Takeaways from the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit 2016


I recently attended the Digital Marketing Summit in Toronto and was a panelist on the Power Panel: Surmount Barriers to Transform your Omni-channel into a Customer Centric, High Performance Digital Ecosystem. The conference was very educational and a great way to meet industry leaders in the Digital world of Financial Services. Having learned some new perspectives on all things digital, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on two presentations that stood out during the conference.

The Keynote Address by Mitch Joel

The keynote address “Reboot Your Digital Marketing Strategy to Transform Your Brand and Win in the New Landscape” by Mitch Joel, President of Mirum, and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT DELETE was the most interesting. His presentation provided me with a different perspective on digital today.

The first was Mitch’s story about Snapchat. Apparently, in Snapchat’s very early days, when it was only about 5 people, Facebook offered to buy it for $3 billion.  Amazingly, Snapchat’s founders turned it down. Snapchat’s size and younger audience demographic was attractive to Facebook, but Mitch explained that Snapchat was quite different from Facebook. Snapchat represented the real world.  In the real world, most conversations are not recorded.

Today, in the ‘virtual world’, what people really want is an in-the-moment experience and to interact in a non-recorded way.  Snapchat, and tools like Slack and Periscope, provide the brevity and genuineness of reacting to something as it happens, just like real life.

Teenagers need unstructured time online without fear of parental criticism, which can easily happen on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat gives younger audiences the freedom of communicating in a private digital environment. Similarly, ‘Periscope’ lets you broadcast live video to the world. Followers can join, comment and “send you hearts in real time”. In the workplace, Slack, a chatting application, has been encroaching on email as a form of business communication. Email is still quite formal but conversely Slack allows for creativity and brainstorming — similar to a face-to-face meeting. Slack imitates that experience better than prescribed emails that most work-forces use.

Apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Slack prompt us, as marketers, to think about ways our own brands can mimic ‘real world’ experiences to connect not only with millennials but also with all of our customers in the ways they connect with each other.

Another interesting tidbit from Mitch was that Amazon bought the gaming channel, Twitch Interactive, in 2014 for almost $1 billion. Twitch is not actually a gaming website but an Internet video channel for “broadcasting and watching people play videogames”.

At first glance this seems like an awkward acquisition, however, Twitch is the fourth-largest source of U.S. Internet traffic, so perhaps $1 billion was worth it.

Mitch’s take away from this acquisition is that companies should obviously be investing in video, but also that thinking differently about your business can sometimes lead to tremendous success. An ecommerce and cloud computing company is leading the way with Amazon Prime video streaming and networks like Twitch. It is now not just about content or channels, but about networks like Netflix and CraveTV. Mitch Joel states that Amazon’s move into networks teaches us a potentially new way for marketers to think. Many brands are hiring journalists and other media types as a way to create more authentic, creative stories. He says that maybe the opportunity is for brands to think about not just creating and publishing content, but more about how to “become their own media network”. Perhaps the future is less about native advertising and more about brands becoming a network with their own studio.

Think about Purina owning a ‘kitty network’ similar to AFV or Elon Musk owning a “sustainability network’ that is all about saving the environment.

Another very interesting comment Mitch made was that the ‘purchase button’ should be everywhere. He mentioned the Best Buy Facebook Page that has a tab titled, “Shop Now”. Mitch says, why drive people back to your website when they should be able to buy right from within Facebook? The Internet strategy of years ago that drove consumers back to their website is slowly dying. This rang particularly true for me because in 2001, I worked for a ‘dot com’ called ePod. ePod had a unique advertising technology, that was way before its time. We called it a ‘website within a website’. We worked with companies like Disney to create an ad unit that would advertise a Disney product in a video, inside an ad unit with a ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ functionality built-in.  Yes, ePod was quite a way before its time.

My final takeaways from Mitch’s presentation were that we, as financial services marketers, need to ensure that we represent real-life. Marketing with flexibility, creativity, authenticity, and kindness. He said those were the keys to developing great businesses.

In a digitally centric world, authenticity and creating and developing real relationships are the keys to success.

Facebook’s Erin Elofson

Erin Elofson, Director of Financial Services at Facebook, sold the benefits of Facebook advertising, but she did it in a very educational way. I have spent a fair bit of time trying to find the secrets to effective Facebook advertising – with some great success – but I always thought that we could do better. Of course, video advertising was lauded as the key to success.

Video on Facebook has exploded, but the most enlightening was Erin’s comments on storytelling and driving people down the purchasing funnel. In hindsight, it is common sense, but Erin’s examples and success stories sent a strong message to the DMFS audience.

If you are a believer in content marketing, then you know that ebooks, case studies and blogs that educate the consumer before asking them to buy are significantly more effective than content that immediately asks people to take action1. Erin says that Facebook advertising should do the same. Campaigns that “sequence” different ads work best. The first ad should tell the brand story. For example, “our community focused bank supports people who lost their homes in Fort McMurray with a 1% mortgage”. The next ad in the “sequence” should provide product information. For example, “our friendly bank will easily transfer your mortgage over from another bank with no penalty”. Only after these two ads have run one after the other, should the message include a call-to-action such as stating the current mortgage rate and inviting the audience to click to apply.  Erin also showed a simple formula for taking existing television or YouTube video ads and paring them back to become effective brand stories in Facebook.

From personal experiences, acting too quickly by asking people to take action immediately, without persuading them down the purchasing funnel through story telling, takes discipline. In a world where CEOs and shareholders are clamoring for quick results to meet quarter-end numbers, it is very tempting to ask prospects immediately to ‘buy-now’. I get many sales calls right after I download a piece of content. We often wrongly assume that if the product is as good as we think it is, or if they are the right target audience, they will buy. And if they don’t buy or click now, they never will. Erin brought American Express to the stage to tell their Facebook advertising story. American Express explained that once they adopted this disciplined approach to Facebook advertising, or ‘story telling’, the results were overwhelmingly positive. Research from Adaptly2, published by Facebook, concurs with the same results:

Among those who were exposed to the sequenced ads compared to those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87% increase in people visiting the landing page and a 56% increase in subscription rates. In addition, they converted at higher rates.

When you think of this approach, it makes total sense. I am on Facebook reading my friends’ updates, looking at their photos, watching funny videos and reading news about a movie star’s dress. Do I really want some stranger telling me to buy their product?  Wouldn’t it be better to see funny videos or moving stories related to the brand to get to know them before I am asked to buy?

“Some advertisers may find it counterintuitive to elongate a campaign as a way to more gradually bring their audience through the purchase funnel, rather than more immediately delivering a call-to-action,” says Adaptly’s CEO, Nikhil Sethi. “But we have proven that this classic brand-building approach it is both effective and efficient, even for direct response advertising.”3

My most memorable brand video on Facebook was the Westjet Christmas Miracle. That doubled my affinity for the airline. My resulting perception is a kind airline that cares about their people and their customers. As a marketer, I am surprised that I would feel that way about a brand solely based on their marketing.

Other themes of the Digital Marketing Financial Summit, were personalization, utilizing data to deliver better customer experiences, omni-channel challenges, using attribution for measuring advertising and more.  Lastly, as a regular conference participant, I was very pleased to see how engaged the attendees were. Attendees had many questions for the presenters. When visiting our booth, they were open to hearing about our products and services rather than just the giveaways we had at the booth.

Conferences like DMFS provide us with the ability to step outside the office to learn, develop relationships, and talk to people in the “real world”.


1, 2, 3 Creating More Effective Online Marketing Campaigns.

Advisors: Why whitespace is NOT wasted space


Whitespace is commonly referred to as negative space, the portion of a page that is left unmarked, blank, or the empty space on a page. Whitespace is the fundamental building block of good design. If used correctly, it can transform a design and provide many advantages to your Financial Advisor website.

As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken an important step to grow your business by creating your own website. Keep in mind that as you market your business digitally, you are marketing to a digital audience and should keep that audience in mind with designing your website. As a Financial Advisor, one of your goals should be to deliver an exceptional and consistent experience to your clients and prospects on all fronts, including a positive experience for your website visitors.

Using whitespace effectively can create several benefits for your website.

  1. Emphasize your Call-to-Actions (CTAs)

At first glance, the most obvious way to make your CTA stand out would be to make your button larger than anything else on your page. However, surrounding your CTA with whitespace can be just as effective, if not more. Having whitespace surrounding your CTA gives your readers just one thing to focus on. Below is an example of how whitespace can be used effectively to emphasize a CTA (Reserve Your Spot!):

Advisors: Why Whitespace is NOT wasted space

  1. A tidy site is always better

If you were to have an in-person meeting with your clients, would you want them walking into a cluttered, messy office or an office that was clean, neat and inviting? Just as you would want to create a good first impression when someone walks into your office, you want to do the same when someone visits your website.

Aside from a great colour scheme and an easy-to-follow layout and navigation, whitespace is crucial because it adds a certain finesse, and also exudes a sense of elegance and superiority to your website. Below is an example from Mark Boulton’s article showing an Advertisement that is transformed by the use of effective whitespace. As you can see, the result is a much cleaner, and visually appealing Ad.

Example of whitespace used effectively

  1. Acts as a separator

As a Financial Advisor, there is a range of topics to discuss with your clients. Sometimes those topics are completely unrelated, making it harder to decide how to lay them out on your website. Whitespace is a great way to separate unrelated elements in your website while enhancing the overall visual layout. When you use whitespace effectively, it can pave the way to clearer communication and navigation through your website.

Although having whitespace can provide clear benefits for your website, a good balance of design and whitespace is important. Too much whitespace leads to confusion and gives off the impression that your website lacks content. However, not enough whitespace leads to a messy, disorganized and confusing layout for your audience.

Below are some websites that use whitespace effectively:

Built by Buffalo uses whitespace wisely. The whitespace helps to emphasize where they’d like their visitors to go first. As you scroll through their homepage, you can see that whitespace still dominates the page while emphasizing the icons at the same time.

Website using whitespace effectively


Mailchimp uses whitespace to effectively highlight their CTA’s. Their design is simple, allowing visitors to easily navigate themselves around the page.

Website using whitespace effectively


Google uses a minimalistic approach to their homepage. At first glance, visitors will notice their colourful logo.  Visitors will then proceed to the text box to begin their search. Their design is simple but effective because of the dominant use of whitespace.

Website using whitespace effectively

Take a minute to analyze your Financial Advisor website to help determine if you have enough (or too much) whitespace. Formulate a plan of action to incorporate more whitespace into your website design to effectively create a clean and visually appealing website – your visitors will thank you for it.

Omnichannel is the Key to Optimizing Customer Experiences


What does Omni-channel mean?

Historically, companies were focused on providing customers with the ability to transact in the channel of their choice.  Organizations were organized around channels, and each channel’s department had their own reporting structure and goals.  The departments often encouraged channel competition, but the end result was confused customers who experienced different offers, pricing and processes in each channel.

Omni-channel is a multi-channel approach that provides the customer with aseamless experience, whether they are transacting online, from a desktop or mobile device.

Today, companies are focusing on creating omni-channel experiences to ensure that no matter where the customer is located, or on what device they are interacting with, the experience is the same.

Online, mobile, and social media platforms have enabled customers to not only switch between channels quickly but to also use them simultaneously. It is a regular occurrence to see people in store aisles looking at product reviews and pricing on their mobile while deciding between products on a physical retail store shelf. They are using mobile, in-store advertising, and in-store sales representatives combined to help with their decision making process.

Why Omni-channel?

Unfortunately, there are way too many examples of companies that fail to deliver good omni-channel customer experiences. A few years ago, I called my bank’s 1-800 number to secure a car loan. Everything (or so I thought) was confirmed over the phone.  I faxed in my signed documents, and was told I could go and pick up my cheque at my local branch. I waited in line at the branch only to get to the counter and be told, “Oh no, you cannot just pick up the cheque”. I asked how they could be so disconnected and their response was, “Well, we are not the same as the call centre. We have different rules”.

The result was a very negative experience. I walked away thinking that the bank does not understand me as a customer, and clearly does not realize I have a mortgage, GICs, RRSPs, RESPs, etc… Not only were they at risk of losing my car loan, they now faced the risk of losing my business to one of their competitors.

Having been in digital since the days of Netscape, I am definitely a digital advocate, interacting digitally is my preference. But, there are certainly times when I prefer face-to-face interaction. Human interaction is a vital factor in a positive customer experience even in the digital age.

In fact, a study done by Accenture found that only 36% of customers believe digital channels are better than non-digital forms of interaction. Additionally, 58-73% prefer dealing with humans to get quicker answers, resolution on issues, and to get advice[1].

Omni-channel is the key to optimizing customer experiences statistic

Many studies have found that customers who engage across multiple channels are  more valuable customers. In fact, multi-channel banking customers purchase 1.4 times the products and are 15% more likely than digital-only customers to serve as advocates for their providers.[2]

Digital does not always offer marketers the ability to up-sell or cross-sell based on the customer’s needs. Digital can ‘recommend’ based products you are looking at in real-time. Sometimes, we see up-sells based on our previous buying behavior – but I still get irrelevant Minecraft recommendations because my son and I surf on the same computer. And rarely do I see up-sells and cross-sells based on my ‘stage of life’ or my ‘in the moment’ needs.
The ability to truly understand the customer is lost if their only interaction is online.

Ironically, many companies are also finding that the selling expense associated with digital exceeds the value of their digital investments. The savings from the efficiencies of customers transacting online are often offset by the necessity to offer lower prices through promotions and discounts – to compete in the one click away environment. Rate comparisons or insurance quotes are always 5 seconds away. Digital is further commoditizing financial products; foreign currency exchange, insurance quotes, and loans are available online.

Omni-channel is the key to optimizing customer experiences Statistic

In fact, an Accenture survey found that more than ½ of customers want their bank to proactively recommend products or services that would help them financially. And 55% said it would strongly increase their loyalty to the bank. Many would even pay for budgetary advice.

A simple idea such as the Investment Advisor making notes on a client’s life changes into an omni-channel CRM, could positively impact revenues. The in-branch bank manager would better understand the client and be able to make recommendations and offers of true value to the client.
Barriers to Omni-channel.

Offering proactive digital financial advice and counselling to help clients better manage their financial needs can provide valuable insight and offer huge incremental revenues and increased loyalty.

Barriers to Omni-channel

In order to embrace omni-channel strategies across the organization, companies must first understand the economic benefits of providing customers with the ability to interact seamlessly across channels. The silos need to begin to blend and they must agree that a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experiences will not work.

The story about how my telebanking institution did not communicate with my branch nor have the same rules for picking up my car loan cheque, was probably due to technology and/or the lack of desire to improve their processes. Omni-channel requires a focused customer-first agenda – a strong understanding of customer data and a willingness to change. Barriers include:

  • Inability to provide all divisions with a single view of the customer across channels
  • Inability to understand the customer beyond their buying history
  • Lack of system integration
  • Lack of training, education, processes, and inadequate change management

How to get started

The core of an omni-channel strategy is the ability to understand the customer.  Omni-channel warrants an outside-in view and a mapping of the customer experience from the customer’s perspective. The omni-channel approach puts the customer, not the business units, at the centre.

For financial institutions, a front-end portal or “window” into the back-office, can help bridge the silos. Starting with a single view of the customer, you can direct the client standing in the branch, help the bank manager understand the value of the client, the call centre to appropriately service the client, and give the Financial Advisor a better indication on which products to recommend. A portal is not as big of an undertaking as re-building the back office and it can create and connect personalized digital experiences across the omni-channels.

Considering the customer journey from an omni-channel experience instead of just one department or a branch’s interactions is a start. Understanding customers beyond the personas is the next step to creating fantastic omni-channel customer experiences.

Valerie Jones will be at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit on the Power PanelOmni-channel Surmount Barriers to Transform your Omni-Channel into a Customer Centric, High Performance Digital Ecosystem.   June 2, 2016 at 9:15 AM.




Advisors: Why just having a Website isn’t enough


As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken those first steps to start building an online presence and that’s a great start.  But, with so many other Financial Advisors taking on the digital world, having a website simply just isn’t enough anymore.

Think of it this way: If you were to open a retail store, would you expect that just because you opened a store, people will flock to it, and you will experience instant success? Of course not. You have to work on building your inventory, increasing your visibility, and marketing and advertising it.

Similarly, just because you have a website, doesn’t mean that clients and prospects know about it or can find you. Just like opening your own retail store, you need to continuously build your websites inventory (content), spread awareness and visibility (SEO), and market and advertise it. The more active you are digitally, the stronger your website (and your business) will be.

As a Financial Advisor: you can’t assume that because you have a website, people know about it.

Constantly updating your website creates 2 key benefits:

  1. Your visitors are happier and more engaged

Having new and fresh content will not only engage your current audience, but it will motivate them to keep coming back. Continuously updated content will ensure that you have repeat visitors and subscribers (if you have an opt-in option for visitors who enjoy your content). Also, if they are engaged and happy, the chances of them sharing your website with others greatly increases, which in return could increase your websites total visibility (and hopefully client base).

As a Financial Advisor, the financial services industry is continuously changing – from new policies and regulations to changes in season. If your content and information is out-dated, your audience will get little value out of it, which could effect the perception of your brand and practice. Frequently updating and adding content, especially content that is aimed to solve your prospect and client challenges, can help you build credibility and trust with your visitors, while increasing your digital visibility.

  1. Search engines LOVE dynamic content

When content, on your website, is continuously added and updated, that means that your website is constantly changing – it’s dynamic. When search engine crawlers come to your website to audit if anything has been updated or added, they report their findings back to Google to determine your ranking on their search engine. By updating your website, a crawler’s report back would be something along the lines of “Yes, this is an important website because it’s frequently updated with fresh, useful and good quality content.”

So, why should you care? This means that Google will send crawlers to your website more frequently, helping you rank higher for keywords that you may be focusing on to reach your target audience.  As a result, this will help increase your websites visibility and attract more prospects to your website.

As a Financial Advisor, you need to think about different ways you can get found, capture your traffic and keep those who have left your website, coming back. Take a minute and ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I updated my website?
  • When was the last time I wrote a blog for my website?
  • Does my website rank highly at all for words or phrases like “Financial Advisor, Toronto”?
  • What kinds of words or phrases would my target audience be writing in a search engine that could lead them to my website?

It is important to think about these questions as you are building your online presence. Whether you write a new blog, update your information, or add in a new widget, take some time out of your day to update your website. Remember that continuously updating your website will greatly benefit your digital presence in the long run and more easily connect you with your future clients.

7 Things People Hate About Your Advisor Website Part 2


From people talking or texting during a movie to lousy drivers – we all have pet peeves that drive us up the wall. Just as pet peeves exist in the “real world”, they are also evident in the digital world too.

As a Financial Advisor, you should be aware about some of the pet peeves your prospects and clients may have about your website. In part 1 of this series, we discussed page load times, poor navigation, cheesy photos and your contact information. In this 2-part series, we will go over 3 more things people hate about your Advisor website and how to stop yourself from doing them.

  1. It has an unintelligible value proposition

Who are you? What do you do? What makes you unique, different and better than other Financial Advisors? A solid value proposition is an essential tool to attract new clients, differentiate yourself from other Advisors, all while helping you to create a distinct and recognizable brand.

60% of investors found it hard to distinguish among Advisors because of their value proposition (Pershing).

As a Financial Advisor, you want to create a unique and effective value proposition to help differentiate yourself in the industry and accelerate your business. Your value proposition concisely explains why a prospect needs you as their Advisor, and not your competition. (Read this blog post to learn more about writing a great value proposition).

  1. It doesn’t have a blog

Inbound marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow your business, and comes at a lower cost. In 2015, content marketing generated 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but cost 62% less (Smart Insights). Blogging is one of the best ways to attract your target audience by creating and providing interesting and quality content, all while uninterruptedly marketing to them.

Businesses that blog receive 77% more traffic and 97% more links to their website than those that do not. 

Blogging is a means of building credibility and thought leadership, and keeping your visitors coming back. Providing your prospects with useful information will build trust and add value to their experience on your Advisor website. When people search for information and answers – be a source they go to and trust. Your business will greatly benefit from this. As an added bonus, Google loves dynamic websites. Frequently writing blogs will help boost your overall search engine ranking, which in turn will increase your websites overall visibility and digital reach.

  1. It’s not responsive

Have you ever visited a website using your mobile device and had to zoom in with your fingers because the text was too small on your screen? That’s because the website you were checking wasn’t mobile-responsive. With a higher percentage of people using their smartphones instead of their desktop when looking at information online, responsive design has never been more important.

40% of people will choose another result if the first one they land on is not mobile friendly (Sweor).

Digital Agent users – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  All of your websites are 100% responsive.

Case studies have revealed that a seamless customer journey provides a competitive advantage, in some cases doubling sales year over year (The Kapost Blog). As a Financial Advisor, you should continuously work to ensure that your clients are happy on all fronts, and that includes digital. To better hone a positive digital customer experience, check out part 1 of the series to help you avoid doing the 7 things people hate about Advisor’s website.


Financial Advisors: Take Advantage of Local Marketing


In such a globally connected world, people try to market to anyone and everyone. Although, in the process of doing so, they lose sight of their local audience. When strategizing your marketing, a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to go. According to a study done by the National Public Radio (NPR), localized content had 6 times more Facebook shares than non-localized content.

In today’s digitally-centric world, there is an overwhelming amount of online content at our disposal. Consumer needs have shifted; when searching for a product, they now look for the most personalized, relevant and relatable information that meets their interests

According to Search Engine Land, 67% of smartphone users want ads customized by city and 61% want ads customized to their immediate surroundings.

Now, more than ever, local marketing will benefit your business. Here are some ways a localized marketing strategy can benefit you:

Less competitors

When you focus on localized marketing – you are targeting a smaller audience. However, you are also competing against a smaller number of businesses. Less competition means a higher chance of attracting and landing clients!

Increase in traffic

Not only will you get business from people passing by your office, localized marketing can help you better reach your local target audience through search engine optimization (SEO). For example, if you are a Financial Advisor within the Toronto region – you are more likely to appear in search engine results if someone were to search “Financial Advisor Toronto” as opposed to just “Financial Advisor”. Optimizing for local SEO will help you increase your online traffic, which in turn, can help improve your global SEO rankings as well.

Improves client experience

As digital as our world is today, consumers still like to have face-to-face interactions – it helps to build trust. Today’s consumers prefer to work with someone that is easily accessible, online and off. As a Financial Advisor, providing your clients with different options for interaction with your business will improve their overall experience with you.

Helps build referrals

Just as people refer local mechanics to their friends, they will do just that with Financial Advisors. By building strong relationships with your local clients, the chances of them referring your services to their friends and family increases – or even better, referring your business to an online audience by leaving a review.

Increases your online reviews

According to Search Engine Land, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. With an increase in consumers searching for information on a local level, having numerous, positive reviews can set your business apart from the rest. One positive review can convert a prospect into a client within seconds.


Consumer needs are constantly evolving. Localized marketing can help you target the right clients, on a local level, while helping you build a more trusted and valuable relationship with them. Overtime, localized marketing can help you grow your relationships and business.

Veriday Sponsors 6th Annual Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit


Veriday is proud to sponsor the 6th annual Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit, the largest digital marketing forum in Canada. This event will be held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto from June 2 – 3rd.

By attending the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit you will be able to:

  • Accelerate your digital transformation from 35+ marketers amongst North America’s top financial institutions
  • Acquire practical strategies and execution tips to optimize integration, personalization, analytics, mobile, and more
  • Eliminate organizational roadblocks for broad digital transformation
  • Build you career and team by connecting with 250+ of North America’s financial marketing leaders
  • Increase the pace of change at your organization
  • Exploit disruptive technologies to succeed in a crowded market


This year, Veriday will join the Power Panel discussing “Surmount Barriers to Transform your Omni-Channel into a Customer Centric, High Performance Digital Ecosystem.”

Join us at an event that aims to fast track your success to:

  • Lift engagement
  • Drive conversion
  • Maximize ROI
  • Grow wallet share
  • Personalize experience
  • Cement loyalty

Join Veriday as we sponsor the largest gathering of financial marketers in North America. Hone your digital capabilities to deliver next generation experiences. Build trust and differentiate your brand at the only digital marketing forum for financial services.

To receive a discount VIP code, please feel free to contact us.


About Strategy Institute

A vital knowledge source for corporate North America, the Strategy Institute is an independent, research-based organization which monitors and communicates changes and trends in business and business strategy. The objective of the Institute is to provide decision-makers with strategic business information and executive education to enhance their business judgment.


When It Comes to Digital Strategy, Are You a Leader or Lagger?

This post was authored by Martin Yan and originally appeared here on


Though every industry is different, there is something all companies are dealing with: a quickly changing sales landscape. With the rise of mobile and highly-connected customers, the days of cold calling and “batch-and-blasts” are long gone. Traditional sales methods simply won’t cut it.

Most buyers are now doing research on their own, some without ever consulting a sales person in the process. According to Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct their own online research before purchasing a product. What’s more, about 60% begin their research on a search engine and/or read a product review.

With detailed information about every product or software available at their fingertips, shoppers don’t need to feel beholden to believe every sales pitch. Think about all the various outlets available to the shopper. There are search engines, product reviews, user reviews, buyer’s guides, social media and forums. If something sounds fishy, they can simply look up the facts on a device and verify any dubious claim.

The web has become the single most important place for prospective buyers to visit. As customers become more digitally-experienced, they will look for a familiarity and convenience with your brand regardless of channel. They will be interacting with you on social media, mobile apps, or in-person when they walk into your store.

Now the question is, how are you meeting these new customer expectations? Are you leading the charge to transform the way your company does business, or are you still reluctant to change what’s already comfortably in place?

If you’re not driving innovation, your current business will sooner or later be susceptible to disruption. In the meantime, your customers will be looking for a satisfying, more personal experience elsewhere. As Lisa Arthur, a Forbes contributor, writes: “Our research shows that consumers welcome personalized offers, such as price-matching and loyalty points. Soon, they’ll not only welcome it, they’ll expect it.”

Your company should assess the user experience across all channels. How does your website communicate what your service or product is about? Is the user experience the same on a smartphone as it is on laptop? See how the content, layout and web functionalities change when your site is accessed on different devices.

A good digital strategy will bring those interactions together and translate them into a great user experience. And if you’re providing users a great experience, chances are you’ll earn their trust and keep them coming back for more.

Before Upgrading Your Website – Part 2


Is it time to upgrade your website? As discussed in Part 1 of this series, it is impossible to ignore the fact that most people “Google” almost everything. In fact, according to Nextopia, 86% of Baby Boomers and 90% of Millennials routinely research products online. For Financial Advisors, a professional and relevant website is becoming so critical to their business that it cannot be ignored. A website not only helps keep Investment Advisors in touch with their clients but will be necessary to gain and service new clients in the future.

So where do you start? You might be feeling that this will take time and may even be a little painful. The best way to begin is to take the steps to have all the aspects of your website well thought out so that it tells a cohesive story about you and your business.  Here are things you should consider before you begin in order to make the process more constructive and maybe even pain free.

  1. Carve out some time to work on this. Book some uninterrupted time in your calendar to go plan out what your site will look like and what you want your visitors to “feel” when they come to your site.
  2. Take a look at your competitors’ websites. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take note of what you like and what grabs your attention. It is also important to note what you don’t like or what makes you lose interest. These negatives can be great in helping you avoid some of the pitfalls of a poor website design.
  3. Create your BRAND. This is very important! Your website is a reflection of you, how you do business and what your strengths and values are. Start by asking yourself these questions:
  • What makes you unique?
  • What do you like most about your business?
  • What do your clients like about you?
  • What are your business values?
  • How would you like to appear to others?
  1. Create a tagline. Taglines are like slogans or mini mission statements that can succinctly describe who you are and what you stand for. Once you have determined your BRAND, you can work at developing a tagline which can be displayed prominently on your website. Just to be clear, this is not a value proposition but a short, catchy phrase which reflects you and your business.
  2. Create your topics. Topics will be represented in different pages on your website or links found in the navigation bar at the top of your page. Take a look at other sites to get an idea of what you might want to include for example, “About Us” and “Products and Services”. It is important, however, that you make sure that you have at least one topic that reflects what makes you unique.
  3. Create your text. Good text is the backbone of your website. This is also where many websites get it wrong. A long, rambling essay is not going to attract the attention of your website visitors. Define what you want to get across about your business, use clear and friendly language, be concise, and be direct. Let them know, in an obvious way, why they should do business with you. Calls-to-Action are important to encourage your visitors to interact with your website.
  4. Use professional photos. Your visitors want to see a photo of you and your team. Much like house buyers looking at houses online will only consider those which have photos, most people will likely not show interest in your site if there are no pictures. Try to get several different poses of you and your team, including some that seem more spontaneous.
  5. Add interest by using stock photos. One of the most important things to take into consideration when designing your website is how users think. Think about how you navigate websites when you are online. Most users want instant gratification and a website which gives them interesting and credible information fast. They scan, not read, a website which means you have to grab their attention immediately in order for them to remain interested. You can do this by adding pictures to complement your text. Stock photos are a good way of making your point in an instant.
  6. Consider ways to keep your website fresh. Keeping your website fresh and updated has probably not been your number one priority and may seem like too much work. However, consider this, updating can result in more traffic to your site, allows you to deliver information in a timely fashion and to more individuals and lets you repeat your BRAND and uniqueness to visitors. On the other hand, not updating your website may create a negative opinion. There are many ways to keep your site updated by blogging, creating newsletters, market updates, and demonstrating community involvement. How you do it will probably depend on your firm and what support they provide.


Marielle Demers is an Investment Advisor Coach who has worked with Advisors across the country. She has been in the financial business for over 20 years and strongly believes that Canadians should be using an Investment Advisor for all their investment needs. As a coach, she also believes that the most important part of building a strong financial business is to see it through the clients’ eyes. She works with other experts to help you build a customized plan and to IMPLEMENT that Plan. Marielle can be reached at or 416 540 5158

Read how Brandon Silbermann, from Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd., used Digital Agent by Veriday to create a digital branding platform for his company.

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Reprinted with permission from Investment Executive.  

Brandon Silbermann’s digital branding initiative was powered by Digital Agent by Veriday.


If the new way of doing business for financial advisors is at the intersection of the latest digital marketing technology and good, old-fashioned client service, Brandon Silbermann might just be the advisor of the future.

A typical day for Silbermann might include updating his practice’s website, checking his LinkedIn account and driving to a client’s farm to discuss his or her financial plan.

Silbermann, 25, is an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont., which is affiliated with Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities Investment Services Inc. He officially joined the investment industry full-time in 2013 after graduating from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, from which he obtained an honours bachelor of commerce degree in finance.

But back in 2013, Silbermann already was familiar with financial advisory work, having been involved in his school’s co-operative education program, through which he was mentored by Don Stockman, advisor and founder of Stockman Financial.

Silbermann now is an advisor with that practice with his own book of business, consisting of $22 million in assets under management. He is licensed to sell mutual funds, which are offered through Manulife Securities, and insurance products, through Kitchener, Ont.-based Financial Horizons Inc.

Silbermann has learned many lessons from Stockman, who has been an advisor for more than 30 years in the Waterloo region. These lessons include key steps in maintaining strong relationships with clients. “Don always told me to do the right thing,” Silbermann says. “Take good care of the client. Make sure you see them face to face.”

Silbermann brought to the established practice some special knowledge that is characteristic of his age group. He took on the large task of creating an online brand for the practice, which did not have a website prior to Silbermann joining the firm.

This digital branding initiative included creating a website with the help of a third-party digital-marketing company that works with Manulife. The Stockman Financial website would allow Stockman and Silbermann to communicate their skills and experience to families and small-business owners, such as farmers and skilled tradespeople in the construction industry, who are an important part of Stockman Financial’s niche.

“We have three or four generations of some [client] families,” Silbermann says. But the firm needed a way to communicate its expertise to other clients and prospects: not only an online presence, but one that stays up to date.

Silbermann ensures that the website’s functionality fits the ways in which people use technology. “The majority of web searches are done through smartphones,” he says, his empty hands gesturing as if scrolling through a smartphone screen. “So, it was critical for us to have something that is mobile-compatible so that people could see it – so it looked nice on their phones and was easily searchable.”

Silbermann is active on LinkedIn, connecting with other professionals on that social media network. He does not network through Facebook or Twitter, but he is planning to join Manulife’s social media program for advisors, which will guide Silbermann in using Twitter in a compliant manner.

Silbermann’s digital strategy seems to be working just fine. He added three new clients through his use of LinkedIn in 2015.

Silbermann does not spend much time pursuing prospects online, aside from sending out LinkedIn invitations to connect with other professionals. He finds that fellow LinkedIn users will check out his profile, then ask him questions through that social-media network. But those conversations do not remain online for long, as Silbermann’s strategy is to meet prospects in person as soon as possible.

“As much as the world is digital,” Silbermann says, “you need to put a face to a name, especially in a business that is as private and important as money.”

That principle has Silbermann convinced that robo-advisory services, which are becoming increasingly well known, are not a serious competitor. These online services cannot provide that human connection that is important to both Silbermann and Stockman, the latter of whom always emphasizes the importance of seeing clients in person, even if that means driving to the farmhouse of a client who lives outside of the immediate Waterloo area.

“Being able to be there with these people, their farming families and companies, generates a whole other level of trust, integrity and rapport,” Silbermann says. “It does not concern me how the industry is changing.”

Silbermann also is confident that his age is not an obstacle in attracting new clients. The keys, he says, are to associate yourself with a successful brand, then develop a positive relationship with individuals who can speak on your behalf. The affiliation with Manulife, which has a visible presence in the Waterloo region, and to Stockman work to Silbermann’s benefit. Once he builds trust with young clients, he can appeal to their parents.

Silbermann’s office acts as a showcase for his clients’ skills. The flooring, which looks like reclaimed barnwood and is symbolic of Waterloo’s farming tradition, was installed by a client. A painting of bright yellow construction machinery set against a skyline of tall buildings, created by a client’s son, was commissioned by Silbermann; the painting represents the type of hard-working individuals who make up an important part of Silbermann’s client base.

Silbermann also speaks to university students about entrepreneurship on his own time. One of his goals is to help his alma mater grow its investment club. He is an avid reader of books on business, technology and foreign policy. He also is working toward a certified financial planner designation.


Millennial-generation financial advisors should consider both traditional and digital methods to establish a strong rapport with clients and prospects, according to Brandon Silbermann, an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont. Silbermann offers the following tips to help young advisors get off to a good start:

1. Develop a mobile-friendly website

A strong online brand can help you connect with prospects and show what they can expect regarding your skills and the services you would provide as their advisor. Because a growing proportion of online searches are conducted on mobile devices, your content must be easily viewed on smartphones and tablets.

2. Be honest

Taking a direct approach with clients about fees, products and other issues will help young advisors build trust with clients of all ages, Silbermann says.

3. Connect with established brands

Joining a large firm with a positive reputation or the practice of an experienced and trusted senior advisor can help you build trust.

Working with a known entity also provides instant credibility, says Silbermann: “It helps you get over the initial hurdles of being a younger person in the industry and managing money professionally.”

4. Build a network of mentors

Consider the type of business you want to run in the future and look for professionals in various industries who fit your vision. Silbermann has four mentors, each works in heavy construction, group benefits or portfolio management. And don’t be nervous about approaching established professionals. “If you have a good connection with them, they will share a lot about how they got to where they are.”

© 2016 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.


This post was authored by Tessie Sanci and originally appeared here on Investment Executive