Registered Reps: Is Your Website Compliant?

FSP FINRA Update

Rules – they can really stink, I know.

I wanted to be sure all Registered Reps knew about and understood the new FINRA rule regarding your website, though. It goes into effect June 6, 2016 so let’s jump right into it and get this knocked out!

What’s All This About?

If you’re a Registered Rep, then you likely know FINRA has the BrokerCheck utility on their website. The BrokerCheck allows consumers to learn more about a registered rep and make sure they are in good standing. It’s like the BBB for broker backgrounds. Well, it’s coming to your website now too.

Recently, FINRA Rule 2210 states an advisor must provide a link to this utility on your website so your consumers have easy access to by simply clicking while there. FINRA is giving registered reps until June 6, 2016 to comply. You’ve got a couple of months – so don’t sweat it yet! What’s very important to understand is the details of WHERE the link must be placed though:

Effective June 6, 2016, FINRA Rule 2210 (Communications with the Public) requires a firm to include a readily apparent reference and hyperlink to BrokerCheck on the initial Web page that the firm intends to be viewed by retail investors, and any other Web page that includes a professional profile of one or more registered persons, who conduct business with retail investors.See more at: http://www.finra.org/industry/rule-2210-brokercheck#sthash.2i0TTM3H.dpuf

Who Needs to Comply?

If you’re a Registered Rep and you have a consumer-facing website, you have to comply. Again, be very careful to understand the bolded comments provided above. This notice must be on any page where a professional bio exists of a registered rep, the initial page your firm uses (so typically the Home page of a website, but could be a Landing page if you use it for lead generation) and any other page which would contain your bio.

I would even caution to include this interpretation also means  your LinkedIn profile. Although the ruling doesn’t outright state this, I feel it’s a matter of time before they clarify it. Your profile is a biographical representation of who you are and your background. Providing a link to the BrokerCheck utility at FINRA seems not only safe but very transparent.

What Do I Need to Do?

You need to work with whoever manages your website and make sure they understand the implications of this ruling. Updating your website, your LinkedIn profile, and any other place where a bio of you as a registered rep exists is mandatory. Failure to comply always equals a penalty of some sort. 

Do not wait to comply; get it done today. If you need help, reach out and ask me. I can provide instructions or even help you get your LinkedIn profile updated so you avoid trouble with something so small.

Again, I know rules are a pain the butt. However, FINRA wants to keep you and the consumer safe and informed. Let me know if you need assistance.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today.

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

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Are Push Notifications Pushing You Away?

FSP Push Notifications

Ding, ding, ding went the bell…but it’s more likely your smartphone. Judy Garland was talking about your heart in the Trolley Song, but today’s phones are clanging, dinging and zinging and nobody’s actually talking. So what’s all the noise about? Push notifications.

 

I wanted to talk about the pros and cons of push notifications as it relates to financial service professionals. Should I have them turned on? Should I have them go away? And a few things in between. Let’s first start with…

What is a Push Notification?

Those are the little messages you receive from your smartphone applications. The apps are monitoring incoming data and when it arrives, the provider sends you a push notification to make you aware of something you should see.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right? I mean,  you download applications so you can work more efficiently, but what happens when a good thing is overused and abused? I also know peanut butter is a healthy fat, but if I eat a jar of it, it’s not really great for me anymore.

The Pros of Push Notifications

The obvious answer is you learn about something more immediately. The application is doing the work for you to tap you on the arm and say, “Hey, pay attention to this!” My personal examples include:

  • I want to know about a text message coming through.
  • I want to know when my best clients are emailing me.
  • I want to know if my bank account was accessed.

These push notifications help me work efficiently throughout the day. I can put my energy and brain power into things which are important and matter. I can then react on items of importance. This is a good form of disruption.

The Cons of Push Notifications

I know this is going to sound completely crazy as a social media strategist, but I took a one-month hiatus from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest push notifications. Yep, I went to my phone and turned all my push notifications off for these platforms (as well as all other ancillary applications I have such as games, note taking, etc.) All of those notifications were no longer clanging, dinging and zinging at me throughout the days. Guess what I learned?

  • I turned LinkedIn back on immediately – I needed those notifications.
  • I’ve left all the other social media notifications turned off permanently.
  • I reclaimed my day without chronic disruption of the notifications.

There was no need for 98% of my phone applications to interrupt my day and rob me of valuable focus time. I understand developers are trying to use these notifications for marketing too, but it was a real pain in the ass to keep my attention focused on a money-making activity.

There is a myriad of other ways push notifications can really suck too. I’ve seen every one of these examples below. When developers of the applications do not take into account:

  • Is the information being shared an ad, irrelevant, trivial or downright spam?
  • Is the push coming at an inappropriate time of day (or night – I hate those!)?
  • Is the messaging appropriate to the audience?

For these reasons alone, I’ve become a huge believer now in turning all your notifications off, except for the ones which make/break your business, of course.

How have push notifications helped or hindered you? Inquiring minds would like to know! Any tricks you’ve found to help tame the notification beast? Let’s hear about them!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

Say “Hello” to my little friend…

Financial Services Professionals LinkedIn Mobile App Update

I thought one of the greatest acquisitions by LinkedIn was in 2014 when they brought Connected into their suite of products. Since then, I’ve been reminding every financial services professional I encounter to download the separate Connected app to their iPhone/Android as a quick and easy way to stay in touch with their LinkedIn connections. Why would I do this when there was already a main LinkedIn mobile app? Well, to be honest, it kind of sucked…and this separate app was great for us in the relationship business.

Then they heard our cries…

Well, LinkedIn heard our battle cries and redesigned their mobile app. When you have million of users wanting something, you listen! So effective March 21, 2016, they will be retiring the standalone LinkedIn Connected app. Everything you need will be found in the newly redesigned LinkedIn app. Go ahead and delete it today because the new and improved LinkedIn mobile app is pretty freaking awesome!

Download LI appDownload LI app 2

 

 

So, Sheryl, where are my contacts now?

With the new LinkedIn mobile app, you’ll find all of your contacts under “My Network”. Here, you’ll see work anniversaries, new positions, birthdays, etc. With a tap of your finger, you’ll be able to reach out quickly and congratulate your connections on any changes going on in their professional lives. And yes, you can customize those messages, which you couldn’t do previously on the old app.

While in there, you’ll also be able to add people and search for current connections; all within one application versus several standalone products. The LinkedIn Help Center is a click away for any specific questions too. Simply go to https://help.linkedin.com and look for anything which might be eating at you!

Change is good for everyone even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first. The social media networks do listen to our needs and build/rebuild products to more closely answer the challenges we face. This application change is an example of crowd-sourcing requests at its finest.

If you have any questions about this or any other social media-related needs, feel free to reach out and ask. We are all in this together!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

Client Attraction: Is it part of your everyday activity?

Financial Professionals Client Attraction

Clients do not arrive at anyone’s door without us attracting them. They don’t. So what do you think attracts clients to work with you and is it an intentional part of your everyday activity? [The operative word being “intentional” in the question.] If you hesitated to answer, then check this out.

First, let’s define the subtle differences in Push Marketing vs. Pull Marketing:

  • Push Marketing is a strategy intended to sell you something outright. You set-up a direct-selling environment to be face-to-face in sales with a client.
  • Pull Marketing is a strategy which involves motivating a client to seek you out of the crowd. You get the client to come to you.

Both push and pull marketing strategies are an important part of a marketing plan for any business. Push marketing, however, seems to be more natural for many of us in financial services to do and today, I’m will share three ways you can be  more intentional in implementing push marketing tactics for client attraction:

Giving Away Value

Free. Zilch. Zip. You simply give value away. Sounds crazy, right? I know some of you are thinking, “Sheryl, giving away my craft doesn’t pay my bills.” Think about it this way though. You’re at the cash register paying for your groceries and your favorite baseball team has a pocket takeaway for you to have a list of all their games right in your wallet. You grab it and go.

…that was pull marketing through giving away value.

What can you give away which would attract people to your business? Could you:

  • …give a class at the local library on debt reduction?
  • …become a JA teacher for a local school and teach kids about finances?
  • …write a weekly column for your local paper about money?

Be intentional about what you plan to give away and make it something of real value to someone. Don’t go into this thinking you’re going to only give half of something away and make them work for the other half, it doesn’t work like this and you’ll be perceived as a jerk. Give away value and you will attract clients to your practice. If you give value away every day, people will have even more reason to do business with you.

Social Media Amplification

You know I have to get social media in this! Salesforce reported 70 percent of brands are increasing their social media spending in 2015. (I’m sure it’s more for 2016!) Today, it’s easier to connect with our clients via social media and make better purchasing decisions.

Any pull strategy requires a highly visible brand and social media helps amplify it. Your clients expect you to entertain and inform them. As mentioned above about giving away value, this is no longer considered “courtesy”, it’s an expectation. Clients also expect to find this value through social media.

Using the local library class as an example, you could:

  • …invite clients to attend the class and bring someone else would benefit from the material by posting this on Facebook and Twitter.
  • …with your class outline create a small graphic with some key points by using a cool tool called Pablo (found at http://www.buffer.com/pablo) and talk about the material with your followers.
  • …connect on LinkedIn to the program director at the library and ask them to share your invite with their community.

Have social media do the legwork for you. It has the ability to amplify far past what you can do by one-by-one. Social media is one-to-many. Leveraging social media is a smart marketing strategy with any push or pull marketing plans and it should be a part of your everyday activity.

Word of Mouth Referrals

This is the holy grail of pull marketing and some of the most effective ways to grow your business. Too often we wait until after the sale to ask for the referral. Instead, when the relationship is full steam ahead and clients are happy, why not ask during the process? You must have a specific process in place too. It might be filling out a form or sending them a question in a survey.

Going back to the giveaway, what if you gave your current client a 30-minute consultation to give to a friend who would benefit from similar services? My trainer, Chris Meier, recently gave me five business cards with one free workout to give to friends. It took me less than 2 hours to give those away. Doing something unexpected goes a long way with clients referring you!

How are you handling birthdays and thank you notes? I tried for one year to send out handwritten notes – I couldn’t do it. I have more than 3,000 connections and it was not feasible. However, I had time to send a thoughtful email or order a Starbucks gift card with a note and send it out. I had a much higher return on those than the handwritten note, which I still send out about 400 per year. When advisors have been referred to me, many have come with the set-up that I’m thoughtful and incredibly thankful for business, which I truly am. I’m intentional in making time for this every single day too.

So what are you willing to do TODAY to attract clients to your business? What new habit are you going to begin working on TODAY to invite new people to learn about your practice? Client attraction must be an intentional part of your day-to-day duties.

Write back and share with me. Any questions, I would love those too!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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