Financial Advisors: Making Sense of the SEC’s Third-Party Review Site Rules

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

Financial Advisors and the marketing consultants who specialize in working with them know that the SEC no-testimonials rule prohibits Registered Investment Advisers and Investment Adviser Representatives from using client endorsements in their advertising. But in April 2014, the SEC issued new guidelines on the use of social media and online communications, which opened the door to something new: the ability for Advisors share on their own websites and profile pages public comments about their services that are posted on independent websites (such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Wallet Hub, and GuideVine).

There are, of course, rules related to how the content from these third-party sites can be used on sites and profile pages the Advisory firm controls. Here’s how to think things through.

NO CHERRY PICKING

The Advisor must include both positive and negative reviews. This means there can be no cherry picking — the Advisor must publish all comments, unedited. Financial Advisors can’t just copy and paste the good ones and leave the bad ones behind on the third-party site.

The SEC guidance specifically says: “The investment Adviser may publish only the totality of the testimonials from an independent social-media site and may not highlight or give prominence to a subset of the testimonials.”

Advisors can also publish mathematical averages of the comments from third-party review sites.

The best way to benefit from the third-party review sites, according to many industry consultants, is to post the logo and a link to the page where the third-party reviews live.

In this writer’s opinion, it could be worth linking to the third-party review page and monitoring daily to ensure that one is comfortable with any new comments. If the comments on the third-party review site ever become a concern, Advisors have a couple choices — remove the logo and link to the third-party site or embrace the fact that studies show that companies that have a disproportionate number of marginal or negative reviews are seen as more credible and real.

CONSUMER TRUST BUILDING 

Stats from social commerce company Reevoo show that, while it may seem counterintuitive, the presence of a few bad reviews is actually a good thing.

“Reevoo found that people that seek out and read bad reviews convert better, as the very fact that they are paying such close attention means they are more likely to be in purchase mode,” says writer Vikki Chowney in an article on eConsultancy.com. “68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page.”

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that people now trust one another more than they do established institutions. People have always turned to their peers when making important decisions. Now, with social media’s impact on online search, it is easier than ever for those doing research online to find “a person like me” or “ a regular employee” — both of which are seen as more credible than a company executive or paid spokesperson.

For more insights on building trust online read this Marie Swift piece on Financial-Planning.com: Why Financial Advisors Can’t Ignore Social Media.

NO INFLUENCE ON THIRD-PARTY SITES

The SEC guidelines also state that Financial Advisors must not have the ability to influence comments from the general public on the third-party site. This means the Advisor must not try to influence how they’re portrayed on those third-party sites. The SEC is trying to ensure that potential clients get the full picture of an Advisory firm.

“Advisers would violate the SEC’s testimonial rule if they drafted or submitted comments to a third-party review site, paid others to submit favorable comments to the site or suppressed, edited or manipulated the order in which the commentary was presented,” said tenured industry writer Mark Schoeff, Jr. in this article published by Investment News, SEC Oks Use of Third Party Social Media Endorsements.

CONTENT NEUTRAL LINE-UP

Beyond just the “all or nothing” restriction covered in the “no cherry picking” section of this article, Registered Investment Advisers must keep in mind that they may only publish testimonials from an independent review website in a “content-neutral manner.” According to the SEC guidelines, this means chronological or alphabetical order. It is not okay to put the best rankings at the top and the worst rankings at the bottom.

This is one reason why this writer believes it is best to simply link to the third-party review site and then monitor the discussion threads on a daily basis.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU POST ON THIRD-PARTY SITES

What would you do if you saw this post on a third-party review site?

“Found Jake Advisor to be out of touch, unresponsive and arrogant.”

How about this one?

“I have known John Planner for many years. One of the nicest guys you will ever meet! He knows his business and will take GREAT care of you and your assets.”

 It is human nature to want to applaud the person posting the positive comment — but Financial Advisors should refrain from doing anything that might be construed as encouraging positive comments. So the best thing to do when a Financial Advisor sees a positive comment is to do nothing — at least not publically. It would be nice however to say, “thanks for your kind comments on xyz review site,” over a cup of coffee, while at the same time explaining why you can’t try to encourage positive endorsements online.

In the case of the negative comment above, it is human nature to want to defend oneself. As a marketing communications and reputation expert, this writer believes that it would be best if the Advisor in question posted something simple such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Please call me to discuss.”, if the third-party site allows responses. And leave it at that. Check with compliance first, of course, to make sure their interpretation of the SEC guidelines is in alignment with this reputational recommendation.

BOTTOM LINE

“This rule would appear to put Advisers in the clear regarding third-party review sites, such as Yelp, presuming that the Adviser really does not have any affiliation to the site, and cannot control the comments posted (e.g., by trying to delete negative comments while allowing positive ones to remain),” said Michael Kitces, director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group, on his blog, Nerd’s Eye View.

Check with your company’s compliance department to learn more about internal policies and procedures and/or outside legal counsel to make sure all regulatory guidelines are being met at your firm. A recent report from McGladrey, LLC, a leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services in the US, says that financial firms should be prepared for Heightened SEC Regulatory Focus. Smart Financial Advisors will be ready for questions and conducting themselves in close alignment to the SEC rules.

Advisors: A Guide to SEO Keyword Research [Infographic]

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While Google keeps us on our toes with constant Google algorithm changes and updates, one thing that remains consistent when developing a website, or creating content for a website is keyword research. Keyword research refers to the process of determining what keywords your potential customers use in search engines when searching for information. Keyword research is quite possibly the most important part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since you cannot begin to plan for the content on your website unless you know which words and phrases you are targeting.

Some 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web. And, among search users, 91% always or most of the time find the information they are looking for (Marketing Profs, 2013). They do this by typing in a keyword or keyword phrase.  In return, a search engine’s complex set of algorithms sifts through the enormous amount of webpages in order to find the most relevant pages. This is why keyword research is so important.  Keywords are used in the process of matching your website content to what your targeted viewers are looking for.  For SEO, keywords are the connector, the relationship between you and your prospects, established and indexed by the search engine.

If you want your Financial Advisory practice to be successful in online marketing, SEO remains one of the single most important component’s of any organization’s branding efforts and online presence. When developing your strategy, however, it is important to keep in mind that search engine optimization is a process that takes time to come into effect. Check out the Infographic below, courtesy of ClearSkySEO, which is a quick guide to Search Engine Optimization and keyword research.

guide-to-seo-keyword-research_558ac9e19772c

 

 

Infographic: The Fascinating History of Graphic Design

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As a highly visual society, graphic design is a vital part of our everyday lives.  It is all around us; in logos, magazines, newspapers, packaging, websites, branding, posters, books, signage, advertisements and more.  It is nearly impossible to go through an entire day without encountering some kind of graphic design.

Graphic design is what attracts us to brands.  It takes only a few seconds for individuals to feel a sense of connection to a brand, logo, or design.   A company’s brand image starts with a great logo but goes far beyond and extends to every aspect of a business.  Graphic design aims to identify with target audiences, and represents your company as a whole. A creative and strong brand will resonate with your target audience and make sure that your customers and prospects remember you.

We know the importance of graphic design, and the impact it has on our daily lives, but when and where did graphic design begin? The evolution of graphic design can be linked back to both cultural and technological advancements throughout history.  We came across this interesting Infographic, courtesy of Creative Market, that looks at some of the major milestones in the history of graphic design.   Check it out!
HistoryOfGraphicDesign_IG

4 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Web Site Photos

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This post was authored by Kristen Harad and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

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Many Financial Advisors struggle to differentiate their firms and stand out in the crowd. Often times, this is best illustrated through your Web site. If you notice any of these four signs, it may be time to get an imagery makeover.

4 Signs You Need to Update Your Web site’s Photography:

1. Your home page’s first picture is a happy silver-haired couple gazing wistfully at the horizon dreaming of their retirement.

2. You see the same image on five other Financial Advisors’ home pages, all within your city limits.

3. Your primary audience is growing families and you still show active seniors, golf courses, or Adirondack chairs on the beach.

4. You don’t actually have any images on your site.

Inspirational images like sweeping scenery and active seniors help to convey the lifestyle that 80-90 percent of the population would probably like to eventually achieve, but do these types of photos help you speak to your ideal client?

Advisors use this type of generic imagery for two main reasons: (1) they want to be sure they do not exclude any potential prospects and (2) they are the default images set from their web provider.   Based on the presumption that most people’s financial goal is to retire to a life of financial comfort, the ‘silver fox’ or tropical vacation photos convey that this is what the Advisor can help clients achieve.  Whether or not your audience is 25, 45, or 65, everyone ultimately wants the same thing.

Unfortunately, this is not only the most widely deployed marketing strategy but also one of the least effective. By casting such a wide and inclusive net, this style of communication puts the burden on potential clients to figure out whom you best serve and if you are the right professional to help them with their unique challenges. Retirement planning is of course one part of the financial planning equation, but for many clients it’s not the reason they are seeking a planner’s help.  They have many bridges to cross before that stage of life.

How important is photography?

Expert marketers care about the images they use because images draw people in. With the right photos, you can increase the probability that you will attract the right people for your practice.

When I worked at a large New York Ad agency, we spent countless hours assessing each detail of every photograph we would use in an ad or a direct mail piece, just to be certain it resonated with the client’s target audience.  How much grey hair should he have? How many wrinkles? What ethnicity? What clothes would he wear? What’s happening in the background? Is that a place he would be? What expression fits the brand? Are they too ‘happy’? Are they believable? If we had a photo shoot, where we crafted the image – then 100 times as much detail, and even more patience, came into play.

Where to Find Inexpensive, Quality Photos

The good news is that while ad agencies can spend thousands of dollars to get one photo “right,” the Web offers a proliferation of quality photos at reasonable prices.

  • Istockphoto – Select your price range from $ up to $$$$ and sizes from Small to XL. With credits you purchase, you’ll access one of the widest ranges of quality photos offered online.
  • Bigstockphoto – You can subscribe to receive a flat number of photos per month (good for a frequent blogger) or buy photos as needed. This service offers modern, intriguing photos to brighten up your site.
  • Unsplash – this unique site offers free images, no strings attached. You pick from what is posted, and you can use it any way you like. They post 10 new photos every days. You never know what you’re going to find, but you’ll certainly stand out from the crowd.

Remember, while many clients do aspire to spend their retirement observing awe-inspiring sunsets around the globe, that may not be the driving factor that leads them to hire you.  Show your clients that you understand who they are and what they want. And, please, find photos that match.

A Recap of Veriday’s 1st Liferay Meetup

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Veriday held its 1st Liferay Meetup on August 18th, 2015 at our new office location. It was a successful evening full of great people, food, refreshments, and insightful presentations on Liferay. A big thank you to Chris Lamoureux, Patrick Lafond, Scott Ord & Nick Quach for sharing their insights and wisdom on everything from Liferay Inc. to user experience design to agile development.

Veriday_event

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For those of you who missed it, here’s a quick recap of the night:

Nick Quach, VP of Technology and Solutions at Veriday, got the evening going as the first presenter of the night.  Nick spoke about Liferay as a System of Engagement, a term coined by Geoffrey Moore, a business author of such books as Crossing the Chasm. Nick discussed Systems of Engagement and the transition from current enterprise systems to systems that are focused on human culture, communication, and peer interactions, as opposed to processes. Systems of Engagement focus on a totally new user experience. Nick’s discussion highlighted how many enterprises are turning to Liferay to provide an effective System of Engagement in order to more effectively systematize their organization.

The next speaker up was Patrick Lafond, a Solutions Engineer at Veriday.  Patrick presented an insightful presentation on Liferay as an Integrations platform. Patrick focused on sharing some of his observations and experiences using Liferay as an integration platform (both providing and consuming web services).  Patrick’s background in Enterprise Integration provides a unique perspective on an implementation pattern commonly used in a Portal ecosystem. His discussion highlighted that Liferay provides developers the ability to leverage numerous tools, libraries, and frameworks in order to quickly and easily integrate with many diverse systems.

The 3rd presenter of the night was Scott Ord, a senior consultant at Veriday. Scott discussed “3rd Party Integration with Liferay”.  Scott covered 3 different means to add the necessary files to Liferay based on the type of framework (front MVC or front-end presentation).

Chris Lamoureux,  co-founder and executive VP of Veriday, closed off the evening as the last presenter. Chris spoke about his experiences working on many Liferay projects over the years.  Chris discussed, through his experiences, how Liferay has consistently streamlined the development process, from design to deployment, and as a result of Liferay’s efficiencies, saved enterprises significant time and money.

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If you’d like more information on any of the presentations, feel free to get in touch with us and we will be happy to help.

Join us for our next Liferay Meetup, and a great night of food, refreshments, networking and all things Liferay.  The next event will take place at the end of September. More details are to follow, or feel free to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates right to your inbox.

Key Findings from the World Wealth Report 2015: Millennial HNWI

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In Part 1, courtesy of Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, we explored the changing role of wealth managers within the evolving financial landscape and rise of new technologies. In part 2, we will look at some of the key findings from this year’s report, and comment specifically on the unmet needs of Millennials. According to Capgemini, there were 5 key findings from the 2015 World Wealth Report.

  1. North America and Asia-Pacific drove HNWI market growth in 2014, with Asia-Pacific regaining the top spot in HNWI population and poised to take the lead in HNWI wealth this coming year.
  2. Strong gains in these regions were not enough to push growth beyond the moderate level of 7% globally, which is the second slowest rate in the last five years
  3. HNWIs have increased their equity holdings over cash as the largest share of their portfolio holdings, and they have a strong demand for credit
  4. There is significant opportunity for wealth management firms to develop a robust social impact offering to address HNWI needs and capitalize on their demand for increased wealth manager involvement
  5. The wealth manager role and value proposition is undergoing a major evolution, requiring firms to re-think service models and capabilities. Unmet needs from younger HNWIs and industry challenges such as new entrants, regulation, and rising costs are impacting the wealth manager’s role, requiring that firms take targeted action

The key findings highlight how firms need to re-think the unmet needs from younger HNWIs. Millennials represent a large group of HNWIs under the age of 40 who are poised to inherit approximately $41 trillion from their baby boomer parents over the next 40 years. Wealth transfer creates the opportunity for Advisors to retain clients into the next generation. However, studies have shown that 95% of those next generation investors will leave the financial advisors upon the transfer of wealth. Herein lay the opportunity for Advisors to nurture and engage Millennials to avoid this leakage.

Millennials are a very unique generation that are poised to reshape the economy.  This means that financial and marketing strategies that work for their Boomer or Gen X parents, may not work for them.  Their unique experiences have already changed the ways in which we market, buy and sell.  This generation will likely conduct most or all of their wealth management functions through digital channels, which means a strong digital presence is important for Advisors looking to attract or retain the young HNWIs. As a Millennial myself, I know how we operate and with my peer network, I often confirm my own assumptions as well.  So, how can Advisors better market to the Millennial generation?

How Can Advisors Market to the Millennial Generation?

Turn Your Website Into a Hub for Engaging Experiences

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This post was authored by Angela Wu and originally appeared here on Liferay.com

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In the digital age, companies are learning fast that meeting customer expectations and driving business outcomes go beyond brand recognition or product availability.

Managing digital expectations may seem daunting; however, it’s clear that companies that understand their buyers and create consistent experiences across channels will more successfully attract, engage, and retain customers.

In light of this, we asked Bryan Cheung to share his thoughts on the digital consumer, data-driven marketing, and building better web experiences.

Q. How do you customize a web experience for today’s digital consumers whose backgrounds and interests vary?

BRYAN CHEUNG: Today’s customers expect to be addressed “Audience of One”: they want to be the center of your digital attention. Personas, segments, and rules are a great start but the ultimate goal is to understand each person’s need at any given moment.Q. How do you customize a web experience for today’s digital consumers whose backgrounds and interests vary?

People interacting digitally tend to be more transactional and purpose-driven than in traditional marketing, which means less browsing and more doing. They’re looking for specific information, educating themselves about you and your competitors, or gaining understanding of a problem. It’s important to create continuity across channels: if someone is trying to execute a transaction on a mobile app, then switches to your website, do you let them continue where they left off?

Lastly, using digital tools and technology help tailor their experience. By looking at their search terms, click behavior, and level of engagement—how long they stay with you—you can figure out what they’re looking for and deliver exactly what they need.

Q. It sounds like you’re talking about the Buyer’s Journey. Do you take that into account when creating web content?

BC: Yes, the Buyer’s Journey is a concept that we use to help understand the path a lead takes on his/her way to becoming a customer, partner, advocate, star employee or some other role that’s important to your organization. Of course, there’s no single journey for everyone, and buyers tend to jump all over the place. However, modeling the journey can still help you accelerate the development of the customer’s relationship with your organization.

Then, the short answer is this: it helps to write your content with the Buyer in mind. They’re not going to want to hear about competitors or detailed technical specs in the beginning when it’s important to show empathy for their problems rather than the superiority of your solution. Later, as you build trust and credibility, you can be more confident and assertive in presenting your products.

Your site should also be designed to be flexible and dynamic, so that the most appropriate content for what the users need can be presented on any visit. The front page isn’t the single entry point for visitors; they’re going to find most content on your site through searches and social referrals.

Q. Data has been called the new oil. Where do you begin in knowing what to measure?

BC: At Liferay, we try to identify the inflection points that make the biggest impact on Buyer Journey acceleration. We start with a theory on which digital touchpoints indicate readiness to engage at the next stage; there might be one key touchpoint or several that work in tandem. Once we’ve run the model for a long enough period that covers the sales cycle, we test our assumptions and see whether those inflection points were indeed influential.

Sometimes your data gives you very obvious conclusions, but it’s usually more nuanced than that and requires deliberate and prolonged attention. You should hire dedicated data analysts and give them enough leeway to find the insights in your data.

Q. Tell us about the roadmap for mobile content and design.

BC: We’ve been building a lot of exciting mobile-related capabilities into Liferay, including adding targeted content to native mobile apps and supporting mobile push notifications. We work with the worldview that digital platforms are inherently omni-channel. Users are going to start their journey on the web or mobile but quickly switch to in-store or phone-based interactions before completing their journey, for example, on a tablet or at a digital kiosk. So Liferay is trying to make it easy to connect those dots together into a unified journey.

Financial Advisor Checklist: 10 Things Every Advisor Should Be Doing Online

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  1. Mobile Optimized Website.

Digital traffic on smartphones and tablets has now exceeded desktops. Consumers expect a consistent experience no matter what device they are using. If your website is not mobile friendly, you are likely losing business to a website that is.

  1. A clearly defined value proposition and target audience.

Your prospects should have no difficulty understanding what it is that you do and how they can benefit from working with you. Your value proposition should contain one or more of the key benefits that you provide to your clients.

  1. Social Media Presence.

If you’re active on Twitter and Facebook, you should ensure your newsfeed is also visible on your website. Many investors use Social Media as key sources of information to help them better understand investment strategy and advice. In fact, nearly 70% of wealthy investors have reallocated investments, or began altering or already altered relationships with investment providers based on content found through social media.

  1. Engaging Imagery.

Do the images on your current site resonate with your target audience?  Are your images dated? Good quality? Legal? Unique? Relevant? Engaging? Powerful? Emotional? Are your competitors using the same image? Will your audience relate to the image?

  1. Dynamic Website.

Static sites do not perform well with your audience nor do they appear at the top of search results.  It is important to stay on top of updating your site regularly with new topics of interests, blogs, articles, etc. in order to keep search engines happy, and to keep your prospects coming back for more.

  1. Polls, Events & Community Outreach.

Are you regularly posting polls to your site to allow for audience feedback and engagement? Are you posting forms to allow your prospects and customers to RSVP to upcoming Webinars or events?

  1. Forms & Calls to Action.

What methods do you have in place to capture the information of prospects visiting your site and to convert them into leads/customers?  If the goal of your website is to create sales and get more business, then it is important that your website has effective Call to Actions. Present your value and use calls to action to direct visitors to a contact form, a newsletter subscription, or other call to actions such as webinars or a consultation.

  1. Blogging.

Hubspot reports that small businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors, and 126% higher lead growth than non-blogging businesses. Blogging also helps you to connect and engage with your prospects. It can help you establish yourself as an expert in the industry by helping to solve prospects challenges through content.

  1. Search Engine Optimization.

Are you putting time into the SEO of your website? It is important to constantly keep SEO in mind when creating and updating your website. Why build a website that no one can find? Target keywords that your target audience might search and create new content that targets these keywords. Make sure you are creating META tags for each page of your site. Meta tags are a great way for you to tell search engines what your website is all about.

      10.  eNewsletter

Do you have a method of staying “top of mind” with your prospects and clients? E-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to stay in touch with your clients and nurture your prospects. E-Newsletters can be one of the easiest ways that Advisors can repurpose their existing content in order to engage their audience, and remain front and centre when prospects are ready to make a buying decision.

 

Guide to Content Marketing

INFOGRAPHIC: Work Day Productivity Hacks

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As a digital marketing company, we are always interested in the latest and greatest applications that can help to optimize our workday and improve productivity. We all know the importance of having a positive attitude and a good balance between work, sleep, exercise, relaxation, socialization and winding down time; but sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Fear not!  We found this fantastic Infographic, courtesy of Hussle. It’s a great read on some excellent tools for time management, organization, exercise and more, that can help you to be more productive while also finding time to indulge in some much needed down time.  These 26 apps can help you to optimize your day, while also leaving time for ample amounts of Netflix.

Here’s Hussle’s ‘Work Day Productivity Hacks” infographic to help you supercharge your day!

26_apps_optimize_your_life

Liferay Vs. WebSphere: Support and Community Examined

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Why is Liferay accelerating in the Gartner magic quadrant and why are so many medium to large enterprises continuing to adopt open source products? Has open source software now become the preferred choice for enterprises? According to a Black Duck Software report, over half of all enterprises will utilize or contribute to open source in some manner in 2015.

This is the 2nd Infographic in a series that provides side by side comparisons of Liferay Vs. Websphere, examining different aspects of the Liferay and IBM portal products. The first in the series examined “Liferay Vs. WebSphere: total cost of ownership”, while this article will examine the support and community aspects of both portal products.

Liferay Vs. WebSphere: Support and Community Examined

 

Liferay

Support

  • Liferay Commercial offering provides the same level of support as what enterprises would expect from companies such as HP, IBM and Oracle.
  • Gartner reports have recognized Liferay as having a higher customer satisfaction in this space.
  • Security patches and fix packs are regularly provided to ensure the product remains secure, as new threats become known.
  • 24x7x365 support is available to all commercial clients.

Community

  • Liferay is a strong and vibrant open source community with a development network that continues to grow.
  • Liferay has a strong community with roughly 4 million downloads.
    • 80,000 per month
    • 350,000-500,000 worldwide deployments
    • Over 19,000 registered users on liferay.com
  • The number of contributors (over 15,000), available documentation and available partner channels provides additional support on top of the Liferay commercial support offering.

WebSphere

Support

  • IBM is a world-class product company, which provides support for its products and customers.
  • IBM provides extensive Web-based support.  Download fixes, search on keywords and find how-to information to help solve your challenges.

Community

  • Today, more then 100,000 clients globally are using IBM WebSphere to build and integrate their infrastructure solutions.
  • WebSphere has more then 800 IBM Business Partners worldwide supporting it with software, solutions and services. It supports more than $1 quadrillion worth of business transactions daily.
  • WebSphere is used in B2C (approximately 75% of deployments) and B2B (25% of deployments) organizations.