Advisors’ Social Networks

Don’t be a Fool: Avoid these Top Five Social Fails

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Did you hear? Financial services professionals who don’t have a quality LinkedIn page are being let go because they are stuck in a time warp. Yep, they never moved beyond the days of cold calling and don’t understand the power of social selling. Yikes.

April Fools! Okay, those people are not being fired (at least, I don’t think so). However, they are being foolish, and most likely losing out on business opportunities and sales. If you don’t want to be a fool, avoid these top five social fails:

  1. Using social media just for personal use. Sure, social media is still a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but social media is also now a critical component of the business environment. Today’s business to business (B2B) buyers do a ton of research on you and your company before they ever make direct contact. This means your LinkedIn profile must be up-to-date, and your value-add must be clearly stated in customer-oriented terms. Check out 8 Ways You’re Using LinkedIn Wrong for more specifics on what to include in your profile.
  1. Not building centers of influence (COI) on LinkedIn. Are you skipping the gold mine of COI networking? By effectively using LinkedIn, you can find and cultivate referrals, and nurture and enhance your existing connections. Want to know how? Attend my April 21 Digital Institute broadcast, Boost Your Centers of Influence with Social, and learn how to unlock the power and potential for cultivating COIs on social, and share ways to add value, mind your manners, and avoid common mistakes.
  1. Not sharing your smarts. Why did you get into financial services? Why do you do what you do? How do you help your clients? The answers to these questions should drive your business and the content you provide to clients and prospects. In other words, consider the information and insights that only you can offer, and then share those smarts in bite-sized chunks via blogs or emails.
  1. Not using social to drive traffic to your website. While some aspects of social media are fine to conduct exclusively on a site, at some point you also want to use social to attract people to your website. Why? Because if you want to build your own contact list of followers—one that isn’t tied to an outside social site—you need to get people to your website, and have them opt-in to your mailing list by signing up for lead magnets, newsletters, or other value-adds. Using your social media posts to promote your blogs and other content is a great way of Throwing Down a Website Drawbridge.
  1. Skipping visuals. If you’re like many people today, you barely notice content that doesn’t include a visual. Imagery helps break up digital noise and can often impart information much faster than mere words. Perhaps not everything needs a visual, but when you can, try to include photos, graphic icons, and/or infographics to help your readers grasp your subject matter and make content more appealing.

Light-hearted hoaxes and pranks are fun once year. However, missing out on business opportunities is no laughing matter. Don’t be an April Fool. Get going with your social skills today.

 

ABOUT SHERI:
With 25 years in the financial services industry, Sheri is a recognized influencer, popular social media speaker, and a creative marketing force. As president of ShoeFitts Marketing, she collaborates with broker/dealers, financial advisors, third-party administrators, and financial professionals to help them leverage marketing tools and social media strategies to make meaningful connections that build business and grow sales.

Is Your Digital Branding Done Right?

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Branding can be a complicated beast for many companies, even for the mega-giants advertising on one of the biggest stages: Super Bowl. Did you happen to catch the not-so-inspiring, odd, and vague commercials this year? I did (of course, because I’m a marketing nerd!), but I wasn’t the only one to spot the branding hiccups.

So, how can you make sure your digital branding is done right? Take a moment and consider the following:

Define your brand. What do you stand for? Why do you do what you do? How do your services differ from everyone else? How do you help meet the needs of your clients? As I point out in a recent ShoeFitts blog, Three Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand is Stuck in Groundhog Day, you need to do some serious soul searching to develop a meaningful brand and brand message.

Regularly revisit your brand. Okay, so maybe you do have a brand messaging statement and a clear value proposition. However, when did you last review it, and make sure it’s still current and relevant? For instance, does your brand address the needs of today’s clients? Are you articulating how you meet those needs?

Brand design isn’t just a logo. Your brand encompasses everything you do, and more importantly, every client experience. I liken these experiences to touchpoints, and have a handy dandy . Sure some of these may be obvious, but even the small points—such as how you answer your phone—are important considerations.

Evaluate your website. Yes, I often speak and write about the importance of strong websites, but with good reason—many B2B buyers use online research for making purchasing decisions. When someone visits your website, is your brand identity and value clear, or is it buried by jargon and outdated photos? At ShoeFitts, we often work with financial services firms to help bring their website design and content up-to-date. You’d be surprised at how many companies put up a website five or more years ago and then never looked at them again! Worse yet, many of these sites are not mobile compatible, are a visual nightmare, have weak content, and are slow to load.

Consider the social media experience. Your digital brand needs to include all of your social media interaction on LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other sites you may use. This means you need to be mindful of the brand messaging and brand visuals. If I check out your LinkedIn profile, will I see a clear statement about you and your business? Or will it read like a resume? Do you have a professional profile photo and quality cover image? Do you have a company page? Will I want to do business with you?

Creating a strong digital brand does not happen overnight, but you need to start the process. If you want more tips and ideas, register for my March 17 ShoeFitts Digital Institute webcast, How to Create a Killer Digital Brand. This one-hour presentation will help you take your brand from ho-hum to rock star.

 

ABOUT SHERI:
With 25 years in the financial services industry, Sheri is a recognized influencer, popular social media speaker, and a creative marketing force. As president of ShoeFitts Marketing, she collaborates with broker/dealers, financial advisors, third-party administrators, and financial professionals to help them leverage marketing tools and social media strategies to make meaningful connections that build business and grow sales.

7 Digital Marketing Trends

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Don’t you hate when you’re finally ready to embrace a concept and then the rules change? Well, such is the case with digital marketing. There are some subtle, but important, changes to how we think about and use the digital space in today’s business environment.

Digital marketing is not going away. However, digital marketing is no longer a standalone or separate aspect of marketing. No more silos, no more add-on mentality. For more on this and other growing developments, here’s my complete list of Digital Marketing Trends for this year.

  1. Integration—Your marketing plan must recognize and fully integrate the digital space. This means your yearlong strategy—preferably, a written one—includes social selling and marketing, alongside all of your other steps and tactics. A complete approach will also let you allocate resources more effectively, since you won’t be creating a separate silo for digital marketing.
  1. Inspiration—Your digital marketing content should provide financial education that inspires your followers. Address their hopes, dreams, concerns, issues, and cares with helpful and meaningful financial education that speaks their language. Lose the jargon and speak from the heart.
  1. Conversation—Use inspirational content to help create conversations with your clients and prospects. Ongoing digital marketing engagement helps build relationships, credibility, and sales.
  1. Short and sweet—Keep the conversation going and growing with communication that gets to the point. White papers and reports are still valuable, but much of your interaction can be brief, helpful tips and ideas.
  1. Plot the journey—Need a clear return on investment or measurement for digital marketing? Create customer journeys that use email, blogs, social media updates, posts and tweets, and then track your open rates, lead generation, referrals and sales. One LinkedIn update is probably not going to generate sales. Instead, use your marketing strategy plan to outline comprehensive campaigns that include steps to nurture and grow your relationship with prospects—and ask for the sale.
  1. No stale bread—When was the last time you updated your website? Keep your website fresh and interesting with new content and calls to action. Your digital marketing should be a drawbridge to your website, and help build followers and future sales leads.
  1. Revenue generator—With a continuous flow of information and client interaction, plus reliable methods of measurement, you can switch marketing from an expense to a revenue generator.

 

Like many business fundamentals, marketing strategies evolve as technology and society change. Make sure digital marketing is an integral component of your overall 2016 marketing strategy. If you need help sorting out the digital space, sign up for my latest ShoeFitts Digital Institute webinar.

Avoid March Madness: Elevate Your Game with Digital Gear

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Did you ever stop to realize March Madness is about more than basketball? Oh sure, the games take center stage and can put your life on hold, especially in the early rounds when Cinderella stories unfold. However, March Madness also equates to a make or break time of year for marketing and sales.

Come the end of March you are already a quarter of the way through 2016, and you better have a strategy in place for rocking your digital efforts. If not, the madness sets in as you grapple with how to keep pace with your more digital savvy competitors—you know, the folks who connect with clients and prospects on LinkedIn, and share their smarts and nurture followers with blogs, email tips and newsletters, and webcasts. Even more maddening, they have awesome websites and they know how to promote their content using LinkedIn and Twitter.

How do they do this? Who has the band-width, not to mention the time? It’s enough to make you go stark raving mad.

However, before you totally lose it, let me help you. In my upcoming ShoeFitts Digital Institute broadcast, Can Social Media Marketing Work for You?, I address and coach listeners through many of the key issues that keep people on the bench. I diagram examples, plus provide tips, sample schedules, and time-saving rituals.

My broadcast also includes guidance on when and how to seek outside assistance, and digital tools that can help make your life easier. Believe me, I couldn’t do half of the social media marketing we do at ShoeFitts if it wasn’t for some spiffy tools that make our lives much easier.

So let me be your point guard, and toss you my top five favorite tools (if you want my full list, check out my Ultimate Digital Gear Guide) This five-page tip sheet is filled with creative, smart ways to help you elevate your game.

 

  1. Feedly – My favorite content curation tool, Feedly lets me customize my own digital newspaper. You pick the topics and/or sources and Feedly provides you with just the news you want to read. When I find something worth sharing with my tribe, I pass it along using social media and include a sentence or two letting them know why I think the article is relevant. Be sure to include that personalization step so your value-add is clear.
  2. Buffer – This wonderful scheduler can take all those article gems you want to share and post them on the days and hours you designate. This way you can find several good articles at one time, but then spread out your shares so you don’t bombard people with them all at once, and you post at the times that will give you the best visibility.
  3. Evernote – So what do you do with those articles you want to keep for future reference? Print them out? Download them and stick them in a folder on your computer? Nah. With Evernote, you can keep all those articles, plus create to-do lists, in a virtual file. Now you don’t waste paper (or wonder where the heck you put the article) and you don’t clog up your computer memory. Even better, when you do a Google search, your saved Evernote articles can show up in the sidebar so you know whether or not you already have similar material.
  4. Visual Thesaurus – For a small fee this great mapping tool takes a ho-hum word and visually blows it out to show a variety of options. Find one you like better? Don’t stop there, click on it and you get another slew of word choices.
  5. LeadPages – In my Throwing Down a Website Drawbridge blog I discussed the importance of creating lead magnets; those content gems that bring people to your site and help you build a permission-based contact list. LeadPages helps you design the content you want to share and it can help you capture and convert your website visitors to get them onto your mailing list.

 

Digital marketing is here to stay. It impacts your entire marketing effort, more importantly, your bottom line. So, run with the ball and start executing your social media marketing game plan today.

 

ABOUT SHERI:
With 25 years in the financial services industry, Sheri is a recognized influencer, popular social media speaker, and a creative marketing force. As president of ShoeFitts Marketing, she collaborates with broker/dealers, financial advisors, third-party administrators, and financial professionals to help them leverage marketing tools and social media strategies to make meaningful connections that build business and grow sales.

Three Sales Lessons From a 16-Year-Old

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Marketing and sales can often be straightforward and simple when you work from your heart and do what’s right for the customer. A friend of mine recently related a few stories from her early years when she worked in an apparel store, and I was so impressed and touched by her then-teenage business approach that I want to share her thoughts with you and how these relate to social selling.

Here were her guiding principles, and my interpretations on how much of what she did some 40 years ago is still applicable today in not only the retail market but the financial services industry, too.

  1. Discover what the customer really wants – They might say they just want a pair of jeans or a shirt, but pointing them to racks of clothing is not helpful. Instead, talk to them; find out if they are looking for work attire, casual clothing, or something that just makes them feel good and happy.

I love this first mantra. What does your customer really want? Not, what do you want to sell them, but what do they want. Instead of laying out a bunch of products and services, akin to racks of clothing, are you addressing your customers’ wants and needs? Remember, today is all about permission-based marketing, so you need to focus on client needs with your emails, website content, blogs, and social media interaction.

  1. Help the customer find the right fit – This often takes a bit of diplomacy, but it’s important that a customer find the style or cut that is the right item for them. Often this just means redirecting them to some other clothes that might work better.

So even if you discover what your clients and prospects want, the sales process doesn’t stop there. You need to make sure the product is a good fit as you dig a little deeper and start evaluating options.

  1. Don’t be afraid to let a customer walk away without buying – Sometimes you just don’t have what the customer needs, and that’s okay. Moreover, you might recommend a competitor who does have what the customer wants. Interestingly, those customers respect your honesty and your recommendation, and probably come back when your products do meet their needs.

Whoa, this from a 16-year-old. I like it. Yep, sometimes you cannot give a client what they need at that time. However, that’s not to say you won’t be able to help them in the future. Even if you are never able to secure their business, you still might secure their loyalty and references.

5 Ways to Measure Your Website Effectiveness

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Every day, millions of people surf the Internet to conduct business-to-business (B2B) research. They want to determine anything and everything. Which software should they buy? Who should they turn to for legal help? How do advisors in the financial services industry stack up against each other? How do they separate themselves from roboadvisors?

More than 90 percent of B2B customers now conduct online research before making a purchasing decision, and they typically conduct 12 searches before settling on a brand or company, according to the Changing Face of B2B Marketing by Google/Millward Brown Digital.

Add these general online searches to the research your clients and referrals are conducting, and you can quickly realize the staggering impact of your website.

A few months ago, I asked Is Your Website Working for or Against You?, and many people told me the suggestions I made helped them rethink their website approach. Now, I want you to take those lessons and go a step further by evaluating the effectiveness of your website. Remember, Google evaluates your website to determine its value and search ranking, so you need to by using Google Analytics or a similar application.

  1. User Behavior Flow. When someone visits your site, where do they go and how long do they stay on your site? Do they linger on the homepage for a few seconds, or do they visit some of your subpages? If so, which ones? Understanding their patterns lets you clearly evaluate where you might want to change your content, design, and/or navigation.
  2. Acquisition Path. How do people get to your website? They may get there by typing in your web address, through a general search using keywords, by referral from another site, through your social media posts, or other avenues. You want to see a good channel mix that indicates people are finding you in a variety of ways.
  3. Network Size. How many people visit your website? Does this reach or exposure seem too low or about right? If the former, again think about the acquisition path, and consider increasing your social media activity and newsletters, while adding fresh content to your website.
  4. Sales Traction. What type of sales conversion and close ratio are you realizing?
  5. Blog Post Popularity. If you regularly add blog content to your website—and perhaps lead your followers to the blog via an email or social media post—look to see which ones have done well. Conversely, look at the blog posts that received little traction. Keep in mind that the title of the blog is often what draws people in, so make sure yours are strong by using a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.

We all want our websites to be beautifully designed, uniquely branded, mobile enabled, and rich with relevant search engine optimized content. Yet, it’s equally important to step back and see if all that goodness is indeed delivering.

ABOUT SHERI:
With 25 years in the financial services industry, Sheri is a recognized influencer, popular social media speaker, and a creative marketing force. As president of ShoeFitts Marketing, she collaborates with broker/dealers, financial advisors, third-party administrators, and financial professionals to help them leverage marketing tools and social media strategies to make meaningful connections that build business and grow sales.

Avoid Mediocrity by Defining Your Client Niche

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Many people in financial services like to think they can serve anyone and everyone. Perhaps this approach worked when they first started out in the industry. Yet, this type of thinking can actually be detrimental as professionals look to grow their business.

Can you define your client niche? Without a clear definition of who you serve, you become a generic commodity; another financial services professional in an endless murky sea of sameness. Why should someone do business with you if you cannot define your client specialization and your strengths?

Moreover, how can you effectively find and identify prospects if everyone is a potential client? How can your marketing, including your social selling efforts, target and address the needs of everyone?

The first step in combating this vague approach is to answer the following questions about your current preferred clients:

  • Who are you favorite customers?
  • Why do you like working with them?
  • What are the key characteristics? For business clients, consider industry type, revenue, and number of employees. For individual clients, think about demographics, values, risk tolerance, and financial goals.
  • What are their leading needs and concerns?
  • Length of business relationship?
  • Do they (or could they) provide referrals?

Are you starting to see some patterns? They may not all be the same type of client, and that’s fine, but most likely you’ll notice several key groupings.

With your current clients more clearly defined, think about your ideal prospects. Do they fall into any of the current groupings? If they are outside these segments, try to identify some commonalities to create a newly defined target group.

Now, you should have three or four client groups to address with your marketing strategy. Remember, in today’s permission-based outbound marketing climate, your clients drive that strategy and your social selling efforts.

Lastly, keep in mind you may need to tailor your marketing for each client group. The changes may be significant, or they may be small depending upon the diversity of your segments. For instance, when I send an email invitation to a ShoeFitts Digital Institute broadcast, I create several versions to address the interests and needs of my different clients and prospects.

Identifying and targeting your client niche is a crucial step in growing your business. In my Social Selling for Financial Advisors eCourse I delve further into your niche development by showing you how to define your why and better define your brand. Selling in today’s noisy digital sphere requires a well planned and executed strategy. Make sure yours starts by clearly defining your customers.

8 Ways You’re Using LinkedIn Wrong

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By now, many of you know I am a huge fan of LinkedIn. The social media platform is the choice for business to business (B2B) connectivity. It can help you network, build creditability, ferret out information and leads, and basically rock your social selling efforts.

 

Yet, what if you are going about LinkedIn all wrong? Unfortunately, just joining LinkedIn and creating a minimal profile will not help you build your business. In fact, it might scare off your prospects because you look like an amateur. With 400 million members (122 million in the U.S. alone) and the addition of two more members every second, you cannot afford to ignore the power of LinkedIn.

So, how do you currently measure up your LinkedIn profile and activity? Not sure?  Here’s my top eight signs you are using LinkedIn Wrong.

 

  1. No Photo – People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. How can someone get to know you if they cannot see your face?
  2. Non-Professional Photo – Did you quickly crop a photo of yourself from an event? Sure, maybe you looked great that day, but the random bits of people (arms, shoulders, etc.), the busy background, and the poor lighting can make you look like an amateur. Your best option is a photo shoot with a professional photographer, but if that’s not possible, enlist the help of a friend or co-worker—just pay attention to background and lighting.
  3. Weak Professional Headline and/or Summary statement – These two sections are your place to shine, so don’t ignore them. Use the headline to succinctly state your value, and then use the summary to give connections a little insight on why you do what you do.
  4. Resume Wording – Sure, LinkedIn can help you find a job, but if you are using the platform to build connections and grow your business with social selling then the Experience section needs to focus on the client and how you can add value to your clients – not just list out job experience like a resume. Specifically, what expertise and services do you offer that help alleviate your clients’ concerns and issues.
  5. No Thought Leadership – Your LinkedIn updates provide an ideal way to share your smarts and build your credibility. Whether you create fresh content or curate and share relevant news (with a few of your own thoughts as to why the article is important), aim to post something at least once a week. You can also use LinkedIn to share content on your website by providing a summary and a link to the information (which helps drive traffic to your website).
  6. Not Doing Your Homework – Before you meet with a current client or a prospect, use LinkedIn to gather valuable contact insight. Pay attention to what they say about themselves, and how they say it. Perhaps someone is very curt, to the point and favors bullet points; great, now you know to be the same with your interaction and presentations.
  7. Not Cyber Sleuthing—Even with the non-paid version, the LinkedIn Advance People Search can help you find prospects by keywords, location, title, company, industry and more.
  8. Forgetting Your Manners—Send potential prospects or someone you met at a meeting a personalized connection request rather than using the standard supplied text. Also, let them know why you want to connect with them, any references, and if you have met, where you met.

 

Granted, there are many more ways to fine-tune your LinkedIn experience, but if you address these eight points, you’ll be off to a good start. Want more help? Be sure to check out my self-paced online eCourse, Social Selling for Financial Advisors, and tune into my next ShoeFitts Digital Institute broadcast.

Compliance and Social Selling Can Co-Exist!

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Are you still just dabbling with social media and digital networking? Oh, maybe you’ve created a LinkedIn profile, but your photo is a cropped pic from a party, and your personal headline, summary and experience sections read more like a job-hunting resume than a networking magnet. What’s more, you don’t use social media to discover valuable information to help generate sales!

A recent Putnam Investment study shows some 81 percent of financial advisors now use social media for business. Frankly, I find this percentage a little high since at nearly every speaking event people tell me they are still reluctant to use social media. The most common reason I hear for this hesitancy? Compliance. Yep, that wonderful regulatory requirement we have in financial services.

Yet it’s important to remember that compliance is not a barrier. It’s just a hurdle or a speed bump. With some 75 million Generation D (digital) investors, and their $27 trillion in assets, you just cannot ignore the social space.

It’s equally important to also remember that social selling is not about being popular. It’s about sales! Likes, friends, and connections are only worthwhile if they help you build your business.

So, how do you get past those compliance concerns? Start with baby steps. First, understand there are some simple and easy rules to follow. Second, use common sense! The same regulations and rules that apply to your other sales and marketing efforts also apply to the digital space.

To provide more specifics and examples, I recently broke out the Mastering Compliance unit from my Social Selling for Financial Advisors eCourse. In Mastering Compliance, I show you how to navigate the compliance waters by covering:

  • Rules and regulations
  • The difference between static and interactive content
  • Three rules you MUST obey, and
  • Online conduct rules and monitoring requirements

I know compliance is not something to be taken lightly. After some 25 years in the industry, the last 10 of which I have spent concentrating on the social space, I understand your pain! That’s why I’m also currently offering the Mastering Compliance unit at NO COST.

I want you to feel comfortable using the digital world for social selling. Then, even if all you do is maximize your LinkedIn profile, you will be heading in the right direction. Later, you can up your game and learn how to jump more fully into the digital conversation.

So, stop dabbling! Compliance and social selling can co-exist!

Do You Have a Social Selling Strategy?

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I hate to slam the (refrigerator) door on cold calling, but frankly it’s quickly become a thing of the past. Businesses don’t want unknowns knocking at their door or calling on the phone. In fact, a recent survey shows cold calling fails 91 percent of the time!

Today, business to business (B2B) selling is following the same digital path as the business to consumer (B2B) process. Yep, now more than half of all B2B purchasers research you backwards and forwards on social media. They want to know who you are, your thoughts and your reasons for doing business. They want a relationship; they want a connection.

Bottom line: You need to leverage your social media presence and create a social selling strategy. Social selling uses social media to elevate your brand and build your business to rock your sales. Today, over 78 percent of sales people who use social media outsell their peers. You need to win the mind-share battle by attracting instead of chasing sales.

Think of social selling as an element within your social marketing plan, as the latter also includes brand perception and awareness, public relations, your website and much more. With a little know-how, planning and purpose, you can create a social selling strategy that helps you do the following:

  • Gather critical contact and company information
  • Establish yourself as a reputable thought leader on key sites
  • Make meaningful connections to build your business
  • Rock your sales

Thankfully, you don’t have to be both a financial services professional and a techie to figure all this out in order to become a social selling rock star. To start, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s complete and a clear representation of you and your services from the client perspective (check out Filling Your LinkedIn Restaurant with Quality Connections for more information and a downloadable tip sheet).

Once you can proudly stand behind your LinkedIn profile, you need to start making the site work for you by identifying and growing your connections. LinkedIn, which crested the 300-million member mark this year, provides a number of great ways to ferret out prospects and learn more about current connections.

You also want to become engaging, and no, I don’t mean charming at parties! You need to participate in conversations, provide thought leadership by curating and creating content, and join appropriate regional and industry groups.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, relax and breathe deeply! I can help! In fact, I have a new eCourse launching soon. Social Selling for Financial Advisors is for anyone in the financial services arena. It not only addresses social selling from a general sales standpoint, it also recognizes the compliance issues people in the financial services arena face. Together, we can nail down your social skills and rock your sales.

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