Posts

New Feature Announcement: Blogging and Event Promotion

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Advisors with Digital Agent websites can now use two new features to attract new visitors to their website; blogging and event promotion. They will now have the ability to blog on their website and the ability to promote upcoming client-facing events they are hosting. These two new features will help extend the capabilities of Digital Agent into an effective content marketing platform for financial and insurance advisors.

Start Blogging to Improve Your Search Results and Online Reputation
Users of Digital Agent can easily add a blog to their Digital Agent website, allowing them to communicate directly with their clients and prospects about relevant thought leadership topics.   According to a recent study conducted by The West Program, 77% of internet users say they read blogs regularly, which makes this feature an excellent way to establish yourself as a trusted advisor on your topics of choice in your industry.

Promote Upcoming Client Events
Hosting a golf tournament, client dinner or seminar?  Create events using Digital Agent, promote the event on your site, and collect RSVPs.  With this feature, your Digital Agent website becomes an even stronger communication tool and asset for your current customers.

“Both of these features align to our long term strategy of making Digital Agent a business asset and content marketing tool for financial and insurance advisors.” says Andrew Chung, VP Products, “With the changing landscape of both a regulated financial services industry and online investor trends, having a content rich website is becoming a requirement for financial advisors. Our goal is to provide them with a platform to follow through with such a strategy without worrying about some of the nuances of website setup and maintenance.”

If you’d like to see a demonstration of these new features or a full demo of Digital Agent, please contact questions@digitalagent.ca

How should I design my website menu?

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Your website menu, often called “Tabs” or “Navigation” is a critical component for your website. Getting it right will help you accomplish two key goals. Your users will have a positive experience finding information on your website and Google will equally have an easier time crawling and ranking your website in search results.

User and Visitor Experience

As it relates design and user experience, it is generally a best practice to keep you top level navigation to a maximum of 7 or 8 items. That’s the max. This means when you get to that number in your menu, you are essentially pushing the boundaries of an efficient and effective user experience. If your website currently has 8 or more menu items, I would encourage you to assess whether you can reduce the number of navigation items into a smaller number of categories. When I walk through this process with clients, I tend to follow a model that is very similar to how a library would organize and categorize their books. If you distilled the process used to organize books down into a few steps, it essentially involves creating categories at the highest level, for example, Science, Business, History followed by sub categories. The key to creating these high level categories is to ensure that each category is mutually exclusive, that is to say, no overlap. If you’re able to follow these rules, this will help you reduce the number of website menu items and will also help your visitors find the information they are looking for.

Naming and Search

As far as the naming is concerned, I tend to recommend to my clients to try, as much as possible, the use of common page names. Using terms like “About Us”, “Contact”, “Products”, “Services”, as top level items can yield two benefits. For one, it helps Google better understand your page and eventually provide structured queries for your visitors when they search for you (these are the links that appear underneath your search results in Bing or Google). Secondly, it gives your users an easier way to find content. There’s no exact science to naming, however,  if you decide to deviate away from traditional page names, make sure it is evident what a user can expect to find in each portion of your website. If it’s confusing to you, chances are it will be confusing to your visitors. Lastly, try to keep the number of words and letters of your website menu items short. I’ve noticed on a lot of websites that have 3 or 4 words for a single menu item. This isn’t necessarily going to penalize you from a search standpoint and is more of an indicator that perhaps your categorization technique isn’t efficient enough.

New Interactive Widgets for Digital Agent!

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We’re excited to launch a number of different interactive widgets to our library!

Google Maps has never been so easy!

Have you always wanted an interactive Google map on your website that your visitors can use to find your exact location? Well, look no further. As long as you’ve correctly typed in your address in your approved profile, you can drag and drop a Google map anywhere and as many times on your website!

Interactive Google Map widget

Twitter Widget

Do you use Twitter to communicate with your audience? Digital Agent now has an easy-to-use tool that that enables you to add a Twitter widget to your website. Marketing and Compliance, don’t worry, each Twitter widget created using Digital Agent will go through an approval and vetting process before being published on a Digital Agent website.

Twitter Widget Example

Interactive and Mobile Ready Calculators

our brand new interactive calculators to our inventory of widgets! And yes, they’re mobile ready! Choose from 5 professional looking calculators that will exponentially enhance the attractiveness and usefulness of your website! These interactive calculators have been designed to increase your visitors’ time on site thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll read your amazing content!

Interactive Savings Calculator

New Features: Pre-Approved Pages

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As of today, enterprise marketing users can continue to support their advisors web presence by using our newest authoring feature for Pre-approved pages. Yes, that’s right. With the help of enterprise marketing, advisor users can add fully populated pages to their website in 2 easy steps. Enterprise marketing support teams will create these pages with an easy-to-use drag and drop interface to design a web page and populate the page with content from the pre-approved content library.

This feature will go a long way in supporting an advisors journey through the creation and maintenance of their website and will also help to reduce the content review workload for enterprise compliance groups as this new feature requires the use of pre-approved content.

Pre-approved pages example

 

Acquiring the Young Investor as Your Client

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I recently came across an interesting article discussing a current trend occurring in the investment advisor business arena. In short, the article warns advisors who have practices consisting mostly of either wealthy baby boomers on the verge of retirement or in retirement; “… the retirement-age population is expected to rise to nearly 20% of the U.S. population by 2025, according to Census Bureau projections, and they demand more service from their advisors…”. Wow, 20%.

So, what are some of the facts about retirement-age investors and what does it mean from an advisor practice management standpoint?

  1. Investors in the retirement-age population require more attention. This impacts and potentially changes the way an advisor spends their time. How can advisors create value for this type of investor while growing their practice?
  2. Retirement-age investors tend to be more risk-averse with their money restricting the amount of lucrative product an advisor can sell
  3. Let’s not forget the increasing trend in fee-based advisors vs. commission-based advisors which has also affected the industry and the way advisors generate income.

In short, if you believe points 1 to 3, there’s a clear case to state that having a book consisting mostly of the retirement-age or on the brink of retirement-age is not a good thing if you want a book that grows or a book you can sell.

I’ve been in many presentations, calls and face-to-face meetings with advisors and I hear the phrase, quite often “I don’t need to be online, my clients are older and don’t use the internet”. Apart from the fact that there is research to support that our aging population is increasingly visiting websites and using social media, there is yet another reason why being online and digitally connected should be top of mind especially if you have a book consisting of retirement-age or near-retirement-age investors.

Advisors with this book profile need to start seeding their books with younger investors. This will not only positively impact the longevity of the book but it will also affect the long-term viability and most importantly, the valuation of an advisor’s book when they decide to sell.

So, the moral of the story?

Having a book trending towards a composition of mostly retirement-age investors affects the valuation and long-term growth of the book and therefore, acquiring younger investors becomes an important strategy to counter that trend.

Attracting younger investors isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Advisors need to exist where they look for things, which, last time I checked, has been predominantly online.

Liferay Accelerates Mobile Application Development

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Today, Liferay Inc., a leading open source portal software company announced the release of a Mobile SDK that will ship with Liferay Enterprise Edition 6.2. You can read about all the technical benefits here, but, so what does this mean from a business standpoint? Mobile application development isn’t a new concept and for the most part, major industries, like financial services, have figured out a way to get to market with mobile apps either through the use of partners or through their internal capabilities. So, the process of creating mobile apps already exists. How does this move by Liferay change your world and is this relevant?

It’s quite obvious that investments in mobile technologies are increasing year over year and month over month due to the ubiquity of smartphone and tablet usage. In short, user experience and adoption are driving investments in mobile application development. In fact, mobile internet usage is expected to exceed desktop usage in 2014. With this in mind, overtime, your user base will increasingly expect more than just default mobile views of your application, they’ll start to expect mobile application functionality and much like how you’ll lose business with a terrible looking website, you’ll start losing your users with poor mobile user experiences.

So, what happens now? What happens now with no mobile SDK? In short, redundancy. Building a rich internet application, followed by the implementation of a mobile application across multiple devices can only be streamlined to a point, for example, at the database layer. This redundancy results in higher exponential costs for design, development and testing and much longer development cycles. Not a good combination if you’re striving to create amazing user experiences.

With the mobile SDK and beyond, Liferay will continue to create and add to the plethora of services that can be consumed in a mobile application context. And the more shared services, content & collaboration features available to you when you build your applications, the less redundancy you’ll encounter and the quicker you’ll be able to get to market with a mobile version of your applications.

This is an extremely positive announcement from Liferay and aligns very closely to our lean development principles. For us and our customers, it means we can extend the benefits of our development practices to mobile and accelerate the release of those applications even faster and most cost effectively by using Liferay as a central application hub.

The Importance of Software Configuration Management for Portal Projects

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Many enterprise organizations treat large scale portal projects like regular application development projects. This potentially leads to many downstream negative impacts affecting the maintainability and stability of a portal environment. A common pitfall that many organizations fall victim to, is the lack of the proper software configuration management (SCM) processes for their portal projects and on going support models. Much of this is due to the perception that the skill sets required for a portal implementation are the same skill sets their current non-portal application implementation teams’ possess, leading to higher downstream costs.
So how can organizations stop themselves from over spending on future maintenance and enhancement costs? Well, aside from replacing your traditional application development team with an expert portal team, there is a rather small investment that can be made up front to help with the transition. Our team’s are strong believers in the proper creation of software configuration processes and practices but let’s not go overboard, there are other factors that play into the successful deployment and maintainability of a portal such as portal governance, but proper software configuration management is most certainly a key success factor.
You may be asking yourself why it’s important to consider the up front investment of the creation of proper SCM processes and when exactly should these processes be created. Typically, once the implementation of a portal project begins, there is a rather substantial amount of time spent configuring the infrastructure that is going to be used to support the portal environment from development, to test, to staging, to production. We strongly recommend that the creation of SCM processes occur as a parallel activity. This provides you with three benefits:
  1. It will help accelerate the return on investment of your portal investment and don’t forget the downstream risk and cost mitigation as a result of the creation of these processes.
  2. By doing these activities in parallel, it will reduce design gaps between the environment configuration and SCM processes. In one of our recent customer scenarios, they had set up their environment prior to establishing SCM standards and began development. When it came time to deploy the solution, they came to the sudden realization that their environment did not match their deployment methodology. This directly impacted the application’s performance and at times rendered the application unusable.
  3. Assuming you are using subject matter experts (SME), you can blend your current environment and software teams with the SMEs. This will help with knowledge transfer and will also help give the SMEs the proper eyes on both the organizational and technical environments within your organization.

What is Software Configuration Management?

So, we’ve established the benefits of why SCM and why create SCM standards early. But what is it? The act of creating SCM standards can be grouped into two primary activities; Release Management and Code Promotion, and the Creation of a High Level Infrastructure Architecture.
Release management and code promotion focuses on code deployment and testing, auditing requirements, business processes and, code and configuration release (note that this is specific to portal).
High level infrastructure architecture focuses on answering questions like:
  1. What database will be used for this portal application?
  2. How will we be performing user access and authentication?
  3. What kind of network infrastructure will be configured?
  4. How will we handle disaster recovery?
Ok, I’m convinced, but what kind of people do I need?
This blog post would not be complete if we did not tell you what kind of team would be required for this crucial step in your portal initiative. We’ve typically provided customers with a team of three. Not all of them would be full time and the time spent would be highly dependent on the complexity of your organizational and technical environment. Here are the profiles of those individuals all of whom should have multiple years of experience with an enterprise portal:
  • Software Architect
  • Knowledgeable and experience in portal implementations
  • Enterprise application design and development experience
  • Portal experience
  • Software Developer
  • Experience working on structured enterprise application development projects
  • Enterprise Portal experience
  • Experience working on enterprise development teams with regimented code and configuration release management processes
  • Integration Architect
  • Experience in network infrastructure
  • Experience with server configuration
  • Experience with setting up enterprise architecture, E.g. Failover, load balancing, etc..
Let’s recap.
  1. Creating proper SCM standards and processes early in your portal project is strategic and can provide you with downstream risk and cost mitigation
  2. This activity should be performed in parallel with the configuration of your technical portal environment to accelerate the ROI of your portal investment
  3. The team performing this task should be subject matter experts and should be blended with your existing non-portal application team to transfer knowledge around best practices and to gain experience with a portal project

Manulife empowers Advisors to take control of their online presence with Veriday’s Digital Agent solution

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January 20, 2014, Toronto – Veriday, a leading digital marketing automation firm specializing in online brand transformation for investment advisors and financial institutions, has just deployed their Digital Agent marketing solution to Manulife Financial. In a relationship based business, Manulife understands that a robust online presence for advisors and insurance agents is no longer an option, but a must. Digital Agent enables advisors to easily take control of their online presence and become digital marketing experts.

“Clients and prospects today want online engagement. They want access to relevant and timely information and empowering our advisors with a comprehensive website solution to fulfill this need helps them to grow their practices and reach while strengthening existing relationships,”

Veriday’s Digital Agent is the result of over two years of in-depth research with professionals across the financial industry including major banks and boutiques. “Our goal was to build a solution for advisors to increase the return on their digital marketing investments while maintaining brand consistency and minimizing regulatory compliance risk. Working directly with marketing and compliance specialists during the development of Digital Agent, has ensured our platform is leading edge, robust, and intuitive to use,” says Marc Lamoureux, President and CEO, Veriday.

Digital Agent empowers marketing and compliance teams to push out well executed pre-approved content that help the advisor create a stronger online presence with minimal effort. The platform features drag and drop components such as financial calculators and access to a built-in library of professionally written content. Advisors can also author and create content for approval creating a website that is tailored to their practice. A digital marketing dashboard of robust data and analytics helps them easily gauge the impact of their online presence.

As the need for online and social media presence continues to evolve, Veriday is at the forefront of social trends and is already enhancing their platform to provide a central hub for integrating all of the advisors’ marketing efforts including social engagement, eNewsletters and digital campaigns.  “It’s an exciting time as the financial services industry has realized that they must help advisors adapt to changes in client online engagement. Digital Agent is also mobile ready which has become critical as investors are embracing this technology. Best of all, our underlying platform is based on standard enterprise technology which ensures that integration with dealer systems is cost effective and efficient,” notes Lamoureux.

Announcing French Language Support

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Parlez-vous Français? If you do the I have some news for you. French language support is here, and it’s here to stay.

Digital Agent now has the capability of fully supporting the creation of both a French and English website. Digital Agent’s French support allows advisor users to author content in both French and English without compromising a visitor’s user experience to the website. Visitors can toggle between the two languages to suit their browsing needs.

Pre-approved content features have also been enhanced to accommodate for French. This means that content stored in the pre-approved content library and subsequently used on advisor websites can also be bilingual in nature.

What about creative corporate artifacts? No problem, Digital Agent gracefully handles French logos, standard footer elements like links and disclaimers and can even handle other colour palettes if needed.

Stay tuned for more languages that will be added in the coming months!

If you’d like to see a demonstration of this new feature or a full demo of Digital Agent, please contact questions@digitalagent.ca

Innovation as a Swear Word

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If you work in a large corporation, or perhaps even a small one, here are a few pointers to turn ‘innovation’ into a swear word. Note that the goals of doing this are really to decrease your organization’s competitiveness, create unhappy workers and demonstrate a general lack of respect for the livelihood of others.

  1. Don’t reward “out-of-the-box” thinkers. After all, who needs to retain good talent? There’s obviously plenty of that out there.
  2. Make sure you continue to use and embrace the processes that are broken and if someone points out an improvement, be sure to discipline those actions. In fact, just go ahead and put them in the storage room. And don’t forget the red stapler.
  3. Always believe that everything is okay and that no changes will ever be needed.
  4. When encountering an issue in your department or work, just point the finger at someone else and ensure you don’t lift another finger to solve it because someone else will obviously figure it out.
  5. Whenever possible, try to squeeze your valuable partners and vendors for everything they’ve got until they either go out of business or stop wanting to do business with you. After all, who needs external subject matter expertise. You can obviously do it all yourself! While you’re at it, attempt to solve world hunger on your own because everything is core to your business.

If you’ve got more to add to this list, please feel free to share. And if you’re actually following some of these principles, know that running downhill will always be easier than running uphill but that racing to the bottom won’t necessarily imply that you’re a winner.