Saturday, December 16, 2017

Must-See New Movie for Financial Advisors

I’ll admit it. I hate shopping. I hate the stress, crowds, overspending, forced smiles, drunken caroling and crappy weather that comes with the Holidays. But I do enjoy one tradition this time of year--advance screenings of major motion pictures that come straight to our doorstep courtesy of my wife’s membership in the Directors Guild of America.
It’s been mostly duds this season, but last night we took a chance on Molly’s Game and it will be worth standing in line for this one when it opens Christmas day. Many of you are skiers, poker players and closet math nerds, so add this flick to your must-see list. You might also recommend it to your risk-seeking clients.

The film is based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a highly attractive and intelligent washed-up Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the 2000s. She had a great decade-long run before getting beat up by the mob, addicted to drugs and ultimately taken down by gun-toting FBI agents.

Starting out just to pay the rent, Molly was soon making seven figures hosting private poker games that catered to Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Great story, but the best part is that she ran her “game” as a legal, tax-paying corporate entity, complete with legitimate books, tax returns, a “no raking” policy and 1099s forms sent to her “staff.”

Not to be spoiler, but Aaron Sorkin’s film not only touches on risk management and securities law, but on most of the advanced planning principles you preach to clients including wealth enhancement, tax mitigation, wealth protection, wealth transfer, legacy planning and business succession.
Many of the financial issues in Molly’s Game are as realistic as the ski scenes, poker hands and bluffing strategies. Molly also takes down her abusive boss and dozens of extremely rich and powerful men in the process as she goes from a middle class upbringing, to poverty, to riches to rags again, as so many American entrepreneurs do.
If you or your significant other are Kevin Costner fans, you’ll enjoy seeing him excel in a NON-nice guy role for a change. He plays Molly’s demanding, often estranged father who gave her drive, smarts and ambition, plus enough emotional baggage to fill at least two luxury hotel luggage carts.

Conclusion

I don’t know if STX Entertainment had this much foresight, but Molly’s Game ties in seamlessly to the perfect storm of complex tax issues, Winter Olympics promos and powerful men being taking down daily in the headlines. It’s not exactly Bing Crosby, but it’s a timely encapsulation of the times we live in—and poignant exploration of how each of us comes to terms with fear, greed and our relationship with money.


*** Are you a Finder, Minder or Grinder? Take our Insta-Poll and see how you stack up to your peers.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Forget Open Rates; Focus on CTOR

Everyone’s focused on metrics this time of year. Budget battles for 2018 are in full swing as bean-counters and jealous colleagues scrutinize how your precious marketing dollars are spent (or wasted) online. Social media gets all the headlines today, but good old email marketing is still very effective for financial professionals—if done well.

Katrina Manning, author of the Email on Acid blog recently shared seven reasons that Email Marketing Still Works. “Many business professionals are checking their email at work regularly, not going onto all the social media sites,” explained Manning. “Reach out to them directly where they prefer communication for their business transactions and informational needs. Heck, 40 percent of Americans read emails while in bed. That means you already have their attention in their inbox, so use it!”

McMetrics

Sure, it’s important to track opens, clicks, unsubscribes and forward, etc., but you can artificially inflate your open rates with provocative email openers such as: “Salary Survey,” or “New Sex Position” or “Celebrity Slips” or “Top-10 Overrated Colleges” or “Do this now to get a raise!”

That’s just Kardashian-esque click bait.

If there’s no meat on the bones when people take time out of their busy day to open it, then you’ll be punished in several ways: low click rates and possibly and unsubscribe.
That’s why open rates are essentially a McMetric—easy to measure, but low on substance, as my colleague Rick Telberg and I addressed in a podcast. There’s another more meaningful metric, the Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR), that I’ll explain in a minute.

First of all, open rates are deceptive. An open is recorded when images are downloaded, even if the recipient didn’t click or take action. Or, the recipient may have the “auto preview” feature turned on (which automatically registers an open). Recipients may have inadvertently clicked on your email when they really wanted to open the one just above or below it in their inbox….i.e. they bailed just a split second after reading yours.

CTOR levels the playing field

What you really want to know how many of the people who opened your email actually clicked on at least one of your content element?
  CTOR measures the relevancy and context of an email by taking the number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique opens, and then multiplying by 100 to show it as a percentage.
Example

Email A: Let’s say you sent a mailing to 1,027 clients, past clients and prospects. Of those 1,027, let’s say 27 bounced or were out of office replies, giving you 1,000 sent. Of those 1,000 delivered, let’s say 260 opened your email, i.e. 26% open rate. Not bad, but suppose only 10 of those 260 people actually clicked on something giving you a 4% click-through rate.  Therefore, your click-to-open rate (CTOR) would be 15.4% (i.e. 4% ÷ 26%).

Email B: Let’s say the following week you send a new email to the same list of 1,027 and the same 27 bounced or were out of office, giving you 1,000 successfully sent (same as last week). Of those 1,000 delivered, let’s say only 190 opened your email, i.e. 19% open rate—7 percentage points worse than last week. But of those 190, a 20 individuals clicked on something giving you a click-through rate of 10.5%. Therefore, your click-to-open rate (CTOR) would be 55.2% (i.e. 10.5% ÷ 19%)…..significantly higher engagement than last week’s mailing despite a lower open rate.

Even though Email A had a much higher open rate than email B, which do you think had a higher engagement rate and was ultimately more successful?

 
Sent
Bounced
Deliv.
Unique
Opened
Unique
Clicked

CLICK to OPEN Rate
Email A
1,027
27
1,000
260
(26%)
10
(4%)
15.4%
Email B
1,027
27
1,000
190
(19%)
20 (10.5%
55.2%
Source: HB Publishing & Marketing Company, LLC 2017


Improving click-through

The best way to improve your CTOR is to improve the nominator; your click through rate. Here are some time-tested techniques. No magic, here. Just basic blocking and tackling.

1. Relevant content.
The easiest step is to make sure you have content that’s entirely relevant to your audience. Don’t try to send a one-size-fits all email to your entire list. Take the time to segment your list and send highly relevant campaigns to each.

2. Don’t be a click baiter. There’s nothing more annoying to a busy reader than opening an eBlast or enewsletter and finding nothing inside that relates to the provocative subject line. Again, you’ll be ignored and possibly unsubscribed to.

3. Design issues. When reviewing the content and creative of the campaign, you might see that an email with a poor performing click-to-open rate did not include enough links, or possibly the clickable areas were unclear to the subscribers, causing the low level of engagement.




4. Too many “asks.” Another mistake we see in this era of “do more with less” is asking the recipient to do too many things in a single email (i.e. sign up for a webinar, check out a video and register for a conference).

QUICK TIP:
It’s great to have multiple links to helpful content and resources, but NEVER include more than one call-to-action (CTA) within each email.

Benchmarks
So, what’s a good CTOR? According to digital market consultant, Cara Olson, it depends on many variables including industry, type of email, segmentation, number of links in an email, etc. She said, a good CTOR can vary from 20% to 30%. But, rather than benchmarking against your peers, benchmark against yourself. Establish the CTOR for your own newsletters, triggered campaigns, promotional campaigns, transactional emails, for each email in a series, and then compare your improvement (or lack thereof) over time. Measure often, tweak, and re-assess.

Drilling down into industry specific email benchmarks, MailChimp says the CTOR for the Business & Finance category is 13% (21.0% open / 2.7% click through). GetResponse says CTOR for the Financial Services category is about 24% (i.e. 22.0% open/ 5.3% click through).

Conclusion

Business email is something that your client chooses to open and read; they are not being forced to do so. You work hard to build client and prospect relationships. Respect their privacy and how busy their schedules are. If you do, and consistently offer valuable content and insights, readers will refer you without hesitation to like-minded peers.

*** Are you a Finder, Minder or Grinder? Take our Insta-Poll and see how you stack up to your peers.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Are You a Finder, Minder or Grinder? C’mon, Be Honest

Finders, Minders and Grinders. Those three terms were coined over a decade ago by management guru, David Maister. But, they’ve been resurfacing recently as professional service firms adjust to a fast-changing landscape of tax tumult, technology turmoil and demographic shifts. Sure, we know you have to have a balance of all three worker classifications to be a successful firm. Sure, we know you should do whatever it takes to hold on to those rare multi-talented individuals who can Find, Mind AND Grind simultaneously.

But, if you’re a leader of a professional service firm today, it’s not enough to recruit and nurture those Finder/Minder/Grinder corporate triathletes. You need to be one yourself. 
How do you personally divide your time among these roles, asked Richard Lavin, founder of the Leveraged Wisdom CEO Forum. “Are you consistent? Would your employees and partners agree with your self-assessment?” he added.
Most of you reading this blog have known from an early age whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. You’re highly accomplished leaders, but at the end of the day, most of you prefer to be either (a) out with potential clients hunting down the business or (b) quietly in your office grinding out the work.

Our client Blake Christian, CPA takes a modern-day look at what Finder, Minders and Grinders are in his new book “Becoming a CPA Preneur”:

·       Finders are the hunters who seek out new business and relationships for the firm. They’re typically partners and senior manager levels, but Finders can be found (and developed) at lower levels of your organization, too.
·         Minders are the project managers who keep the trains running on time. They’re attuned to processes, staffing and workflow, and focus their energy on nurturing the organization internally.
·         Grinders are the technically skilled staff. They work well on their own, are good at taking instruction, and like to keep busy. These are the ones who get the work done. Without grinders, the firm would be all talk and no results!
*** Are you a Finder, Minder or Grinder? Take our Insta-Poll. See how you stack up to your peers.

Generally, employees fall into just one of these classifications above, said Christian, “but occasionally an employee will have more than one of these groups of skills. When you find them make sure you retain these gems.”


Rebecca Wilson, author of Stretch Yourself marketing blog wrote that “each role is absolutely critical to the success of a company and they all think that they are the most important. Without finders you would have no new business coming in the door, and no new projects for your team to work on. Without minders you would miss your deadlines and fail to monitor and achieve your profitability and success. And without grinders, nothing real would ever get delivered to your clients.”
She agreed with Christian that there is one rare type of professional in a services business who can carry out all three roles and “flip between them as required, with ease.” If you find one of these workplace triathletes, “be sure to value them for the quality jewel they are.”

Lavin said you can see skill sets and behaviors that drive each team member’s success. The Grinder will need to be a “detail person, analytical, have perseverance and be willing to be held accountable on a micro level. The Minder will need to have professional competency, good communication skills, an understanding of the lifetime value of a customer and an ability to assume advisory role. The Finder must be outgoing, comfortable in new settings, an excellent communicator and able to represent the firm and its services at the highest level of CXO circles.”
If you’re in charge at a professional services firm, Lavin said you need to make sure you are:

  • Assigning similar roles to the various job descriptions of your team members.
  • Hiring the skill sets and behaviors consistent with this simple model.
  • You are defining, supporting and holding your team members accountable for the skills and behaviors consistent with their roles.
  • Expecting team members to step out of their comfort zones.
  • Training the appropriate candidates to grow into new roles.
Conclusion

We agree with the experts cited above. In this volatile, unpredictable age, everyone in charge has to become a corporate triathlete who can switch rapidly between Finding, Minding and Grinding. That means switching in and out of your comfort zone and better yet, expanding your comfort zone as you must provide new and innovative ways to show continue value to your clients.

 
TAGS: Finders, Minders and Grinders, Richard Lavin, Rebecca Wilson, Blake Christian, David Maister

Friday, November 10, 2017

HB Clients in the News…Yes, Media Coverage Matters


Boast all you want on your website and social media accounts. But, it’s hard to beat the value of being quoted in the press or writing guest columns for influential media outlets.

According to the Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™ 2017 that we’re conducting with The Financial Awareness Foundation, half of advisors (48%) say that being quoted in the press is a “Very” or “Extremely” effective way to enhance thought leadership. Nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) say the same about writing articles for publication. Respondents were 5-times more likely to cite these channels than to cite mainstream social media (other than LinkedIn).

CHANNEL
% Advisors say “Very” or “Extremely” Effective
Being quoted in the press
***********************************48%
Writing articles for publication
****************************************63%
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
**** 9%

Source: HB Publishing & Marketing CO, LLC and The Financial Awareness Foundation,2017
Fortunately, many of our clients get it, and we’re happy to guide you through the process. Just don’t contact us if you’re looking for shortcuts, a magic formula or instant cover stories in Forbes or The Wall Street Journal.

Kyle Walters, a partner of Dallas-based L&H CPAs & Advisors explained in his recent Accounting Today article (The Power of the Red Chair), that financial advisory firms should pretend that A-list clients are in the room with them at all times. Imagine that your best clients are sitting in a special red chair in your conference room, he wrote, when you make strategic decisions about service offerings, billing models or CRM.

“It doesn’t matter what we think,” added Walters. “The only thing that matters is what our clients think. What can we implement that will make their lives easier and make them happier with the experience we provide?”

Blake Christian, CPA was quoted in Financial Advisor Magazine this week about the impact of a potential elimination of the AMT (Tax Reform Slams HNW Clients On Real Estate).  “Repeal of the alternative minimum tax could have a significant impact on investment plans,” said Christian. “Under current law, alt min’s top rate is 28 percent. Its elimination would drive many AMT clients into the 35 percent bracket and push them to invest in tax-free municipal bonds,” added Christian, a partner at HCVT LLP in Park City, Utah. Christian recently unpacked the Trump Tax proposal on the Mountain Money podcast and keys to opening a new office on the Journal of Accountancy podcast.  
Anthony Glomski, founder of LA-based AG Asset Advisory is a frequent source for US News who will be a featured guest on Venture App later this month. Glomski said he’s frequently asked to comment about cutting-edge issues at the intersection of finance and technology. Take Bitcoin, for instance.

“Some smart people are saying that Bitcoin is a fraud and others say it’s the new definition of money,” said Glomski.  “Time will tell, and holders of Bitcoin will either make a lot…or lose a lot.  What I know for certain is that no one knows for certain. Block chain has been called internet 3.0,” added Glomski.  “Just like 1.0 and 2.0—even if many of the fundamental predictions prove correct—this will be a volatile place to both make and lose a lot of money.”  

Conclusion
Media coverage doesn’t just build credibility; it enhances your refer-ability. In today’s electronic age, links to those clips are a snap for satisfied clients and influencers to forward along to prospective clients. Every channel counts, but as we posted last month, Don’t Be Cheap or Lazy with Client Communications.

So which would you rather have: Likes and Retweets or actual new clients?


Thursday, November 02, 2017

Most Advisors Not Spooked Yet. Are They Delusional?

Suppose you stood outside your local DMV and took a random poll of motorists. The vast majority would tell you they are very good drivers. And guess what? Those same folks would tell you most other motorists on the road are terrible drivers. It seems like the same thing is happening to independent financial advisory firms.
According to our Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™ 2017, five times as many advisors expect their own firms to grow by double-digits next year than they expect peer firms to grow by double digits (49% vs. 9%).

Advisors expecting to grow by double-digits
Our firm
***********************************49%
Peer firms
**********9%
Source: HB Publishing & Marketing CO, LLC and The Financial Awareness Foundation,2017
Despite concerns about Washington, the Trump tax plan, robo-advisors, artificial intelligence, a looming market correction and generational shifts, most high-end independent advisors remain optimistic. Is that rosy outlook justified?

A number of our clients weighed in on the subject—hard.

Matt Topley, CIO of Fortis Wealth in Valley Forge, PA said that our egos too often get in the way. “For starters, Wall Street recruits from what it believes are the best of the best young minds, coming from the most prestigious schools,” explained Topley. “Many were scholar-athletes or heads of numerous student groups and organizations. Many more had military backgrounds or other notable leadership experience.  These lifetime over-achievers have stellar resumes and type-A personalities, but that’s also what causes them to develop massive human biases within their psyches. Most don’t realize it.”
How so? All these factors lead to “the illusion of skill,” added Topley. “The more knowledge we possess, the more that overconfidence bias engulfs us. And that’s very dangerous, because a series of human biases are especially damaging to employees in the finance business.”

A partner in a Top-50 CPA firm told me the other day about his big initiative to encourage firms to be more proactive. They need to get their business plans ready for “big technology shifts and other changes that can wipe out your current market advantages.” He said “CPA firms are sitting ducks along with many other sectors,” adding that “Robo/AI risks are a bit overblown and we will actually see a hybrid AI/ Human solution that gives the best of both worlds.  Wealthy people and most others crave human interaction with their professional service providers.”

Kyle Walters, founder of Dallas-based Atlas Tax Advisors, agreed. As he explained in his recent Accounting Today article (The Power of the Red Chair), financial advisory firms should pretend that A-list clients are in the room with them at all times—i.e. sitting in a special red chair--when they make strategic decisions about service offerings, billing models or CRM.
“It doesn’t matter what we think,” added Walters. “The only thing that matters is what our clients think. What can we implement that will make their lives easier and make them happier with the experience we provide?”

Anthony Glomski
, founder of AG Asset Advisory in Los Angeles, told me that financial advisors of all stripes are not setting the bar high enough. “As Peter Diamandis would say: ‘In a world where everyone is competing furiously for 10-percent improvements, you need to be thinking about how to get 10X.’” Glomski added that the pace of change “seems too great today for that to be sufficient, let alone disruptive. Historically, I suspect a lot of “aha” moments got you just 10-percent.” 
According to Topley, the reason active managers fail to beat their benchmarks over the long-run is due more to psychological reasons than it is to intellectual failures. “There is non-stop pressure on portfolio managers to DO SOMETHING  for outperformance--i.e. trade around positions, add to winners, find out of the mainstream stocks or sell winners. Ironically, doing nothing is sometimes the best answer,” added Topley. “When we overload our brains with decisions, our human biases come into play.” 

And then there are things beyond our control such as the increase of fraud and cyber-attacks. Encryption and security badges serve two very important purposes, explained Samuel Bethea, founder of The Rosewood Group in Rock Springs, WY. “Incorporating these two features into your overall system of security will provide assurances to your customers that you have (a) taken precautions to protect their information and (b) will convey a sense of digital sophistication and understanding of the threats that loom on the internet today.”

Cyber security ensures that all sources of digital penetration from an external source have been mitigated in your system, added Bethea. “In a small business, it might be wise to partner with cloud resources that have cyber security built in to their security systems.” 

We live in a highly competitive, information-rich world, said Glomski. “Any AHA moment must be backed by fast and fierce persistence. Many AHA moments are followed by others who say ‘uhhh yeah’ which means I’m doing that too.  AHA can give you a 100-yard lead in a race. Take your foot off the accelerator for just a few seconds, and you can easily be passed.”

Conclusion
Let’s stay in our lanes during the final stretch of 2017 no matter how fast you like to go. You may be a good driver, but without two hands on the wheel at all times, you’re not much better than all the other maniacs on the advisory highway.
As Walters observed: “People don’t leave their [financial advisors] because they charge too much. They leave because they don’t feel valued and appreciated—and because they don’t feel listened to.” 


TAGS: Kyle Walters, Matt Topley, Samuel Bethea, Anthony Glomski, Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Don’t Be Cheap or Lazy with Client Communications


As the old saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” By the same token, you only get one chance to leave a lasting impression. At a time when four out five of high-net-worth individuals are considering leaving their advisors at any given time, can you afford to take a chance with your hard-won clients?
According to our recent Wealth Advisor Confidence Surveyconducted in association with The Financial Awareness Foundation, webinars, and low-cost, low-effort social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are among the least most effective communication channels used by surveyed financial planners, wealth advisors, estate planners and CPAs.

% of Respondents Finding Channels “Very” or “Extremely” Valuable
CHANNEL
Advisors expecting to grow by double-digits in 2018
All other Advisors
Gap
Public speaking
75%
59%
+16%
Writing articles for publication
69%
48%
+21%
Writing books/eBooks
54%
48%
+6%
Being quoted in the press
54%
30%
+24%
Blogging
48%
29%
+19%
Producing videos
48%
17%
+31%
Hosting client events
44%
35%
+9%
Publishing on LinkedIn
32%
20%
+12%
Webinars
22%
23%
-1%
Tweeting
4%
13%
-9%
Facebook
7%
13%
-6%
Instragram, Pinterest, Snapchat
4%
6%
-2%

Source: HB Publishing & Marketing CO, LLC and The Financial Awareness Foundation,2017

Last week’s post has more about the most effective channels for advisors.

Further, advisors that expected to grow by double digits over the next 12 months were less likely to use these low-cost channels than their less confident peers

By contrast, advisors who expect to grow by double digits over the next year are MORE likely than other advisors to blog, write articles for publication, produce videos and publish on LinkedIn.

In other words, the channels that require the most time and thought are the ones that high-performing advisors are most likely to use….we didn’t say most expensive. We just said the ones requiring the most mental “heavy lifting.”

Sure, but won’t social media endear you to Millennial clients, prospects and workers? Not exactly. Turns out that advisors in their 30s and 40s are generally less likely than their older peers to find webinars and social media effective forms of client communication (see table below).

% of Respondents Finding Channels “Very” or “Extremely” Valuable


CHANNEL
Advisors
age 30-39

Advisors
age 40-49

Advisors age 50+

Under 50 vs over 50*

Webinars

0%
22%
29%
16%
less likely
Tweeting
0%
11%
10%
1%
more likely

Facebook
0%
0%
14%
14%
less likely
Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat
0%
0%
7%
7%
less likely

Source: HB Publishing & Marketing CO, LLC and The Financial Awareness Foundation,2017
* Age 30-49 combined vs. Age 50-70+ combined

*** Is this what you’re finding among your own clients? Take the Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™ and see how you stack up to your peers (5 minutes, rapid results).

Conclusion

As my grandfather always said, “you get what you pay for.” Don’t cut corners when it comes to communicating clients. Be timely and be relevant. But unless you’re the President, take the time to put some thought into what you are saying, before you post, Tweet or publish. Or, as they say in academic circles, “publish or perish!”
TAGS: Client communication, Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey 2017, best client communication tools