Category: Plan Advisors

Staying relevant is critical to our futures, individually and collectively!

The S&P 500 was introduced in 1957 as a benchmark index designed to track the value of the 500 largest companies in the United States. Today, approximately 60, or just 12% of that original 500, are still included in the index. Bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions certainly have taken their toll on the 440 no longer included. However, the fate for many was driven by the fact they simply lost relevance, credibility or positioning in the lives of the American people or on the world stage. Some prognosticators have gone so far as to predict the current S&P 500 will experience a 50% turnover in the next decade. Only time will tell but, personally, I wouldn’t bet against that becoming a reality.

Do you need more proof that clinging to the familiarity of the status quo is a dangerous business model? Then consider that in January of 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy after 134 years in business with a negative net worth of over $1B. A few months later in April, 18-month-old Instagram with its 13 employees was purchased by Facebook for over $1B.

Innovate or evaporate as the future is promised to no one!

With that lesson in mind, I wanted to share (via this entry and many blog posts to come) a few observations and reflections that caused me to eagerly accept Bill Hamm’s offer to join the management team at IFP.

First, I have always been a people person and I am not talking about my social skills. I am talking about whether I like, trust and respect the leaders I chose to follow or the people I choose to associate or do business with. Key question; “Do I believe in their vision down to their plan and ability to achieve it?” More importantly, is their vision grand, rooted in creative decisions and does it break the mold of the status quo? If this isn’t the case and the organization or leadership won’t step outside of their comfort zone, you can count me out.

Further, any leader I choose to follow can’t be driven primarily by their own personal fame or fortune. For me, they must be driven to create something that positively impacts the lives of the people they serve with the goal of leaving the world a little better place than they found it. It is possible, and frankly important, to both do well and do good at the same time.

As a recently passed mentor of mine once told me, “The odds of success are highest when one has both pride in the outfit and confidence in the leadership.” When it comes to Bill Hamm, the rapidly growing team at IFP, and all our affiliated advisors, I have both. I love our odds of staying relevant in the very important story that is just beginning to unfold as we endeavor to better focus on and serve our clients.

Maintain Relevance, Credibility and Positioning

In my future blogs you will hear about some of the things that this speedboat called IFP is doing to make a difference in our advisors’ business models and ultimately the clients they serve. Some of the topics covered will be about:

  • BDI – Breadth of focus, Depth of tools and resources and Integration within the IFP ecosystem with innovative technology and open lines of communication.
  • PPS – Comprehensive Product offerings, scaled Pricing discounts and customized Services.
  • ELPs – ELAs – ELRs that enhance our value proposition and deliverables
    • ELP: Enterprise Level Partnerships
    • ELA: Enterprise Level Affiliations
    • ELR: Enterprise Level Relationships
  • Converting Big Data into Good Data into Business Intelligence to better refine and customize service models

Final Thoughts

The above items are just a sampling of the transformative themes feverishly being worked on inside IFP. Bottom line, there are no taxi drivers here thinking Uber will disappear and the old status quo will be restored. After 40 years in the business, I still want the opportunities and flexibilities affiliated with a speedboat as opposed to the plodding but perceived stability of a massive aircraft carrier where the needs of the organization often supplant the needs of those serving or being served. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time.

Before I was the gatekeeper for everything involving content at IFP, I worked at a marketing agency in Tampa. While I worked there, it was my sole responsibility to ensure that each time a client started a blog, it hit the ground running and continued to captivate their target audience for years to come. In my mind, it became an art.

I could make tile laying projects sexy, discount airport parking seem like the only way to park, and beer look like a great alternative to water. No, I’m kidding – I’m not that full of myself. However, I am good at what I do, which is building an audience and finding a way to connect with them to sell a service or product. Today I wanted to discuss some tips I’ve learned over the years that might help you start or build your blog into the great resource you know it can be.

Find a Voice

Personality is hard to inject into writing. Read some of the text messages you get from people and notice how little the words reflect that person’s quirks, features, and well-known traits. Does it sound like them? Probably not.

Sadly, this is a hurdle many blog writers fail to overcome. Without some serious personality or a unique take on the topics they discuss, a blog becomes little more than a checkbox item that some search engine optimization (SEO) guru told you to check. It’s just words on a page at that point. All I’m saying is, if you want to make some noise, make some noise. Create a voice for yourself and add some personality to your writing to keep people coming back for more.

Write for Yourself

I remember my first job when I was writing 4-5 blog posts a day for clients in a variety of industries. I was writing Dick’s Sporting Goods with my cup of coffee and Macy’s with my late lunch, bored out of my mind with topics like, ‘Top 10 Reasons to Buy New Cleats’ or ‘5 Reasons Your Red Dress Doesn’t Work’. As a creative, it’s soul sucking. As a person like yourself with limited time in the day for writing, you need to find a passion for it.

Blogs require some serious start up time before they get rolling. Without passion, it’s easy to fall off the wagon a few months in and spend the time you’d otherwise be writing doing something you love to do in your spare time. If you’re like most, a jet ski sounds a hell of a lot more fun than sitting inside on Saturday thinking up new ideas for the blog. To overcome these temptations, you obviously need some passion for writing and brainstorming fresh approaches to keep your audience on the hook.

Consider the Layout

Now that I’ve written (and you’ve read) about 400 words of this blog post, it’s time to break it up a bit. Remember that my audience (hey, that’s you right now) doesn’t want to read a wall of text without any visual elements to give some variety. Therefore, I have created the beautiful graphic you see to the left, which has undoubtedly renewed your interest in this article.

In all seriousness, I recommend always trying to mix a few graphics into your articles to give your readers’ eyes a rest or to easily identify a place for a break.

Be Thorough

First, let’s talk about length. While you can absolutely sneak by with 400 words on days you really need to get some work done, I wouldn’t recommend doing it often. My typical article is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 words, but I don’t want you to only focus on a number when considering length. Consider starting with a base and building on it. While the first iteration may be a few hundred words, you can continue expanding it ad nauseam until it reaches your goal.

Either way, it all comes down to SEO. If your article is detailed and extensively covers a specific topic, you are far more likely to organically attract visitors than if you have a series of short, vague articles.

Now let’s talk about finding some eyes to read your hard work.

Build an Audience

Unfortunately, finding an audience is the hardest part of owning your very own blog. While there’s no magic bullet, there are ways to pull outsiders in, if only for a moment.

Social Media

Social media can be a fantastic starting place to capture some eyes, although it can be fairly time consuming and there’s going to be some days you feel like giving up. We live in a noisy world with thousands of individuals trying to get their blog noticed just like you, so you need to make an impact. This is why I recommend retaining a social media expert that can dedicate their time to promoting your blog and company.

If you don’t have the budget or just don’t feel like hiring someone to help out, I’ll be writing a follow-up post about engaging on social media in the new few weeks.

Guest Posting

Find a blog or news provider that offers guest posting opportunities. Some individuals may ask you to pay a small fee for a spot on their website – don’t do it. There’s no reason to pay them money and many times the amount you pay is not worth the link equity you’ll receive.

Advertising

Advertising is an option if you prefer to pay, although I also recommend you look for a professional to help out. Aside from building the visual assets required, you’ll need a real strategy to reach your target audience while spending the smallest amount of money possible.

Guest Star on Podcasts

Some of our advisors have seen some serious success as guests on podcasts in recent years. Try to identify a few podcasts (locally or nationally) that will let you on for a segment discussing plan participant needs, personal finance, or some other facet related to our industry.

Now that you’ve heard enough about building your audience, let’s talk about how we’re going to keep them coming back for more.

Retaining Your Audience

We touched on this briefly above, but I wanted to create a section you could refer back to when scanning this article. Alright, so we’ve got all these people reading your blog, engaging in the comments section, and telling all their friends about the amazing information they received from your posts. Now comes one of the easier parts: keeping them around.

Regular Posting

Set a schedule and stick to it if possible. Readers need more and more content and it encourages them to revisit your website if they know it’s constantly evolving.

Seek and Respond to Engagement

Ask your readers for comments, likes, and shares and foster a friendly environment that encourages people to interact with your posts. This helps establish an emotional connection to your posts and possibly your personality.

Build a Network

As you grow, keep in touch with other bloggers and persons of interest in your social circle. The more involved you are in the community, the more likely people are to recognize your writing and learn more about you. Don’t isolate yourself!

My Last Thoughts

I recognize that I’ve just thrown a lot at you and it can seem overwhelming. The truth of the matter is that you just need to start somewhere, writing whenever the mood strikes to grow your blog. Motivate yourself to put pen to pad and you’re already better than the vast majority of people in this industry that haven’t put pen to pad in years.

If you have questions for me or comments on my article, send me an email! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you next time.

The other day I walked into a financial advisor’s office and was immediately meet with wall pattern designs from the 90s, drop-out ceiling tiles, and a bowl full of Werther’s Originals chilling on the counter for good measure. While I appreciate the trip down memory lane to the early 2000s when I was waiting for my physical at the doctor’s office, this isn’t the type of environment you probably want to foster for clients.

As you can probably guess from the title, I wanted to talk about office space today and how you can produce a more inviting space with some simple tweaks. Let’s jump right in.

1. Make the Lobby Memorable

The lobby is the first place clients see when visiting your office. Consider that it sets the mood for their entire meeting, meaning it could relax them or it could cause them to be slightly unnerved. Also consider that it reflects on your business as a whole. Are you trustworthy? Does your firm strive to take a modern approach to financial advice? Do you care about your clients?

The lobby’s atmosphere can be far more impactful than you might think, especially if you’re going out of your way to ensure it’s a pleasant experience.

Wall and Flooring Design

If you’re still clinging onto one of those zigzag designs or another painfully dated pattern, it’s time to make a change. Make sure the new walls and flooring are something you feel represents your business while also serving to sooth and reassure current and prospective clients.

Furniture

Nothing says ‘come on in and sit down’ like a dusty floral couch with one of those protective plastic covers or a sterile plastic chair with no place to rest your arms, right? Furniture can make a serious statement to people visiting, especially if the seating is outrageously comfortable. It’s also important to consider the color and style and how it pairs with the rest of the room.

2. Introduce Special Favors

Now, if you’re going to introduce something cool for clients to get excited about, it certain isn’t going to be that bowl of old candy you’ve got sitting in a corner. No, we need something that puts a smile on their face.

Beverages

A soda, coffee, or cup of orange juice is perfect for setting the tone of a meeting. We want them to feel comfortable in the office and ready to have a productive conversation with their trusted confidant. Don’t forget to offer refills if their meeting stretches beyond the typical time period!

Food

It might be worthwhile to offer a few smart snacks such as granola bars or fruit while they wait. Unless they ask, I probably wouldn’t offer this amenity past the lobby, as it might prove to be a bit awkward to have them chowing down while you’re discussing their finances.

Reading Material

Magazines are a waiting room classic, although you can offer books as well if you’re so inclined. Also, do us all a favor and keep the magazines up to date. As interesting as it was, no one wants to read that article from 1972 about how Watergate is currently affecting our economy.

Free Wi-Fi

As long as your clients aren’t planning on hacking the NSA from your wi-fi network, I’d recommend giving them free access. It’s a small perk, but it can make their time in the waiting room that much more pleasant.

Charging Station

Although we hope your clients are waiting for too long, providing an area where they can charge their phone can be a godsend. Should their phones die in the waiting room, it could put them in a bad mood before they even get in your office.

3. Create an Impression

An impression is as much about presentation as it is setting the atmosphere. With a few simple tweaks, you can make a big splash with clients before they even sit down in your office.

Smart Technology Usage

Everyone has a clipboard. You go to your doctor’s office, it’s a clipboard. You go to your dentist, it’s a clipboard. You go to your optometrist, you guessed it – it’s a clipboard. Either remove the sign in process or make it fun with a tablet to simplify the entire ordeal while digitally cataloging meetings with clients. It’s a win-win.

You can also use text messaging to remind clients about their appointments and confirm they will attend. This can be an effective way to engage with clients, ensuring they will attend their meeting.

Use Surveys

Want to know what your clients truly desire? Ask them! Surveys help everyone involved; clients feel like they’re heard and you’re able to use that precious feedback to enhance the office visit experience for next time they drop by. However, remember to make the survey simple and easy to answer. No one will appreciate spending 30 minutes filling out the most monotonous survey they’ve ever received in their life.

Final Thoughts

This might seem overwhelming to you. I get it. Start with something small and work yourself up to the big stuff like furniture or completely redecorating. Also, if you’re not really keen on enhancing the lobby experience, try sprucing up your office a bit. Add comfy chairs, offer beverages from the mini fridge, or change up the design of the room.

Either way, it’s about making clients happy and getting them to enjoy the experience of visiting your office.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time. If you have any questions about this article, send it to my inbox and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!