Create a Magnetic Brand, Build Margin

Several years ago, I attended my second National Speakers Association Annual Conference. My objective for attending was to rub shoulders with successful speakers and take away a handful of ideas to jump-start my speaking practice. Hence the first evening, I stopped at the lobby bar for a beverage and a bit of mingling.

While enjoying my Grey Goose and soda – with three limes – I met Chris Mercer, CEO of Mercer Capital. Chris is one of the leading business valuation experts in the country and author of a plethora of books for business owners. Being a 401k nerd, I questioned him about Employee Stock Ownership Plans and the challenge he sees in valuing firms. (Seriously?! Who would discuss ESOPs over cocktails? Obviously, a geek like me.)

I very much wanted an expert opinion on a theory that I’ve long held: An organization that builds and executes an effective brand brings additional margin to the bottom line. Of course, I already knew the answer, “Yes.” But Chris said, “No.” So, I bought him another drink.

Let’s back up and lay some groundwork. You’ve likely seen marketers and brand experts trot out Starbucks, Apple, Coca Cola, or Target as examples of well executed brands. And, many large multi-national organizations do track their specific brand equity. In fact, the firm Interbrand tracks brand values and the associated changes in brand value from year to year. As an example Coca-Cola retained the No. 3 position on Interbrand’s esteemed annual ranking of most valuable global brands for the second consecutive year. Coke’s 2014 brand value is estimated at $81.6 billion, up 3 percent from 2013, more than four times that of the nearest beverage brand on the list.

Many advisors and small business owners don’t have the necessary capital and staffing to compete on a global level and therefore likely have zero brand equity to discuss during the sales process. Hence, Chris’ answer.

However, after some additional discussion, we came upon the answer I did want to hear: “Yes, in a way, a powerful brand can bring more margin to the bottom line.” Because a well branded organization increases the perceived value of their services. I’m going to say that again: an effective brand and well-executed brand can help increase the perceived value of services. (Thereby eventually bringing greater margin to the bottom line.)

Unfortunately, many local and regional advisors neglect their brand. They see their brand as simply a logo slapped on a business card, brochure and website. Your brand encompasses the full experience your prospects and clients have with you and your firm; from how you answer the phone to the quality of your business card and everything in between.

Your brand can be an intentional piece of your business development effort. As an example, we recently redesigned the ShoeFitts website. It was the third iteration in as many years as we have been in business. The ShoeFitts Creative Crew expanded the use of the pimento red color specifically to imply sophistication and power. Now we are evaluating our client onboarding and welcome process because first impressions last forever. In fact, we have an ongoing audit of our brand and client experience. As you move into the New Year, consider an audit of your visual and experiential brand; here’s a starting point: Brand Touchpoint Audit.

Lay the Ghost of Compliance To Rest!

Boo!

Don’t let the ghost of compliance haunt you this Halloween. It’s time to dig that grave and lay the ghost to rest.

Sound a bit ghoulish? A trick instead of a treat? Not to worry.

I know many people fear using social media because of compliance concerns. Whenever I speak or train on the issue of social selling, the worry and barrier I hear about most often is compliance. But this isn’t 2006 (when I first started teaching folks about the social space). Even the SEC acknowledges that YELP exists.

Happy Halloween!

To help you get over your compliance fear, I’m giving away my Mastering Compliance module for free. Frankly, my intention is that you’ll find it helpful, entertaining, and encouraging. Encouraging enough to compel you to take the plunge into the full eCourse, Social Selling for Financial Advisors.

However, let’s not go there right now. Just take the Mastering Compliance course. It’s free. It’s short. It’s pretty much everything you need to create a solid foundation for moving your social selling forward. Because, if you’re not using social as a piece of your sales puzzle, you’re missing out. Social media and social selling are not hard or frightening when you understand and implement some simple, thoughtful guidelines.

There is tremendous selling power in today’s digital marketplace with 1.5 billion global social media users spanning all generations and demographics. This collective group, known as Generation D (digital), includes some 75 million investors with over $27 trillion in assets.

You know that cold calling sucks. And studies show that more than 90 percent of the time it flat out fails. Yet, you also know you want more warm leads.

Lets lay the compliance ghost to rest. Join me in Mastering Compliance. I make it fun, interesting, and helpful. Even better, it’s free! Just like Halloween candy.

Mastering Compliance eCourse Takes The Fright Out Of Social Media

Halloween treats come early for financial services professionals looking to lay the ghost of compliance to rest. Professionals in the financial services industry can now overcome their compliance fears about social media by enrolling in the Mastering Compliance online course by Sheri Fitts, CEO of ShoeFitts Marketing. A module within the Social Selling for Financial […]

Forget social. Focus on Sales.

 

Ten or so years ago, at the beginning of the social craze, the marketing rally cry was “Join the Conversation!” Experts pointed to the benefits of brand engagement, community interaction, and the once in a lifetime opportunity to go viral.

Value in the social world was associated with followers, likes and retweets. Frankly, that put a lot of folks off. How does this rah-rah cocktail party atmosphere create sales? Sprinkle in the regulation and compliance issues we face in the financial services industry and for most of us, social was a non-starter.

Even now, a fairly large group of financial professionals are only able to have a static LinkedIn profile. Guess what? Even if all you do is maximize your profile and use LinkedIn to help grow your connections, you can rock your sales with Social Selling.

Social Selling 1

When I speak and teach on the world of social, I start with LinkedIn for a variety of reasons:

  • A LinkedIn profile is easy to create and maintain
  • The pace is more manageable than Twitter
  • The site is very Googleicious (meaning it aids in search engine optimization)
  • Over 30 percent of American adults with annual household incomes over $100,000 use LinkedIn (check out this source for more amazing LinkedIn stats)
  • More than 300 million people have a LinkedIn profile; one out of three professionals on the planet has a LinkedIn profile
  • Business people use the site, and 35 percent of users access LinkedIn every day
  • Finally, most broker/dealers allow for, at minimum, a static profile!

I know, some of your are saying, “but what about compliance, Sheri?” My response: Don’t let compliance get in your way of some awesome competitive information; just create an optimized LinkedIn profile, run it by compliance, and then do what you can to grow your network.

In other words, pretend LinkedIn is a series of rolodexes. You don’t need to do the social stuff. Do sales instead. Then dive into the Advanced Search function. You can always take your activity to the next level, but for now, don’t worry about doing everything.

Take baby steps. Because, frankly, if you don’t engage just a little bit in the digital space you will get left behind in the dial-up world. Like it or not, some of your competitors are taking full advantage of Social Selling.

So don’t bury your head in the sand and hope social media goes away. Don’t point to compliance worries as a barrier. Do make the leap and try out the waters. I promise, you won’t drown in the deep end of the social media pool!

What Content Do I Share?

Wow! Thanks for all your recent comments and questions about social selling! Many of you are ready to up your social engagement and start rocking your sales. Along with this enthusiasm, I am hearing one resounding question: “what content do I share?”

This is an excellent question, and one I cannot answer, but can help you answer. First, sharing content is not about selling; it’s about building a relationship by sharing your smarts. The content you share needs to speak to the needs, concerns, and worries of your connections. In other words, what do they care about?

Second, remember the digital noise is vast, so you need to take this opportunity to provide real tangible help. The more you help, the more trust you gain, and the more likely you will out-sell the competition.

So, now you’re thinking, great, Sheri, but this sounds like a lot of work! Not really, once you understand there are two types of content: stuff you create, and gems you curate and share. Both are important and you probably want to do a little of both.

Curating content is all about sifting through good resources to find worthwhile information for your connections. In addition to any news feeds you already receive, consider creating specific searches through Google Alerts, Newsle, Feedly, and Mention. As part of the sharing process, be sure to add a sentence or two about why the topic is important; you don’t want to just send along a link without some type of commentary.

Creating your own content can consist of sharing blogs, updates, tweets, special reports, white papers, etc. Admittedly, creating blogs can seem overwhelming! There is nothing quite like a blank Word document or update screen to stop all creativity. However, the creative process can actually help you focus on the needs of your connections (and sometimes we lose sight of that emphasis).

One trick that helps me is the old fashioned approach; I get out some paper and pens and do a little mind mapping to take a kernel of an idea and flush it out into one or more articles. For instance, if I want to share some LinkedIn ideas, I can start with “LinkedIn profiles” at the center of the page and then add all the key profile components around the core phrase. I might draw pictures, numbers, or use words—it doesn’t matter; whatever gets my brain engaged and thinking creatively.

Sharing content is a key component to social selling because it helps solidify your thought leadership with your connections. It doesn’t have to be a grind; in fact, the process can help keep you current with trends and news, and help you regularly address your tribe’s issues and cares.

It’s okay to start slowly until you get the hang of sharing content. Maybe try for a couple curating shares per week and one or two blogs per month. Just get going and then be consistent!

 

Want to Avoid the Social Media Time-Suck?

Social media offers a great way to connect with people and is an integral part of social selling. Yet, if you’re not careful, you can fall down the rabbit hole into the social media vortex. Luckily you can avoid this time-suck with some careful planning, nifty online tools and even some no-tech tricks.

Make a Plan – A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of crafting a social selling plan just as you would any other sales or marketing program (if you missed it, check out Don’t Know Where You Are Going?). Be sure your social selling plan clarifies your social media platforms, who you are trying reach, and how you can best meet their needs.

Nifty Tools – While a personal touch is sometimes more desirable, you can provide ongoing content or value-add material in a scheduled manner. What’s more, some scheduling apps also offer tracking and monitoring so you can easily determine which posts are hits or misses with your followers.

    • Buffer – Whether you have one or several items to post, consider using Buffer to schedule and automate your content. The app works with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and lets you schedule the days and times you want to release each post.
    • HootSuite – Manages your social selling posts in much the same way as Buffer. The app also lets you search feeds and keywords, plus monitor tweets, responses and messages.
    •  Freedom – Sometimes the Internet is too enticing! Freedom lets you block all or part of the Internet for a predetermined time. Regardless of your device, you can set the length of the block and work offline without interruption.
    • Anti-Social – If certain sites (ESPN, Google News, etc.) are cutting your productivity, Anti-Social lets you block any site for as long as you like.

Say No or Disconnect – Remember, you need to make your connections quality connections, so be deliberate! In Filling Your LinkedIn Restaurant with Quality Connections I wrote about this in more detail, and as I mentioned in a recent Friday Tip, you can easily disconnect with unwanted LinkedIn connections.

No-Tech Tools – Sometimes the best methods for managing your time are the easiest! For instance, consider using a kitchen timer to limit the time you spend on any activity that impedes your productivity. I am also a big proponent of scheduling my daily tasks each morning. Use whatever list-making device works for you—I favor giant sticky notes—to stay on task.

There are a slew of other apps and schedulers to help you out; the key is to not get overwhelmed. Make a plan, get help and you’ll be maximizing your social media interaction, and your social selling productivity, in no time.

Want even more help with social selling? Check out my new eCourse Social Selling for Financial Advisors; sign up now to get the inside track on the course offerings and early access to the program!

Knocking Down Barriers

Okay, I hear you! I have been writing and talking lots lately about social selling, and some of you are asking me, “hey, Sheri, is social selling really necessary?” In short—yes!

However, I understand the hesitation, so let’s address some of those perceived barriers to social selling:

  • No roadmap – Yes, you do need a plan, but it doesn’t have to be complicated and 20 pages long! You can develop a social selling strategy similar to a general selling plan; just vary the execution steps!
  • Takes too much time – Wrong! Just the opposite is true. Social selling actually saves you time by helping you work smarter.
  • Higher ups think social media is a fad – You may indeed have to do a little selling on the value of social media, but it will be well worth your time.
  • Worried about compliance – Social media interactions must follow some rules, so check out my Seven Things to Know about Compliance and Social Media tip sheet.

I am super excited to help explain all of these concepts and more with my new eCourse: Social Selling for Financial Advisors. I’ll be launching it soon; for now, you can learn more here and ensure your place at the head of the class!

The Internet is no Baby

My friend Alice Tang remembers her first days as a financial advisor when all she did was cold calling. Yep, for eight-plus hours a day she tried to grow her book of business by working her way down a call list, hoping to set up meetings. Luckily her perseverance worked, and today Alice is vice president of BPG Wealth Management, LLC. Equally lucky for Alice, her start came in 1994 when the Internet was in its infancy.

Today, the Internet is no baby; it’s a mature ruler that dictates both business-to-consumer and business-to-business selling. If Alice tried to start her financial services career today the same way she did in 1994, she would fail.

Purchasers have the power of the Internet at their fingertips and they expect, no demand, relevant information, nurturing and relationship-building. Selling must now include social selling so you can work smart and create those connections to rock your sales.

Consider the Franklin Templeton Insights to Closing a Sale survey showing that “81 percent of plan sponsors actively sought advisors through recommendations or referrals from colleagues, peer organizations or retirement plan service providers” but only a quarter of them responded to cold calling! If these numbers are not shocking enough, you must realize this study was done in 2012 and social selling has gained even more importance since!

So, what are you going to do? A few years back IBM initiated social selling and increased sales by 400 percent! Crazy, right? If you’re ready to learn the ins and outs of social selling in the financial services world, and escalate your sales, please sign up now for pre-launch details on my new eCourse: Social Selling for Financial Advisors.

P.S. If you want to hear more about Alice Tang, check out my Women Rocking Wall Street podcast, Toughing it Out.

Are You Ready for Social Selling?

I loved playing Monopoly as a kid and always fought my brothers and sister for the prized playing piece: the Scotty Dog. While I still love hunkering down over the board on a rainy Portland afternoon, I gotta admit that today’s business world—and particularly selling environment—no longer takes place in a linear, flat fashion.

The game has changed! The business of selling now requires you to work multi-dimensionally and embrace the digital space by implementing social selling. Sure, the premise and goals are still the same—increase sales and business opportunities. And, many of your selling skills are also still valid. What is different with the inclusion of social selling, is the approach and thought process

With social selling, you need to rethink how you define, discover and engage with clients and prospects. You need to meet them on a different level, or social space, before many of them will even let you make in-person contact. Consider these numbers from Sales Benchmark Index:

  • You are almost five times more apt to schedule a first meeting if you have a personal LinkedIn connection.
  • Some 98 percent of sales reps with over 5,000 LinkedIn connections achieve quota.

Those are pretty staggering numbers! And, your work doesn’t stop with the sale; you must continue to incorporate social selling with constant, quality contact to keep and win new business.

I love a good board game now and then, but when it comes to business in the real world, it’s not about who can make it to “Go” first; it’s who can best utilize the digital arena to find and build connections, and then grow that business day in and day out.

 

Ready for the next step? Check out our Social Media Boot Camp, and Ready, Set, Social programs to become a social media master. Contact us today to see how ShoeFitts Marketing can elevate your business’s social media presence.

Social Selling to Rock Your Sales

Okay, I am a digital native. I used my first Mac word processor in 1984, sent my first email newsletter in 1998, and coded my first website in 2000. I’m a digital geek; I’m a social networking nerd.

What about you? You don’t have to be a techie to dip your toe into the social space; LinkedIn makes it super easy to get started. And, if you followed the steps in last week’s Getting It Right: Top Tips for Your LinkedIn Profile tip sheet, your profile is fully optimized and ready to rock. Next step? Tap into the power of your LinkedIn presence and your “social” world to include social selling. Yep, social selling; that simply spectacular way to grow sales in today’s digital world. (I like the word spectacular.)

Social selling is all about growing your business by using social media and other online resources to identify and maximize your connection opportunities. Meaning, your LinkedIn presence isn’t just about a great profile, it’s also about using that platform to its fullest potential to find and make quality connections and then lay down the path to get your foot in the door.

Don’t confuse social selling with social media marketing. The latter is the big digital marketing umbrella that includes social selling but also encompasses brand identification, perception and awareness, public relations, thought leadership, and engagement.

Whew, a lot to consider, right? Well yes and no. In the next few weeks, I will explain the ins and outs behind social selling, and even include a few tidbits for cybersleuthing on LinkedIn.