Status quo never made a sale

If financial services doesn’t change our client service models, and soon, our industry will go the way of the VHS tape.

Question: How much of your day is spent aggregating accounts, calculating historic performance or handling routine money requests? How quickly are these rote office functions going to be replaced by AI?

How much time would you rather spend anticipating your client’s changing financial needs?  Using real-time data to offer more personalized advice? Showing compassion and understanding for unexpected life changes? 

By 2020, “the most successful financial advisors will be those that have replaced account calculations and mathematics with client empathy and compassion.”*

Following the status quo won’t make your next sale. And it certainly won’t transform your clients’ lives — which is probably the reason you got into this business in the first place.

Transforming lives takes action. If you’re ready to step into your influence and claim your place as an industry thought leader, join me in my virtual boardroom, October 7-9, when I offer my Operation Amplify Master Class.

The work I do with retirement plan advisors, TPAs and wealth managers is truly transformational.  It puts information into action, helping you consistently find more ideal clients, boost referrals and be top of mind when your clients have a money question or problem.

Want to learn how to stand out in a sea of sameness? Be part of a community of like-minded colleagues and industry influencers? Amplify the heart in your business?  

The 90-day Plan of Influence that we create together will put you more at ease and help you feel more joy in your work.

If you’re ready to transform and go all in, I am ready to get you there.  It’s time to register for Operation Amplify. So…if you’re ready to transform, send me an email and let’s talk.

Fill out the Contact Form below and we’ll get a call on the books!

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* Thestreet.com, “What will the financial advisor industry look like in 2020?” Feb. 21, 2017

There are no marketing hacks.

Tricking someone into clicking something in your email based on a false or misleading premise is an awful way to start a relationship.

UGH.

The whole concept of using clickbait to feed people into a lead generation “funnel” is slimy, in my book. (In what world would your best clients want to be classified as a ‘lead’ or manipulated into a funnel?)

Important point: Authentic marketing is not hackable.

One of the ironic byproducts of the digital age is that, to connect with clients, we have had to become deft publishers of our best ideas. This is the basis of good thought leadership. The hard part of becoming a thought leader, though, is learning how to develop your voice and having the confidence to step into the place where you are comfortable with “publishing” your best ideas. That takes no small amount of courage. And it takes a lot of hard work to focus on what is meaningful to you and your clients and avoid things that do not make you happy or productive.

Let’s face it: Content marketing, inbound marketing, thought leadership marketing — call it what you will, it’s all about offering content that is relevant and valuable to the people you are trying to attract to your way of thinking. The process requires you to become a fully amplified influencer of your tribe.

If you’re ready to dig into a forward-looking marketing approach that requires courage AND creates community, please join me in October, when I offer the inaugural Operation: Amplify master class. Here I will show you how to amplify your digitalEQ™ and create a Plan of Influence, a thought leadership marketing plan that will help you find more best-fit clients, boost referrals and be top of mind.

Let’s talk.

Want to dip your toe into becoming a thought leader? Want to kick around a strategy for your business? Jump on my calendar! I’m offering mini strategy sessions to people who are ready to shift their marketing into high gear (without any fluff or hype). My goal? To help you with results-generating insights, ideas and strategies developed over a 30-year career consulting and collaborating with the highest performing retirement plan advisors and wealth managers in the country. And, I’d be delighted to answer any questions you have about Operation: Amplify.

If this sounds good, let’s not waste another minute. I’ve got time to chat if you do. Hit reply now and let me know what’s on your mind.

How Well Are You Crafting Intentional Experiences?

Recent Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) research states that 45 percent of organizations polled do not yet have a projected return to worksite date, even as Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines have greatly relaxed social distancing recommendations. And, 68 percent of organizations report they probably or definitely will adopt broader or more flexible work from home policies for all workers.

That settles it. Some level of virtual communication (aka, the sea change from in-person to online interaction) is unlikely to reverse.

Virtual is here to stay. 

How well are you adapting to this new competitive landscape? Perhaps you finally invested in a decent webcam and ring light? Is that enough? Are you just turning on Zoom and hoping for the best? How prepared are you for meeting online when the stakes are especially high?

In a recent ASPPA Plan Consultant magazine article, I distilled my ongoing work into improving digital outcomes (or any essential marketing initiative for that matter) into “Five Keys to Crafting a More Intentional Virtual Experience:” 

  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Project trustworthiness
  • Promote engagement
  • Leverage the virtual experience as an extension of your brand
  • Manage the interface as a well-defined journey

By integrating thoughtful marketing, sharper branding — and, ultimately, a deeper emotional connection to clients and prospects — you can put more effective selling at the forefront of your business.

Here’s the link to the full article. 

ASPPA Plan Consultant Magazine – Spring 21

It’s the Little Things That Matter

A few weeks ago, I posted a note on LinkedIn about Goldman Sans, a new font from Goldman Sachs. A financial services organization thinking through digital readability. Interesting.

The other day, I was strolling through a newly reopened, neighborhood Starbucks. Looking down toward the floor and around the area, I noted green and white striped directional tape, green traffic cones and directional green dots. Interesting.

The commonality between these two ideas?

Little things matter.

Even in the loud world of reopening, Starbucks, a master of experiential branding, thought through how their brand experience would shine through – even without the coffee shop vibe in their stores. Of course, they would create green and white directional floor tape!

Little things matter.

These days, I’m mailing more thank you notes and treats than in previous seasons. In my mind, it’s an opportunity to provide a bit of joy and a warm-hearted hug, via USPS. It’s a small gesture to create a connection and stand out from all the digital disco in our inboxes. To make even more of an impact, I ordered branded packaging tape​​; Amazon has it, why can’t I? (BTW: Be careful of that Sticker Mule link, you’ll be there for hours! It’s stickers and beyond.)

Little things matter.

In March, your lights, camera and audio equipment seemed like small things. Poor audio was easy to ignore – even if it did make us all sound as if we were all shouting. But now? The world has changed. The way you engage and connect has changed. And your virtual brand is heavily influenced by our design-driven nation and is comprised of a growing list of little things.

Doing business in the Zoom-obsessed economy has made it even harder to stand out.

Schedule a 15-minute discovery call and let’s talk about your virtual presence, your sales, and the little things that will keep you memorable and your pipeline healthy.

Are you using digital media as a building block for sales❓

When I am not traveling for work, mornings find me walking up to Mount Tabor Park in Portland, OR, an amazing urban landscape of huge trees and quiet trails. Near one of the park entrances, a rock wall is being installed. The landscape crew, now about halfway through the project, is working at moving huge boulders, fitting them into their proper places. I am fascinated by this process.

My fascination stems from an awe of their precision in placing these stones. They use levels to guide their efforts. But, because nature is unpredictable, there is no exact plan on which rock to place first, second, third and so on. In order to make their beautiful walls they simply need to lay the first rock, review the space and then select the next one. But a wall will not exist until they get started.

Some people (still) feel the same way about using social media.

It all seems complicated and overwhelming, so they opt to simply stand on the sidelines. Sadly, these folks miss out on important conversations, critical connections and an inexpensive way to build their market.

No more excuses! What’s the first rock that you plan to lay to start your social media effort?

Make this the week that you sit down to connect, write, record or film. Whatever it is, begin by beginning.

Set an intention to get involved and dedicate time each day to integrate digital media into your face-to-face networking and sales efforts.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Follow your key partners or leaders in the financial services industry. Principal, Fidelity, American Century and others use a myriad of digital platforms to get the word out. You can learn quite a bit from their posts and discussions. (Ditto for industry associations!)
  • Follow and connect with other advisors outside your region. If you’ve decided Twitter is the place for you, search for the hashtag #fintwit to find them.
  • Before your next meeting, head to LinkedIn and review the profiles of the key decision makers. THEN! Review their recent activity. Perhaps they’ve contributed an article, posted an article, or commented on someone else’s activity.
  • One of the easiest ways to participate is to simply comment on other people’s activities. Even better? Include your thoughts and share their post with your network.
  • Set a timer for just 10 minutes a day to explore the digital arena. That way you won’t worry about the distraction, and you’ll have a definitive deadline for your efforts.

💖 Make kindness part of your customer experience

My father made kindness his life.

For much of my adult life, he volunteered in food kitchens, manned the master gardener booth, painted signs, led scout groups, cleared park blocks, and gave out free rides to those in need.

His heartfelt acts of kindness were commonplace. (Though, it’s unlikely he would have named them as such.)

As he grew older, his movements became more constrained and isolation began to take a toll.

“O.k. Dad, go through the drive through at McDonald’s,” I prescribed one afternoon. “Order yourself some coffee and then simply pay for the car behind you.” That small act of kindness would ripple love through my dad’s day, the recipient’s day – and even the day of the person behind the window.

Witnessing kindness inspires kindness.

I hereby prescribe the same for you. Take a break from marketing and selling this week and celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Week. Instead commit a daily act of kindness for your clients, prospects and community.

Here are 10 ideas to make someone smile:

  1. Get your own custom stickers printed and send them with hand-written notes.
  2. Send a meaningful referral out of the blue.
  3. Tip the housekeeping team at the next hotel you visit.
  4. Give someone a hug.
  5. Leave a sticky note of encouragement in a random place.
  6. Tell someone they inspire you.
  7. Help your client deal with a difficult situation. (Business or personal.)
  8. Donate to a charity.
  9. Write a note of appreciation on a dollar bill – and put it in the next tip jar. (I paint random rocks of kindness and leave them in tip jars!*)
  10. Call someone special and tell them you love them.


💡 Are You Ready to Out Care the Competition?
Discover how to make your firm stand out by offering a strong client experience and developing a powerful and appealing brand. I can help. I offer a workshop, Out Care the Competition, how to use the power of brand and client experience to differentiate your firm. Book me here!

 

* My random rocks of kindness.

Will robots rule the financial services industry?

Daniel H. Pink wrote one of my favorite books, A Whole New Mind, way back in 2006. And he absolutely knew the answer.

No. And yes.

There are many interesting tidbits of research in the book. Perhaps the most relevant to our world of financial services is his admonition that the talents associated with the Information Age will be quickly outsourced. In his idea of the Conceptual Age, leaders must master a multitude of right-brain aptitudes.

  • DESIGN. Beauty, whimsy and emotional engagement.
  • STORY. Compel and connect narratives.
  • EMPATHY. Understanding and care.
  • PLAY. Lightheartedness and fun. (See whimsy above.)
  • MEANING. Purpose, wholeness and spiritual fulfillment.

Fast forward to the DCIIA Innovation Forum several weeks ago where I sat in on several presentations discussing artificial intelligence. Their answer to the question – will robots rule the financial services industry?

Yes. And no.

Shannon Nutter, Vanguard’s Head of Participant Strategy & Development in her presentation, A Challenge to the Industry: Personalizing AI to Drive Better Financial Health, shared her thoughts around the value of artificial intelligence (AI) in financial services. The places it will work and the areas where it won’t.

She shared that AI was good for basic and repetitive tasks – think growing, harvesting, moving objects, inspecting, monitoring, and gathering/processing information. Where AI doesn’t work? Advanced tasks such as maintaining relationships, developing teams, caring for others, and thinking creatively. I added my own words to her list: humanity, vulnerability, joy, .

Yes. The robots will win. There will always be a place for technology in our industry. In fact, we must welcome it. And then, working with people and their money? We must bring our humanity, not our spreadsheets. We need to celebrate their path, not point to their past. We must bring our hearts, not our heads.

Don’t Be a Robot!

Be human: Include more design, story, empathy, play and meaning into your brand and client experience. Be a leader: Eliminate the basic and repetitive tasks from your team and have them focus on high-value, advanced skills.

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Need A Speaker For Your Next Event?

If you’d like to make your next event unforgettable, give me a shout!

The power of impressions.

Imagine you have only five minutes to make a positive impression, in front of 200 people! How would you do that? What would you say? How would you prepare?

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the Women in Retirement Conference, held in New Orleans several weeks ago. (Queue the beignets!)

This was my first WiRC event. It was phenomenal! The attendees were leading female advisors and TPA business owners from across the U.S. They were focused, passionate, warm and welcoming to a new-comer like myself.

As part of the agenda, the sponsors were asked to craft a five-minute session to offer up their “Big Idea.” These presentations were timed with five sponsors on deck at a time.

When the speaker from Capital Group | American Funds stepped onto the stage, she was an ultimate professional. And as a speaker, this occurred to me: I have never seen anything less from any member of the American Funds team. From five to fifty minutes, five to five hundred audience members, they are consistently prepared, articulate and ready to rock. In a nutshell, they understand the power of impression. And, they honor that opportunity.

When I mentioned this to the presenter, she shared she had practiced the evening and morning before. For a FIVE-MINUTE presentation. She practiced. There was no winging it.

Makes me wonder what their multiple is? A five-minute presentation requires how many hours of practice? The impression left no doubt that she was a professional who respected the stage – and the audience – enough to practice, and then practice again.

Every opportunity for a first impression is powerful. From your presence, to your handshake, to your business card and beyond; all are an opportunity to be on stage. Are you going to wing it or prepare?

OODLES OF CONTENT MARKETING RESOURCES: JUST IN TIME FOR YOUR 2019 PLANNING

I was super happy to be a speaker at the recent Schwab IMPACT 18 event in Washington, DC. The topic? Content Marketing: How to create a lean, mean, inbound marketing machine.

It was an information- and resource-packed, three-hour, pre-conference session. We discussed thought leadership and authority marketing, digital branding, tactical ways to get started and easy ways to create and share content. Thanks to Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator, I also shared about 200+ blog ideas.

Rather than keep all the goodies to myself. I thought I’d share them with my website visitors as well.

So, here are links from Edleman to two research reports that I referenced in the workshop; their collaborative research with LinkedIn and their annual Earned Brand Executive Summary. (I’m a huge fan of Edleman’s work all the way around.)

And, here’s a link to download a plethora of handouts and resources that were shared — from a personal branding resource to a listing of My Favorite Things. (Granted, it is a little early for the peppermint mocha, holiday reference…but still.)

Here’s hoping that you’ll find some tiny bit of inspiration to get your content marketing moving along for 2019. (Oh! And, if you’d like to explore your own three-hour content marketing workshop, let’s chat.)

Happy National Fiduciary Day! Or not?

For those living under a rock, there was a big ruling last week regarding the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule. You can read all about it here.

Since I’m in no way qualified to discuss the technical merits of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, you’re safe. This isn’t another article about the regulations themselves – or the possible Supreme Court showdown between the Fifth Circuit ruling and the Tenth Circuit’s opposite view of the rule.

This is about trust.

We, the financial services industry, already have a bad rap. Each year Edelman – a global marketing and communication firm steeped in helping their clients create lasting trust with their communities – studies the tides of trust in the world. And each year, for the last ten years, the financial services industry has been the LEAST trusted of the bunch. 😢

Let’s not even discuss Millennial’s distrust of Wall Street.

If I understand the issue correctly, the product distribution folks see a bright line between sales people and advisors. Bottom line: Sales conversations are sales conversations only, and do not contain the trust and confidence of an advisory discussion.

What? We’re selling Americans financial products, solutions and services every day. If you ask me, when it comes to money and financial security, trust is an essential part of every conversation.

This is about authenticity.

Imagine, if trust is gone, then what? Interestingly these same organizations that wish to steer clear of trust and confidence still pursue branding and marketing messages that that point toward fiduciary-ish relationships. So now we say one thing and do another? That’s not gonna work in our hyper-connected, social media-savvy Age of Authenticity; they’ll just head on over to Google for something Better(ment).

This is about opportunity.

No matter. Even if the some organizations want to tuck fiduciary away, it’s there. If John Oliver did a piece on the subject, the memes of a client’s best interest and fiduciary will not disappear.

I remember being a 401(k) sales person back in the early 2000s. (Would I be a fiduciary now?) Anywhoo…the organization I worked for was quite skeptical of ESOPs, as many organizations were/are. My thought? Run toward ESOPs! Don’t be scared. Be different. Be valuable. Be really good. And charge for it. Ditto for fiduciaries. Be different. Be valuable. Be really good. Be a fiduciary! And, charge for it.

So, Happy National Fiduciary Day! We have millions of Americans to help; we need you.

FYI: Michael Kitces, this is entirely your fault! Your fantastic article about the ruling and the surrounding issues was extraordinarily helpful. Thank you!