Understand the Power of Influence on Decision-Making

Did you stop at Starbucks, Caribou, or Dunkin this morning for your caffeine fix? More importantly, do you know why those coffee purveyors and other companies like Disney, Apple, and Nike are so successful at establishing and keeping customer loyalty?

In today’s world of constant visual imagery and digital dominance we are bombarded by an onslaught of websites, emails, texts, photos, videos, infographics, billboards, ads and more. While this overload may seem too much to handle, our brains are wired to sort through the chaos and create order or at least a hierarchy of information.

Our brains sift through this data and make decisions based on several factors with one of the most important being influence, according to Robert Cialdini, professor at Arizona State University and author of numerous books including Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Cialdini says understanding influence and the power of persuasion is critically important in competitive markets (and we all know that’s the case in the financial services arena).

Cialdini breaks down what he calls the “weapons of influence” into several categories: consistency, reciprocity, liking, authority, social proof, and scarcity. I find many of these useful in our business, but I’ll just cover the first two in this blog.

Consistency could very well be what drove you to your favorite coffee spot today. I know it works for me! When I head to Starbucks I rest assured that my coffee will be hot and not burnt, and my dog, aBoo, will receive her consistently delicious puppaccino (check out this short video to see her enjoying one).

Clients and customers love consistency. They enjoy knowing what to expect, plus it means their brains can run a little bit on auto-pilot. The big mega companies understand consistency and apply it at every customer touchpoint. Their brand and why is clear, and permeates everything they do.

While your may not have the power of these conglomerates, that doesn’t mean you cannot provide your clients with a well defined mission and value statement that is consistently implemented throughout your firm.

Take a look at your touchpoints—everything from your business cards, to the chairs in your office, to your website content, to your social media posts—and evaluate your consistency. If you find a lapse, fix it.

Consider extending consistency to the scheduling of your events, newsletters, blogs, and other communication vehicles. An editorial and marketing calendar can simplify the process, make your life easier, and help your readers know when to expect something from you as well.

In fact, your value-adds, like informative articles and industry news also establishes a reciprocity cycle of giving. While reciprocal obligations may not be immediately realized, Cialdini says the reach is powerful and can extend well into the future. The key is to be genuine and considerate.

Beyond the value-adds you provide clients, think about extending the reciprocity cycle to your centers of influence by giving them a piece of business. An industry CPA or attorney will be much more likely to provide you with a referral if you are the first to give and bring them a client.

Building up others, whether they are centers of influence or just general contacts, builds you up in the eyes of others. Just make sure your referrals are well considered and include personal introductions, phone calls, or email.

Don’t forget to keep the reciprocity cycle in play when others extend you a referral or piece of business. Thank you gestures should be meaningful, and consider what’s important to the recipient.

Influence factors such as reciprocity and consistency are often at the heart of both B2B and B2C decision-making. As financial services entrepreneurs, be sure to understand and harness them to help market your products and build business.

5 Steps to Creating Your 2015 Digital Marketing Plan

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The New Year is fast approaching, and as you make that last big push to book business, make sure you also finalize your 2015 digital marketing plan. The growing role of connective technology and marketing is not slowing down. If anything, the pace will only pick up in 2015.

While you might have been able to get away with a little digital marketing this year, you need to be ready with a rich offering and well-planned strategy going forward. So, just where do you start, and how? Take a few minutes to review these crucial steps to create your 2015 digital marketing plan:

  1. Goals—As mentioned in What are Your Social Media Goals?, clearly define your digital marketing goals within the context of your overall marketing plan. Be sure to also include an outline of your resource allocations, execution methods and evaluation guidelines.
  2. Map—A digital marketing plan is great, but it may fall flat unless you commit by mapping out a schedule. Force yourself to pick days or weeks when you will write blogs, send newsletters, post social media updates, and so forth. Include a reminder (or several), and work ahead when possible so you’re not always scrambling to meet deadlines.
  3. Delivery—Digital noise is deafening and the proper delivery is now incredibly important with marketing. The days of outbound marketing dumps are nearly a thing of the past. Today, you must think inbound. How do your customers want to receive information from you and how often? A traditional email, infographic, twitter post, or in person meeting?
  4. Engagement—Unlike many other marketing methods, digital marketing lets you carry on conversations with your customers. Your 2015 plan should include engagement activities to get people talking and sharing. If you read an interesting article try this method of engagement:
  • Share the news on your social media sites
  • Add your thoughts or insight
  • Ask others what they think
  • Ask your followers to comment, continue the conversation and pay attention to the responses (look for cues that might point to useful in-person follow-up opportunities)
  1. Action Items—While much of your digital marketing focus should center on giving rather than getting, be sure to include some action items that create leads and help you book business.

Don’t start the New Year with tired, old school thinking. Today’s connected world requires a strong digital marketing plan to be heard above the noise and meet the needs of your clients and prospects.

Top 2015 Digital Marketing Trends

Digital marketing is poised to truly come of age in 2015. No longer a marketing nice-to-have or a trendy add-on, digital marketing moves into the necessary category for businesses of all sizes in the New Year.

Driving this change is the growing attraction of the Internet for all things consumer- and business-oriented, plus the increasing access by mobile devices. Traditional mediums are becoming passé and dollars and attention are now shifting towards digital marketing. Indeed, it’s no longer just us marketing types who are pointing at the power of the Internet; now, many leading c-suite execs are seeing the value as well.

While you may not have the resources the mega companies of the world can use, you do have the ability to realign your marketing dollars to better focus on digital marketing. Plus, unlike those huge companies, you know your clients and prospects really well so you can better target your efforts.

To keep pace with this growing phenomenon, apply these top 2015 digital marketing trends to your business:

Customer experience—The giving doesn’t stop after the holiday season! Focus on giving rather than getting in 2015 to put the needs of your clients and prospects at the forefront of your digital marketing. The inbound marketing approach that began to gain momentum in 2014 will explode in 2015 as businesses really turn their attention on the customer and the customer experience.

Write and write some more—Yes, this sounds simple, but good, crisp writing is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool. Your clients and prospects want to know what you think; they want you to help them understand the issues and news that affects them most. Stale website content, old blogs, and minimal social postings are now viewed with disdain. Learn how to write engaging content and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Storytelling—Your followers also want content that is relatable interesting, and personal. The secret to storytelling is getting your readers to picture themselves right in the midst of your tale. This means your words need to address their interests, concerns, and fears— and do so in a friendly and understanding tone.

Visuals—The saying may be old, but it’s still applicable: a picture is worth a thousand words. Alongside your compelling content, include photos, graphs, illustrations, videos and infographics to help better communicate your points. Sometimes, the best way to tell a story is without any traditional copy; check out my infographic on ERISA. It provides a historical perspective on a complex subject that could easily have become overwhelming with just words alone.

Podcasts and videos—Round out your digital marketing reach by pursuing voice and video, particularly if you feel comfortable in this environment. Every morning I listen to podcasts and obtain information that I would frankly not get otherwise. Just this month I launched my Women Rocking Wall Street podcast series, and I plan to continue my live and recorded webcasts as well.

Analytics—Track your digital marketing efforts on the leading social media sites. Services such as Google Analytics help you understand what platforms work best with your followers, plus what types of posts and campaigns drive the most traffic back to your website to help you book business.

Mobile communication—Smart phones and tablets are now the norm for many people using the Internet, so make sure your sites and postings are mobile-friendly. This is particularly important with websites, which if not designed to accommodate mobile devices, can be hard to load or show strange layouts and make page access difficult (use your phone to check out your website). Granted, you may have to hire some pros to update your website, but it’s well worth the resources.

 

 

 

 

What are Your Social Media Goals?

Have you been standing at the edge of the social media pool waiting for the water to get just a wee bit warmer? Are you now ready to take the plunge? Well, before you throw off your towel and jump in, take a moment to outline your social media goals.

Goals? Yes, goals. Sure, everyone (including me) keeps telling you to add social media to your marketing efforts, but the nagging comes with a caveat: you need a plan!

Your goals should take several key factors into account, and all of them should align with your overall marketing objectives.

7 Keys to Establishing Your Social Media Goals

  1. Brand perception. What do you want to say about yourself and your services? What makes you special among other advisors in the industry? Your social media brand message goal must be consistent with all your other communication formats so you don’t confuse your customers.
  2. Brand awareness. Social media provides multiple touch points and opportunities for showcasing your brand, so what sites best meet your needs? Consider your clients and prospects and the platforms they use, and how they use them. For many business people today, the two most popular channels are Twitter and LinkedIn, but do a quick analysis of your customer usage. If your goal is to increase awareness, you need to be present on the right sites.
  3. Public Relations. Think only big companies need public relations? Think again. You can use social media for PR; just make sure you have something to say (see Thought Leadership below). Industry news is always more interesting for your followers and local media with a personal, real-world perspective. If you do issue press releases, promote them on your social media sites and provide a “why should someone care” introduction in addition to the link.
  4. Thought Leadership. Social media is one of the best ways to establish your “give” or value-add. What type of thought leadership can you provide? Customers can easily delete your emails, posts, and updates, so you need to offer something worthwhile. If your goal is to establish yourself as an “expert” be sure you are giving, not selling.
  5. Lead Generation. Will you take advantage of the search capabilities on LinkedIn to help drive leads? As a LinkedIn member you have access to an incredible database where you can view your connections’ connections and look for new opportunities. You can also follow your clients and prospects to keep up on their news and identify possible changes or needs that could become business opportunities.
  6. Competitive Intelligence. Do you want to use social media to keep an eye on the competition? If this is one of your goals, check out your competitors’ social media sites to see what they are saying about themselves and their brands. Likewise, investigate their connections. Don’t forget to look at both personal profiles and company pages.
  7. Engagement and Time Management. Here’s the biggie: Just how much time are you willing to devote to social media? You need to set up a realistic goal for yourself. Social media is invaluable, but only if you can make a strong commitment and be consistent with your effort. Consider your resources and the resources of those who might help you, and then map out a plan and calendar.

Once you consider these key factors, you should be able to identify your key goals for social media. Maybe you want to clarify and differentiate your brand while amplifying your public relations. Or, perhaps, your goals center on providing more thought leadership with blogs and social media posts.

Social media is now a must for business; don’t be afraid to make the jump. Do it with forethought and a plan, so you know your goals and can reach for them with ease!

How do you Compete with Robo-Advisors?

With today’s increased focus on digital marketing and automation technology, the continual push for better access to goods and services through the Internet is inevitable. Equally understandable is the growing role of robo-advisors in the financial services arena.

The term robo-advisor brings to mind the futuristic scenes from RoboCop and creates an ominous worry for traditional advisors. How real is the worry, and what can you, as a seasoned advisor, do about it? Plenty!

First, start by accepting and understanding the goodness associated with robo-advisors; chiefly, that more people now have access to the world of investing. Many of the robo-advisor customers are young professionals just getting starte who are attracted to the lower entry minimums, the 24/7 data access, low fee schedule, and the ease of investing. Note that an increased knowledge base now means more savvy investors in the future who could conceivably go beyond this starting point and reach out to financial plan advisors in the future.

Next, realize that you cannot compete on price with these online investment management sites. The fees and the overhead costs are lower. Period.

Instead, you need to recognize the technology aspects you can address, while also differentiating your strengths from the algorithmic portfolio models commonly used by a robo-advisor.

This means you cannot ignore digital marketing! The Internet is not the problem, just as robo-advisors are not the problem. In fact, there really isn’t a problem, merely opportunities.

Your website, blogs, social media presence, and email newsletters must be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Nearly everyone, from Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers, wants and expects a solid and rich online presence. If you don’t have one, you’re considered old school (not in a good way) and out of touch, and your abilities are questioned.

How can you be knowledgeable and up-to-date about the latest trends and investment strategies if your digital marketing is suspect? You cannot.

Just as importantly, that digital marketing must say something about your value-add. Pretty pictures and graphics may attract attention, but you won’t keep a customer’s interest for long if you don’t provide a give and showcase your industry knowledge.

Clients and prospects want to know why they should work with you now and in the future. What do you offer that they can’t get from a robo-advisor? What is it about your skills and background that make you special?

Your day-in and day-out relationships matter as well. Yes, an online presence is vital, but do you also take the time to get to know your customers? Do you understand their wants and needs? Do you know what keeps them up at night?

The bottom line is: How can you help your clients and prospects? What can you do for them that no other advisor, and certainly no robo-advisor, can provide?

Craft your value-add, your mission statement, and your give carefully and with your customer in mind, and you will put yourself way beyond the commonplace and futuristic competition.

10 Signs it’s Time to Update Your Website

A strong online presence starts with a well-designed website, especially for financial advisors as more and more people are turning to the web for financial advice and information about firms.

You may already have a website, but it is working as well as it could to effectively market you and your firm? Are you wondering if your site is ready for a refresh? Here’s a good checklist to help determine if it’s time for an upgrade.

Your website doesn’t reflect that you’re keeping up with best practices in web design.

We’ve all seen those websites—outdated fonts, broken images, and confusing navigations. Make sure your site showcases that your firm is equipped to handle the modern-day needs of your clients.

You’re not seeing results from your website. Ever.

Your website should be a tool where you effectively market your business. Whether it’s placing easy call-to-action forms for prospects to get in touch with you, or simply having easy-to-find contact information, your website should help you drive new business and retain existing clients.

Clients can’t find the information they need on your site.

If visitors of your website can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will become frustrated and ultimately leave your site before contacting you. Ensure your site’s navigation is well thought out and allows users to quickly and efficiently find what they are looking for.

Site optimization is low – meaning your organization is left in the dust when potential clients are searching for providers.

Is your site SEO-friendly? Can you create searchable URLs? If not, you may be missing out on major potential for business growth. For example, a Pew Internet survey found that 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web.

Your website lacks valuable tools for your readers.

Are you providing as much value as possible to your readers with tools like financial calculators? Giving your audience helpful tools will keep them on your site longer, increasing the opportunities for conversion.

When viewing on a mobile device or tablet, your website is a mess.

More than 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices, and 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile to give visitors a seamless experience.

Social media is still something you’re considering.

Stop considering—your firm is falling behind if you’re not on social media, and you should be connecting the digital experience for your clients on your website, too. Now that social media can be archived to meet compliance expectations, there is no excuse not to have a social strategy.

You have social media in place, but can’t push your website content to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Financial website platforms make publishing the content from your website to your social networks as easy as the click of a button. Keep your readers engaged and draw in new users with instant social push.

The content on your website is outdated.

Your website should constantly be refreshed with new, relevant content, including videos. Ensure your website platform allows you to have ready-access to fresh content.

Making updates to your website is challenging and time consuming.

Making updates to your website should be a painless process. Consider investing in a website with drag-and-drop functionalities that don’t require complicated coding to make simple updates.
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these scenarios, it may be time to consider updating your website!

 

LinkedIn Profile Essentials: Optimize for Business Success

LinkedInWith over 300 million users, LinkedIn is a gold mine for busy professionals, but does your profile say you are networking and building business or looking for a new job? Don’t think there is a difference? Think again.

The personae you put forth on LinkedIn is critically important for establishing your value statement, your expertise, and your background. This is one of the first social media for business-to-business connections.

Indeed, LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for college-educated adults pocketing annual household income of $75,000 or more. Plus, it is the only social media site with more people aged 50-64 than aged 18-29.
So, how you project yourself matters! If your profile resembles a resume rather than a business outlook, you give viewers the impression you’re looking to jump ship and are not committed to your current job! Clearly, the last impression you want to make!

To create the right impression, first consider these key LinkedIn Profile essentials:

Headline – Provide a concise description to tell your why or value statement (120-character limit).

Summary – How and why did you arrive at your job/company? What makes you and your services special? How do you help your clients? Don’t go on an ego rant with irrelevant “wins”. Your clients and prospects want to know why they should do business with you instead of someone else.

Job Experience – Your roles and responsibilities are important, but only as they relate to your clients. Remember, you are not trying to sell a future employer, but show a client you have the skills and experience necessary to help them!
Media attachments – Visuals help break up the sea of text, so definitely add media attachments with SlideShare or other apps to offer added information or helpful infographics.

Don’t forget to consider your LinkedIn engagement and usage as well. Make sure you maintain a customer focus with the following:

Content – Offer your expertise on industry and company insights, and share articles and other posts with commentary to indicate the relevancy. Aim for a couple posts per week and schedule them in the morning when you are most likely to catch reader interest. However, don’t post just to post; quality is always paramount.

Links – Provide links to your company website and LinkedIn page. Be sure messaging is consistent across all channels so you don’t confuse your clients and prospects with mixed signals.

Connections – Build your network by considering clients, prospects and industry thought leaders. Use the Advanced search feature to find people by job keywords, title, company, or location. You can fine-tune possible connections even further with the additional search fields available with a premium membership.

Groups – Utilize LinkedIn Groups to join industry organizations and local business-oriented associations and chapters. Be a good listener first, and then engage with thoughtful commentary when you have something to offer. Also use Groups to grow your connections; be sure to pick the shared Group option when you send a connection request.

LinkedIn adds two new members every second! Make sure your giving those new and existing members the right impression.LinkedIn-in-logo-2-color-reverse-png

Find Your Balance on Social Media

Sometimes using social media makes me feel like I’m back on one of those old grade school teeter-totters. I try hard to find the right balance by not favoring one end of the perspective over the other; my concern isn’t surprising since I always hated being suspended in the air when someone a little weightier sat on the opposite side!

Yet, finding your balance with social media is tricky. You might not get stuck up in the air, but one of your priorities could definitely get airborne if it’s neglected. The solution means recognizing this problem even exists, and then taking steps to address each balancing act.

Personal vs. Professional

We all like to think our personal and professional sides can remain separate. However, by its very nature, social media is social and sharable. Despite your best efforts to limit who sees what, you don’t have total control. Plus, your professional followers may find your personal posts, too.

With that in mind, you can’t be out on the far ends of this teeter-totter. You can have your personal posts—just don’t make them a polar extreme from your professional persona. People will find you on your personal and professional sites.

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust, so some shared personal information makes you more relatable. It’s okay to weave some personal ramblings into your professional posts, but don’t get carried away.

Giving vs. Getting

Successful financial services firms recognize social media requires giving more than getting most of the time. You’ll see your ROI, but this balancing maneuver requires a really long board and patience! You need to give lots and give regularly; make yourself a thought leader and an invaluable resource. The payoffs will come in time when you reap repeat business and obtain client referrals.

Curate vs. Create

Your social media posts can include an equal dose of content that you create and curate. Only you know your clients needs and their concerns, so penning (okay keying) a few original thoughts is important. However, your followers understand that you don’t always have time to write prosaic blogs. Plus, they can still realize the benefits of well-selected material that you pass along with a quick personalized spin. Just try to find a nice mix and don’t just forward or re-share anything and everything; be thoughtful and purposeful.

Quality vs. Quantity

Good, solid content is imperative for your social media channels. However, one or two wonderful posts or blogs a year is not enough. Your social media is an extension of your brand and your marketing; it must be sharp and it must be consistent.

Each year, and then again at the start of every month, I sit down and map out my social media priorities. I consider the blogs, podcasts, videos, and webinars I want to post and then budget my time accordingly. I may not get to absolutely every item, but I make sure to hit my key milestones with quality work.

Tweets vs. Posts vs. Blogs vs. Infographics and so on . . .

Okay, I never saw a teeter-totter that could juggle all the communication methods available now with social media, but I’m sure if one did exist it would be a crazy Dr. Seuss-looking contraption. The reality is balancing all your content formats can make you a little crazy!

However, I try to let the social flow of the site dictate my participation. For instance, I typically tweet five or six times a day, because it’s easy to share a quick thought or link. On Facebook, I post once or twice a day depending upon my activities; when I travel I tend to post more often than when I’m sitting in my office. Similarly, I sign onto LinkedIn a couple times a day; I read my news feeds, participant in groups when I really have something to add, and share content when I find good information. I typically only post longer content on LinkedIn once a week.

The social media teeter-totter is not perfect, and it can be a little wobbly at times. Just recognize the need to balance your efforts and make the most of your marketing and branding efforts, while taking the opportunity to connect with clients, prospects, thought leaders, family and friends.

Be Evergreen with Your Content to Save Time

Quality content is vital for developing and communicating your brand on social media today. With educational and insightful posts you can help your clients and prospects by distinguishing your services, expertise, and knowledge. Yet, as a busy financial services professional you have a limited number of hours to work on your social media content.

To maximize your time you must create evergreen content, and then repurpose it. Now, this doesn’t mean copying everything you write on Facebook to LinkedIn. Instead, using evergreen content means following some basic planning and execution strategies to create longevity and multiple uses for your subject matter. Consider the following steps:

1. Create a topic list. In the financial services industry there are some key subjects you know your clients and prospects value. For example, if you’re a retirement plan advisor your employer followers probably care about how to pick a TPA, understanding ERISA, addressing the retirement needs for varying generations, and so on.

Make a list of your topic ideas and then consider subtopics. Take advantage of your vast knowledge base to make each of these subtopics a separate and distinct content item. You don’t have to spend hours researching each topic, just use what you know to cover each subject. Granted, you’ll want to stay abreast of industry changes, but those changes create additional opportunities for you to update or further illuminate a topic.

2. Consider your audience. As with your subject matter, list out your different audiences and target markets. While a specific topic may be vital to each group, your approach, tone and examples may vary among your followers.

You may not have to recreate an entire blog or post for each audience; instead only tweak the content a bit. Think of a politician on the campaign trail: they don’t create new speeches for every stop, they just tweak the opening and closing and keep the body the same!

3. Explore different content mediums. With today’s internet connectivity and various social media platforms, there are many ways to repurpose your content. With just one topic idea, you can share information using any or all of the following formats:

-Blogs

-Posts

-Tweets

-Newsletters

-Videos

-Whiteboard videos

-Audio podcasts

-Infographics

-Webinars

-E-books

4. Promote across channels. Remember to link your content between your various social media sites when possible and applicable.

5. Re-share popular topics. Sometimes your content may be so good, it’s worth sharing more than once. For instance, a blog you wrote a year ago might be worth linking to again on your social media sites. Provide one or two lines outlining why it is still relevant. Also remember you have new followers who haven’t seen your older posts. And existing followers might not have seen the original post—and if they did, they may value a second read-through.

Evergreen content is recycling at its best, plus it’s a time-saver. Make your content interesting and valuable, be creative with your positioning, and you can easily become a financial services industry thought leader without spending hours pounding out social media content every day!

Word for the Day: Curate! Curate Content for Your Business on Social Media

By their very nature, social media sites are meant to be interactive communal gathering spots where members share information on a regular basis. As financial advisors, that interaction is particularly important for connecting with your clients and future prospects. But just what do you post on your sites and how do you come up with all that content? The solution: curate!

That’s right, you don’t have to create new content for every post! Instead, take advantage of the various online clipping services that provide subject-specific articles, blogs and news items. Curate the collection and pick worthwhile posts to share or retweet along with your thoughts or commentary. You need only add a line or two; just something to indicate why the post is worth sharing.

Consider curating industry-specific news along with health and wealth articles, and other areas of interest. Interactive social media updates typically do not require compliance approval, but be sure to check with your own company’s social media policy.

While Google Alert can search for key words, you receive separate emails for each topic so use this tool judiciously. A variety of other solutions are available through a number of curating services, which provide a more streamlined approach. My favorites include the following:

Feedly − The news aggregator acts as portal for all your subject matter and sorts each item by topic. The magazine-style format has different layout options and works with various reader applications, operating systems, and devices. The service offers a free service as well as a more flexible paid option.

Paper.li − Centralizes up to 25 news sources into one online newspaper that you can share with your subscribers via email notifications or on your social media sites. A paid version turns your newspaper into a branded marketing tool with custom domain names, art and logos, ads, and articles.

Scoop.it − From the topics and keywords you enter, Scoop.It creates a content suggestion engine. A free version allows you to create two topics and connect to two social media sites, while several paid options provide increased search capabilities, additional users, and more integrated services. Scoop.it also has an avenue for creating an online, curated newsletter. (Note: Check with your Compliance Department to determine if you can create this type of online magazine or newsletter.)

Newsle − Searches public news items for the names you designate or supply from LinkedIn and/or Facebook. The site uses an algorithm to determine when news items apply to your designated people. (As a side note: Newsle is a great way to follow the latest news on your clients or prospects).