaps the biggest decision you need to make. Consumers want an “always on” omnichannel experience. Can you provide that without a strong digital presence?

Your choices define who you are more than your abilities do. Even if you aren’t the most digitally savvy person around, you can choose to build a strong digital presence. It will help your business and provide potential clients with a more convenient purchase path.

  • “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” — Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Financial agents often have to deal with sensitive, personal issues with their clients. People will come to you for a number of reasons, some happy, others sad. You need to understand your client’s emotions and act accordingly.

When someone loses their job, they will be distraught, but still, require financial advice. When somebody’s parents pass away, they will need a financial agent to help guide them through the transition period. Situations, where loss has occurred, can be very emotional. To build a personal connection with your clients, acknowledge their emotions and help them understand that you’re there to help guide them through hard times with unwavering financial advice.

If your client has a child, gets a promotion, wins the lottery, or experience any number of other fantastic events that occur in life, they will be happy. As their financial agent, you should be jovial and celebrate with them. By showing your clients you genuinely care about their personal victories, you can build a strong connection and become part of their life, not just a part of their finances.

By harnessing the power of emotions and empathizing with your clients, you will be able to build a stronger connection with your client base. Leading to an increase in engagement and loyalty. In addition to providing a better customer experience, treating clients the way they would like to be treated can generate a positive return on investment for your business. The Harvard Business Review found that emotional connections are the best way to build loyalty with customers.

Dog Harry Potter

Harry Potter, a story about young wizards and witches, has become a cultural touchstone for many people worldwide. Are there any lessons that Harry Potter (or any other series) taught you? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ!

If you like quote-based articles, check out: Michael Jordan, Mohammed Ali & Serena Williams: What They Can Teach You About Business .

How Customers Get Information in 2017

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There are many ways to communicate information to your customers. The last decade has seen an influx of digital communication methods. Traditional advertisements, blog posts, videos, and press releases all communicate information. However, thanks to new technologies including social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to the growing popularity of blogging, there are several new ways for customers to get information online.

With more and more channels opening daily, consumers today have far more choice about how they get their information. Which sources of information are trusted? How do customers get their information in 2017?

  • Social Media

Social media is one of the most impactful trends of the last ten years. Everybody (even sometimes their grandmother) uses social media in some way. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become a primary source of information for consumers across all segments. The most recent research suggests that 62% of adults get their information from social media. 70% of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site. A social media presence is especially important for providing information to millennials. 88% of millennials get their information from Facebook, and 47% say social media influences their purchase decision.

Even if your business chooses not to advertise on social media platforms, merely having an organic presence will help your business gain visibility. If you aren’t on social media in some fashion, you will fall behind your competition.

The bottom line is, your business needs a social media presence, especially if you are looking to attract local clients.

  • Customer References

Customer references include testimonials, case studies, and online reviews. They allow prospective customers to gather information about your business from people who have already done business with you.

Customers find other customers more trustworthy than salespeople. They gain little to no benefit from your decision, and as a result are less biased towards your product or service.

To ensure customers can get information about your business from other customers, you should gather case studies and testimonials. Having testimonials and case studies will allow you to control some information the prospect sees. Testimonials and case studies are ways that customers can gather information about your business from other people.

Creating a program that allows your most satisfied customers to provide information in the form of case studies and testimonials will ensure that YOU control the flow of information between your business and prospects.

Online reviews are harder to control. While some steps can be taken to manage your online reviews, there is only so much you can do to suppress negative sentiments. These steps can help you manage your online reviews:

  • Track your reviews

Review sites like Yelp and others allow you to sign up for notifications every time somebody rates your business. Other options for tracking what is said about your brand online include Google Alerts, Google My Business, and a plethora of social media monitoring tools. Being notified of reviews will allow you to remain aware of what’s being said about your brand online, enabling you to:

  • Respond to positive reviews

Responding to positive ratings online will show your customers that you appreciate their positive sentiments. There is no need to offer incentives or rewards to those who leave positive reviews, simply an acknowledgment and “thank you” will go a long way toward building customer loyalty.

  • Manage negative reviews

Managing negative reviews is usually a more intensive task than responding to the positive ratings. The goal of managing negative reviews is to minimize potential repercussions that stem from a negative review. How can you do that? By responding politely, promptly and trying to take the conversation offline. Negative reviews can be an excellent chance to show customers the quality of your customer service. If you take negative reviews seriously and do what you can to salvage that particular client’s experience, you may save a relationship with a customer.

  • Encourage positive reviews

Several steps can be taken to increase the number of positive reviews you receive. Ask your customers to leave reviews on websites like Yelp and make it easy to find the review page. Unless a customer has an extremely negative experience, they will not go through many hoops to leave a review. As a result, if it’s hard to find your review page, the reviews will lean to the negative. By asking your best customers to leave a review (and making it easy to find), your review page will be a good source of information for potential clients.

  • Vendor Authored Content

If there is one way that a brand can authentically communicate information to their audience, it’s through content. People love quality content. The average consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase. Today, 70% of consumers trust content authored by the vendor. Content on a branded website is especially attractive to younger consumers. Gen Z millennials, and generation X (AKA every segment under the age of fifty), all have high levels of trust in branded websites.

Consumers tend to depend more on vendor authored content than they do a salesperson. In 2017, 39% of consumers rely on vendor authored content when making a purchase decision, compared to just 19% of consumers who depend on a salesperson. If you have not started content marketing yet, it’s time to consider making the jump. For more information on inbound marketing, check out our eBook, Unlocking Digital: How Financial Companies Master Modern Marketing.

  • Word-of-Mouth

People are more likely to trust another person than a brand, especially when they already have a relationship with that person. When a reliable source gives a positive recommendation, it can motivate action.

For example, if your best friend (who you trust very much), tells you about a great experience they recently had with a financial advisor, you will trust the authenticity of that experience. If you heard the same story from the financial advisor in question, it is likely that you would question it more. Why? Because they have a reason to promote the quality of their own experience. Your friend does not.

People will trust their network over almost any other source of information. Trust developed between individuals is stronger than anything a brand can build.

How do your customers get their information? We would love to hear your thoughts. Connect with us on Twitter @VeridayHQ or LinkedIn here.