Why Businesses Need to Think Like Sharks

Sharks are among the most famous creatures in the ocean. There are many different types of sharks, but they all think similarly. Sharks as a whole have a similar mindset. I often catch myself wondering, how can businesses think like sharks?

I have always been a fan of Sharks. They are among my favorite aquatic animals for a variety of reasons. I enjoy looking at their jaw, filled with razor sharp teeth, and watching videos of them gliding through the water. Every summer, I try to take in some of the entertaining programming on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

As a business leader, I admire the shark. They have a single focus, constantly moving forward and embracing new experiences. In fact, businesses should try to think like sharks.

Why do Businesses Need to Think Like Sharks?

An interesting fact about sharks is that they cannot stop swimming. They are always moving forward. Sharks cannot stop swimming, even when they sleep. If they stop moving, they will die. Business leaders should adopt this mindset, aiming for continual improvement and embracing constant change. Once your business stops moving forward, it will eventually cease to exist.

Often, businesses who adopt a project-based workflow cannot think like sharks. Upon completion of a project, in project-based workflows, it is put to the side, never to be picked up again. The project, whether it is a service, tool or a product, stagnates and eventually is outpaced by the market. These businesses do not have the mindset of a shark.

A shark-like mindset of continual improvement is best seen in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model. Continually developing new features and improving existing processes in a shark-like manner will ensure that you provide customers with the highest-quality solution possible.

Once your business stops improving and innovating to create better value, it’s impossible to get back on the track to innovation. Adopt the mindset of a shark today and enhance the efficiency of your business and get better results through digital transformation.

My company, Veriday, helps brands think like sharks and continually improve their digital presence through a variety of digital transformation projects. To find out more about what we can do to help transform your business, contact us, and let us use our digital expertise to help your business reach new heights.

Do you want to think like a shark? Veriday can help your business adopt a mindset of continual improvement and digital transformation. Contact Us, and we can help!

How To Drive Sales Using The Customer Buyer Journey

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Buyers are becoming more knowledgeable and it is re-shaping the roles of sales and marketing professionals. What is the buyer journey and how can you leverage it to increase your sales? Why should Advisors care about the new buyer journey? In this e-book, you will discover:

  • • What is the buyer journey?
  • • Strategies to define your client and prospect journey
  • • How understanding the buyer journey can accelerate sales
  • • Actionable steps you can start using tomorrow

Download the eBook today!

More Than Price: How Service Contributes to Experience

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Consumers make purchase decisions based on many factors. Price, convenience, the value provided by purchase and service quality are four criteria that customers consider when making a purchase decision. Traditionally, the price is the differentiating factor that pushes consumers in one way or another. Distinguishing your service based on price is fine if all else is equal, but the other characteristics can be used to differentiate your service from those of your competitors.

  • Value Provided by Purchase

In financial services, it can be difficult to convey the exact value that your services will bring customers. Customers in financial services usually have a good understanding of what they are shopping for and have a basic understanding of what the “value” is. If they are seeking to buy a home, they will find mortgage specialists. If they want a new credit card, they will only be shopping for credit cards. Since the customers already know what they want, it can be difficult to explain why your service is more valuable than the competitors offer.

When attempting to explain why your services can provide more value, the conversation devolves into explaining how you can offer better prices, lower fees or better interest rates.

To demonstrate the fact that you offer better value to the customer, you should try to focus your efforts on explaining why you, as a person, can provide value that a competitor cannot match. Are you more competent than your competition? Give examples of your competence, explaining how you can do a good job for your customer. Do you come across as more trustworthy? Then demonstrate why your trustworthiness is valuable to your client. Whatever you do, try to prove your value in ways that do not revolve around pricing. To learn more about providing value through trustworthiness, check out our article: How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions.

If the prospect does not see the difference in value provided by two professionals, their decision will revolve around other characteristics. Often, that characteristic is the price. To avoid a race to the bottom, financial services professionals should avoid positioning their business based solely on price. So, what other ways can financial services professionals demonstrate the differences between themselves and their competition?

  • Convenience

Customers want convenience when dealing with financial services organizations. There was a time when banks held hours that were inconvenient for their clients. People want to manage their financial services at times that work for them. Businesses need to make their services accessible to the average consumer.

How can you make your services more convenient?

Be available wherever and whenever your customers need you. Consider offering to schedule client meetings outside of regular office hours. Offer to meet people in their home after dinner. Maybe they would like to meet at a diner for lunch? Maybe they can only make time in their schedule early Sunday morning.

To thrill your customers, do what it takes to be available to them, when they want and where they want. Convenient service will reduce friction in your relationship, allowing the quality of your service and the value you provide to shine through. What is at risk if financial services do not begin to prioritize convenience? Check out our article: Financial Services: A Case for Industry Disruption.

  • Service Quality

Service quality is the factor that matters most to consumers. Regardless of price, convenience, or other factors, nearly every customer is looking for high-quality service.

How can you improve the quality of your service?

The first thing you can do to improve the quality of your service is by perfecting your service offering. Your offering should meet the needs and desires of your niche. Figure out which characteristics your niche values and ensure that those components are built into the service offering. Design your services with your niche in mind, so every step of the journey is based on their wants and needs.

The second thing you can do to improve your service quality is carefully managing the customer journey. Design the customer journey with the end user in mind. What does that mean? Well, you should provide opportunities for customer education that adds value.

Customers are engaged when they feel as if their voice is heard by their financial services professional. What stages of the buyer journey involve customer input? Provide educational opportunities to help the customer move through the journey with more knowledge and agency. If you can make customers feel involved in your service process, they will be more engaged and less at risk of leaving your practice.

A lot more than just price goes into any purchase decision. It does not have to be a race to the bottom; there are many other criteria that you can compete on.

What criteria do you think are most important to your customers? Is it price? Is it service? Why do you think that is? We would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter @VeridayHQ. If you’re interested, follow us on Linkedin here.

Write Powerful Content: Blogs, Ebooks and More

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Writing content for the web has its challenges, but if done correctly can bring positive results to your business. You may feel that you’re ready to write your first articles, but without these fundamentals in place, your writing may not return the expected results.

These fundamentals of writing engaging content should help you create high-performing, web-friendly content:

  • Write with an Objective in Mind

Successful content isn’t written willy-nilly, it’s written with a particular purpose in mind. Writers should be asking themselves: “What is the point of this article?” You need to know what action (if any) you want to motivate and write the article with that goal in mind.

Do you want to sell something? Are you trying to educate the audience on your value proposition? Trying to highlight a pain point that you can alleviate? Do you just want to provide your audience with information that may have value for them?

When writing for the web, you should know what your objective is and how your writing can help you meet that goal.

Writing with an objective in mind allows the author to focus on grabbing the reader’s attention and conveying the essential information. Focusing on one goal when writing brings a level of focus to your articles and will draw the attention of those with interest in the subject.

  • Write with the Audience in Mind

Every business has an ideal customer. You should direct your writing towards that person.

What type of content will peak their interest? What level of knowledge does the audience have? How will your writing influence their perception of your brand? Is the subject you want to write about related to the rest of your blog? What messages do you want to address? What topics generate interest from your audience?

By having an answer to all these questions, you can create content that will draw higher audience engagement and keep them coming back to your blog. To get the best results, you should aim to prominently feature the most relevant, valuable information throughout your article or blog post.

  • Share the Content

Good writing gets shared across the web. Why waste time writing compelling, engaging content with an objective and an audience in mind if there is no chance anyone can find it? Share your content via every channel you employ, including social media, search engines, and email newsletters. You can even distribute high-quality content through traditional media publishers through sponsored articles (or earned media).

Regardless of which channels used, the goal of writing for the web is to communicate relevant information to as many members of your intended audience as possible. For that to happen, you will want to adopt a strategy of communication, building a relationship with your audience and encouraging them to share the content with their network.

To ensure your content gets in front of those interested in your subject matter, you also need to optimize your content for search.

  • Feature Important Information Prominently

One of the most important aspects of writing for the web involves prominently featuring essential information in your article. Most people do not read blog posts on the internet the same way they would read a novel. Readers often skim blog posts for keywords and other important information. In fact, studies have found that only 20% of the text on a web page is read. The rest is either ignored or skimmed.

Another reason you should prominently feature relevant information in a blog post is to increase your visibility in search engines. Web crawlers (robots created to index the web) look for the most relevant information as well. We have written several articles about SEO such as:

Beginner’s Guide to Improving Your Website’s Local SEO, and

Advisors: Why The New SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing.

Those articles explain how SEO works, and what you can do to create high performing content.

So, how can you ensure that your articles are informative and provide value to the audience, knowing that the content will not be fully read?

Feature keywords and other essential information in:

  • Headers
  • Tags (title, meta description, alt tags, image tags)
  • First paragraph of text (to ensure those reading it understand the article)

These tips can help your writing achieve more widespread success on the web. What else needs to be considered when writing for the web? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn.

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.

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.

The 3 Things Financial Organizations Need to Know About Cybersecurity

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Nearly every organization has adapted to life in the digital world. With plenty of connected devices, and the number of access points into organizations is growing every year, it’s no coincidence that there is an increasing number of high-profile cyberattacks on governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations. From the alleged hacking of the 2016 U.S. election, the WannaCry ransomware, the Ukraine Petya attack (that shut down their power grid) to other lower-profile attacks, hundreds of millions of dollars of damage has already impacted organizations around the world. As a result, cybersecurity is at the front of mind for many organizations. 

Survey existing technology to find exploitable weaknesses.

Keeping software up-to-date is an essential activity to maintain your organization’s cybersecurity. The WannaCry ransomware attack, for example, exploited vulnerabilities in software that had not recently received an update.

There is a major reason why a software company might issue an update. It’s done to fix bugs and patch security risks for the end user. Organizations should ensure that all software is running on the newest version. If your RIA (or organization in general) does not maintain updated software, they run the risk of being targeted for ransomware, exposing your client’s data, or losing control of your digital platforms (website, CMS, portal, etc.).

The costs associated with a data breach (or other forms of cyberattacks) are very high and are not only monetary. A successful cyberattack on your business will cost much more than it would to implement the proper solutions and mitigate the effects of a cyberattack ahead of time. Your reputation will be hurt if you allow hackers access to sensitive data; people will lose confidence in you. Avoid these repercussions by keeping your software up to date.

Create policies to minimize human exploitation points.

Every business needs policies concerning the use of technology. Without adequate rules in place, your business is at risk of exploitation through human mistakes. Humans are often the weakest point of defence in any system. as they have traits that can be taken advantage of by malicious actors.

The definition of social engineering is:

“an attack vector that relies heavily on human interaction and often involves tricking people into breaking normal security procedures.”

There are several common methods of social engineering, from phishing (or spear-phishing) to leaving infected USBs around for employees to find use. There are countless ways to exploit the human weaknesses of your cyber-defence. Employees need to be aware of the risks and how to mitigate them.

There needs to be multiple systems in place to protect the business from threats originating from social media.Social media is an emerging platform for phishing attacks, viruses that affect social media feeds, and malicious advertisements disguised as sponsored posts. Make your employees aware of the risks associated with social media and act accordingly to protect themselves and your organizational data.

To reduce your organization’s chance of falling victim to social engineering, you need to have policies for the use of technology in place. Those policies should be enforceable and include actionable steps. The rules need to be unambiguous. They need to explicitly outline what is and isn’t allowed regarding technology, to reduce confusion among your employees.

Empower and reward employees.

To ensure you are followings best-practices regarding cybersecurity, you will need to train your staff to identify and avoid situations that put the organization at risk. Rules and technology policies mean nothing if employees are not aware of them (and following them). By training your team to follow the rules and spot vulnerabilities, your systems will be more secure.

In addition to training all staff to find and avoid security vulnerabilities, you should empower and reward them for finding potential weaknesses in your organization’s defence. By rewarding your employees (either with a cash “bounty” program, or another method), they will feel like a critical part of the organization’s security efforts. Cybersecurity is not solely the concern of IT departments.

How can you ensure that the training and reward system works? By testing and drilling staff to ensure they are following the rules. Testing your team can involve test phishing emails to see whether employees can spot a malicious email. It can include leaving a USB at their desk to see if they use it. There are many ways IT professionals can check to see if non-tech employees are following the required procedures. Let them get creative in designing their tests, as real-life malicious actors almost always act in creative ways that are hard to predict.

Takeaways

The main vulnerability when it comes to a cyberattack is not a piece of technology. The main weakness of any system is people. People can fall victim to social engineering. Attackers can trick your employees into giving up confidential information that could put your business at risk, so be diligent online. Human actions can expose even the most secure digital properties to severe threats.

The three steps explored above will help any organization improve the strength of their cybersecurity. It’s important to be aware of potential threats because once they hit, it may be too late.

How does your business handle the threat of cyberattacks? Do you have a policy in place governing the use of technology in your business? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn. In conclusion, cybersecurity is extremely important to businesses. 

What is Inbound Marketing? [Infographic]

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In 2017, ads are everywhere. Billboards, TV commercials, print ads, sponsored social media posts and banner ads are constantly bombarding consumers everywhere they turn. As a result, they are losing their effectiveness. 84% of TV viewers who were surveyed admitted that they want to fast forward through TV ads. Newspapers are struggling to remain profitable, shedding employees while losing subscribers and ad revenue year-over-year. Billboards are very costly and do not provide data to prove their effectiveness, making them somewhat of a gamble. Digital advertising requires brands to put their trust in the hands of platforms, giving up control of what content their advertisement is running alongside. Digital advertising also suffers from somewhat murky attribution techniques, making the success of campaigns difficult to determine.

Advertisements are common in today’s society and well understood by the general public. But did you know there is another marketing tactic, less well-known than advertising but that may very well be more effective? Inbound marketing involves creating and sharing content to educate an audience about the topics surrounding your business. It is far more cost-effective than advertising and has seen widespread adoption over the last five years. In our article, Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing we discussed the differences between the two forms of marketing.

This infographic by The Whole Brain Group, does an excellent job explaining the basics of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is not difficult to get started and can return significant results. 

What is inbound marketing?

To learn more about inbound marketing, digital engagement and creating human connections through digital channels follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

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Warmth and Competence

Whether we recognize it or not, humans judge things and other people as soon as we come into contact with them. Immediate judgments, inaccurate as they may be, set the tone for how we interact with others throughout the course of our relationships.

When we survived as hunter-gatherers, this judgmental attitude allowed us to gauge threats and the intentions of others. Lions, tigers, and bears look menacing, and we immediately judge them as a threat, sending us into a fight or flight response. Rabbits and other fluffy woodland creatures do not invoke such feelings because they are cute and appear to be harmless. These animals seem like they can be trusted.

Those same judgments affect how we view other people. A baby-faced individual with a smile will be less threatening than a slim-faced stranger with a scar across their face. Humans are predisposed to trust people who convey warmth and good intentions, and it has served us well (as a species) over time.

Without the ability to accurately judge outside agents, including other people, animals, plants and miscellaneous threats, early humans would not have survived long enough to pass on their genes. The ability to make accurate judgments is a survival tool. Understanding the intentions of others allowed early humans to surround themselves with people they could trust, mostly based off of first impressions.

So, how do first impressions affect how consumers view businesses? Dramatically. There are two main characteristics that are most impactful on their perceptions: warmth and competence. These characteristics are the same ones that people use to judge outside agents and their intentions. For all intents and purposes, when discussing warmth and competence, other people are treated the same as businesses.

Competence and warmth are such fundamental judgments that even babies are able to recognize the warmth and competence of animated characters.

Warmth

Warmth refers to how trustworthy one seems. People immediately judge warmth based on a person’s facial features and how they carry themselves. It is one of the first criteria that people judge you on. Soft facial features, slightly surprised or happy expressions, and baby-faced individuals tend to quickly gain trust.  People also associate members of their particular ingroup with warmth. They are much more likely to view someone similar to them as having warm intentions.

In business, warmth reflects a company’s intentions. Warmer companies are seen as caring about the social consequences of their actions and are more trusted by the public. Hospitals, charities and most public services (such as the postal service) are seen as having warm intentions. Consumers are willing to give businesses that project warmth a chance to earn their business, but they must also show competence.

Competence

Competence is more difficult to judge than warmth, yet humans still make judgments on competence in around one second. Judging competence is based off a variety of factors.

Those with strong, dominant faces are immediately seen as competent, while those who appear weak and submissive are seen as incompetent. Other factors such as size, gender and ethnicity are also considered when judging for competence. It is important to note that these judgments are often wrong because they are made instinctively in a very short period of time and are based on stereotypes.

In business, you will be judged for competence based on how you have performed in the past. Any previous experiences a customer has with your business will be considered when judging your competence. Online reviews and ratings will also affect how competent your business is perceived.

Warmth-Competence Matrix

The combination of warmth and competence has a dramatic effect on how others view you or your business. Different combinations elicit different responses, fitting together in something called “the warmth-competence matrix. It is important to note that judgments are made from stereotypes, and while the judgment may be wrong, they still affect how individuals see those around them.

One’s place on this matrix has very little to do with how warm and competent they actually are. Your placement on the warmth-competence matrix focuses entirely on how you are perceived by those around you. You may be the single most competent person on the planet, but if you do not project that to others, then for all intents and purposes, your competence does not matter.

Warm-Competent

If an individual is seen as warm and competent, they are often admired. They are seen as trustworthy, carrying good intentions and able to achieve their desired results. Individuals in this segment of the matrix often become leaders, as they are both liked and trusted by others.

People will stereotype others as warm and competent if they are part of their particular ingroup, or are seen as close allies of the person who is doing the judging. People who fall in this group are often admired because they have positive (warm) intentions, and seem competent enough to execute on those intentions.

A warm-competent business is one that has trustworthy intentions and has proven in the past that they have the ability to perform. Companies that fall within this sector of the matrix are extremely successful, usually growing to capture a large share of their market. Companies viewed as warm and competent include Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola. They have shown that they have respectable intentions and have the ability to deliver a positive customer experience.

Warm-Incompetent

If an individual is seen as warm and incompetent, they will be pitied. These are individuals who, while trustworthy, are seen as completely incapable of actually accomplishing anything of note.

The elderly, people with disabilities and women have historically been stereotyped as warm, yet incompetent. As a result, they have been treated with paternalistic behavior. Warm-incompetent individuals will be accepted as part of the ingroup, but not given any responsibility due to their perceived lack of competence.

Companies seen as warm yet incompetent have good intentions, but for some reason cannot deliver to their customers. Often these businesses are government funded, provide some sort of public service, and suffer from a lack of resources. Businesses in this sector include postal services, public transport and, veterans hospitals. People view these businesses as trustworthy, but unable to meet their goals.

Cold-Competent

People in this segment are looked at with envy because while they seem very capable, their intentions are viewed as cold. This elicits a negative response in people because they are jealous of the competence, but would use it to accomplish warmer goals.

People viewed as cold yet competent are usually associated with high-status, competitive outgroups perceived as high on competence but low on warmth. This leads to feelings of admiration and resentment.

Luxury brands are the most stereotypical cold yet competent brands. People see them as competent because they provide a high-quality product that people clamor for. They are seen as having less-than-positive intentions, but very capable of seeing out their goals.

Cold-Incompetent

Individuals in this segment are not well liked, and often held in contempt. Their intentions are seen as less than honorable and they are completely incapable of achieving their desired results. This is the worst segment of the matrix to grouped in with because people will not respect or trust you.

Immigrants, homeless people and poor people are often stereotyped as cold and incompetent because they are part of the outgroup and seen as having low competence. People seen as belonging to this group are often easily dismissed because the person judging believes they are wholly inferior.

Brands that are viewed as cold and incompetent should be concerned. It means that consumers don’t trust them in any capacity. Usually, it takes a colossal failure to end up in this section. After the 2008 recession, many consumers lost a great deal of trust for investment banks. The BP oil spill caused the company to lose consumer trust (especially because of the fallout from the spill). Brands also make appearances in this sector include well-known, profit chasing drug companies and tobacco producers. You do not want your brand to fall into this sector.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

Applications for Financial Services Professionals

The way that people judge individuals is the same way that people judge businesses. Your brand has human characteristics to your clients, with warmth and competence being two of the most impactful characteristics your business has. Businesses are judged on the same matrix that humans are judged on. However, there are differences between how businesses and people are judged, especially when it comes to financial service providers.

  1. You are the face of the brand

    While some financial institutions such as large banks and insurance agencies are seen as “faceless monoliths”, smaller, boutique institutions (such as advisory firms and credit unions), have a very tangible, human connection.

    An investment advisor, for example, is the main point of contact for their clients. People usually know their financial advisor on a first name basis. If you are a financial advisor, people will judge your warmth and competence and assign those values to your practice. Since you are the human face, you will need to project warmth and competence to your clients every time you meet them.

  2. Actions speak louder than words

    Projecting warmth is done by softening your facial features, smiling more and generally being amenable towards your clients. It is fairly simple but requires emotional intelligence to control what emotions you project outwards. Competence is far more difficult to project.

    Actions speak much louder than words. Don’t tell your clients what you will do with their finances, show them. Use case studies and projections to explain your abilities to clients. Be mindful of your actions, as they will be the ultimate indicator of both your warmth and your competence.

  3. Personalize everything

    By offering personalized content and communications you can show your client that you care about them, demonstrating your warmth. People prefer personal communications, so a handwritten note will garner more goodwill than a letter addressed to “Homeowner”. By pushing personal communications financial service providers can become part of their client’s ingroup, which we know will increase your perceived warmth.

By focusing on providing genuine experiences and solving client problems, your business can show clients that they are genuinely cared for. Respecting client’s time and providing tangible solutions to their problems are ways that financial service providers can show warmth and competence. 

The Human Brand

The Human Brand, a book by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske. Chris is a managing partner at a professional services firm with a focus on sustainable business growth and performance. Susan is a psychologist, focusing on how groups are perceived and the emotions they create at cultural, interpersonal and neuroscientific levels.

In the book, the authors explore a variety of topics, including how perceived warmth and competence impact how consumers view a business, how consumers view actions and intentions, and how brands can take actions to influence how they are perceived by the public.

The Human Brand is a must read for business owners and, C-level executives who want to take advantage of human nature to improve the perception of their brand. If you want to discuss the book, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.