DOL Fiduciary Rule Dies… Introduces a new opportunity for financial advisors.

So it’s official. The DOL Fiduciary rule is a thing of the past. For many of us in the financial industry, it consumed a lot of our time, energy and resources for the the better part of three years. You couldn’t turn anywhere in the financial news media without seeing it. Yet, its ultimate demise was rather anti-climactic. It died rather quietly compared to all of the noise it made early on.

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I had written a piece for Investment News a while back titled DOL Rule: What’s wrong with the Financial Advice Industry. The point of the piece was to share a few simple thoughts about what I felt was right and wrong about the rule. I still feel the same today as I did then. Hopefully the SEC will introduce a rule that is workable for the industry while addressing the heart of the matter: do what’s best for clients.

The Heart of the Matter

Do what is best for clients. Seems simple, right?

It’s far more complex than that. It’s the reason that the DOL rule (R.I.P.) and the newly proposed SEC rule required more than 1,000 pages each as they struggled to define “best for clients.” It appears as though that definition is fuzzy. The problem is that rule makers want something black and white,  which (in my opinion) is the reason that the “lowest/cheapest fee” argument was the easiest thing for them to attach themselves to when attempting to define “best interests.” Anybody who understands the complexity of the financial industry knows how problematic this can be.

What do Groceries Have to do with this?

I frequently shop at a local grocery store around the corner from my house. We don’t do all of our grocery shopping there, but for quick trips to get many of the basics, this is where my family turns. We do this for a couple of reasons. We happen to like some of the produce there, and the convenience of it being really close to the house (with easy parking) makes it simple.

The big regional/national grocers are an extra 10 minutes away. We do some of our big shopping trips there, but it tends to be something that is planned out in advance (considering we have two little girls that need to be factored into the equation).

Once in a great while, I’m tasked with running out late to get milk or one of the household “necessities.” The gas station on the corner tends to be my “go-to” solution. It’s a quick and easy stop with the added benefit of actually being open at 11 PM.

In each of the above examples, it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to purchase milk during those grocery trips. Our girls are turning into milk-junkies. The cost for a gallon of milk at each of those places varies dramatically. One could argue that the gallon that costs the most (from the gas station), may be the least fresh. But that doesn’t stop me from making that purchase when I need to.

As a consumer, I’m making those purchases based upon something other than price. I’m placing a value on convenience, flexibility, service, and the added benefit of buying local vs. a national chain. Sometimes I think about and look at the price I’ll be paying, but I’ve got enough experience and knowledge to understand that I’ll be paying more in exchange for things that are more important to me at that moment than dollars and cents.

The Opportunity

After the tax reform bill passed, my team created a seminar focused on some of the most recent changes affecting the financial lives of those 50 years and older. I wrote about the opportunity that it presented in a blog post titled 6 Ways to leverage tax reform in your marketing strategy. The focus of the seminar was on three recent law changes:

  1. The Social Security claiming strategy changes
  2. The DOL Fiduciary rule
  3. Tax reform bill

When the DOL rule officially became a thing of the past, I was immediately asked “well are we going to pull that from the presentation?” The question was a valid one that I had received from a number of advisors. I think the expectation was to simply remove that section and just go back to doing things the way we always had.

BUT…

The death of the DOL Fiduciary rule gives advisors an incredible opportunity. We’re provided with the opportunity to educate consumers about how the financial industry works. And while it’s a bizarre analogy, we can share with them the difference between the gas stations, the local grocers and markets, and the national chains. ALL of them have their place within the industry.

We simply need to do a better job of helping consumers arrive at their buying decisions logically, regardless of whether they are buying an investment or a gallon of milk.

Explain what a fiduciary is. Explain why your clients see value in doing business with you. Be transparent. Help them to understand a little bit about the industry and where you fit in. In a world that is going increasingly digital, I’m firmly convinced that there will always be a strong need and desire for financial professionals that want to build relationships with their clients, while helping to hold them accountable for the things that need to be done to help them reach their goals.

We’ll get a fiduciary rule someday. For now, we’ll have to rely on the financial professionals that can objectively explain how the different aspects of the financial industry impact to the very consumers it is there to serve.

 

 

 

 

Video marketing: The 21st century version of judging a book by its cover

The following blog post was an article I recently had published in InvestmentNews.

InvestmentNews

Videos can provide key details about a financial adviser in an easy–to–consume format that many potential clients prefer

We are hardwired to judge a book by its cover, despite what our parents may have taught us. When it comes to attracting new clients, this is a wonderful truth that very few advisers leverage. In fact, most advisers are marketing their “book” (themselves) without a cover.

The 21st century version of a book cover is an introductory video that enables financial advisers to speak directly to potential clients and communicate what I call the TRICK: trust, relatability, inspirational, credibility and knowledge. The best first impression is all about the TRICK.

First impressions

When you meet a potential client for the first time, how do you introduce yourself?

You probably tell them about your background, your business and, most importantly, what you can do for them. Surely you wouldn’t read them your biography or detail the full history of your company. These same principles apply online.

Trust. Potential clients need to feel comfortable with a financial services company before trusting that company with their money. Gaining the public’s trust remains a key challenge for financial advisers. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer continues to rank financial services as the least trusted business sector.

Unfortunately, many advisers are still relying on an “About Me” page to communicate their trustworthiness. This is the online equivalent of handing someone your resume — it’s impersonal and does little to gain the reader’s confidence.

Relatability. Videos provide key details in an easy?to?consume format that many potential clients prefer. But you must be relatable to them. The content marketing experts at Sumo analyzed 650,000 hits on their website and found that only 20% of visitors read articles in their entirety. Your company’s site must compete with an increasing number of distractions, so holding a viewer’s attention is imperative.

Inspirational. Don’t search for inspirational quotes and think this will accomplish anything. You need to inspire viewers to want something you provide. This isn’t always easy in our business.

Credibility. Your video and/or website should position you as a credible authority on the topic of financial planning without your coming across as pompous. This may include leveraging third?party sources for validation (such as articles or books you’ve written, or B?roll video of you on television).

Knowledgeable. There is a fine line between explaining modern portfolio theory and communicating a difficult financial concept through an easy?to?understand analogy. Make sure you know where that line is when you create a video.

There’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect introductory video. Before you grab a camera and start recording, here are a few tips:

1. Keep it short. Your potential clients are busy. Wistia’s research has shown viewers’ engagement with a video drops off sharply after the two?minute mark. Aim for a video between 90 seconds and 2 minutes long.

2. Tell your story. Why are you in this business? What story can you tell that might demonstrate knowledge, trust, and credibility while inspiring someone at the same time? Telling them “what” you do is wasting valuable seconds. Focus on “why” and “how” you do what you do.

3. Speak directly to your audience in their language. Keep the tone warm. Be conversational. Focus on being relatable over being scripted and polished.

4. Focus on quality. Some companies may be tempted to create their own video in hopes of saving money. However, shooting your own video can be very time-consuming. Creating a polished video typically requires multiple takes and meticulous editing. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

According to Brightcove, viewers who watch a low?quality video are 62% more likely to have a negative perception of the brand that published the video. A professional video team can help you capture the right message and let you get back to work while they handle the editing and publishing.

5. Offer a next step — a call to action. Set a marketing goal and incorporate it into the end of your video to persuade your viewer to take the next step. Perhaps you want the viewer to schedule an appointment, sign up for your newsletter or connect with your company on social media. Make it easy for potential customers to take action by clearly providing the details and embedding links.

6. Paint a picture. Use this opportunity to paint a picture for your viewer. Whether you are painting a picture of goals and dreams (inspiration) or the picture of what to expect when somebody meets with you, be intentional about your word choice.

7. Get ancillary marketing benefit. Adding video to your site offers important advantages for search engine optimization. By tagging the video with the appropriate products, services, hashtags and, most importantly, location, you can help your video reach the appropriate audience. Also include any products or services that are discussed in the description to ensure the video shows up in search results for that topic for users near your geographical location.

Adding an engaging introduction video to your website is a great way to humanize your marketing. People do business with people. More specifically, they do business with people that are trustworthy, relatable, inspirational, credible, and knowledgeable. Getting that message across is the real TRICK.

6 ways to leverage tax reform in your marketing strategy

InvestmentNews

The following blog post was an article I had published in InvestmentNews:

Changes like tax reform give you an opportunity to educate and provide value to the public.

After months of deliberation, our government passed the largest tax overhaul in over 30 years: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Whether you agree with the changes or not, the public will need advice on how to manage their finances under the new law. When approached properly, the new legislation should provide financial advisers with the leverage they need to expand and exceed their 2018 marketing goals.

Here are six ways you can use the new tax plan to build existing client relationships and acquire new clients:

1. Hold an educational seminar. Whenever a new law is passed or regulations change, the public will always ask, “What does this mean to me?” This type of uncertainty creates a great opportunity for advisers to offer free seminars addressing common concerns to both existing and prospective clients. Seminars can also be held on a variety of more specific topics to targeted audiences. Since each demographic is affected differently, specific seminars can offer more relevant information to each group, so those in attendance receive personalized direction for their current and future needs.

2. Give presentations to the most-affected groups. Make your practice more accessible to new clients by offering free presentations in your community. This will give you the opportunity to share your specialized knowledge with a group that will benefit from it, while allowing you to build your brand and connect with potential clients in a niche area. The groups that are impacted the most by the new bill include charities, churches, universities, families, business owners and real estate investors. Develop some collateral that positions you as a dynamic speaker on specific topic or specialty within your practice, while keeping in mind that all of this material must speak directly to the interests of your target groups. Some options include a website, video or a simple brochure.

3. Provide existing clients with information. It’s great to bring in new clients, but it’s also important that you keep your existing clients up-to-date on legislative changes that may alter their financial situation. Some changes might affect your entire client roster, while others might just impact a small segment.

One suggestion is to group similar clients together when distributing information, so you can tailor it to their specific needs. Identify the best channels to communicate with each group and create a strategy for reaching them. This may vary from creating a fact sheet or new email marketing campaign to an informational video or social media campaign. Information that is accessible and easy to share will likely bring in more referrals as your existing clients spread the word about your services.

4. Reach out to CPAs and tax preparers. Many advisers struggle to develop meaningful relationships with CPAs. One way to start is by asking your existing clients who will be preparing their taxes this year. With your client’s permission, reach out and mention that you have a mutual client before asking them to a business lunch where you can exchange opinions on how the new bill will impact your clients.

Remember, when it comes to taxes, you are crossing over into their turf. To earn their willingness to provide referrals, you have to demonstrate knowledge, credibility and trustworthiness first. Share a few ideas and strategies that you are looking to integrate with your clients and get his or her feedback on what you’re doing to help people.

5. Reach out to real estate agents. A relationship with a real estate professional can lead the way to receiving referrals, as agents generally work with a wide variety of clients, many of whom are new to the area. First, however, you must establish your worth.

Real estate agents will likely be significantly impacted by tax reform, but they may not understand its full effect. To prove your value, consider creating a personalized seminar or write a short guide on the new tax reform bill’s impact on the real estate industry. With this personalized touch and expert guidance, agents will be more likely to recommend you to their clients. As with CPAs, maintain your relationship by sharing case studies with them in order to continually demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to your clients.

6. Offer a free consultation. With even a limited budget, you can offer free consultations to existing customers and warm prospects. These risk-free meetings are a straightforward way to provide your insights to those willing to listen. The value of your time will likely pay off in the long run when clients decide to sign on with you thanks to the personalized touch.

The best thing that could ever happen to financial services marketing can be summarized in one word: change. Change can provide you with the opportunity to educate and provide value to the public, especially when you’re working in the financial services industry. Potential clients are bound to have questions, and as an adviser, it is your job to market your services as the answer. This new bill gives you the chance to maintain relationships with existing clients and reach new audiences you might not have thought of before.