Armies of technology vendors seem to be converging on the wealth management industry offering cloud-based services to automate every task a financial advisor could ever think of. These tools can help advisors connect and communicate with clients and prospects anywhere in the world. But which ones are best for your needs?
The myriad choices can be overwhelming.
Riding to the rescue is Bill Winterberg, founder and president of FPPad.com. He gave a presentation at the Technology Tools for Today (T3) 2015 Conference – Advisor Edition called ‘Digital Advice Delivery: Tools Your Business Needs Today to Deliver Advice in the Digital Age’. Any advisor looking for help selecting the right tools to enhance their practice should have attended this session.
But in case you weren’t able to be there in person, we have a summary of it right here!
Bill Winterberg is a respected personality in the financial planning industry. He is widely recognized as an independent authority on the subject of technology in financial services.
Social Media Outlets
Prospective clients are going to search for you online first, most likely via one of the “big four” social media platforms, Winterberg explained. Advisors should make it easy for to be found and control what information prospects see.
Since you do not know which social media outlet a prospect will choose, Winterberg stated, advisors should engage on the “big four”:
- LinkedIn – receives approval from many Compliance departments at broker-dealers and RIAs, business-focused so you can expect any prospects contacting you here are more serious;
- Twitter – also Compliance approved, but requires a constant flow of updates due to heavy volume of traffic;
- Facebook – has become harder for companies to market without paying, but still the largest social media location in the world with 1.2 billion active users;
- Google+ – much smaller user base than others, but posting here will improve your Google search results and helps to cast a wider net.
You don’t know how prospects will find you.” Use top 4 sites @BillWinterberg #T32015
According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of US adults use Facebook, 28% use Linked in and 23% use Twitter. 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites. This means it is important to expand your online distribution to more than one outlet.
The Big Four sites are crowded, Winterberg noted, so try using one of the up and coming sites such as:
- Pinterest – image-based content that offers access to a much higher percentage of female customers
- Tumblr – image blogging that can be used as an alternative for posting short, graphics-heavy articles
- Quora – similar to Answers.com or Yahoo! Answers, but with Bill Winterberg as one of the experts
Whichever ones you choose to engage in, you have to make it a habit that you do at least a few times a week, if not every day. Allowing yourself to engage in social media in a haphazard fashion is a sure way to get no results.
you need to post information that will be relevant an interesting to the type of prospects that you want to attract. If you have a market niche of startup owners you should post information that is relevant to them. Articles on funding, hiring and marketing for startups would all pique the interest of these people.
One goal of using social media is to give prospects a sense of who you are. Help prospects make the decision to perform due diligence on you instead of moving on to the next advisor they find online.
Before getting started on social media or a website, you must ensure that your Compliance Officer has approved your efforts and is archiving everything you post, Winterberg noted.
Signing up with a social media compliance vendor is the best way to ensure your firm does not run afoul of applicable state and federal laws. FINRA, SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, FERC, NERC, and HIPAA might all be applicable to your firm.
The software from these vendors analyze all message traffic going in and out. They perform a bunch of complex tasks, all in the background, while you go about your work. You can then generate reports to see any violations that might have occurred. (See Financial Advisor Technology: 9 Apps to Improve Your Practice)
Some of their main features are:
- Email and social media archiving
- Audit management
- Complaint management
- Conflict of interest management
- Registration and Licensing tracking
- CE program management
A robust social media archiving solution can take you beyond simple data retention. It can improve the effectiveness of your marketing, enhance your ability to attract new prospects, and increase your conversion rate of new clients.
Winterberg recommended checking out the following compliance technology solution vendors:
- smarsh – winner of the 2015 Financial Technologies Forum Best Social Media and Compliance Solution
Why aren’t #socialmedia compliance firms here at #T32015 ?” @BillWinterberg
Winterberg pointed out that none of the firms he listed were attending the conference. He lambasted them for avoiding the opportunity that T3 offered them since he was telling a roomful of advisors to go and talk to them!
One other vendors that Winterberg did not mention was Hearsay Social, which recently won 2nd place from FTF 2015 for Social Media and Compliance Solutions.
Whomever is tasked with managing all of your firm’s social media content should definitely be using a tool with an integrated media dashboards, such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Buffer. These dashboards offer benefits such as:
- A single, comprehensive dashboard that allows viewing of compliance and marketing efforts on the same screen;
- Integrated content monitoring across all online sources, not just social media—such as Google Alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter searches, etc. Your team can analyze the output and collaborate on the results since it all can be exported to Excel for easy sharing;
- Content suggestions based on analysis of your prior posts;
- Reports on which content is having the most impact on your audience.
Hootsuite offers a service called Social Compliance for financial services professionals, which is a partnership with Global Relay, a cloud-based message archiving, search, and surveillance tool for the financial services industry.
Disclaimer: I use Hootsuite as my primary social media dashboard, although I do not use the Social Compliance functionality, since I’m a consultant and not regulated by any government agency.
Creating a website should be the first step for any advisory firm when making the move online. If you already have a website, as most firms probably do, now is a good time to take a step back and evaluate whether its current design and content is meeting your needs. (See Ten Ideas for Advisory Business Success from Mark Tibergien)
Your website should have a well-organized and attractive home page. When prospects visit, they must be able to get an understanding of what you and your value added within the first minute. If it takes longer than that, you will probably lose them, Winterberg warned.
Video is has become a popular tool for explaining products and services to prospective clients. Advisors can use a short video to explain what they do and how their clients benefit.
Winterberg provided an example using the home page of Orion Advisor Services, which has a video created using cartoon characters and graphics to illustrate how their company can assist advisors.
Prospects will judge an advisor by the quality of their website as well as what they say on social media, Winterberg emphasized.
The concept of measuring the risk tolerance of clients has broken out from advisory platforms into their own standalone products. These online services can be easily integrated into your website to provide free risk questionnaires for prospects. They come with built in features for gathering email addresses and advice on how to turn leads into paying clients. Here are a few of them:
Once a prospect goes through the questionnaire, they are automatically sent an email with their risk score and related information The email also includes a reminder to give you a call if they have questions about how to lower their risk while still maintaining progress towards their financial goals. (See Quant-in-a-Box: Risk Management Made Easy for Advisors)
They are all expanding their products to offer recommendations on portfolio construction and stress testing for existing portfolios. This can cause some confusion for RIA’s who have existing portfolio management tools, but the added benefits for lead generation can be valuable. (See The Battle for the RIA Technology Integration Hub)
Email Marketing Tools
At the next stage in the client acquisition process, when a prospect becomes a lead, it is important to give them the opportunity to engage with your firm and get more information, Winterberg told us. Even if they currently do not have a pressing financial issue and are not ready to sign up, they have still express an interest in you.
How can advisors stay in contact with leads and keep them “warm” until they are ready to make a decision?
Advisors need to offer prospects a way to become leads with low risk @BillWinterberg #T32015
Email newsletters are an excellent medium for communicating your message, Winterberg pointed out. They are not just for clients! Newsletters can create a different segment for prospects to cultivate leads with content that matters to them.
How can advisors stay in contact with leads and keep them “warm” until they are ready to make a decision?
Email newsletters are an excellent medium for communicating, Winterberg pointed out. They are not just for clients! There are a number of vendors in the online marketing space that have easy to use software for managing the creation and distribution email newsletters.
All of them offer free trials or pay-as-you-go plans that fit within even the smallest firm’s marketing budget. I have used Campaign Monitor in the past and currently use MailChimp, so I speak from experience when I say that both have well-designed user interfaces that make it simple to design and send out email to large groups of people.
If you already publish a newsletter for clients, these tools allow you to create a new segment just for prospects. You can send them both the same content, reducing your workload, but track their responses separately. This will allow you to cultivate your leads and know exactly which of your content interests them most.
Advisors have lots of meetings. Meetings with clients, meetings with prospects, meetings with referral partners and meetings with staff. This makes for a very busy calendar.
Of course, your clients and prospects are busy, too! Having to exchange emails back and forth to find a mutually available time can be tedious, Winterberg observed.
Online scheduling services can facilitate the coordination required to schedule meetings. A button or link can be placed on your website or in your email that the prospect or client clicks to access the scheduler. They can see your calendar and select an open time slot. You are automatically notified when a new appointment is added to your calendar.
Some of the more popular services that I have seen are:
They all have websites as well as mobile apps so you always have access to your schedule.
Document Management and eSignature Tools
The technology behind esignature and online document vaults has reached a maturity level where every firm should feel comfortable using them. (See 7 Benefits of a Paperless Office for Advisory Firms)
Document vaults are cloud-based storage where you can securely share documents with clients. Winterberg said that these vendors have the best solutions:
Advisors should also ditch “wet signatures” and move their practices entirely to esignatures, Winterberg advised. All the major custodians and broker-dealers support esignatures. If yours does not, then you should “turn up the heat on them” he stressed.
Advisors that still require “wet signatures” on documents need to move to e-docs & vaults @BillWinterberg #T32015
Turn up the heat on your custodian if they don’t support eSignatures” @BillWinterberg #T32015
Screencasting is creating a recording of your computer screen while you go through a presentation, document or other online information. The recording can be shared over the Internet and provides valuable content that prospects or clients can review at their convenience.
Here are some of the screencasting tools that Winterberg recommends:
- Camtasia Studio
- Screencastomatic (free)
- Jing (free)
- Adobe Captivate – supports post-production editing
Once you create the screen recording, you will need another service to host the distribution and control consumption. Options such as LinkedIn, your own YouTube channel, or a Vimeo channel are all good options, Winterberg described.
It is important to assign good keywords and descriptions to your online content, since this will improve your search engine rankings. This content will become another avenue for prospects to find you online, Winterberg pointed out.
Financial Advisor Technology Tools
Bill Winterberg is the guru of gurus when it comes to technology tools for financial advisors. I would recommend that everyone check out his blog at FPPad.com. You should also sign up for his video newsletter called Bits and Bytes, which provides a weekly update of great information and product reviews.