3 Easy Steps to Start Your Advisor Blog

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Many of the insurance and financial advisors that I speak to on a regular basis find the task of blogging to be a very daunting and time consuming task. Blogging is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic and is also a critical sales and marketing tactic to connect with your audience. One of my favourite questions that I like to answer tends to be “How do I get started?”. It’s a great reflection of an advisor who’s ready to incorporate digital and content marketing into their practice and of someone who’s ready to do something different in an industry where blogging is not yet pervasive.

Here are 3 steps I commonly talk about to get started.

Step 1: Coming up with topics

If I sat you down in front of a typewriter and asked you to write a book and I didn’t give you a topic that would be pretty hard and you could potentially sit for a few hours and come up with nothing (maybe a title and an introduction). If I did the same thing and asked you to write a book about financial planning you might also come up with nothing after a few hours.

This analogy is often how I think advisors look at content writing. One critical success factor of content writing is the plan. Ok, the plan, what do I mean? Well, much like how you might put together a financial plan for your client, you would put together a plan for content writing. A plan helps to regulate the frequency at which you write and produce a tempo. It also helps take a lot of the guess work out of what to write about next. If I planned on saving up $1200 a contribution of $100 a month for the next 12 months, would arguably be easier than me thinking about the amount to save each month to reach my goal.

So, just how do you come up with the topics? Simple. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you meet with clients and prospects?
  2. Do your clients and prospects ask you questions?
  3. Do your clients and prospects ask you the same questions?

You probably answered ‘Yes’ to all three of those questions. Now, take the next 5-10 minutes and write down as many questions as you possibly can on a piece of paper and then move onto step 2. Write down the questions that come to mind first.

Step 2: Mine for Blogging Gold

Now that you have a list of questions we’re going to do a quick scan of each of your questions. The reason for this is that blogging effectively, involves writing about single topics as opposed to writing an essay. There will be a subset of the questions that you wrote down that might simply result in too large of a blog post. This is where we can dig for blogging gold because the questions you’ve already thought of, might themselves, break into other blog posts. So what do I mean by single topics? Well, it’s kind of analogous to how you might look at a book. An effective blog post would be equivalent to a single chapter while a not-so-effective blog post would be an entire book. Writing too many concepts into a single blog post can cause you to lose reader interest and also make it more difficult for you to complete a post. Here are some good and bad examples of titles that might lead you to write about more than one topic:

Good

  • What is a TFSA?
  • 3 keys to saving effectively for retirement
  • How to save for your next big vacation

Bad

  • Financial Planning 101
  • The INs and OUTs of an RRSP
  • How to choose a financial advisor

Now, take 10 minutes and look at your list of questions and for each topic, determine whether you can break the topic down into more than 1 mutually exclusive topic. For example, “What is a TFSA?” cannot instinctively be broken down into more than 1 mutually exclusive topic as everything points to the topic of a TFSA. “Financial Planning 101”, however, can be broken down into Tax, Retirement, Investments, etc., all of which are mutually exclusive topics. No need to think too long on each question as it should be instinctive and easy to identify the questions that can be broken out. Then move onto Step 3.

Step 3: Plan your Tempo and Topics

By now, you should have a pretty healthy list of questions to answer. The next step is to set up your tempo. How often will you decide to blog. There are definitely rules of thumb when it comes to blogging and in general, the more often you blog, the better your results. That being said, if you’re just getting started, setting up the frequency of your blogging is more important than setting up how much you will blog. Blogging once a week is arguably better than blogging once a month which would arguably be better than blogging once a quarter and so on. Choose the frequency that you feel you can handle. If the frequency you set becomes very manageable, increase that frequency. Remember to start small and then move up from there. Choose the easiest questions to answer first.

Take the next 5 minutes, look across your questions, and line your topics up to your frequency. For example, if you have 12 topics and have chosen to write monthly, that’s one blog post per month. Also, decide whether you will release your blog at the beginning or at the end of the month.

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At this stage you’ve completed a very critical step and are well on your way to becoming perceived as an expert in your area of expertise! With all of your single topics and questions set up, it should be a relatively straight forward exercise to answer the questions you’ve documented! A few key things to remember when you write is that blogging is not about perfection. You’re not designing a rocket to the moon. Obviously spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable but outside of that, the world’s your oyster. Write in the way that you would have a conversation with a client or a prospect. Make your readers feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

Remember, your voice is unique. No other person in the world communicates like you. No other person has been exposed to the same experiences that you have.

What’s your greatest barrier to getting started with blogging?

 

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4 Secrets to Writing Effective Value Propositions for Financial Advisors

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As both a marketing and sales professional, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to create and articulate in my career has been either my own personal or my company’s value proposition. It’s definitely not a feat to be underestimated and it is something that is often over engineered to a point that can be confusing to some readers. I reviewed many value propositions for financial advisors and provided advice and consulting to a number of advisors looking for more differentiation.

Typically, the value proposition lives on the home page of a website, your Twitter profile, LinkedIN company page, your company’s brochure and practically anywhere where you expect to acquire exposure to an audience who knows nothing about who you are or what you do. The primary goal of your value proposition should be to convert your reader. What do I mean by convert? Well, it means converting your reader from being a complete stranger to someone who is willing to take another step towards trusting you and eventually spending money with you (which is the ultimate goal). This could involve clicking on something else on your website, flipping the page of your brochure, scrolling down the rest of your Twitter feed, or reading an article that you either shared or published. These are all considered conversions.

With that goal in mind, here are 4 common areas I tend to talk about surrounding value propositions for financial advisors at the point when advisors are either creating it or considering re-writing it.

Is it relevant to your target audience?

Many value propositions for financial advisors tend to have too much of a focus on the actual advisor or firm. It’s important to describe who you are and what you do, but realistically, that comes at a later step. Keeping in mind the goal of capturing and enticing the reader just enough to convert, the first few words of your value proposition should contain some information as to how you help your reader solve problems. It’s always good to remember that your business exists because it helps solve your clients’ problems. Some questions you can ask yourself to help get you thinking of a reader focused solution statement:

  • What are the top 3 problems you are helping your clients’ solve?
  • If you left your clients tomorrow and never replaced you, what would happen to them in a month, 6 months or a year?

How does your audience benefit from using your products or services?

Another key component to your value proposition should contain one or more key benefits that you provide. A lot of people writing their value proposition statements for the first time tend to fall into the trap of writing about features vs. benefits. For example, the statement, “We provide families with sustainable investment strategies” is a features statement. A “sustainable investment strategy” is a service or an offering. It’s not quite a benefit in the context of the example I provided. How about this one? “We help families achieve financial freedom”. This is clearly more in the direction of a benefits statement. “Financial freedom” isn’t something you can offer “out of the box” but you can implement specific strategies that can help families achieve that goal. One exercise I like to use with my clients to help them with a benefits statement is a fill in the blanks exercise:

  • Fill In The Blanks: The greatest challenge I solve for my clients is __________. By solving this challenge they can __________.

Tip: After writing a benefits statement, ask yourself the question “Why?” until you get to a point where the answer to the question becomes almost philosophical. Let’s take the previous example:

  1. We provide families with sustainable investment strategies. Why?
  2. So they can save enough money. Why?
  3. So they can achieve financial freedom. Why?
  4. So they can live without worrying about debt. Why?
  5. So they can live happily ever after. <– philosophical point of achievement!

Can your audience easily understand your communication style?

There’s many reasons to use common language in such a key part of your marketing material. For websites, using common language will help with your search engine results. Why? Because if you’re using language that your clients or your target audience don’t commonly use, chances are, they won’t be using that language to located your website. The reasons why you would use common language from a marketing and writing standpoint is very analogous. The system and combinations of words we use is how we communicate with other people within our circles of influence. Using words that are not typically in your audience’s vernacular can cause you to lose their attention.

Length

As marketers, one key consideration of any attention grabbing content is our audience’s attention span which happens to be 8 seconds. Keeping your value proposition short and simple are key to a successful conversion.

If you’d like some feedback or help on your existing value proposition, drop me a line!

Question: What are some of the best or worst value propositions for financial advisors you’ve ever read online or seen in your daily life?

 

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Financial Advisors: 3 ways you are hurting your online presence

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These days, everything under the sun is Google-able. Anything and everything can be found online. The World Wide Web has eliminated time and geographic constraints for businesses looking to build their online reputation, connections, and influence.  Although the web has provided us with many great opportunities, there are also ways that the web can hurt your businesses reputation.

Making a poor online first impression

Your website is your business card and the face of your online business. Prospects form an opinion about your business within the first 10 seconds of their visit. This is why, more then ever, it is important to have a professional looking website. A good website communicates to prospects that the owner cares about their business and online image, and it makes the visitor feel like the business is trustworthy. Poor design, or do-it-yourself websites, can communicate business instability and a lack of credibility.

Being too controversial or negative

Original and refreshing content can help you stand out from your competitors and help to create loyalty among your visitors. Solve a problem for your prospects or provide fresh insights into your industry. Predictability is a sure way to lose followers but so is being too controversial. Being intentionally controversial is not the way to get people’s attention. The way you choose to discuss topics will determine people’s perception of you. Be positive, be interesting, but don’t be negative.

You’re not promoting your services

Make sure you are clearly showcasing the services that you offer and focusing on problems that you can solve for your prospects. Prospects need to know exactly what services you provide (so do search engines) and how you can help them. You should also make sure you are including a clear call to action. What do you want your prospects to do? Should they call for an appointment, or contact you through your website?

Your reputation is displayed online 24/7 so it is important to proactively protect your online presence.  Start with your website. Would you rather do business with a professional, well-groomed person wearing a nice suit, or a person who looked like they just rolled out of bed?   The same comparison can be made for people’s impressions of your website, and who they decide to do business with.

Still wondering how to improve your online presence?  We want to help!  Get in touch with us today.

3 Optimization Tips that Advisors are Missing on their Blog

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In a previous post, we covered the importance of blogging, as a financial advisor! Now, let’s look into some quick and easy ways to improve the quality of your blog! Here are 3 Optimization Tips that Advisors are Missing on their Blog

Optimize Blog Post Titles

The title of your blog post matters a great deal. Your blog post will appear in search engine results, links and on social media sites. Create an informative and catchy title, for each article, describing what your post is all about. If you want to rank high for a particular question or keyword, make sure it is included in the title of the article.

Here are some effective tips for creating attention grabbing blog titles:

  • Include keywords or questions in the title
  • Catchy and to the point – grab the user’s attention from search
  • Use the list approach (10 top, 3 reasons to. Etc)
  • Be a contrarian
  • Use emotional triggers
  • Pose a question
  • Use power words

Your titles will improve with practice. Make sure you are taking a look at your analytics to see which articles are receiving the most amount of traffic. This is a good indicator that the titles you are using are what your targeted audience is looking for.

Picking the Right Image

A picture is worth a thousand words.  People love pictures and so do search engines.  Finding the right image adds another dimension to an article. Image selection is an important part of engaging your visitor. A good image can create an immediate emotional reaction and set the tone of your article.

It is important to pull out all of the stops to help your article get ranked higher so take the time to optimize your images. Google tries to understand the content of images by the text and keywords surrounding it. The most important part of image search engine optimization is the image filename and alt tag. Rename the photo using 4-5 words to tell Google what the photo is all about. The alt tag gives a description to the image in the case the image doesn’t load or display correctly on your website.

Internal Links

If you are writing a new blog post and reference an older article you have written, or a service that you provide, make sure to create an internal link in your article to those pages. Visitors like to travel through websites looking for valuable content, so why not send them to check out your older posts that are relevant? Internal links help search engines index your site and help identify primary keywords. This helps to increase the page rank of linked pages.

So, next time you publish your next blog article, remember these three things before you hit the ”post now” button.

What strategies are you using to optimize your blog? How often do you create and post new articles for your audience? Share your comments below.

 

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CRM 2 and the Rise of Content Marketing

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I’ll start this post with a response from a financial advisor customer of ours (the name is hidden though for privacy reasons) in one of the surveys we performed.

Question: How can having a website with Digital Agent help you achieve your long term business goals?

Response:  “There will be a thinning of the herd for advisors in the coming years as the regulators will require everyone to disclose their fees.  I’ll need to prove to clients even more that I am worth their money. ”

The “thinning of the herd” is what this advisor is referring to as the CRM 2 bill. The  CRM 2 bill, recently passed, is generating a fair bit of uncertainty and fear within the advisor community. This is for a variety of reasons but one of those reasons is centred around how this will change and affect an advisor’s relationship with their customers.

By no stretch am I an expert on this subject but from I’ve read, the bill is essentially legislation, providing the requirement that advisors provide complete transparency into the amount of money they make through their clients. The question is, why does this matter? Why do advisors care that they need to do this?

In the end, in any business, the only time I can think of where this would be an issue really comes down to a question of value. Advisors worry that their clients will focus more on price than value. If I became fully transparent as to the amount of profit I made from a customer, I would only ever have a problem releasing this information, if I believed there to be a mismatch between the perceived value of my product vs the actual price I charge for that product or if I had difficulty articulating the price and value discussion (or proving it for that matter).

CRM II raises the question of perceived value over price. In theory, Advisors who have strong and trusted relationships and who are undoubtedly confident about the value they provide to their clients should have nothing to fear. Advisors who have been reaping the benefits otherwise, should be, and rightfully wondering how to close the value and price gap and in my opinion, this is where Content Marketing should become such a critical part to any advisors’ business looking to overcome the ensuing difficult conversations they are about to have with their customers. Content marketing provides an opportunity for advisors to show how much value they can provide and take the conversation beyond the price level.

If you don’t have a website yet, I implore you, please, get one. It’s no longer an option and you’re one of very few who are still holding out. If you’re not convinced that you need one, read this article and then come back to this one to solidify the business case.

Content marketing is a relatively new term and previously associated with things like Email Marketing. In actual fact, there’s a growing movement around content marketing attempting to redefine and transform the entire Digital Marketing space. Content marketing is a method that individuals, groups, companies and/or organizations use to build trust with possibly buyers of their product or service. It is most associated with blogging and should be core to any small to large business’ marketing strategy.

Here’s a key fact for anyone in marketing: 70% of all shoppers, do their research online before making a purchase decision. What does this mean? This means that before this group of 70% pick up the phone, they’re already doing all of their research online. This means that before picking up the phone and calling you, they’ve already decided what they want to do with you and your business. If I picked up the phone today and attempted to cold call a random sample of 10 possible buyers, the only scenario that ends up with a purchase is the one where they’ve already decided to buy my product or service. The question for you the advisor is, have they made a decision on buy a product or service through you? And if not, why?

Ultimately, and especially in today’s digital age, purchase decisions undoubtedly and ultimately come down to one thing: TRUST. That shouldn’t surprise you. But then, how do you build trust, when 70% of shoppers do all of their research online before making a buying decision. This is the  question that still baffles many business owners today. Traditional marketing tells you that advertising eventually leads to a conversation that you can have with a prospect or buyer. The problem with traditional marketing is that the buyer is already having the conversation with anything they can find online about the product or service they are planning to purchase. Content marketing attempts to address this exact “problem”.

Content marketing is fundamentally about building trust with potential or existing customers and doing it on a platform that can be viewable by everyone. It’s about answering questions that are typically asked by customers in the financial services industry. While so simple, building trust starts with just that fundamental principle: answering customer questions.

Have a question about content marketing and how it can improve and enhance your business? Get in touch with me using our contact form or simply email me directly!

 

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