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

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.


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?

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!

The Trouble with Turtles

We all know the financial services industry moves a bit slowly. We say that with regularity. Somehow we seem to think that being risk-averse and moving slowly is fine. (Then there’s compliance, which intensifies our turtle-like approach.)

But this slow pace isn’t gonna work as the most connected, personalized, multidimensional generation steps into leadership roles.

Since day one, Millennials have had a remote control, a microwave, cable, computers. Not to mention the younger members and their own cell phones. Whether they’re Millennials or Xennials—Gen X/Millennial hybrids—they’ve seen their access to technology, flexibility, speed and control compound every year. And they’ve grown to expect it. No more checking a smart phone for the weather, just ask Alexa.

Since day one, Millennials have also been given choices: “Do you want to wear your blue shoes or your red ones today?” (We were told choice eliminated the morning-shoe meltdown.) “Do you want to play soccer or softball? Or both?”

This is a whole new world, and we have to change the way we market to this generation. We have to change the products we offer and the messages we send. Even the way we depict the American Dream.

The slow, one-size-fits-all approach we’ve taken in financial services just won’t fly with Millennials. We have to provide efficiency, convenience, choices, innovation, personalization, with a splash of color. Millennials believe they can have whatever, whenever, however they want.

Then they encounter the turtles in financial services.

How’s that gonna work?


Don’t get me wrong about compliance. I know and respect their efforts. At times I’ve shared my love for them. (I couldn’t do their job.) We all must work within our industry’s guidelines. I get that.

But I can’t help but think about the Fosbury Flop. (Stay with me for a second.)

Dick Fosbury had challenges with the high-jump in high school. He was unable to compete with the scissor-kick, the straddle or the belly-roll. Then he invented the Flop. “The advantage,” he said, “from a physics standpoint is, it allows the jumper to run at the bar with more speed and, with the arch in your back, you could actually clear the bar and keep your center of gravity at or below the bar. It was much more efficient.”

The Flop looked very strange at the time. Track coaches were worried as young athletes began to imitate Dick’s Olympic Gold-winning moves; afraid their athletes would break their necks. Then it stuck.

Now the standard is the Flop.

No one did it, because no one did it. Until they did.

Now, think about the four-minute mile. No one did it, because no one did it. Until they did.

That’s the trouble with 🐢. They aren’t engineered to Flop. Yet.


I recently joined Ed Kless, host of the Sage Advice Podcast, to talk about all things digital marketing. (Well, an eight-minute dive into digital marketing.) Listen in!


I guess you could call me a pointillist. I believe that every small dot, selected with intention, can connect to form a beautiful image. The world of marketing, branding and client experience is as vast as the ocean and feels like it requires huge budgets and endless hours – not small dots. Not necessarily true. We just have to choose our details wisely.

Over the past year, I’ve worked with a variety of financial advisors as their marketing coach. For three hours—alongside their wholesaler—we dive deep into their marketing and branding concerns and questions. What’s working right now, where they want to be in the future and what I’d do if I were their Chief Marketing Officer.

Surprisingly, these Rent My Brain consulting sessions are never the same; advisors’ challenges, marketplace, growth plans and team capacity are all quite varied. Not to mention what they’ve selected as a focus for our time together—from pitch books to websites and everything in between.

But no matter what our focus, we have to start with the dots.

In one of my recent three-hour coaching sessions, we spent two hours reviewing their 18-page pitch book and focusing on the small stuff. I reviewed one page at a time and pointed out areas where there were inconsistencies in the details. Really simple ones—like their fonts—that, when changed, create a significantly more professional book.

The Trouble with Fonts

What font do you use for your pitch book? Do you use Calibri, the default font for PowerPoint? While it is a perfectly fine font, it feels too casual, too regular and most importantly, not unique in any way. Anyone can have Calibri, so, everyone does. What does that communicate about your practice? You’re fine being like everyone else?

Or maybe some days you use Calibri and then the next you use Times New Roman. You do this because you get bored—or possibly because someone else built the deck this time. These random decisions can send a message of inconsistency.

Yes, even a font has the power to make a bad impression. It may seem like such a small detail. But, in the world of financial services, details matter. Details matter all day long.

I’m a typography geek, and will spare you the rules of Serif and San Serif for now. However, here is a quick checklist for your pitch book.

  • Your font? Use ABC. (Anything but Calibri, Comic Sans or Courier.) Pick one (or two) and stick with them. Check out Google Fonts for free, open source fonts. I like Karma and Open Sans Condensed together. At ShoeFitts, I use Avenir for printed materials such as proposals, pitch books and presentations. It has classic roots from the 1920s but is modern, crisp and clean. Oh, the history of Avenir. Apple uses Avenir for its Maps app and some Siri screens; Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has used Avenir and Avenir Next for its mobile apps and websites since 2012.
  • Look at the size of the font from page to page. I opt to have one size headline (32 pt or so) and one size for the body copy (24 pt or so). And, don’t reduce the size when indented or bulleted. That’s letting PowerPoint push you around. It looks horrible. Indeed, there are some cases when you’ll need a smaller option. That’s fine, just create a rule and stick to it. (Speaking of PowerPoint: Just say no to clipart. Just say no to word art.)
  • How do you “treat” your words? Are your headers consistent? Are they ALL CAPS, Sentence case, Title Case, etc.?
  • BTW, stop with the underlining. Underlining is old school, a remnant of the typewriter when folks couldn’t bold. If you want to signify a heading or title or important point, bold them. (Use bold and italics sparingly, if not then nothing is important.) More importantly an underline might be misconstrued as a hyperlink.
  • Speaking of bold. If for some reason you opt for the Arial family of fonts and take a liking to Arial Black, do NOT bold it. It’s already bolded. (Told you I was a geek.)
  • Ditto for two spaces after a period, exclamation point, question mark and every other punctuation mark. Yep. Only one space is correct. Short explanation: No typewriter, no monospaced fonts. Need the details? Read more here.
  • Need more ideas for consistency in word selection and punctuation? Download my AP Style Guide cheat sheet.
  • Want to do a deep dive into the Oxford comma?


Feeling commoditized? Show some love!

Business printing isn’t necessarily a hip industry. It’s really just paper and ink.

Think printing, think commodity. Right?

Even worse, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, pundits have been pointing to the death of the printing industry. (We all have digital screens. Who needs paper anyway?) Combine this with increased global competition and skinny margins and you’ve got an old, declining, boring industry.

Who’d jump into that?

Someone did: And, if you ask me, they’re really not printers. They’re customer experience masters. They’re a serious disruptor to that old, declining, boring industry. Their materials are impeccably printed, their website is bright and helpful, and much like some of the high-tech toys folks, they’ve made packaging part of the whole experience. It’s evident they love what they do.

One of my favorite keynote sessions I deliver is Your Brand. Your Business. Your Bottom Line. During that talk, I hand out superpower cards: mini cards with a well-Googled superpower such as invincibility, elasticity, force field, etc. Superpowers are handed out by the hundreds each time I speak, several thousand over the past year. All printed by MOO.

All of this got me thinking about how advisors can take a cue from MOO and improve their customer experience game, too. Are you making customer experience an important part of your business model?

The best way to set your firm apart in the financial services industry is to create a culture of intentional customer experience. Start with the moment you pick up the phone and list out all the little ways you could up the ante on that experience. Some examples:

  • Is your voicemail the standard your-message-is-important-to-me bologna? Why sound like everyone else?
  • When you welcome someone as a new client, can you add in creative packaging?
  • Are there particular ways you celebrate key milestones in your clients’ lives or the lives of their families?
  • Walker suggests there are three components of excelling in the experience economy: personalization, ease and speed. Pick one area of focus when reviewing your practice. How easy do you make things for your clients?

Need more? Read The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Tons of inspiration and ideas about conscientiously creating remarkable moments.

Feeling commoditized? No problem! Just love your clients and create an unforgettable experience. Then do it over and over again. You’ll be fine.

And, Happy Valentines Day!

Happy National Sock Day!

If you’ve been in the audience when I speak or train, you know I love a question-asking-question-answering-all-in-engaged audience. And one of the ways that I “reward” people for their participation is to give away socks—they’re brightly colored, polka-dotted, cozy and high quality.

They’re unforgettable.

During two sessions I recently presented about the client experience at Schwab Impact 2017, I passed out about three-dozen pairs of socks. Yes, three dozen! (Well, the sessions were three hours each.)

Since I can’t give you socks today, I thought I’d share some of the homework and treats from that presentation, titled Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm.

  • AP Stylebook Cheat SheetI’m a fan of consistency in all things related, including words and punctuation. A clear set of rules makes all the difference. (Not unlike an Investment Policy Statement.) Professional writers and journalists use a style guide that outlines the “rules” about grammar, punctuation and more. I’ve grown up using the AP Stylebook, which contains the nit-pickiest writing and punctuation rules you’ll ever need to know. No need for that book just yet. To help you get started, I’ve created an AP Stylebook Cheat Sheet. Use it to put the final touches on your RFP responses or pitch book. As an example, are you consistent with your use of serial commas? What about setting numbers, such as “ten” or “10”?
  • If something is worth doing, it is worth doing intentionally. Even the quality of paper you select for your business cards matters. (What does a wimpy business card say about your organization?) Early in my career I was a graphic designer. I always knew that the feeling of paper mattered, I just didn’t have a scientific reason why. And then, when researching material for my client experience seminar, I found some very interesting work on the neuroscience of touch.
  • Finally, I love a good hack. To get you off to a good start for 2018 and beyond, I’ve created My Favorite Things, a short list of resources to help you hack your visual brand. In it I list some of my favorite marketing resources, such as Canva and iStock, just for starters.

Here’s to a lovely December. And here’s to celebrating National Sock Day wherever you are.







Boo! Marketing is Scary

At the Excel 401(k) Conference this past week, I taped an upcoming episode of the Retireholi(k)s. If you’re not familiar with them, think TPAs, ERISA and beer – discussed by a group of passionate and prepared Southern California types from Plan Design Consultants. The show is there way of adding value to the advisor community – without another boring webinar.

They’re a disruptive force in our world of 401(k) marketing.

As we chatted about two specific marketing concepts I’ve been exploring – on being unforgettable and out caring the competition – the topic of marketing and fear was discussed. As an example, every time I push the send button on one of my these emails, to a list of 7,000+ industry professionals, it takes an act of courage.

Courage to be different, courage to think different and courage to act different; courage to feel like an impostor and keep doing good work. The impostor board meeting in my head goes something like this:

  • Who am I to put myself ‘out there’ as a marketing expert?
  • Why would anyone care what I have to say?
  • What might happen if I make a mistake?
  • OMG, what happens if someone doesn’t like me?

But I take a breath and just push send.

I often hear that compliance is the biggest hindrance to doing good marketing. My challenge for you is to peel that onion a tiny bit. Chances are, you might be wondering if your work is good enough to share with the world.

There are two books that tackle this subject head on; about feeling the fear of creating and creating anyway. Check them out.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield

During our taping, JD Carlson shares a very similar feeling regarding marketing and courage. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the conversation. Once the episode is live, I’ll post a link here on


See you soon?

I’ve been on the road a bit, speaking at a variety of industry events and meetings. In a few weeks, I’ll be in Chicago discussing all things branding and client experience. I hope to see you there. (Or, book me for one of your events.)

Schwab Impact 2017: Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm

Happy National Coffee Day!

Starbucks didn’t create the coffee culture; there were plenty of places to get a cup of coffee before they started. What they did was turn a once-upon-a-time purchase into a daily ritual for many of us. (Short Flat White anyone?) When Howard Shultz bought the Seattle-based firm, he shifted our idea of what coffee could be. No longer simply slopped into a cold white cup as an afterthought; its preparation was handled with craftsmanship and care, the star of the show. Now, those drinks with the fancy Italian-sounding names – once thought to be available to the rich, famous and educated – were available down the street.

When speaking about the world of branding and client experience, I often use the Starbucks example of moving from a commodity to an experience. They welcome you into a hip “third place” – sometimes knowing your drink as you walk in – usually with a hand-selected play list in the background, greeting you with a scripted request, “What can I get started for you today?” It is evident Starbucks thinks about every inch of your journey.

And, you’ve likely seen that happen in other industries – computer retailers, book sellers, shoe peddlers and theme parks come to mind. Even banks understand the significant and value of focusing on client experience.

Have you considered your client’s experience? Have you mapped their client journey?

What do they experience the moment they engage with you? As you plan for 2018, my recommendation is that you begin to map that experience.

Here’s a starting point: Do you have a client welcome package? Rather than simply throwing paper at them to sign, is there a way to acknowledge their trust in you and your services before digging into the work? For now it could be simply a handwritten thank you note. You could eventually move to a sweetly packaged gift that includes a note. (Hey, maybe an artisan coffee mug with some locally roasted beans?)

What about having your phone number on the front page of your website, rather than behind a Contact Us button? How does your inbound voicemail message sound? Do you help them beyond their financial lives?

While compliance can be a hindrance for some marketing efforts, many of these “wow”able moments can happen outside of the compliance bubble. Need inspiration? Look outside of financial services. Pay attention to your own customer experience. Look for an extra special interaction. They are often tiny and might even seem inconsequential until you see how they add up to create a unique connection.

Need even more inspiration? Download my Brand Touchpoint Audit Checklist.

See you soon?

This fall I’m headed out and about to speak at a variety of industry events and meetings. I’ll be discussing all things marketing from branding, digital and client experience. I hope to see you there. (Or, book me for one of your events.)

Excel 401k | Las Vegas, NV | October 22-24, 2017: Behind the Curtain, A Day In The Life of a CMO and Next Steps Discussion: Elevating Branding & Marketing

WIFS 2017 National Conference | Minneapolis, MN | October 25 – 27, 2017: You Are Who Google Says You Are

Schwab Impact 2017: Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm