Would you know your ideal client if you met them online?

Financial Services Professionals Do You Know How To Identify Your Clients Online

This is a very serious question for my friends in financial services, “Would you know your ideal client if you met them online?” Seems trivial, right? You’re thinking, “Of course, I would!” Are you really sure though?

I want to walk you through an exercise today and if you’re brutally honest with yourself, you’ll love the outcome. If you’re not, this will be a complete waste of time, stop reading and go watch a cat video like this one.

The Set-Up

About three years ago, if you had asked me who my ideal client was, I thought the answer was everyone in financial services. Yep – I went out and connected to everyone and it was my epic fail moment when I realized at the end of a “heavy-duty connecting, talking, selling what I do” year – I still only had a handful of solid clients. How can that be?

Well, this ain’t no Kevin Costner movie

All the coaches and gurus tell you the “Build it and they will come” story. I was so fired up! I was offering services, giving away some stuff, providing value, etc. The passion I have for what I do is almost palatable anyway, yet I can single-handedly tell you the whole Field of Dreams business mantra is crap. You know what I was left saying, “Where is everybody?”

where is everybody

Jim Ash, the founder of Ash Brokerage, is someone I greatly admire and respect. Full Disclosure: Yes, I work for Ash Brokerage. Jim has said to me and many others, “You’ll walk by more business than you’ll ever write” and when I got to the end of my rope that year, I sat reflecting on why I had so few financial service evangelists about social media in those early times. I kept thinking about what Jim said and his words finally hit me…I’m walking by more business than I realize.

Kapow!

I made a decision to only work with certain clients from that point forward: clients I liked, clients who liked me back, and clients who referred others to me. When I sat down and classified all those clients who fit into these categories, sure enough, there was a pattern. Certain traits, niches, etc. came out very clearly. Now, how do I find them online?

LinkedIn was my go-to source. I quickly categorized and tagged these advisor clients and then I got back to work on finding more folks like them!

Meet Jo!

stickman

I drew a stick figure and named him Jo. I kept him gender neutral as my list had the same amount of women and men on it. Jo was a family person, which doesn’t mean they had to have kids, but our similarities in being committed to our family were important to both of us. Jo referred me to other people…like Jo. Jo respected my time on projects and didn’t ask for crazy turnaround times. But the most important trait in this exercise: Jo was open to learning a new skill (like social media), took it seriously and made changes. This trait was the most important one of all to bring me personal joy and satisfaction. 

Facebook has been around since 2004. LinkedIn was created in 2002. Google was 1998. This is crazy, right? I don’t want to have to convince anyone in 2016 that social media is hip, funky and fresh. It’s been around forever. All I needed was for the advisor I work with to be open to learning a new skill, took it seriously and made changes in the same direction I was willing to navigate.

By defining “Jo” I now recognize my ideal client more quickly and I’m less likely to walk by them as Jim Ash reminds so many of us. You are probably “walking by” clients online today and not even aware they are your ideal clients. This exercise created a turning point for me.

I would love to hear your comments and ideas. Please reach out and share what practices have worked best for you and let’s see if we can’t emulate this in the online world together.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

 

 

 

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Clients should use their phone to sign more documents

Financial Professionals docusign

I bought my house while shopping in a Gordman’s on December 14, 2015. It’s true. I was walking down an aisle with my husband looking at a resin cardinal statue and my realtor sent me to a DocuSign link which I clicked, signed the screen of my iPhone, pressed ‘sign here’ and then put the cardinal in my shopping cart. I remember it vividly because the next aisle I stopped and said to my husband, “Why can’t life insurance purchases always be this simple?”

So I started doing my homework. Sure enough, I now see that Banner Life Insurance (Legal & General America) partnered with DocuSign and I did an imaginary fist bump to them for their innovation. I realize there are eDocument services out there, but the proliferation of accessibility was out of my scope when I see the monster amounts of applications our firm receives each day. It got me to thinking, “How many advisors even know this is offered out there?” According to DocuSign’s blog, they have this service available for more than 400 insurance companies – so why aren’t we using this more often? Good gravy!

Operating Costs

When we can reduce operating costs, everyone wins. If I can stand at the store and buy a house, why can’t a client stand in line at the supermarket and buy life insurance? It saves everyone time. Advisors, we all need to do a better job of asking for this important resource to be offered wherever we submit business.

Missed Signatures

The absolute WORST thing about taking applications is missing a signature. Anything which remotely can cause a hesitation in the buying cycle is considered unacceptable. With a service like DocuSign, we don’t miss signatures and it keeps our clients in the buying funnel. Again, don’t you want to have access to this type of resource wherever you’re processing business?

Less Headache

Let’s get to the bottom-line – this service creates a lot less headache. Clients are satisfied to know they are signing documents in a convenient, yet secure, manner and using a device of their choice. In my home purchase example, I signed documents via my iPhone as easily as my desktop email. At all times, I was in the buying funnel and I can’t remember a moment of questioning, “Do I really want this house?” Instead, it was, “I love buying my house, it’s so convenient today!” <- That’s where we need to be as an industry.

This is not a promotional piece for DocuSign – they did not ask me to write this. Nope. Instead, I’m concerned we are not paying attention to innovative methods to answer the challenges we face as an industry. Ask for these types of services – they are there to help us be better financial services practitioners. If someone doesn’t offer these types of services, ask them, “Why?” or find another partner to work with who does.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you meet prospects online?

Financial Services Is Prospecting Online Like Finding a Unicorn

In any given week, I’m asked about the prospecting potential in the social space and how do I meet the people I want to do business with online? I feel like the answer should be something magical like unicorns and gnomes, but it comes down to something quite basic: I reach out, say “hello” and provide them with something they can use and then…wait.

No pixie dust, sorry

It really is that simple. Granted, there is some follow-up after the initial contact, but the foundation of anything I’ve ever done online starts with the reach, the greeting and the value-add. I will go into some specifics of what I do and then you can modify for your day-to-day needs.

The Reach

I remember when Eminem came out with a song called, “My name is…” Regardless if you like his music or not, the song made millions on lyrical genius which started with:

Hi! My name is (what?)
My name is (who?)
My name is
Slim Shady
Hi! My name is (huh?)
My name is (what?)
My name is
Slim Shady

You see, when I reach out to a prospect, I really do say, “Hi, my name is Sheryl Brown…” and follow the rest with the greeting and value-add based on the context of why I want to know this person better. The most important part of the reach is to be authentic – meaning, only reach out to someone you really want to do business with, otherwise, leave them alone. It’s pretty sacred in the online world; so respect the initial reach.

The Greeting

Next, I follow my reach with a greeting which is specific to the person I want to meet. For example, I might say, “Hi, my name is Sheryl Brown. I recently had lunch with Sharlene Woerther and she said we should meet.” This is also quite basic, but so many people do the reach online (especially LinkedIn!) and never provide context in their greeting. Grr – these make me crazy because it’s lost potential to really connect with someone. Everyone is moving a mile a minute, take the extra 15 seconds and write the personalized greeting. I promise you will connect with more prospects than you ever thought possible.

The Value-Add

Last, I follow-up the reach and the greeting with what value-add I can provide. So the same example might then say, “Hi, my name is Sheryl Brown. I recently had lunch with Sharlene Woerther and she said we should meet. I provide social media assistance to financial professionals and believe I can help you out with your profile. Look forward to connecting!” This allows the recipient of my message to make a thoughtful decision about connecting with me and even the advisors who may not want the help initially usually connect anyway because they might someday want my help. [Ok, maybe a fairy somewhere does earn her wings when you receive the connection notice from LinkedIn!]

My point is: to earn time with a prospect online, you have only a few, simple steps to follow and get in front of them. The follow-up is a little more involved and I am happy to discuss this with you offline if you want to reach out and chat.

I guess Social media is like a magical castle where prospects reside and wait to be united with others. A lot of times, however, you won’t need to climb up the side of the building or catapult yourself across a moat filled with starving crocodiles…the entrance to the palace typically opens up with a simple knock at the front door.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

SSI: It’s the PSI of Your LinkedIn Profile

Financial Services Are you Paying Attention to Your Social Selling Index

It’s winter in the Midwest. Brr – I’m not a fan of the cold at all, what about you? My husband, however, is a tire manager for a major tire distributor and if the weather is really hot or really cold he loves his job…why? Depending on the temperature outside a tire can be underinflated or overinflated and folks bring their cars in to get services, thus causing sales. Guess what? Your LinkedIn account is exactly the same way.

You can stop by the Sales Solutions site of LinkedIn and grab your Social Selling Index easily by clicking here: https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/social-selling/the-social-selling-index. (Being transparent, mine is 73.) So what does this number mean?

The Social Selling Index (SSI) is the pounds per square inch of your LinkedIn profile tires. LinkedIn measures your influence on their platform and rewards certain behaviors. Today, we will kick around their suggestions and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your SSI at the right PSI and get the most mileage on your account.

Branding – yeah, it’s pretty important

When you go into your LinkedIn profile and fill it out, yes – it helps you be found, but that’s not branding. A shiny new paint job on a car doesn’t make a Pinto any better of a vehicle, right? If, however, you fill out the profile the way your client would consume the information, then you’re thinking like a brand! This encompasses everything from not only what you put into your profile (aiming for it to be filled out completely), but also thought leadership, value-added content, consistent posting, interacting with others, and skillset endorsements (which is a sore spot for registered reps, I know!). Basically, go big or go home.

The heat is on

I attribute my lower SSI (it was 93 at one point – yikes!) because I momentarily lost my mind two years ago and connected with people I didn’t know well or even do business with – see, I make mistakes too! Every car has a limit on how many passengers it can take on the journey, and so does your LinkedIn profile. Now, I have to work on correcting this – gah!

If you’ve ever watched a racecar, did you ever notice during down time the driver swerves the tires back and forth? You can’t create heat for the tire when going slow and LinkedIn wants you to leverage their warm environment by providing you with a succinct way to search and find the best leads.

Value – you have helpful stuff to share

Whether you join a group (and trust me – there is a group out there for everyone!) or you’re posting updates and using the Publisher feature of the platform, only do this if your intention is to add value. If I asked you to name a beautiful car, you’ll have a variety of answers. If I ask you to name a trustworthy car though, it’s probably not the same car, right? LinkedIn is the same way. People are looking for someone they can trust who will add value immediately to their situation. Respect this and LinkedIn will reward you.

Building a relationship is easier than ever

One of the things I see most often is the lack of colleagues connecting in an organization- huge mistake. Huge! Connect with each other and leverage your ability to get in front of more people.

Also, how many of you need to get to decision makers? The gatekeepers are still out there. Well, what if you can get a referral into someone? All of this can be accomplished through LinkedIn and if you use their platform, they reward you through the Social Selling Index.

In years past, the SSI appeared to be this arbitrary number which meant little to many users of the LinkedIn platform. Now you have some insight on how this works and can work on measuring your influence. If you need assistance, let me know.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

I actually just wanted to say sorry…

Financial Professionals 3 Words to Stop Using

How many of you have written the following at some point?

  • Just checking on the status of…
  • Actually, I only needed…
  • Sorry to bother you…

I know I have done this! So, why do we do this? Why strip our writing of any power? Are we really sorry for bothering someone for something we need? Is our goal to minimize what someone else thinks of our request?

Of course those are rhetorical questions, however, we are doing the very things we detest most every time we write with weak words. Knock it off!  Oh, and guess what? There’s a solution for it now too!

Just…

In 2015, one of my resolutions was to stop using the word “just” in my writing. Dear Lord, I would write sentences such as:

  • Just wanted your opinion on…instead of “I want your opinion on…”
  • Just needed to check on…instead of “Please get back to me on…”
  • Just checking to see how you are…instead of “How are you?”

There was an article written last summer about Ellen Petry Leanse, a former executive at Google and Apple, and her harsh criticisms of women using the word “just” too much. As she shared with others, the word “just” is a permission word. Are you asking for permission when you need an opinion, or are checking status on something and even when you want to know if someone is feeling ok? Of course not, then stop changing what you mean to some passive form of permission. And although this seems to be directed mostly at women, I am seeing more and more men using this writing technique today. Stop!

Actually…

Whenever I hear this word, I cringe. Are you trying to make me feel stupid?

  • Actually, the premium is $100, not $99.
  • The assistant actually left at 4:59 pm.
  • I actually need you to call the client first before I deliver the policy.

Completely removing this word will not only help your credibility but will improve your personal and professional relationships. Actually, it’s an unnecessary word and it’s kinda just mean. (See how this works? Yuck!)

Writing is an important part of what we do in financial services. I feel confident many of you do not intentionally mean to write weak and abrasive sentences, but our writing habits tell a different story.

TIME, a well-respected magazine, wrote an article several years ago which I took to heart. I never realized how much I was using this word and how it made my writing appear harsh. Just stop it!

Sorry…

Sorry, guys, talking to the ladies for a moment. “Sorry” is a word I knew long ago I didn’t want my daughters to use unless they really meant it. Women tend to abuse this word so much that when they really mean it – it’s hard to know because it’s been devalued from the million other sorries already said.

Many of us are confusing “sorry” with trying to be polite. We have been reared well and encouraged to have manners (yeah!), but this has been grossly misconstrued to now include a word of remorse.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you need the medical records from a client’s doctor’s office to complete their life insurance, do not say, “Sorry, just checking..” That’s not what you meant. Instead, say, “I need the status of the medical records for…” 

There’s a solution for that…

I was putzing around LinkedIn today and saw an article published on Slate.com about a Chrome extension you can download for Gmail to put an end (or, at least, give you a chance to reconsider) a crappy sentence. “Just Not Sorry” is a Gmail plug-in which lets you stop qualifying your messages and diminishing your voice.

Words are underlined for correction and the plug-in goes on to provide details about why you should change something. This gives you an advantage as you’ll also learn a little more about your writing so you can make the best decision based on the message going out.

In closing:  These are bad writing habits. You’re not a bad person, your writing might be making you appear that way on the other side, though. Commit to better communication in 2016 and you’ll see how others respond more positively to your awesome new skills.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

Pinterest – there’s a right way to use it and a lot of wrong ways

Pinterest for Financial Professionals

Starting the new year off with a little fun, but a big lesson. Pinterest is a social media platform which might be on your marketing list to consider, but only if you have an awesome LinkedIn profile set-up AND the platform fits your demographic group (so it’s perfect for those of you with a woman-based business focus).  Like everything in life, there is a right way to use this platform and many wrong ways. Unfortunately, I see a lot of the wrong ones.

What’s right?

Working in financial services, many of you who are registered reps will probably not be able to use this platform at all. The compliance to monitor Pinterest is not solid yet and if you post something, you all know it must be able to be monitored. For those who can use the platform, it’s a great way to share (or “pin” as they call it on this platform) interesting articles, motivational quotes and even a few pictures of fun things (…er, I might have an entire board devoted to bacon).

  1. Pin content interesting to your followers. If you sell Medicaid Supplement insurance, what does the majority of this group like talking about? This might not only include a board for the MedSupp articles you write or like, but also home improvement projects, tips on frugal shopping and even some recipes. Whatever your audience likes and knows, share content that talks directly to them.
  2. Pin content at least once a week. Your boards need to have consistent content like any other platform. Be sure to pin at least once a week to show up in newsfeeds.
  3. Share your pinned content on another platform. Once you pin an article, share it to your LinkedIn account as an update. Cross-promotion of content is encouraged!

So, what’s wrong?

Remember your boards are a reflection of you and your business. Perception is the reality; whether we like it or not.

  • Make sure your profile picture is appropriate. I recently visited an insurance consultant’s Pinterest board where they are taking a selfie, in the bathroom with bathroom types of things around (if you know what I mean). Yeah, I don’t think so. Try and use the same profile picture you did for LinkedIn instead. The synergy will be useful when you cross-promote your pins to other platforms.
  • Check your content before pinning. If you see another pin on Pinterest you feel would be great to share, be sure and open it and make sure it goes to an actual article. A lot of people are using click-baiting as a marketing tactic (basically posting about one thing and then make you click through to something else unrelated) and this will turn your followers off – big time.
  • Secret boards – learn to use them. I was visiting a financial professional’s Pinterest profile where they had boards about small business, motivational quotes and long-term care insurance. Not too shabby right? Except, they went into the “Creep Zone” when they also had boards titled exotic, her fantasy and dream girls. Pinterest has a feature called, “Secret Boards” – use them! You can pin without your followers seeing. For example, I have a secret board for my New Years Resolutions where I keep all the articles I want to review on getting my house in order, losing weight and cocktails I want to make by the pool this year. I then move pins from my secret boards to my open boards.

Pinterest can be a “pinteresting” platform to use in 2016; make sure you do it right though! If you have questions about this or any other social media need, feel free to contact me with your questions.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

5 Tips to Organizing your Social Media for 2016

So you’ve decided to add Social Media to your marketing arsenal for 2016 – woo hoo!  I’m so happy to hear this.  You might be wondering, though, “What are some best practices for organizing my social media efforts for 2016?” and I have some great tips for you!  Below you will find five fresh and fabulous ways to organize your social media for 2016:

Calendar Your Efforts

1 – Calender Your Efforts

Seems simple enough – but get a calendar and start to look at all the dates you could talk about financial planning, wealth management, and insurance advice in the coming year.  If you calendar your efforts, you will be much more organized with your thoughts and it won’t seem like social media marketing is this overwhelming task.  For example, have you considered:

Monthly Themes.  February is American Heart Month.  You could go to the American Heart Association website and find LOTS of material to talk about this topic with your audience.  What about October with Breast Cancer Awareness month? The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a wonderful website with lots of material you could share.   This is a great way to repurpose someone else’s content (be sure and give them credit) and provide valuable information and resources about a particular topic.

Events.  What about Super Bowl 50 that is coming up on February 07, 2016?  The 88th Academy Awards is coming on February 28, 2016.  You could talk with your audience about their favorite team or ask them about the movies they’ve watched – are any of them ones you should see?  Starting a real conversation with your audience is a way to engage them and learn more about them as clients.

5760579475_8ebafb35ac_m2 – Graphics

You want to use as many graphics as you can in your social media marketing.  When you use pictures, your potential engagement increases.  However, many people do not know where they can go to get free graphics to use.

I can tell you that using Google as a resource for graphics is a BAD IDEA!  Many of them are copyright protected and we don’t want you to get in any trouble!  My social media buddy, Amy Vernon, published an awesome article in Inc. magazine recently on “7 of the Best Sites for High Quality, Free Stock Photos”.

When you go to the article (click HERE), I can tell you that I personally use Flickr Creative Commons a lot.  Most of the graphics you see in my blogs are from there.  I was excited when Amy published this article (and I shared this with my LinkedIn followers) as she pointed the way to new places I didn’t know about!   Pretty much everything you need, you can find on one of these seven sites.

clock3 – Time.  When are you gonna do this stuff?  Make the time on your calendar to make sure this gets done.  Seems like a no-brainer, I know, but you have to get this stuff done.  Also, who is going to do this stuff too?  I suggest taking 20-30 minutes each week and working on the next week’s material.  If you feel REALLY eager, then work out a couple of weeks in advance.

As you do more of this, you will naturally start thinking about more themes and events and ways you can be creative – -this may take more time too.  Time is an important consideration in doing social media well.  You don’t want to be rushed, but I’m also quick to remind you don’t want to spend too much time doing this either.

Find a good balance, but start with at least 20 minutes each week.

8578688383_3dc6c27224_o4 – Project Management Tool.  You really do need a project management tool to organize everything for a variety of reasons. My favorite for this is Trello.  My top reasons are because:

It’s free.  I love free, don’t you?

It’s collaborative.  You can assign (and rescind) as many people to a board to work on as you need.

It’s accessible.  You can use this from a desktop as easy as you can from a mobile device.

As their website says, “Infinitely flexible.  Incredibly easy to use.  Great mobile apps.  It’s free.”  What more can you ask for, right?

arm wrestling5 – Social Media Management Tool.  You need to manage the social networks and schedule the messaging because you can’t do it all in real time.  The best tools for this are Buffer and Hootsuite.

I’m particularly fond of Buffer as it’s incredibly easy to use for most financial services professionals.  However, you will need to pay for this to schedule more than 10 things out.  I’m on the Awesome Plan and pay $102 per year – – it works great!  Hootsuite has a free version that will be enough for what you need, but its interface is not as user-friendly.  Pick your poison.  It’s not a matter of Buffer and Hootsuite arm wrestling for your business.  Each has their own functionality, but I would still pick Buffer each time to make it easier for you.

Using these five tips to organize your social media will give you a great start for 2016.  If you have any questions, I welcome you to contact me for some help.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown @BIONICsocialite