Posts

Introduction to Content Marketing for Financial Advisors

,

Marketing has evolved tremendously in the past decade – and more importantly the way we market to people has changed. Today’s consumers make purchasing decisions based on research they do on their own, reading online reviews, and through trust that is built overtime with an organization.

We are now in the age of “Googling”. This means that people are turning to search engines, like Google, to find the answers to their questions. Considering that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine (imFORZA), having the ability to answer a prospects question online could help you seal the deal when the time comes. After all, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales associate (Pardot).

With content so readily available to consumers, one of the best ways to build trust and credibility is through content marketing. So, what is content marketing and how can you start your content marketing journey?

Well, first off…

What is content marketing?

By dictionary definition, content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. 

Content marketing aims to educate and inform your audience without selling your product or service – a form of uninterrupted marketing. Consistently creating content that is relevant, informative and provides value to your audience will help attract new clients to your business as it positions you as a thought leader and builds a sense of trust between you and a prospect. Content marketing is one of the most important marketing strategies you can implement for your business. It helps you to build trust with your audience, connect and engage with prospects, and strengthens your Search Engine Optimization, all while further establishing yourself as an expert in the Financial Services industry.

Content creation

There are a variety of different formats of content that you can create to attract a wider audience of prospects. By creating content in different formats and promoting through different channels, the chance of others finding, reading and referring back to your content increases.

To make things easy, start with one idea and decide which medium would be the most appropriate way to share it. Would the information be better interpreted as a blog post, an infographic, a video?

Why content marketing?

Content marketing is a means to help solve, educate and inform your audience on problems they may be facing. By providing prospects and clients with readily available information online, you’re able to build a more trusting and valuable relationship with them. This is one of the most inexpensive and effective forms of inbound marketing. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

If you think back to a problem you may have encountered, or a question that came up such as, “How do I stain my porch?” or “What are the best restaurants in Toronto?”, Did you search for an answer online? Just as you turned to the Internet to find answers, many people do the same for topics related to the Financial Services industry. Search is the #1 driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300% (imFORZA). By including content marketing in your digital marketing strategy, your business has the potential to be a 24/7 online hub for individuals looking for financial advice.

Getting started
To get started on your content marketing journey, here are some things you can do:

  • Find an area that you can be an expert in and use content marketing as a means to answer your target audience’s questions, and solve their challenges.
  • Make a list of blog post ideas – kind of like an extensive FAQ, or relevant topics that would be of interest to your audience
  • Create a content calendar – this will help keep you organized throughout the process
  • Decide on the types of content you want to create
  • Make your current content more socially shareable
  • Learn to optimize your content and boost your SEO to amplify your organic reach
  • Use eNewsletters to push out and repurpose your content

 

For a more in-depth guide to content marketing, try downloading our eBook: The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing

5 Types of Content to Boost your Advisor Website Traffic

,

According to Marketo, “Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers and makes the company easy to be found.”  

There are many ways to boost traffic to your website and better engage your audience. But, which form of inbound marketing is the best? The answer varies from business to business. In a day and age where people prefer to be educated rather than sold, content creation is the key to connecting and engaging your audience, and further boosting traffic to your Advisor website.

Here are 5 different types of content you should start (or continue) to create for your website to help boost your traffic and engage your audience:

  1. Infographics

Researchers found that coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% (Xerox). Infographics are a great way to share information with your audience in a simplified and visually appealing way. To get started, check out some free infographic templates, provided Venngage (sign up required).

  1. Videos

51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI (Adobe). Whether it is an informational video describing the difference between an RRSP and a TFSA or a welcome video introducing yourself to your online audience, there are many easy ways to incorporate video into your Financial Advisor website.

  1. Webinars

According to Entrepreneurs Forum, hosting a webinar creates several benefits for your business including:

  • Develops authority and trust with prospects and clients
  • Raises brand awareness by providing users an uninterrupted way to advertise your business
  • Grows your contact list
  • Generates qualified leads
  • Shows off your brand’s personality – something that isn’t as easily done through the written word

Webinars are a powerful tool for interacting and connecting with prospects and clients. Hosting a webinar allows your audience to get to know you, as a Financial Advisor, on a much deeper level than they would if they were to only read website content.

  1. eBooks

eBooks are a great way to compile your existing blog content and dive deeper into a specific topic. For example, we have compiled some of our existing blog content into an eBook: The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing. eBooks have a higher perceived value to your readers who will be more willing to give you their contact information in exchange for access to your eBook. Readers are more likely to feel like this was a fair exchange as you supply them with instant access to a valuable piece of content that they are interested in.

  1. Blogs

 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs (BlogHer). Blogging is one of the best ways to have a conversation with your audience by answering questions they may have in a non-intrusive manner. Research some of the questions that your audience has, or what information they enjoy reading and use that to your advantage by writing about it.  Over time, this will help you build valuable, trusted relationships with prospects and clients.

There is a wide range of content that you can create to better engage, inform, and connect with prospects, clients and industry leaders. Some other examples of different types of content are:

  • Newsletters
  • Memes
  • Reviews
  • How-to-guides
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews
  • Slideshares
  • Social Media
  • Opinion pieces

Aside from the clear benefits mentioned from creating a variety of content for your audience, doing this will also help to improve your SEO and search engine rankings. If you feel like continuously creating content is a big time commitment, remember that you can always repurpose your current content in order to get the most mileage out of all of your content writing efforts.

4 Tips to Make Your Blog More Socially Shareable

,

88% of millennials used Facebook as their main source of news in 2015. As a Financial Advisor, you should be continuously trying to reach a wider audience in order to help build brand awareness and thought leadership. Content marketing helps boost your websites SEO, increasing the overall traffic to your website and ups your position as a thought leader in the financial industry.

Blogs are a great way to attract future clients and keep current clients up-to-date. Here are four tips to help make your blog more socially shareable.

Cut the Jargon

As a Financial Advisor, you’re well-versed in your trade. When it comes to making your blog more socially shareable, however, you’ll want to keep specialized financial vocabulary to a minimum. Always keep in mind that your audience, for the most part, is not comprised of other Financial Advisors who have a background in Financial Planning and are familiar with terms like “annuity,” “fiduciary” and “asset class diversification”.

To make your blog more socially shareable, write simply and clearly. Avoid using jargon, but if you have to, make sure that you explain it in a simple and direct way. Always take your audience demographic into consideration.

Be Mindful of Your Audience

Cutting the jargon does not, however, mean dumbing down your language. Instead, write informative and direct posts about a variety of subjects. You can write about general topics like retirement, or much more specific ones like what you need to know about your RRSP as this year’s deadline approaches. Make sure that they are well-researched and well-written, as clients and prospects will continue to visit your blog if they feel that they are receiving unique, valuable and sound financial advice.

Get Connected

A great way to attract more visitors to your blog is to advertise it on social media. Get connected through the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These platforms will allow you to promote your blog regularly in creative and interesting ways. The key word here is regularly. In order to maintain public interest in your blog, you will need to post frequently. People will lose interest very quickly in your blog if you’re only posting once every few months. That doesn’t mean that you have to post three times a day (in fact, that’s probably overdoing it), but rather that you should come up with a reasonable schedule and stick to it. Websites that are updated with fresh content regularly generally receive significantly higher traffic than those that are not.

Keep Your Word Count to a Minimum

This is a crucial tip. When you’re writing blog posts, don’t churn out a Moby Dick length novel of financial advice. Keep your posts short and to-the-point so readers aren’t overwhelmed or bored. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of website visitors scan a new page, rather than read it word for word.  By keeping your blog posts short and concise, or in list form, it will make it easier to engage visitors who prefer to scan a page.

Just as you keep your posts to a reasonable length, make sure that you stick to the point. As a Financial Advisor, people are visiting your blog to read valuable advice and gain unique insight into financial activities so be sure to fulfill that component.

Social media is a great way to build your personal brand. Making your blog shareable across several platforms will help you keep your current clients informed while expanding your reach to new prospects. An increase in traffic for your website, over time will position you as a thought leader in the financial planning industry. So, if you haven’t done so already – set up a Twitter and Facebook account right now and get to work!

 

7 Financial Marketing Trends in the Wealth Management Sector

How to Avoid the 3 Biggest Blogging Mistakes Financial Advisors Are Making

,

Blogging is a great way to keep your clients informed about financial issues, investment opportunities and money-saving strategies. Unfortunately, Financial Advisors can make some blogging “bloopers.” Here are the three biggest mistakes Financial Advisors are making.

Over-sharing

We all know that person on Facebook who shares every single detail of his or her life, no matter how personal or inane it is. While oversharing is a rather common Internet phenomenon, many people don’t realize that sharing too much about your personal life affects your professional status. Financial Advisors are not immune to oversharing either. When it comes to blogging, How to Avoid the 3 Biggest Blogging Mistakes Financial Advisors Are Makingsome Financial Advisors try to connect with their clients by providing personal information, often too personal of information. Keep your blogging professional by only mentioning the basics about yourself, such as your educational background, your career highlights, and your areas of specialty.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that your blog needs to be devoid of personality. You can still communicate your personality, just make sure that it’s your professional personality. In other words, use your blog to communicate that you are a highly professional, successful and serious Financial Advisor with insightful and informative advice to give.

Inconsistency

If you’re going to professionally blog, make sure that you do it regularly. One of the easiest ways to lose public interest is to be inconsistent with your posts. Make a schedule to blog and stick to it. That means you need to be realistic about how often you can reasonably post to your blog. Don’t over-post either, as people may begin to suspect that you spend all of your time on the Internet and not enough time on your clients and their financial needs. Aim to write one to two posts a week, and then make sure you meet that goal. Nothing says “unprofessional” like inconsistency.

In order to keep readers interested in your blog, it’s important that you stay on top of it. If you disappear for weeks at a time, you readers will not only lose interest in your blog, but they will also turn to other Financial Advisors who offer them regular and consistent advice. In addition, keep your blogs a consistent size. Don’t write four pages one week and then 40 characters the next. Aim to write about 2-3 insightful, well-written paragraphs on a regular, weekly basis.

Be Informative and Accurate

Another common mistake that Financial Advisors make when writing their blogs is posting information that they have not thoroughly researched. Your clients are looking for informative, accurate and professional advice, and your professional reputation depends on your giving it to them. Make sure that you check your facts when you post information, as you could lose clients due to misinformation. Remember, as a Financial Advisor, you are in a position of authority, as your clients trust you to provide them with accurate information and sound advice. Bad research equals bad advice, so much sure you know what you’re talking about before you post it online.

 

The FInancial and Insurance Advisor's Guide to Blogging

Financial Advisors: 7 Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website

,

Summary: The Internet is the first place most people look when they’re researching Financial Advisors. That’s why every Financial Advisor needs a sleek and informative website that is at once personalized and professional. Here are 7 simple tips for writing effective content for your website.

Include a Short Biography

Your website should include a short, well-written biography that lets prospective clients know a little bit about you. The key word here is Financial Advisors: Seven Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website“little”; don’t overdo it. Keep your bio short – around 300 words or so – so that readers don’t get bored or feel as if they’re reading your life’s story. When it comes to writing a biography, make sure to include your educational background, career highlights, areas of specialty, and any other information that you think might peak someone’s interest and make you stand out from the competition; but remember to keep it short and to the point, and make sure you don’t include any personal information that you would not be comfortable sharing on the Internet.

Your website is often the first point of contact for prospective clients, which you means you want to make a good first impression and put your best foot forward.

 

Keep It Simple

The best way to write effective content for your website is to keep it simple. Keep your sentences short and direct, and avoid using overly metaphorical or figurative language in your writing, as it may confuse your readers. Similarly, don’t use a lot of jargon on your website: write for a general, non-specialist audience. In other words, don’t alienate your audience.

Skimming and Scanning

Most Internet users only skim a website’s content, rather than reading each and every paragraph word for word. One of the biggest mistakes that Advisors are making is treating their web copy like print copy. In reality, web copy is read completely differently than print; only 16% of visitors read word by word. Organize your paragraphs around one central idea so that even if your readers are only skimming, they’ll be able to pick up on key points. Don’t take too long getting to the point either; just keep your writing simple and direct.

Look Like a Pro

You should include a high-quality, professionally-taken photograph on your website. “Selfies” are a definite no-no. Remember: your website is the number one place where people will go to find out about your business and the services you offer, so you’ll want to make sure that it looks professional. That means getting your headshot taken by a professional photographer, and including only high-quality, non-pixelated images on your webpage.

Do Some Research

If you’re not sure how you want your website to look, why not browse other Financial Advisors’ websites to get an idea of what’s out there? The more research you do, the better you’ll understand what kind of website you want to build. You’ll also get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Hire a Pro

Many people will hire a professional web designer, but they won’t hire a professional writer. Ever go to a website that looks great but is full of grammar and spelling mistakes and bad, incomprehensible writing? Bad writing and errors in spelling and grammar will only make you look incompetent and unprofessional. If you’re not up to writing effective content for your website – and be honest – make sure you hire someone who is.

Use Readable Fonts

This one seems obvious, but many people don’t follow this advice: when designing your website, make sure that you are using simple, readable fonts. That means don’t use frilly or overly elaborate fonts or anything “gimmicky.” Use a serious font that will reflect your professionalism, integrity and success.

Content Marketings Tactic Your Competitors are Neglecting

Content marketing may be the most important trend in digital marketing today. Industry surveys indicate that B2C businesses will spend on average 32% of their total 2016 marketing budgets on content marketing1. Its power as a lead generator is unmatched, and if you’re not doing it—and doing it right—you’re missing a critical piece of your marketing puzzle. Worse, you could be losing business.

Ok, ok, you’ve heard this before, right? The benefits are well documented. Experts will tell you that content marketing:

1) Builds awareness

2) Helps customers find you

3) Establishes you as a thought leader

All those are true, but there’s one major benefit that even experts often overlook, and that is: content is key to creating an irresistible brand.

What is a brand and how is it connected to content marketing?

A brand isn’t just a logo, typeface, and slogan. Your brand is the entire personality of your company. Think of it as the feelings and emotions that are evoked within a customer when they hear your name.

Brands are built slowly, piece by piece with each point of contact between you and your customers. Every ad, email, tweet, and blog post adds to your brand. Over time, good branding creates trust, establishes value, and fosters a sense familiarity.

In 2016, content marketing could be the most important tool for building your brand.

Why is content marketing so critical to creating a brand?

When you view your competitors’ websites, display ads, or marketing emails, do you ever feel they all look very similar? That’s no accident.

Today’s smart web developers and digital marketers know what makes people tick (and click!), and websites are finely tuned to be efficient and effective. The best digital practices are always emulated, borrowed, and replicated. This improves user experience, but as everyone copies the same successful strategies, variety and uniqueness decrease. This leaves many sites looking like they’re cut from the same template, because they are.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need a new technique to differentiate. So what’s the best way to differentiate online today? Yep, you guessed it: content marketing.

Content marketing establishes your unique value proposition

More than any other aspect of your online presence, content marketing allows you to communicate your unique value proposition; the aspect of your business that tells customers “this is why you should choose me instead of my competitors”.

Content marketing gives you the time, space, and freedom to engage deeply with customers—something that’s impossible to do in a 728 x 90-pixel banner ad.

Best of all, content marketing brims with real personality because it captures your own voice. Content takes your business beyond a robotic marketing slogan. Sure, the tone of your content should be professional, but when that tone echoes your individuality, you stand out from a noisy field of competitors.

3 simple tips to creating content that makes your brand shine

  1. Produce content that reinforces your points of difference

Before you write, ask yourself: how do my skills, my experience, my expertise, solve customers’ problems better than my competitors? The answers are your points of difference and combined they form your unique value proposition. Write them on a sticky note and place it next to your monitor.

If your content clearly demonstrates your points of difference, customers will understand exactly why they need to choose your business.

  1. Think of content as the evidence that supports your marketing claims

Say your company’s slogan is “Manitoba’s Master of Tax Minimization”. That’s a bold statement, but why should customers believe you? In the past, businesses relied on word of mouth and testimonials to substantiate these claims. Today, content marketing is the tool that proves your expertise to millions of skeptical customers before they ever do business with you.

  1. Be consistent and find your own voice

Decide on a style and vocabulary that reflects you and your business. A casual and accessible tone is effective for some audiences while others expect you to be formal and authoritative. Whichever style you choose, be sure that it carries your personal voice. This will build stronger connections, and ensures that your content feels fresh.

Summing up

Good brands are not created by telling customers why your business is great, they’re created by demonstrating it. And in today’s competitive digital landscape, content marketing is the most powerful tool for proving your value and building a business that gets noticed in a crowded marketplace.

 

1 B2C Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America, Content Marketing Institute. (Published: October 14, 2015).

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

,

 

How can writing for the web enrich your Financial Advisory business? A Financial Advisor who publishes a newsletter gets
a call: “Your friend just sent me a link from your newsletter. My wife is planning to retire, and we want to make the best use of those assets, consistent with our family goals. Can we all get together?”

This story shows several marketing dynamics specific to the web: Easy broadened distribution that can create unexpected business leads; web analytics that enable the advisor to see which newsletter stories were clicked and any that were clicked multiple times; and an additional information source when preparing for meetings. Because newsletter links drove traffic to the advisor’s site, the prospect had easy access to further information that confirmed his positive impression and led to his call.

Writing for the web may require adaptation of traditional marketing channels like brochures, but the rewards are well worth your effort.  Here are the challenges and how to meet them successfully.

Special challenges of writing for the web

Challenge #1: Grab readers immediately

What drives readers most is timely information that’s communicated clearly in the title of your post. The advisor in the opening anecdote had written about a new regulation related to taxes. Quick publishing via the web speeded timely communication to clients.

Make your content easy to look at, with short paragraphs, headings and sub-heads that state your content clearly, and layout that makes information flow and location of specific topics easy to grasp.

Challenge #2: Use images

Research has shown that the web is essentially a visual medium. Images attract viewers more than plain text.

If, like me, you’re a “word person,” thinking visually can seem daunting. I always envied people who could draw clear diagrams of complex processes, while I required what seemed like too many words. The good news is that, as investment professionals, you’re familiar with potentially the most compelling pictures for your audience: data visualization in charts.

Effective charts use interpretive titles that state the main idea, or story, of each one clearly and are accurate and faithful to your data.

If you enjoy taking pictures, include your own, either to personalize your site (e.g. show the photos in your office) or to illustrate your content. Your own photos are much more effective than stock photos of, say, the generic “meeting.”

Another effective way to use images is to provide a visual metaphor for what you’re talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a good photographer, but I love art history and enjoy using paintings and photographs in my posts, especially as metaphors. Painters suspended on Brooklyn Bridge cables in 1914 means “risk” to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because finding inexpensive, easy-to-use image sources with a good selection is a perpetual quest of everyone writing for the web, social media experts frequently recommend their favorites. I’ve used Dreamstime.com and 123rf.com. Trustworthy sources will explain copyright and other legal restrictions on images. Be sure to respect copyright. Providing attribution of images you use is a nice touch, whether or not it’s required. This post supplies details as a hyperlink (“Image Source”).

Challenge #3: Distinctive brand “voice”

Write conversationally, referring to your own interests—family, leisure activities—to the extent that you’re comfortable, using plain English to discuss financial concepts.

A sure way to make your voice distinctive is to follow up insights from your web analytics. Are you compiling bookmarks on a social media site? Include these ongoing updates in your newsletter. If newsletter analytics show an unexpected increase in the number of clicks on a bookmark or section of your newsletter, explore the subject in a blog post or future newsletter item, mentioning that this is your response to client feedback.

The opportunity to develop and distinguish your own voice is a good lead-in to the significant benefits of writing for the web, which are interrelated results of information accessibility and communication speed.

Four Benefits of Writing for the Web

Benefit #1: Enduring presence and broader potential audience

The opening anecdote shows that easy distribution of information on the web broadened the advisor’s potential prospects by building service awareness and providing easy access to further information that confirmed the prospect’s favorable impression and motivated his call.

Have you ever lost a potential sale because the prospect lost the information you sent? Marketing on the web means that your posts remain available through search and referred links to existing clients, targeted prospects, and browsers. Your goal is to drive traffic to your site. The more you post to the web using multiple channels like your newsletter, blog, or social media sites like Twitter, the more people will find you.

Benefit #2: Extended marketing scope through easy sharing of posts

We saw sharing from friend to friend. Another way of sharing content is through social bookmarking sites like Delicious.com, which I’ve used for years to compile annotated lists of content recommended to clients. Here’s an example:

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

 

Although all you need to post on Delicious is the URL, stating what benefits in the content led you to share it, as is done in the example above, is a greater service. Delicious.com also enables you to sort content by topic using tags, which can be bundled into groups, for example “Retirement.” Clients and prospects given access to your public account (I have a private account for my use and a public account with a different user name) can find what they need easily and become aware of new issues related to them and additional services you offer.

Benefit #3: Enhanced lead capture through offers of free content

What’s best for you about writing for the web? You can “repurpose” your content, turning it into a free offer available to readers who provide contact information requested.

Are you thinking of posting content that focuses on various stages of investors’ life cycles and includes the questions they should ask at each stage? Post it as a series, making readers aware of the series and future installments on your site, newsletter, and blog. When the series is complete, collect the installments and make them available as a free offer to visitors to your site and readers of your newsletter and blog.

Include a Call to Action with each free offer: e.g., “Are you making a transition to a new phase of your financial life? Click here to get a free copy of ‘Be financially prepared for all stages of your life.’”

Benefit #4: Varied content that shows what working with you is like

Services, unlike products, are experiential. Although clients can look at investment performance, they can’t take you home for a free trial. How to deal with this? The best answer I’ve found is to use your writing to simulate the experience of working with you as an advisor. Establish your distinctive voice through conversational analyses of market or regulatory events, explaining in plain language who they matter to and why.

Bring the words of your investment philosophy and practice values to life with stories showing how you helped clients fulfill their goals while staying within their comfort zone for risk: Parents funding children’s education; adults with financial resources to start a business, buy a home, or fund dreams of travel during retirement.

As you develop your sites and newsletters or blogs, you’ll want to try new marketing strategies and forms of content. To help you move ahead, here’s an excellent glossary of social media terms, with clear definitions and just the right amount of irreverence.

 


Susan K BeckerSusan K. Becker, founder of Manhattan-based Becker Consulting Services, is a marketing communication consultant, writer/editor, and presentation coach for organizations in financial services, professional services, and health care. She’s passionate about making communication more effective by maximizing the interplay of text, images, and design. Follow her on Twitter.

Using a Content Pyramid to Engage Prospects and Clients Online

This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

—————————————

Much has been said about the importance of creating a strong online presence if you are a financial advisor (or otherwise). It is now a cliché to even ask, “What’s the first thing people do before or after meeting you?” The answer, of course, is “Google you.” What that Googling individual finds, sees and senses about you and your firm is extremely important. Business can be won or lost depending on a financial advisor’s digital footprint.

We also know that “content is king” when it comes to ranking high on keyword searches. The search engine “spiders” crawl the Internet and catalog sites with keywords such as “financial planning” and “independent advisor.” When someone enters these keywords into their search engine such as Google or Bing, the service looks for sites that are deemed most relevant for that search. Even images and audio/visual files that are tagged with keywords – and are thus part of the search engine cataloging process – can play a part in being more discoverable online.

Of course keywords are just one aspect of coming up high in a search engine page ranking. The services also look at inbound/outbound links, number of pages (amount of keyword rich content) and longevity of the site. We also know that social media accounts are additive. LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter accounts – if they are done right – will show up in a keyword search.

Once people find you, it is important that they see a well thought out digital presence. Study the Content Pyramid and you will see a good way to think about creating content for your blog and social media accounts.

Content Pyramid

1. Provide relevant content.

Your content creation and sharing strategy should be built on the foundation of providing relevant content. For example, if you want your firm to be known for serving dentists in their pre-retirement years (or teachers in mid-career, or small business owners in a particular city, or members of a particular church or faith-based community, etc.), make sure you post content that speaks directly to them. It should also use words that the search engine spiders will catalog and pull from during keyword searches. When these individuals find you online, they will quickly see that you serve and understand people just like them, with needs and goals similar to theirs. And, if you are posting original content, you will also be demonstrating your expertise.

2. Teach how to.

One way to provide relevant content is to teach people how to do something. In addition to demonstrating your expertise, you will be providing actionable information and advice that can “go viral” in the form of social sharing or emails to friends and family members. Not everyone who visits your site or finds your content online will be ready to call or inquire about services. But if you create a good bank of how-to articles and videos (such as the ones GuideVine has on its consumer blogand YouTube channel) and invite visitors to sign up for periodic email updates, you will be able to nurture those leads over time and determine when a more personal touch might be well received.

3. Interact.

Social media, done right, is not just a one-way megaphone. You want people to sense that you are as interested in building a relationship as you are about promoting your own agenda. So, if you want people to engage with you, you also need to engage with them and their causes/interests. For example, if a key focus for you is helping people create predictable retirement income streams and you see a related question on a LinkedIn group to which you belong, post a short comment and link to an article or video created by you or a trusted third-party. Congratulate people when their LinkedIn profile shows a job anniversary or a job change. Pay a compliment to a journalist if you particularly enjoyed a recent article.

4. Inspire.

The NY Times Insight Group study shows that people share content if they find it useful, funny or inspiring. Look for inspirational quotes and mix them in to your stream of tweets (this is a great strategy to keep the flow of content going — especially when there might be a short drought of other content in the content pyramid). Post on your Facebook page motivational memes (graphic images with words and images). Link out from your website or blog to an article that profiles an unsung hero. Share on LinkedIn a TED talk that moved you. The tone and themed consistency of this inspirational content will give people a sense of your values and personal character. If tenacity is a core value, post a link to a book written by someone who overcame adversity. If kindness is important to you, include an image of, for instance, Mother Teresa and one of her famous quotes.

5. Entertain.

This is perhaps the hardest element of the content pyramid. One person’s comedy is another person’s low-level slapstick. What tickles your funny bone may not stimulate audience laughter or delight. This does not mean you should throw your hands up and walk away from trying to entertain people. Instead, generate a list of ideas and types of content that you would find entertaining. Include your team and trusted others in the brainstorming process. Would a stick person “explainer video” do the trick? Would a skit or “behind the scenes” video be better? Can you incorporate some casual language or wit-and-wisdom in your next blog piece? Once you have decided on the type of content and purpose of the piece, good execution is essential. Since “entertainment” is at the top of the content pyramid, you won’t need to do more than pepper it in every now and then – but do embrace it in the overarching scheme of things.

Using the content pyramid can help you create a more engaging presence for both current and prospective clients online.

The Key to Creating Highly Sharable Content

This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

—————————————

There has been an abundance of research on social media but until recently we’ve not had a comprehensive way of understanding why people share content online and how to use that knowledge to create highly sharable content.

Now we do. The New York Times‘ Insights Group worked with Latitude Research to conduct a three-phase study to fill this knowledge gap. In their The Psychology of Sharing, they reveal groundbreaking research that will help marketers understand the motivational factors and get their content shared.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers discovered that sharing is all about relationships. Key motivations hinge on:

  • Bringing valuable and entertaining content to others
  • Defining ourselves to others
  • Growing and nourishing relationships
  • Getting the word out about causes and brands we care about

Sharing is not new; it’s human nature. We still share things when it’s relevant – now we just share online.

Use Content to Define Yourself to Your Audience

Just look at what’s been happening across the globe with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Why has this social media campaign worked so well? It may be in some cases that the people participating actually care about the cause or that they embrace charitable endeavors in general; but many may surmise that business professionals are participating to define themselves and their brands to others. Even the choice of who is challenged to participate is telling and can be a part of the participant’s strategy.

Check out these clips – the “social capital” strategy should be evident:

Going Viral: Lessons Learned from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

For a sense of how online sharing can accelerate the dissemination of a self-defining message, consider this: Livestrong launched its yellow bracelet cancer-awareness campaign in 2004 and it took them one year to raise $50 million. On August 29, 2014, the ALS Association announced that donations topped $100 million in the past month.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge has been a fundraising phenomenon,” said Robert M. Wyrick, Managing Member of Houston-based MFA Capital Partners, a boutique advisory firm specializing in hedged-risk investment management, tax strategies and distribution planning for corporate employees.

“Those who elect to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads, show that they have a fun and gutsy side. They may or may not be all that into the charitable side of things—but they define themselves by stepping into the challenge from a business buddy, who is actually defining himself or herself by the people they nominate, and by everybody doing this in a very public way.”

Tailor Your Content for Optimal Sharing

When creating content it’s important to be mindful of what the motivation of your audience is likely to be. Questions to ask during the planning process include:

  • How does this add value for our audience?
  • How will this help or entertain them?
  • Why will they share it?

Studies show that people share things that have an emotional pull. So, when you create content, try to appeal to the desire to connect as humans. Try to inspire, illuminate or amuse. Telling stories and using video seems to work well in the digital world. Keep the message simple and embed a sense of urgency to spark sharing.

“We can’t just sit in a room and brainstorm creative ideas to try and hook people,” said Jacob H. Gold, a third-generation wealth manager and a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. “The best emotive, sharable content is derived when a firm continually examines its core values and mission, then figure out if there’s an interesting or catchy campaign around it.

Why Should Advisors Care About the New Buyer Journey?

,

In 2012, the Corporate Executive Board performed a study to determine just how much buyer behaviour was affected by digital media. As it turns out, 60% of the sales cycle is completed before a buyer makes first contact with a sales person. What’s happening in that 60%?

Any good buying decision must first start with research. The proliferation of digital media has made content so readily accessible that it’s now possible to do most of your due diligence online without the need to speak to someone to make a buying decision. So, why should you care as an advisor? Well, have you ever walked into a meeting with a client and been put on the spot because your client read something online, pertinent to your business, and spent time trying to correct the conclusion they came to by reading that article? Buyers are becoming more knowledgeable and it’s re-shaping the role of sales and marketing professionals.  Understanding the buyer journey can help you adapt to these changes.

So, just what is the Buyer Journey? A buyer journey consists of the mental stages a buyer experiences before making the purchase of a product or a service. In the financial or insurance advice space, this could be a mutual fund, a specific investment strategy, life insurance premium amounts and so on. There are 3 key stages: Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Let’s take a look at each one:

Awareness

This stage isn’t about the awareness of your product or service. The title refers to the awareness of a problem that your buyer is experiencing. For example, let’s say you notice your child’s temperature is very high and experiencing severe stomach pain or, perhaps your client is noticing that their RRSPs aren’t growing at market rates. Buyers in this stage are identifying symptoms of a problem. They don’t know specifically what the problem might be but the symptoms are mentally or physically uncomfortable enough such that it compels them to “figure out” just what is happening.

Consideration

In the consideration phase, the buyer is taking the inputs (i.e. the symptoms) and attempting to identify the problem. In the example above, you might go to a doctor or perhaps read some information online (or offline) and come to the conclusion that your child has the stomach flu. Your client with poor RRSP performance, could take a look at their RRSP portfolio, and identify the fact that one of the funds they’ve invested in is performing poorly and negating the gains of the other investments. A buyer will not move onto the next stage until they’ve gathered enough information and identified the specific problem.

Decision

As you might guess, the decision stage is the point at which a buyer gathers information to make a decision to select the best possible strategy or solution to their problem. Basically, they’re comparing different solutions. Having identified that your child has stomach flu, you’re next likely behaviour would be to try to find solutions that help relieve the symptoms of the virus (or, if you haven’t seen a doctor yet, going to see a doctor could also be an option). The most likely scenario with your client would, for example, involve selling that fund and either re-investing their savings it into an existing fund or perhaps investing the savings into a brand new fund or perhaps GIC. Buyers in this stage are collecting alternatives and options that they can choose from to solve their problem and will move onto the final stage which involves the purchase decision.

A good understanding of your buyer’s journey can help you adapt to the changing buyer and help increase the trust you have with clients. Increasing the trust you have with clients creates leads, opportunities and incremental revenue.

———————————————–

 What would your buyer’s journey look like?  How can you create content to follow that buyer’s journey?  Stay tuned for Part 2 which will focus on leveraging the buyer journey to increase your AUM.

How to Drive Sales Using the Customer Buyer Journey