What table cloth cover do you recommend for trade show booths?

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An 8' polyester table cover will be the most flexible option for your trade show needs. We recommend ordering a dark color that won't show stains. Here is the one we usually order on behalf of our clients: http://mvpvisuals.com/products/polyester-table-cover-1-color-front-panel-print

Should I use a third-party publishing platform or FAQ website to promote my business?

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We are often asked by advisors if they should use third-party publishing platforms (e.g., LinkedIn Pulse) or Q&A sites (e.g., Investopedia, NerdWallet, Brightscope) to promote their business. The answer is “It depends.” By providing content for other websites, you are helping those sites build their influence on the internet while potentially sacrificing your own influence. However, it may still be worth participating in these sites. We’ve included two scenarios below to consider.

Scenario 1: Go Ahead and Try It!

Read the following statements. If all of these statements are true about your business, then you may want to experiment with these sites:

  • My business is location agnostic.
    If so and you can work with clients across the country, then these sites might attract a large enough audience of prospects you can work with.
  • My target market searches online to find a financial advisor.
  • I am more concerned about gaining visibility than converting leads.
  • I haven’t started building a web presence through blogs or videos on my own website and don’t intend to do so in the foreseeable future.
  • The site I’m considering allows me to include a link to my website on every post I contribute (not just the author profile page) to drive traffic to my website to potentially convert a lead.
  • I have enough time to contribute original content or answer questions without sacrificing my other marketing activities.

Scenario 2: Might Not Want to Try It!

Read the following statements. If these statements are true about your business, then you probably don’t want to use these sites:

  • I have a content marketing strategy (blog, videos, etc.) in place using my own website and am consistent in implementing it.
  • I want to improve my website’s search engine rankings.
    If yes, you should take your original content and put it on your own website. When it comes to duplicate content on the web, Google attributes ownership to the first website that posts the content and may penalize other sites using the same content.
  • I feel pressed for time to execute my current marketing strategies consistently.
  • I am concerned about owning the copyright to my content.

If you fall into scenario 2, there is one way to experiment with these third-party sites. Repost your original content one week after you have posted it on your website, or use older, evergreen content. That should give time for Google to index your content and give it higher authority. The benefit of this is that you will increase exposure to your blogs without too much risk of cannibalizing the traffic to your own website. Be sure that if you are doing this, there is a way (such as a link) to drive people from the third-party site to your website to convert the lead. Not all sites will allow non-original content, so check the parameters for contribution prior to implementing.  

In general, we have not seen much success from third-party publishing and Q&A platforms. However, I have seen a few exceptions that are driving quite a bit of traffic from these platforms. At the end of the day, every business is different. The only way you will know if a particular strategy will work for you is to experiment with it, measure results, analyze your efforts and then adapt (or abandon) your strategy.

Other Resources

Getting New Clients By Building A Narrowcasting Platform On Your Financial Advisor Website

Strategic Guide to Reposting Content on Medium and LinkedIn

Related Articles

 

 

How should I integrate COIs into my client meetings?

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Inviting COIs such as attorneys, accountants and insurance professionals into your client meetings can be an effective way to show, and not just tell, the value you bring to clients. The goal of doing this is to forge a successful, reciprocal referral relationship. While CEG Worldwide is probably the best resource in the industry for helping advisors build strategic alliances, here are some general steps to help you get you started: 

  • Identify and vet the COIs who you are interested in building strategic relationships with. 
  • Take COIs individually through your wealth management process as if they were potential clients. Explain to each COI that in order for you to refer business to them, it is important that they understand your process.
  • Ask the COI how they could contribute to the meeting if it were a prospective client in their seat and they were sitting on the same side of the table as you.
  • Invite the COI to five to 10 client meetings where you believe they could add value for the client.
  • Evaluate whether you and the COI would have a good reciprocal referral relationship going forward, and discuss how you can work together more closely. 
  • Offer a complimentary second opinion service to the COI’s clients.

 

Other Resources

http://www.cegworldwide.com/resources/bp-strategic-alliances

 

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Which stock photo sites do you recommend?

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There are dozens of stock photo options out there that range from free to thousands of dollars per image. Check out these sites to find one that fits your needs and budget:

Do you have other stock photo sites you like to use? Share them in the comments below, and we will add them to the list.

How should I promote my media coverage?

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Media coverage is a great (and free!) way to create awareness and build credibility for your business. You also have the opportunity to use that coverage outside of its original publication. Here are some tips we suggest:

LinkedIn

  • Connect with the journalist.
  • Post a link to the media coverage as a personal profile status update and tag the journalist.
  • Post as a business page status update.
  • Add to the publications section of your personal profile.
  • Post to your LinkedIn groups.


Facebook

  • Post to your business page.
  • Post to your individual page (if archived).


Twitter

  • Follow the journalist who covered the story.
  • Post to your personal Twitter account and tag the journalist.
  • Post to your business Twitter account and tag the journalist.


Website

  • If you have an "As seen on" section of your website, add the logo of the publication to this section if not already there.
  • If you have an "In the News" section of your website, post a link to the media coverage here.


Newsletter

  • Add a section to your newsletter called "In the News," and include a link to the media coverage with a brief summary.


Reprints

  • If the piece is a profile about you or your business, or if it is an article you wrote, you may want to purchase print reprints to hand out to prospective clients or digital reprints to email. You may also want to consider a plaque or framed version for your office. Reprints can be costly, so think carefully before doing this to make sure the expense is worth it.


Comments

  • If people comment on the media coverage on its original publication site, you may want to engage in the conversation. Check with compliance before doing so. 
     

"Thank You" Note/Email

  • Send the journalist a "thank you" note or email in order to continue the relationship. Mention other areas in which you might be a valuable resource for the reporter.

Which awards should I apply for?

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We are frequently asked the question "Which awards should I apply for?" In our consulting relationships, we don't usually focus too much on awards because in isolation, without a larger strategy, they offer little benefit from an awareness or lead generation standpoint. However, since this is such a popular question, we've included a partial list of the awards we are aware of. Please help us build this list by leaving a comment with the name and URL of other awards we should include. 

 

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The markets just crashed—should I send an email to my clients?

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There is a fine line between communicating too quickly and not communicating quickly enough. A one-day crash doesn't necessarily warrant client communication. In fact, it could spook clients over a bad situation they otherwise may not have been aware of. However, if the stock market plunges significantly over several days and nothing is communicated to your clients, you have waited too long. To determine whether you should send communication about a market crash to your clients, answer these questions:

  • Is the cause of the crash a long-term issue (e.g., Brexit) that won't or can't be remedied quickly?
  • Is this crash severe enough to break records or be historical in some way?
  • Will the severity of the crash produce long-term harm to your clients' portfolio and threaten their long-term financial goals?
  • Has the market significantly declined for several days in a row, spreading panic to the ordinary investor?

If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, it's time to send communication to your clients.

When the situation warrants sending communication, script an email using the following talking points: 

  • Discuss the specific events or reasons that are causing the volatility (e.g., China, Federal Reserve, oil prices, Brexit, flash crash) and your thoughts about the importance of these events and their long-term impact, if any.
  • Explain that the goal of the media is to sell fear and hype and that clients should not put too much importance on what the media has to say.
  • Report why market corrections happen and are needed.
  • Discuss why maintaining a certain level of risk in a portfolio is important to achieve long-term goals.
  • Caution clients to avoid making decisions based on emotions or fear.
  • Restate the firm's long-term investment strategy.
  • Remind clients that it is important to invest over the long term and not make decisions based on short-term blips in the market.
  • Discuss your strategy on how the firm mitigates downside risk.

Should we promote awards that we win?

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This question has two components: a marketing one and a compliance one. From a compliance standpoint, you will need to speak with your compliance officer or consultant. We have worked with clients where promoting certain awards (e.g., the Five Star Wealth Manager award) was not permitted in their state. Please check before you promote any award.

As for marketing, before you promote any awards, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the award legitimate?

Is the award legitimate or more of a marketing program? For example, the Five Star Professionals award exists to sell advertisements, reprints and plaques. Legitimate awards usually require that you complete an application or nomination process in order to be considered (e.g., InvestmentNews awards, Business Journal awards, the FPA Heart of Financial Planning Award). If you or someone you know did not nominate you through such a process, the award is probably a marketing program. And if the award you are promoting is primarily a marketing program, you should probably not promote it. Not only does the award lack integrity, but it may also put you at risk from a compliance perspective.

Are you being awarded for sales?

Does the award acknowledge you for being the best producer? If so, you should personally be proud of that achievement but do not promote it to your clients. It’s a sales award, and your clients don’t want their advisor to be the best salespersonthey want their advisor to be the best financial advisor.

All other awards and lists (e.g., Forbes Top Wealth Managers) are worth considering for promotion. Ask yourself, "Does this award and the awarding body reflect the values I want to convey to clients?" The answer to this question will answer your question as to whether you should promote the award.

 

Other articles on this topic:

http://www.fa-mag.com/news/financial-advisors-should-avoid-bogus-awards--8156.html

How much should I pay for a website?

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Websites can really vary in price. We have seen advisory firms pay anywhere from nothing (or nearly nothing) to in excess of $50,000. How much a website costs depends on a variety of factors including:

  • Is the website custom coded or coded based on a template? Custom coding adds a lot of time and, as a result, a lot of expense.
  • Is the website custom designed or designed based on a template? Custom design adds a lot of time and, as a result, a lot of expense. 
  • Can you take your website with you to other hosting providers? If you can take your website from one host to another (such as a WordPress site), usually the website will be more expensive. If it is a captive host such as Advisor Websites or Squarespace, you will usually pay less since the provider is guaranteed revenue as long as you keep the website active.
  • How much consultation will the web service provide? If they have a process that is well thought out and they provide recommendations, the website will cost more. If they expect you to lead the relationship, the site will cost less.
  • Do they provide copywriting services? We have rarely come across a website provider that offers copywriting, but if they do, you can expect it to be expensive.
  • How many add-ons or integrations will you need? The more you add on, the more you can expect to pay. 

Below are some providers in different price ranges. Please note that all websites will have a monthly subscription or hosting fee, which is not included in the prices below.

Nearly Free

Inexpensive (less than $5,000)

Mid-price ($5,000 to $15,000)

Expensive (more than $15,000)

When making a decision about how much to pay for a website, take into consideration how much a website plays into your marketing strategy. If it will be used simply as a tool for prospects to research your company, a less expensive site is probably appropriate. If you want a top-notch site, don't skimp on price. Generally, you get what you pay for. 

Should I participate in a paid radio or TV show?

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We have seen a few firms that have had tremendous success with paid radio and TV shows. We have also seen more firms fail with these same initiatives. The difference between those that fail and those that succeed comes down to a few factors:

  • Successful firms make the radio/TV show the central focus of their marketing plan, not merely a part of their marketing mix. All other marketing campaigns complement this strategy (e.g., educational workshops, social events, podcasts, videos, books).
  • They mentally commit to the show indefinitely, not just for a few weeks or months.
  • The shows are on a consistent schedule, usually daily or weekly.
  • They constantly integrate a call to action in their show, such as registering for a workshop or signing up for a complimentary retirement review.
  • The show reaches the same demographic as the firm's ideal client (e.g., retirees).  
  • The advisor host usually has an outgoing personality and loves to be on the radio or TV.
  • The host is willing to make the personal sacrifices it takes for a successful show. This usually means giving up weekends or forgoing flexibility in their schedule.
  • The firm gets corresponding spots or advertisements to promote the company.

You should not consider a paid radio or TV show if:

  • You are considering it only on a short-term or limited-engagement basis.
  • It is not part of your core marketing strategy.
  • You are paying to be a guest on someone else’s show unless it is a long-term cost-sharing partnership opportunity.
  • It is something that was recently presented to you and not something you have been considering for some time.

A general rule of thumb is if someone is reaching out to you to offer you a TV or radio show over a short period of time, the opportunity probably benefits them more than it benefits you. Instead, you should look at how radio/TV plays into your overall marketing plan and then reach out to media outlets that make sense for your strategy.

How do I describe what makes my firm different?

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Whenever we speak with advisors, we always ask, “How is your firm different from other independent firms?” Despite the advisors’ insistence that their firms are unique, we tend to hear the same general answers:

  • We truly care about our clients.
  • We have great service.
  • We actually do financial planning (unlike firms that just say they do it).
  • We follow through on what we say we are going to do.
  • We act in the best interest of our clients.

.While these all may be true and may help clients perceive you as different from other advisors once they are in a working relationship with you, these answers won’t help prospects understand how you are different from the other advisors they are interviewing. Every prospect is going to assume that you care, provide good service, do what you say you are going to do and are ethical. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be talking to you.

Three Steps to Differentiate Your Firm
So, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition? The answer is not just in your marketing, since your marketing simply conveys the message of how you are different.

You differentiate yourself by drawing on all areas of your business, including your vision, service model, ideal client profile, investment philosophy, client service process and organizational structure. Below are three steps to help you identify these unique factors.

Step 1: Answer the Important Questions
To define your differentiators, start by asking—and answering—the right questions. Once you answer the following questions, you should know what separates your advisory firm from others:

  • What niche markets do you specialize in (e.g., dentists, business owners)?
  • Which areas of expertise or life stage do you specialize in (e.g., retirement income distribution, young families)?
  • What services do you offer that are unique and that differentiate you from an average financial advisory firm?
  • How is your fee structure different from that of other firms?
  • How is your investment philosophy different from that of other advisory firms?
  • What is the size and structure of your business (e.g., national firm, team, solo practice)?
  • What unique or specialized education or designations does your staff hold?
  • How is your service model different from that of other firms (e.g. “We have a service model that grows as a person’s career grows, from their first job to retirement”)?
  • What is your reputation in the community?
  • What is your firm culture (e.g., how do clients feel when they leave your office)?
  • What results do you achieve for your clients that are different from that of other firms?
  • After you have answered all of these questions, ask yourself, “How does the client benefit?” If the client doesn’t benefit, then it doesn’t matter if it makes you different.

Step 2: Narrow Things Down
Once you have answered all of the questions, whittle the answers down to the ones that make you stand out the most. If your firm is different from other firms in only one or two ways, that’s perfectly fine. You’re better off being narrow and focused than too broad.

While it is good to understand all the ways your firm is different, you are going to be most effective in your messaging if you can focus on one overall theme.

Step 3: Develop Your Statement
Now that you’ve chosen your differentiators, you should use them to craft a short, cohesive statement. Here are two examples:

Example 1: While many financial planning firms are a jack of all trades, we focus on one thing: retirement income distribution strategies. That means we only work with people who are already retired and want to maximize their income from their retirement accounts, pension plans, Social Security and other investment vehicles they may have. Because we focus on just that one thing, we have the expertise in all the possible strategies that can help our clients make the most out of their retirement income.

Example 2: We are conservative investment managers. The types of clients who hire us are more concerned about protecting and preserving the money they have saved all these years than beating the market in bullish years. We aren’t exciting and that’s exactly what our clients like about us. They know our number one priority is protecting their money.

As you can see, you don’t have to be all that different from other firms in the industry to differentiate yourself to a prospect or client. You just have to understand the one thing that makes you different. Then you need to communicate that message over and over again. Only when you get this message out and are attracting clients will you be able to prove how you are different through your service and relationships, cementing those relationships in the long run.

How do I build a COI network?

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In the financial advisory business, client referrals are important, but so are referrals from centers of influence (COIs)—the attorneys, accountants and other professionals who also serve your clients. In fact, a well-developed, reciprocal network of COIs can bring in many more clients and help you keep your existing ones.

So, how do you find good COIs you can trade referrals with? Follow these steps to create a powerful COI network:

Step 1: List Each COI Your Clients Are Working With
When you work with clients, you’re bound to end up interacting with other professionals also working with those clients. Write down each COI’s name, company, the type of COI (attorney, CPA, etc.) and the name of the client. Once you’ve listed this information, reach out to these COIs and discuss how you can help each other gain and serve more clients.

Step 2: List Each COI In Your Professional Network
Who are the accountants, attorneys and other people within your network? Are you optimizing your professional relationships with them? Add them to your list of potential COIs and bring them into your network.

Step 3: List Each COI in Professional Associations You Belong To
Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce or another professional association? List potential COIs in these organizations and make them a part of your network.

Step 4: List Each COI In Your LinkedIn Network
Are you on LinkedIn? Which COIs are you connected to directly, and which ones are you connected to via other people? Ask the people connecting you to them to make introductions.

Step 5: Do a Web Search and Find a COI You Can Work With
If you’re thin on potential COIs, do a web search of accountants, attorneys and other influencers in your area. When you find a COI who you think would be a good fit, develop a relationship.

A productive reciprocal relationship is not something that develops overnight. Studies show that it takes, on average, two years of building trust before a COI begins referring clients. However, through hard work and relationship development, you may eventually enjoy a steady stream of new clients through your COI network. When this happens, all your effort will have (literally) paid off.

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Should I have a business Twitter profile?

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Maintaining multiple Twitter accounts and attracting followers to multiple profiles can be challenging, so in general you'll be more successful with fewer profiles. Whether you should have a business profile depends on the size of your business:

Solo Practitioners
For a solo practitioner, you should have one personal account to use for business purposes. Because it is a personal account representing an individual, the mix of content should be both professional and personal. You should experiment to find the appropriate mix for your target audience. If you find yourself using the Twitter profile more than 50% of the time for personal use, then you may want to have two profiles: one with a business slant and one that is purely personal. You may also want to consider a pseudonym for your personal account to avoid content you post showing in search results for your name. This approach should only be used for advanced Twitter users who have the time and passion to successfully grow and maintain multiple accounts. Otherwise, one account that is more professional than personal is recommended.

Silo and Ensemble Firms
For firms with multiple advisors, a business profile is recommended. This account should be used entirely for professional content; however, showing a human side of the firm through this account is also encouraged (e.g., candid office photos). This account should be managed by a designated person(s) in the firm to ensure consistency in the firm's voice and in the frequency of posts.

Individual advisors may also have their own accounts if they are interested in engaging on the platform. If an advisor is representing the company in any way, they should tweet a mix of professional and personal content. There should be more emphasis on professional content, but the personal content gives the advisor more depth and, as a result, makes it easier for others to personally connect with the advisor online. 

If advisors find that they are using the Twitter profile more than 50% of the time for personal use, then they may want to have two profiles: one with a business slant and one that is purely personal. Advisors may also want to consider a pseudonym for the personal account to avoid posts showing in search results for the advisor's name. This approach should be used only for advanced Twitter users who have the time and passion to successfully grow and maintain multiple accounts. Otherwise, one account that is more professional than personal is recommended.
 

Should I advertise my business?

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In our experience, traditional advertisements such as print ads, radio commercials or TV commercials rarely yield the results that financial advisory firms are looking for. You should consider ads only in the following situations:

  • They are part of a long-term, consistent advertising strategy in which your goal is to gain greater awareness and not generate leads within a small audience (e.g., a specific niche market, a small town).
  • You are advertising a special event where the goal is to get people to register for your event.
  • The advertisement will produce a tool that you can use for credibility marketing purposes (e.g., San Diego Magazine's Best Financial Advisors profile where you purchase a plaque of the profile to put in your lobby or you hand out reprints to prospects).
  • You are advertising in order to support a charity, association or organization that you are trying to build or deepen a relationship with (e.g., advertising in a program for a local charity's gala).

Even in these situations, our experience has been that results have been mixed at best.
You should never advertise in the following situations:

  • A one-time advertisement that does not provide you with a credibility marketing piece
  • If you plan on advertising for less than one year
  • If you are relying on the ad to generate leads
  • If your call to action for the ad is to schedule an appointment
  • When the advertisement is a significant percentage of your marketing budget

A general rule of thumb is if someone is reaching out to you to do an advertisement, it is probably not a good idea. Instead, you should look at how advertising plays into your overall marketing plan and then reach out to media outlets that make sense with your strategy.