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Everything you need to know about GDPR – Explained

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With all the latest news about data breaches and how companies are using people’s personal data for advertising, this has a lot of consumers worried and demanding change. One of those changes is the European Union General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. This new law is replacing the 1995 European Data Protection Directive. GDPR aims to bring all the EU member states under one umbrella by enforcing a single data protection law. It’s not just European marketers that must be compliant but any company that deals with data of European residents. GDPR is intended to put guidelines and regulations on how data is processed, used, stored or exchanged.

Under GDPR, companies that collect third-party data are required to revamp their processes for collecting personal information, and consumers are allowed to opt out. Marketers are increasingly focusing on first-party data practices that ask consumers to explicitly fork over their own information—think email signups, mobile app downloads, and comments. The new GDPR legislation can be broken down into 3 stages of compliance: Data Collection, Data Storage, and Ending the Relationship.

Data Collection

One of the important purposes of the GDPR was to create more transparency between the organizations that collect and control data, and the people whose data is collected. This means that organizations that attract people and want to collect data needed to clearly communicate what the data is used for in plain English. The individual must first give their clear consent to collect data and also be told about their rights to withdraw consent.

Additionally, organizations can only collect the minimum amount of data to meet the intended purpose. For example, if a website wants to collect data to turn visitors into leads, they can only collect the minimum information that is adequate and relevant to achieve this purpose of collection. Anything unnecessary or excessive will constitute a breach.

Data Storage

Organizations can only collect and store the data that was provided with explicit consent.  for the specified purposes. If they plan to transfer or share the data with another company, they need to ensure they have consent from the person before the information can be shared.

Furthermore, companies must ensure they have adequate security systems to store the data. Protecting it from loss, alteration, access; going as far as using pseudonymization or anonymization to protect the data. Users are now able to ask companies at any time to correct, update, or remove their data.

End of the Relationship

Finally, once a relationship has reached its end, organizations must have a clear data retention policy in place which outlines how long they will retain that individual’s information, keeping in mind there are laws or regulations that require the data to be held for specific periods. Users are able to request the deletion of their data at any time and the organization must comply with the request. Not only deleting the data from their own systems, but also any downward vendors’ systems who are processing the data.

Conclusion

As marketers, we should look at GDPR as an opportunity to rebuild consumer trust, these new industry regulations should not impede our progress. For advisors, this means ensuring that every member on the list has opted-in and is ready to engage. This will reset the balance between brand and audience by giving consumers more control, directing technology to be employed for more noble uses and compelling marketers to interact with consumers in more meaningful ways that create positive sentiment and ultimately restore trust. We strongly believe that enterprise marketers and advisors should be made aware of these changes, and to work together in to better communicate with their European contacts. After all, trust is what marketing should be about.

What is Holding Advisor Organizations Back from Implementing a Martech Strategy?

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The Business Case for Transforming Your Advisor Marketing. Part 2 Research Phase BannerInternet of Things
In a previous post, I wrote about how the high demand for individualization across investment advisors websites put many firms in a difficult situation to manage these expectations without fragmenting their visual brand. This was primarily due to the lack of available technology (at that time) and it caused firms to meet the demand by implementing one-off customization programs. For many firms this created a fragmentation of the visual aspects of their brand and was thus faced with the challenge of reigning it all back in but to their credit, they attempted to solve a digital experience problem for their advisors. Firms that did not move in this direction, resulted in a very templated (or what many of my clients call “cookie cutter”) representations of their advisors’ businesses. This is still the pervasive model used by the wealth management industry today and many firms are still trying to grapple with the best way to deliver a superior digital experience as cost is no longer the main decision factor.
So why is it, that many large firms are not leaping into the realm of modern marketing technology for their advisors’ websites? It seems obvious that any business considering a strong digital presence would first want to establish a strong online and differentiated brand right? Well, as it turns out, it’s not that obvious and there are a number of very legitimate concerns that we’ve not only experienced ourselves but also concerns that our clients have voiced directly to us.

 

Change Management

This is likely a word you are very familiar with and depending on your risk profile, you are either in love with this word or you quite simply hate it. For larger firms, however, it’s not as simple as hating or loving the word. There is a true cost to change and it’s a very large commitment because it implies a longer-term strategy to get to a particular destination. With the wealth management industry as competitive as it is and with all the disruptive technology in place, many firms not only consider the potential attrition that may occur as a result of a failed change but they equally feel the pressure (well, really banking as a whole) to make a change.
Technology change, particularly when it comes to the technology that can make you appear trustworthy or incompetent, requires users to adopt behavioural changes and develop new routines in order to maximize the use of the technology. Everyone from the advisors, to the support, to compliance officers all have to adapt to this change and ensure that they are all playing their part to support the new ecosystem brought forward by new technology.
The top change management concerns I’ve heard consistently generally fall into three categories:
  1. Compliance: Will our advisors publish something that will hurt our brand or themselves? Is our compliance department prepared to handle this new workload?
  2. Advisors: How will we train and empower our sales force to reap the benefits of these new marketing routines? How quickly will advisors adopt this technology?
  3. Software: Can we slowly introduce features into the field? Does your software stay stagnant or does it update and evolve over time?
  4. Team: Are our teams structured or capable of supporting this new digital marketing paradigm? What’s our long-term support strategy?
  5. Implementation: How are we going to move all of this content from one CMS to another without major disruption?

 

Return On Spend

 

In any good business, ROI is a key driver that helps decide the priorities for key initiatives and whether they should be done. Many CMOs face the ongoing question from their executive stakeholders about the ROI of a campaign or the investment of some marketing technology. The reality though is that marketing ROI from a new technology you’ve never deployed into the field before can be difficult to measure.

 

Traditionally, firms will treat marketing technology spend as more of a cost centre rather than a revenue or profit centre. That is to say, that purchase decisions are heavily weighted on the cost of the software and the implementation of the software rather than the potential revenue impact it will make once it is adopted and in use. While I haven’t performed any special research around this topic, I suspect this is happening because the technology that was previously deployed simply did not have a measurement framework wrapped around it so there was no way to determine the impact of the older technology – no matter how little or much it may have done.

 

Advisor Marketing Strategy and Vision

 

When firms eventually decide they need to replace old advisor website technology, it is usually performed at a time when the technology has reached end of life (end of life technology is typically defined as the point in time in which a software vendor will no longer support the old technology) or when the firm realizes that it cannot fulfill their corporate goals with the existing technology. Without a clear view of the future state of their advisor marketing portfolio, the projects surrounding these two scenarios are typically centered around technology replacement as opposed to a replace and grow.

 

Firms that have a grasp on their longer-term advisor marketing strategy tend to be better prepared for post-project growth of the program where they have an understanding of what questions to ask and prioritize increasing the adoption of the technology rather than supporting the technology – this is a new and interesting shift in behaviour. The teams built around these programs have traditionally been very focused on doing things for the advisor rather than empowering the advisor to perform some of the key tasks on their own. Why? Because they know that once they have active adoption, they have a platform to accelerate their strategy so it’s no surprise the firms in this category will also deploy the technology at a greater speed, meaning they will open it up to their users as quickly as possible and actively manage the change.

 

 

Deploying new marketing technology to a high demand population isn’t something for everyone to do but it is something everyone will eventually need to do to remain competitive. Ultimately, it comes down to more of the cultural and process aspects of the firm. How easy is it to introduce change and is your firm prepared to manage that change? Do you have a strong data-driven decision making process? Have you considered what your advisor marketing program will look like in 5 years between the teams that support it, to the content that’s generated from it, to how your advisors will participate and drive their own success?

 

These are just some of the key questions we’ve been helping our clients answer and perhaps are questions you might want to ask yourselves if you’re considering the next phase of your advisor marketing evolution.

Outbound Vs. Inbound Marketing for Financial Advisors

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Marketing is a necessary task for any business.  However, there are seemingly infinite ways to go about it given the current digital landscape. You might find yourself wondering, “how should I go about marketing my Advisory business?

Referrals used to be the bread and butter marketing tool to spread the word about your financial service offerings. Do a good job for one client, they tell two friends or family members and boom, off to the races. Today that method, while still sometimes effective, can’t be leaned on as heavily as before due to the many factors and channels that consumers are using to make decisions in today’s digital world.

So, what should you do? Plaster your name all over local benches? Take out ads in the paper? Make a commercial? Use one of the many digital marketing channels available at your disposal? How should you go about getting the word out about your business?

In this article, I will discuss two contrasting methods of marketing that will get your name out there; who the audience for each is, how the message will get in front of the audience and how the audience will likely respond to each message, as well as how that affects your business.

Outbound VS. Inbound Marketing

It’s a simple question that can confuse and confound those outside the marketing department. In reality, it simply refers to traditional marketing methods, such as broadcasting, print, direct mail and telemarketing. Everyone has been exposed to these methods, either through an ad on TV, fliers stuffed in your mailbox, or annoying phone calls while you’re eating dinner.

Why do we call traditional marketing “Outbound”? The term was intended to mirror “Inbound Marketing”, which is the process of tailoring marketing efforts to attract qualified prospects to your business and giving them an experience that turns them into promoters of your brand. Major techniques in inbound marketing are content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). The major difference between inbound and outbound marketing is that inbound marketing is generally targeted at consumers who are already interested or have an awareness, in some way or another. Outbound marketing is less targeted and casts its net on a wide group of people in an attempt to get them interested. “Outbound” marketing is sometimes referred to as “interruption” marketing because whatever people are doing (watching a TV show, reading the paper, watching the road while driving) is interrupted by the marketing message (commercial, a full-page ad in the paper, billboards).

Why Inbound Marketing Works

Inbound Marketing will continue to be effective in 2017 for a plethora of reasons; from the fact it can effectively target specific segments of the demographics, to the value it brings to potential customers pre-purchase, to the convenience and cost savings for the company.

Inbound marketing costs 62% less than a traditional marketing campaign and generates 3 times the traffic of a traditional (outbound) marketing campaign. It makes sense though, writing a blog post or a few Tweets is far less expensive than purchasing ad space. A domain name costs only a small amount per year and the long-term costs associated with maintaining social media feeds, a blog, website or other assets that are common in inbound marketing are quite low compared with various forms of advertising. Even advertisements online (Google Adwords for example) would cost far less than TV ad time.

The lower costs, and the agility of inbound marketing means that you may personalize the message to its target market to a near infinite extent. For example writing a blog post about how investing would work in the Harry Potter universe (to attract wizards and fans of wizardry), or what Batman’s portfolio would look like (to attract Gotham billionaire Bruce Wayne) at very little cost and in very little time compared to traditional forms of marketing. Inbound marketing allows hyper-targeting, tailoring your message to a specific audience in a way that will feel personal and convey that you can speak to and meet their specific needs and challenges.

Convincing people to trust you with their assets is hard. No matter what medium you use. Selling your financial service to people online, and showing them that you can meet their needs and benefit them is even harder. While inbound marketing generally costs less than outbound marketing, the challenge of appearing to be a legitimate solution to someone’s problem can be much more difficult online.

By sending a hyper-specific message to somebody who already recognizes that they have the need for a specific financial service, inbound marketing generally ensures that all marketing efforts are put in front of people who will actually consider your message, increasing your chances of attracting an MVP customer that can help grow your business.

So why is outbound marketing dying?

There are many reasons why outbound marketing is losing its lustre, from it’s interruptive nature to the slow, inflexible, and often costly process of creating an outbound campaign.

A commercial break in the middle of your favorite TV show, an unexpected cold-call (which always seem to be at the most inconvenient time), spam mail with offers you aren’t interested in coming into your home and bringing clutter with it. People are growing tired of the interruptions and will do what is needed to avoid the interruptions.

Over 200 million people worldwide use ad-blockers when browsing the internet, which renders banner, sidebar and pop-up ads ineffective for a large part of the target audience. The trend of blocking ads is not limited to browsing the internet. More and more people are using PVR’s or services like Netflix, Shomi or Hulu to avoid watching TV ads. Outbound marketing has annoyed people into avoiding as many ads as they can.

Another issue with outbound marketing is the fact that these measures are often slow and inflexible. TV commercials, print ads in major publications, and billboards all take significant time to develop and arrange for them to be released to the public. This means that it is very difficult (and expensive) to have an ad that is current and based off what prospective clients want. Inbound marketing efforts such as Social media, content marketing and SEO are much more agile, meaning campaigns and marketing efforts can be real-time and relevant, with more flexibility and timeliness, all at a much lower cost.

In addition to the difficulties mentioned above, there are issues in outbound marketing involving putting your message in front of the appropriate target at a reasonable price. There are still a few mediums with high viewership for a specific market segment (such as ESPN for sports fans) but many segments do not have such an outlet. This means that to market your product to your target market you must cast a wider net, perhaps by making a commercial and playing it during a show with massive viewership, hoping that some of your target market is watching. These efforts are very costly and generally return a very low ROI.

If we were trying to attract clients to our financial advisory firm we could put an ad on the back cover of our local newspaper, potentially paying tens of thousands of dollars for that ad space. The issue is that although some targets may see the ad, it still got in front of many people who wanted nothing to do with it and are not at all interested. This can be a wasteful process. We could spend far less money designing a top notch website, paying for a domain name and using SEO to ensure that every single person who Googles “Financial Advisors in (Where you live)” will see our website, and our thought leadership content. Simply put, inbound marketing is far more effective at matching your value proposition to a target customer.

Today, if people want something, they Google it, Bing it, or Yahoo search it. They understand there is a market for whatever they are looking for, from financial services to a new furnace. People today don’t want to be sold something. They want to buy it themselves.

Not today, but soon

How does this affect you? That depends entirely on how you want your business to grow into the future. Are you satisfied with an aging client base, who will soon begin to retire, divest and live the easy life? Would you rather have a client base full of millennials just getting into the workforce, still needing to buy a house, plan for a family and work for many years to come?

Generally speaking the older someone is the more likely they are to be influenced by outbound marketing. Younger generations want personalized, unobtrusive marketing efforts. For your practice to thrive and survive in the future you will need to meet the needs and expectations of those generations.

Why you need to recruit milleninials

For your business to thrive you need clients who are still in the Wealth Accumulation stage of the Financial Planning Life Cycle (as shown above). At this time most Baby-Boomers are moving through the “Children in College” phase and into the “Empty Nester” phase. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and that will continue for the next 15 years.

To maintain relevance in such a competitive industry, financial advisors must work twice as hard to cater to the future, even if that means moving away from word-of-mouth referrals that has been the gold standard for your entire career.  It may mean moving towards having a strong digital presence that draws in targets who have already identified a need that you might be able to help with.

Another reason to focus your marketing efforts on inbound tactics is that studies show 70% of internet users would prefer to learn about products via content instead of advertisements. Roughly half the world’s population uses the internet, with that figure even higher in developed nations. With the increase of internet users with adblock technology installed and the population steadily migrating away from traditional forms of media and towards digital media, nearly every industry is going to have to get serious about their content marketing, use of social media and their ability to personalize messages.

What does this mean?

For financial advisors and financial service providers, inbound marketing can be the next generations referral system. Instead of attracting one client and building through their network, establish your own network. Create engaging, informative content that can help solve consumer’s challenges and put it out into the world so those looking can find it, and more importantly find you.

This means you need to create your own social network, create engaging content, teach people things about finance through creative, engaging, educational content. Have them come to see you as a thought leader and when it’s time for their purchase decision, it’s likely they will choose the most experienced, capable financial advisor in their social network, which thanks to your efforts educating and engaging them is YOU.

Don’t be left behind in the new generation of digital marketing. Establish your name and build your social network. The only way to thrive in the future of of financial services is to show the world just how good you are – online!

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What’s your most successful method of attracting people to your practice? Do you still rely on referrals? Are you a LinkedIn giant or is your website the go-to place to learn about finance? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ #OutboundIsOut

Financial Advisors: Using Niche Marketing to Grow your Business

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As more people obtain their CFP certification, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Advisors to prove their value over competitors.

It used to be common for small businesses to market themselves as a “one-stop shop.”   This made sense when it was difficult to access a range of Financial Advisors. However, with the arrival of the Internet and powerful search engines, as well as the vast amounts of content available online, this has all changed. Now, trying to be a “one stop shop” offers much less competitive advantage in the overcrowded online market.

Many Advisors believe that by being a generalist, they are able to reach more people, which will lead to more potential clients. The reality is, it is difficult to sell everything to everyone, and even more difficult when you are trying to do it online. If you cast too wide of a net online, you won’t catch many fish at all. The challenge with a general audience is that your online messaging can become very generic and as a result, less persuasive and engaging.

So, you want to grow your business online, and build a more effective online presence? Why is defining your niche market one of the first things you need to do?

Niche Marketing

First off, what is niche marketing?  According to Business Dictionary, “niche marketing is concentrating marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.

The objective of niche marketing is to become the expert and go-to for that service and audience, and develop a reputation as the preferred Financial Advisor for that market. Niche Advisors become specialists with expertise in solving particular problems for a particular set of people with similar challenges. And because prospects see niche businesses as specialists, they are often more willing to pay a premium price for what they will perceive as being a higher level of expertise than generic Advisors.

In the digital age, is it no longer safe to be a generalist.

You only have a split second, if you’re lucky, to catch a prospects eye when they are rifling through their Google search results. In a world where you are competing with thousands (even millions) of websites, the last thing you want to do is get buried because your content is generic, and similar to all of the other Advisors marketing themselves online. Ask yourself, with so many Advisors and so much content online, why should a prospect do business with you over another Advisor that they have come across in Google searches?

Build your online presence around your niche market.

These days, the only way to grab someone’s attention is by providing them with something that is relevant and provides value. Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin by saying everybody is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus your online efforts, keywords and content on a specific group of people, and what their specific needs and challenges are. You’ll quickly develop a deep understanding of what’s important to them, the ins-and-outs of their financial affairs, their problems and opportunities. From there, you will know exactly what content to create and share with your digital network; crafting valuable content that is specifically targeted towards their buyer journey and the challenges they are facing.

The best way to ensure that your website content is valuable is to make sure it fits the criteria of informative, interesting and relevant. If your content is informative, it will either answer a question often asked by your niche market, or provide valuable insights related to your niche market. If your content is interesting, it is written in a way that makes your niche market want to read it. If your content is relevant, then it relates to the lives, challenges, work, or interests of your niche market. In order for your niche website to stand out and rank higher than the others, you’re going to need great niche centered content that is informative, interesting and valuable to readers and potential customers

Targeting keywords and content that align with your target audience’s search queries will also help in your Search Engine Optimization efforts; helping you to rank higher in your specialized niche market.

Financial Advisors: Build a Better Digital You

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As a student looking for work, I was repeatedly asked, “Do you have a LinkedIn account?”, “What do your social media accounts say about you?”, and “What kind of an impression are you making on the digital front?” It has become very common for employers to look for potential candidates through social media and use it to vet applicants. So, ask yourself, “What do my social media accounts say about me and how can that affect my Advisory firm?”

Just as employers use the internet to find the right candidates for their organization, your prospects look to the internet to decide who the right Financial Advisor is for them. So, take a step back and assess the online presence of your business:

Where can I be found online?

  • A personal website
  • Your company’s website
  • Your social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
  • You were featured in a news article
  • A guest blog you’ve written

There are many ways to get your name (and your Advisory Firm) out there.

  1. Create a website

We are in the digital age of “Googling”. People will Google anything and everything, including which Financial Advisor would be best suited for them. Having a well designed, user-friendly, and dynamic website can help you gain credibility as a Financial Advisor by continuously establishing a great first impression with website visitors. Adding non-financial information such as community involvement, charitable endeavours and local events on your website can also help build strong relationships between you and your audience. A website can act as an extension of your business. It has the capacity to be a 24/7 online business that is working and available to clients and prospects, even when you aren’t. If you put the work in, your website can be a hub of answers for your clients and prospects.

  1. Create and build your social media accounts

Gone are the days where a first impression occurs when you first meet and shake someone’s hand, especially in the Financial Services industry. Considering that 70% of the buyer journey is completed before reaching out to a company, chances are your prospects have researched you prior to your first phone call or meeting. Having a strong social media presence that effectively articulates your services, brand and you as an Advisor, can be the difference between a gaining another prospect or a client.

  1. Blog!

It is said that the millennial generation, also known as your future clients, have an approximate purchasing power of $200 billion. 88% of millennials used Facebook as their main source of news in 2015. When it comes to news, answering questions, a means for entertainment (the list goes on) – we, the millennial generation, will turn to answers or information we find online and share it with our peers.

81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs (BlogHer). Blogging is one of the best ways to have a conversation with your audience by answering their questions in a non-intrusive manner. Blogging is also a great way to boost your websites search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking. Improving your search engine ranking can also help improve traffic to your website, all while building your digital brand.

So, to get you started on building a better digital you, do a quick audit of your existing online presence:

  • Do I have a website? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Do I have a profile on my company’s website?
  • Do I have an account on at least 1 social media platform?
  • Am I active on my account(s)?
  • Have I blogged?
  • When will I start (or continue) to build a better digital presence?

Introduction to Content Marketing for Financial Advisors

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

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

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

Well, first off…

What is content marketing?

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

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

Content creation

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

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

Why content marketing?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ignoring LinkedIn is Hurting your Advisory Firm

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According to The Wall Street Journal, “At Social Media High, Facebook is the all-star quarterback, Twitter is the school paper’s editor in chief and Snapchat is the mysterious, Harley-riding transfer student. That makes LinkedIn the nerd who skips prom for the mathlympics.

However, within the financial services sector, LinkedIn is the all-star quarterback with 9 in 10 Financial Advisors active on this social network (LinkedIn). LinkedIn is a hub for growing your advisory firm, strengthening and nurturing your relationships, and building awareness for your business.

Signing up for a LinkedIn account and letting it gather dust will hurt your career – you need to be active on this social network. There are many little changes you can make to optimize your LinkedIn account, as well as many opportunities to engage with other LinkedIn users – more specifically your clients and prospects. Some of these engagement opportunities include:

  • Joining and contributing to relevant LinkedIn Groups
  • Posting updates for your LinkedIn network to see
  • Like and comment with updates made by people in your network
  • And so much more

LinkedIn recently conducted a comprehensive survey of Financial Advisors and found that 75% of Advisors who gained clients from LinkedIn stated that they use the site to improve their referral network. They gathered the top reasons Financial Advisors use LinkedIn, which included:

  1. Building brand identity
  2. Enhancing current client relationships
  3. Staying up-to-date on industry insights
  4. Improving their referral network

In a very digitally-centric world, it is important to acknowledge that as a Financial Advisor, you need to not only have a LinkedIn presence, but an active one at that. You must recognize that ignoring this all-star quarterback of a social media network could hinder your Advisory firm’s success. By staying active on LinkedIn, you could be a social media all-star, reach new prospects and grow your Assets Under Management (AUM).

5 Types of Content to Boost your Advisor Website Traffic

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

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

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

  1. Infographics

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

  1. Videos

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

  1. Webinars

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

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

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

  1. eBooks

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

  1. Blogs

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

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

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

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

Financial Advisors: Are You Optimizing Your Emails?

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54% of marketers rate email as the most effective type of digital marketing and the least difficult to execute (Mailigen). Email marketing provides Financial Advisors an effective way to stay in touch with current clients and prospects. Here are 6 ways to optimize your email marketing for better success in the future:

  1. Personalize Your Emails

It’s 2016. Consumers want to have a conversation with a business rather than be sold to. The first step to take is to make sure that you are not sending your emails from a no-reply@thisdoesntwork.com.

Personalize your emails to each recipient. The most effective way to do this is to include their name in the first sentence of your email copy.

So you’ve personalized your email, what’s next?

  1. Use a Call-To-Action (CTA)

89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation (HubSpot). You’ve grabbed your reader’s attention, but how do you convert them into a client? Use a CTA.

A CTA is a button or link that you place on your website, or in this case email, to drive prospective customers to become leads.  Now, what makes a good CTA? Visually, the button should large enough to see and placed in an easily visible spot. Make sure that your message is clear, direct and motivating. Some great CTA examples include:

CTA Example using Humboldt County website

CTA Example using Huemor website

CTA example using Spotify website

  1. Is your email visually appealing?

81% of people skim content online rather than read it word for word. Don’t overburden your emails with too much text. The results will be disappointing. As an Advisor, you should try to visually communicate information to prospects. Considering that the average person gets distracted in 8 seconds, you want to ensure that your emails are concise, visually appealing and make information retention easy. Simplicity is key.

PayPal does a great job at simplifying their emails (image below). Their content is delivered in a clever and concise way, while communicating how their product can benefit the reader.  This email is simple, direct and very easy to follow.Visually appealing email example using a PayPal email

  1. Have a compelling subject line

Don’t over-think this! The more direct your subject line, the better. Using phrases that come off as a sales pitch will make your email recipients feel that you are trying to trick them. So, avoid phrases like “The best decision you’ll make today.”

According to HubSpot, over 1/3 emails are opened based on the sub   ject line alone. You want to create a subject line that instills curiosity or provides value to your recipient. As an Advisor, what works for someone in social media may not necessarily work for you. Over time, get a feel for what your recipients respond to best and stick with it.

  1. Advertise your online presence

Optimize your email by providing links to your social media accounts and your website. In other words, provide your readers with the option to visit your Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform you use as well as your website to advertise your business. By doing this, you should notice an increase in views, likes and followers on the platforms that you advertise. As an Advisor, this could also aid in converting your leads into clients!  Email is the dominant form of business communication and when used wisely, can greatly increase your client base. Shown below is a great way to visually advertise your links.

  1. Are you mobile-optimized?

Millennials are the age group most likely to check their email from bed (70%), from the bathroom (57%), or while driving (27%) (Capterra). As a Financial Advisor, this generation of consumers is very important to the future success of your business. To secure your millennial leads, you want to ensure that you are not only able to reach them, but to convert them into clients as well. According to emailmonday, 67.2% of consumers use a smartphone to check their email. To successfully grab their attention, you want to engage them on all platforms – especially mobile.

Email marketing is still considered one of the most effective types of digital marketing. As a Financial Advisor, you want to utilize this form of digital marketing to effectively stay in touch with current clients and prospects.

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

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

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

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

Special challenges of writing for the web

Challenge #1: Grab readers immediately

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

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

Challenge #2: Use images

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Challenge #3: Distinctive brand “voice”

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

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

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

Four Benefits of Writing for the Web

Benefit #1: Enduring presence and broader potential audience

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

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

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

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

Advisors: Writing for the web creates 4 marketing benefits

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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