6 Rules for Getting the Most Out of Your SEO Keywords

Getting the most out of your SEO keywords

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an important element for both increasing the number and quality of visitors to your website. It should be an ongoing part of your regular marketing efforts.

While SEO is getting more complicated and challenging in many respects, the basic foundation — the starting point — is still rooted in the proper application of SEO keywords.

I’m often asked to address this in conferences, and I’ll be speaking at XYPN16 — but covering much more advanced topics in a session as part of the Marketing and Sales track.

Join Brent and other experts and industry leaders at XYPN16. Click here to buy your pass today!

So I thought it might be helpful to cover it here instead and lay a little groundwork for financial advisors looking to take action and improve their site SEO.

What Are Your SEO Keywords?

Without getting into the specifics of keyword research here, they include the name of your firm, the general services you offer, and the locations you want to target.

Start with these words and phrases when focusing on boosting SEO.

Six Rules for Better SEO Keywords Usage

1. Choose a Keyword for Your Homepage: The homepage is often ignored or underutilized when it comes to SEO. It is almost always the highest authority page on your website and therefore should be home to one of your most important keywords.

Too often, advisors have this set up as a generic landing page, or designed to be image heavy and lacking in copy.

I generally recommend the homepage be optimized for a primary keyword like, financial planner, financial advisor, or wealth management, plus your target location, and business name.

Here’s an example of SEO keywords you may use if you were based in Nevada: Financial Planner, Las Vegas, ABC Financial Services

2. Create Individual Services Pages: Each service that you want to be found for through search should have its own page. This can be accommodated by creating a “Financial Services” menu/navigation heading and having it “drop down” to each of the pages.

Kahler Financial Group

 

3. Title Tags: Title Tags are your best opportunity to tell the search engines what your page is about. To see your page’s title tag, open your page in the Chrome Browser (Firefox will work also), and hover over the page tab.

Text box will appear – that is your page’s current title tag.

AWM

 

If your website has a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or HubSpot, you should be able to easily make changes to the backend. That will allow you to identify and change the Title Tag for each page.

When it comes to writing title tags, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Keep it to 60 or fewer characters (including spaces)
  • Business name only needs to appear on the homepage
  • Most important terms should appear on the left side of the Title Tag
  • Include your niche where appropriate (i.e. Las Vegas, . . . for Women, etc)
  • If you have room, add descriptive terms to make your keyword longer (i.e. Fee Only Financial Advisor).

 

4. Header: The Header is simply the headline (and sub-headlines) for the page. Your keyword should appear in the first (biggest) header, and in lesser headers if/where it makes sense.

AWM(2)

5. Content: Your keywords should appear within the body of your webpage content. The earlier it appears within the content, and the more often appears in the content (up to 2-5 times) the better for search engines and SEO.

6. Images: While people love images, search engines do not. To a search engine, which likes to read text, a picture appears as white space. Fortunately, there is a way for you to use text to tell the search engine what the picture is.

This is called alt text.

Again, if you have a CMS, it’s pretty easy to change. In WordPress, you’re given the opportunity to assign alt text every time you add an image. Otherwise, your programmer can do this for you.

AWM keywords

 

Understanding these basic rules is important for both webpage construction and blogging. But it is important to always remember that you should write for your reader first, and the search engines second.

If adding your keywords to your content makes is sound forced or awkward, don’t add it. You need to ultimately provide a good user experience for your visitor. That means that sharing high quality, informative content needs to be your first priority.

 

brent

About the Author: Brent is the founder/owner of Advisor Web Marketing. He’s a search engine optimization (SEO) expert who works with financial advisors across the country to help them develop a stronger online presence, increase their web traffic, and to capture more leads. In addition to his blog at AWM, he is a VIP Contributor to Search Engine Journal, and is syndicated through SteamFeed, Social Media Today and B2C.

6 Tips for More Productive Sales Conversations

Sales Conversations

 

You became a financial planner to help other people with their financial well-being. Did you realize how much sales was involved in order to be able to help those people? Or, how much being able to convert prospects to clients would be critical to your firm’s success and profitability?

There’s already so much to do in growing your firm, isn’t there? You have many competing priorities vying for your attention every day (and sometimes long into the night).

The “sales” part of it, from attracting leads to getting appointments, working up recommendations, and then converting them from prospect to client often gets pushed to the “I’ll get to that later” group of To Dos.

That’s the challenge: to keep a full funnel of possible clients moving through so you can put your expertise to good use…and help more people with their finances.

That’s why your ability to have productive conversations that earn sales is so important to your bottom line and your firm’s future.

Leads Cost Your Financial Planning Firm Money

When you take into account the time, energy, and hard costs, attracting leads is costly. It’s estimated a lead can cost between $20 and $200. How does your cost compare?

The cost of leads is no small change when you multiply the cost by the number of leads you need to grow your firm.

How, then, do you increase the probability of moving the hard-earned, expensive lead, through to a closed sale and a new client? And, how do you make sure the lead is qualified early so your time is spent on those most likely to work with you?

Answer: knowing how to have productive sales conversations that are effective and efficient!

Learn more about marketing and sales at XYPN16. Get your pass here!

Create Conversations That Earn Sales

Knowing how to be most effective in your sales conversations is key to building and growing your firm. When financial planners are not ready for those conversations with clear objectives, relevant questions, and a focus on them when describing their services, the opportunity to do great planning work quickly slips away.

Conversations between prospect and planner should expedite decisions, build long-term relationships, and increase the value you provide by giving them the advice, help, or security they need.

How do you ensure that every conversation with a lead is productive for you and them as well as move a sale forward?

6 Key Ways to Convert Prospects to Clients with Productive Sales Conversations

1. Ditch the one-size-fits-all scripted pitch. Prepare for the conversation mentally and on paper with a focus on What’s In It For Them. If you can’t find a reason they should want to converse with you, they won’t either.

Use information from social media, your network, or inquiry forms to identify typical life stages or financial needs they may be experiencing. Prepare your introduction or request to meet including a short, relevant example of how you have helped people who were in the same situation so that they can begin to put context to what you can do for them.

2. Make it a conversation, not a transaction or “call.” There is no such thing as small talk. Engage the person by making your first words relevant to THEM!

Focus on talking “with” and not “at” prospects. Ask them questions early to demonstrate that your focus is on learning about them and not a hard sell.

Throughout the conversation, aim for more than a 50% listening rate. Let them be the star of the show and you’ll learn many ways you can help them and what will be important to them when making a decision.

3. Make good use of their time. Use what you’ve learned in research and don’t ask questions you can simply confirm from what you already know such as, “from reviewing the information you shared earlier, it appears that…”

Strive to understand what is going on with them today. You can ask about their goals, dreams, or concerns about tomorrow. Chat about the risks they are concerned with staying as is or in working with a planner; and the rewards that would be most motivating for them to do something about their situation.

4. Right size information, data, details, and the personal connection. Adjust what, how much, and the way you provide information for the situation, personal style of the buyer, and what they already know.

Respect their experience and knowledge and build from it. Selling often means educating and the “education” should not be a lecture or in a language they don’t understand.

5. Connect information specifically to what it means for them. Make any information you share powerful and relevant to them by connecting it to the value for them.

Instead of, “We offer six month financial checkups with our services,” say, “We offer six month financial checkups with our services so that you can evaluate if the plan is on target and meeting the financial objectives of building your children’s education and annual vacation funds.”

6. End the conversation by securing a decision or commitment. Every conversation does not end in a “go decision”, but every conversation can end with a commitment and expectation for the next step. Clearly state next steps and the action desired.

These tips might seem simple on paper, but your competitors aren’t doing this. It’s one way to differentiate your approach as you focus on the specific prospect in each conversation.

Technology and tools to gain leads have advanced. And the ability for prospects to search for what they need is easier.

What hasn’t changed is that most buyers still appreciate, especially when it comes to the important financial relationship, a professional who effectively and efficiently focuses on them and makes the decision making process simple.

If you’re serious about earning and working with new clients, easier and quicker wins follow productive conversations that earn sales.

 

Nancy Bleeke

About the Author: Nancy Bleeke, President of Sales Pro Insider, Inc, and author of Conversations That Sell, is known as someone who gets things done. She believes every company needs to make their conversations count — with customers, prospects, and team members. When the right people have the right conversations, companies thrive. Her focus since 1998 is equipping companies to grow sales, customer loyalties, and employee engagement with training, consulting, assessments, and tools that stick.

Nancy will be presenting two sessions in the Sales and Marketing track at #XYPN16 in San Diego September 2016. Stop by her booth to say hello or ask her your burning sales questions.

How to Convert Prospects into Leads: A 5 Step Process for Financial Advisors

Convert Prospects

Over the past four months, I’ve converted 76% of my prospects into clients.

It’s been mentioned on XYPN Radio that if you’re converting more than one out of three prospects that you’re probably not charging enough. But I wouldn’t call myself “cheap.” I charge based on a percentage of income, and my hourly rate for those 76% averages $210 per hour.

I don’t say this to brag. I say this because the thinking goes that if your conversion rate is high, then you must be underpriced. That may be true in some cases, but doesn’t have to be.

The real reason I’m sharing this is if talented, honest advisors were able to convert more prospects into clients, we would be able to help more people live the lives they truly want and make the world a better place because of it.

Imagine – how many more lives could you impact if you doubled the number of prospects you turned into clients?

How Do You Communicate Your Value?

Think of a recent prospect who came to you, whom you truly believed you could help, but weren’t able to turn into a client. Even though you knew you could help that person, they weren’t able to see the value you could provide.

Think of the change you could have made in their life, helping them make tangible progress towards their dreams and goals. What could they have achieved with your help? How would you have moved them towards financial freedom and ultimately a fulfilled life?

I ask these questions because that’s why we do what we do: to help people discover what is important to them and use their money to turn those things into reality.

Yes, converting more prospects will allow you to make more money. But that’s a byproduct of a process, not the goal.

If you can increase the amount of lives you impact, the money will come.

So, the question is: how do you turn more prospects into clients, make more money, increase your impact and create a better world?

Follow these five steps and all your dreams will come true!!

Just kidding. But seriously – these are five things that have allowed me to better serve my prospects/clients and build a business that I’m really enjoying:

  1. Have a targeted message & marketing
  2. Be committed to the process, not attached to the result.
  3. Help prospects with the issues they have NOW.
  4. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable
  5. Sell the outcome, not the process

Here’s how you can use these steps to better your own financial planning firm.

Know Your Niche

This is where it all starts. Knowing who you want to work with and communicating that clearly will pull your ideal clients to you. This top-of-the-funnel work is the first step you need to take to substantially increase your conversions.

If you’ve ever listened to XYPN Radio, Alan and Michael have beat this drum more times than I can count, but it’s because IT’S CRITICAL!

The more targeted your marketing is and the better you’ve defined your niche, the more “ideal prospects” you’ll have approaching your doorstep.

This is important because it takes time (and therefore money) to screen prospects and have complimentary calls with people who aren’t a good fit to begin with. Honor your time and the time of potential prospects by being crystal clear in your communication about who you serve, why you are the best person to serve them and how.

Download our free business plan template to get clear on your services and your market.

What does this idea look like in practice?

The name of my company is Be Awesome Not Broke. Right off the bat, that “clever” name turns some people away. My company name, my story, my use of 8-bit graphics – none of it speaks to someone looking for help with retirement, so they don’t call me as prospects.

They do often chuckle when they hear the name Be Awesome Not Broke, however, and refer their kids to my blog.

The more you occupy a specific space in people’s minds by being unique in your marketing and unequivocally yourself in your messaging, the better prospects you’ll get and the higher your conversions will be.

You’ll also have more time. Win-win-winner, chicken dinner.

Be Committed to the Process, Not Attached to the Result

Let’s be honest: knowing your niche and creating targeted marketing takes a while. In the meantime, you’re probably fielding calls from people who still aren’t the right fit.

When you’re starting out (in the first year or two), it can be tempting to say yes to those prospects who aren’t the best fit. When money is tight, or simply flying out the door, it can be tempting to say yes “just this once.”

Trust me – I’ve been in business for less than a year so I know this struggle is all too real.

Yet it is crucial that you don’t take on people who are a bad fit. Not only will you be unhappy and spend too much time bending over backwards for a client doesn’t fit your model, you’ll also be doing the client a disservice since you aren’t the best person to help them.

Be committed to your process of screening prospects. Make sure that you only say yes to those you want to work with and whom you can best serve. Don’t get attached to the result of whether they ultimately say yes to working with you or not.

If you realize during a prospect meeting that you can’t help that person with what they need, refer them to someone who can.

If you want to help that person but know there’s an advisor out there who would better serve their needs, have them talk to that advisor as well.

If the prospect ultimately chooses to go somewhere else, that doesn’t go down as a loss. It goes down as a karmic win, and reinforces your habit of respecting your process and always having the prospect’s best interest in mind.

In addition, this will lead to you only working with those you truly want to work with. That will increase your confidence in what you do, which translates into you doing better work, which attracts more ideal clients to you, etc.

And who knows? That prospect who wasn’t a good fit may even refer a friend to you down the road because you honored who your true ideal client is, and ultimately put their interest ahead of yours.

Listen for What They Need Right Now

When meeting with a prospect, listen for the problem they want to have fixed right now.

What’s the reason they picked up the phone and called you? What got them to such a place that they are willing to talk to a stranger about their issues with money?

Their problem may just be a small part of what you do. You may be able to offer them so much more. They may think their problem is overwhelming and their biggest block, while you know it’s just the first step of many they’ll need to take.

Yet in that moment, none of that matters. It’s not relevant that you’re a tax/estate/college planning expert if they’re calling you about cash flow problems.

They may ultimately need to focus on those things, and you’d do a damned good job of helping them, but right now listen and address their most pressing pain point.

I work with people specifically around cash flow management, budgeting and paying down debt. These are people who often spend more money than they make and have an acute, immediate need.

What the prospects are worried about is whether I can help them take away the pain they’re feeling – that’s it. Our job is to listen, understand what that pain is, and then speak directly to it.

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Read this section carefully! Then re-read it again for good measure.

When you are talking to a prospect about a pain in their life they want help fixing, it’s an emotional conversation. This is something that person has probably struggled with for a while, and has all these feelings of guilt, anxiety, stress and embarrassment floating around the topic.

It can get uncomfortable when a prospect really feels those emotions and is on the verge of crying. Yet this is when they are truly beginning to feel the impact of their habits, behaviors and what has gotten them there.

Instead of rushing through (because it can be uncomfortable) and moving onto something more familiar like your “process,” you instead need to stay with them and lean into those raw emotions.

Why? Because it’s important that persons sits with their pain. For them to want to change, you need to help them understand what their pattern of behavior has cost them in the past, is currently costing them, and will continue to cost them if they don’t take action.

This is not about manipulating people’s emotions. It’s about helping them see what it has cost them and will continue to cost them if they don’t take action.

But, as with most things, it can be used both for good and for ill. This is why you must always have the prospect’s best interests in mind, and why it’s so important to be committed to helping them (the process), but not attached to them becoming a client (the result).

By sitting in this uncomfortable space with the prospect, they’ll realize that their behavior can no longer continue. They’ll see that if they want to live the life they truly want, they’ll have to commit to change, and this can only be done if they understand the real cost of their actions.

Once they understand why they need to change (because of past/present/future costs), they will be committed to doing whatever it takes to make that transformation.

And committed clients are ultimately what you want to have your business consist of.

Show Them Their Possibility, Not Your Process

If you can show a prospect the cost of their habits and have them truly understand that cost, it doesn’t matter (in terms of getting a prospect to say yes) what your processes are and how you help them.

They just want to know that they’ve been heard and that you understand what they’ve been going through.

A question I love to ask is “Imagine we are having this conversation a year from now, and you were no longer worried about X or Y. Describe to me where you would be in life and how it would feel.”

This is important because you can’t just have them feel the pain and then leave them there – you have to have them see what’s possible by painting them a picture.

But resist the urge to jump into exactly how you will help them fix their pain, the fancy tools you will use, and how your X number of meetings on Y topics will help them get there. You first must help them paint that picture and get excited about what is possible.

Once they can see the possibility, then it is time to move on to your process: “Now that you know what this pattern has been costing you and are committed to creating this awesome possibility you just told me about, would it be okay if I shared with you how I think I can help you do that?”

But only after you’ve respected your process, sat with them in the pain, gotten them to share and commit to a vision is it time to talk about you.

By incorporating the above steps into what you do, I promise you will see a jump in not just the number of people who work with you, but the number of right people who work with you.

So, try it! Let me know how it goes for you: what comes easy, where you struggle and what feedback you get. I hope that by doing these things you will be able to serve more people, earn more money and ultimately make the world a better place.

 

Garrett PhilbinAbout the Author: Garrett Philbin is a Money Coach and the founder of Be Awesome Not Broke, where he teaches people how to use money in a way that lets them lead purposeful, meaningful and Awesome lives. He is the Public Relations director for the Financial Planning Association of New York, and oversees marketing for the Financial Fitness Workshop committee.

Giving back is an integral part of Be Awesome Not Broke’s mission, so Garrett donates 10% of his income each month towards causes that resonate. If you have any charities that you love and want others to support, send him an email telling him why they’re awesome and he’d love to add the charity to his list!


 

 

 

How the XYPN National Conference Inspired Action

XYPN Conference

Last year, I attended the first XY Planning Network conference, #XYPN15. I had recently passed my one-year mark with a fee-only financial planning firm and received my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™  designation.

Last year’s conference helped inspire me to launch a meaningful project, and I’m excited to attend this year’s conference to receive further inspiration and learn even more from both the presenters and the attendees.

Here’s how I was able to get the most out of the conference and what these steps specifically led me to do after it had ended.

Explore Your Curiosity

I went into the conference hoping to absorb as much information as I could. Working for a fee-only firm is my fourth job (in my third field) since graduating from college. I finally felt I had found the right industry but recognized I had several questions and a lot to learn. (I’m still navigating my own niche within the world of personal finance.) I knew I could learn by listening, and I was curious about a lot of things.

To explore my curiosity, I did some research ahead of time to decide which sessions I especially wanted to attend. For me, this included Carl Richard’s keynote, as well as panel discussions on the monthly retainer model and niche marketing.

There were other sessions I thought would be interesting and relevant, but if I found myself engaged in a meaningful conversation, it was well worth the time to explore my curiosity through the conversation and skip the current session. (Fortunately, there was plenty of time built into the schedule to do to both!)

I went to the conference unsure of where I would thrive most within the profession. While I did not think starting my own firm at the time was the right decision for me, I wanted to confirm those thoughts.

I talked with as many people as I could, asking them questions about what they do, why they decided to attend the conference, and what their career path has looked like so far. I learned from the experiences and perspectives of many – whether they had just started a firm, were thinking of doing so, or specifically decided not to.

I talked to attendees who worked for Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) in both client-facing and non-client-facing roles, as well as those who worked within the industry but not inside in a firm – working instead in financial education or technology.

I often need to remind myself I don’t need to know the end goal of my career today. (I can be impatient!) This is, at least in part, because I am sure my “end goal” will change over time.

It seems when we get to the “end,” we’re then ready for the next challenge. While I don’t see a clear path telling me to do A, which will lead to B, and ultimately get me to my final destination, C, I remind myself to explore what I am curious about right now and see where it takes me.

Make a Friend

Through the many conversations I had, I was able to find a few people I easily connected with. It helps when so many peers are in the same place…no offense to the old white guys in suits!

These friendships were valuable during the conference because we could share our reactions to different speakers and bounce our own ideas off each other. These relationships continued after the conference and have been great resources for questions, encouragement, and friendship.

I think it’s important to learn from a lot of people but also have a few trusted friends in the industry you can count on. #XYPN16 is a great place to make these connections.

Get Specific

By the end of the conference, I think it’s important we each walk away with something to do. There will be a lot of great ideas shared, but if you don’t walk away with a specific action item, it’s just stagnant information.

You may come to the conference with a specific question or two you need answered. If that’s the case, attend the sessions applicable to those questions and talk to as many people as you can about them.

Then, make the best decision you can based on the information you have and act on it. Don’t let a desire for the perfect solution keep you from doing anything.

Alternatively, you may, like I did last year, come to the conference without a specific question but a desire to learn from many, helping to narrow down your focus within the industry. Someone else may attend searching for more ways to get involved.

Whatever it is you’re seeking, my advice is to make sure you make a decision and take action as a result of the conference. It may be you decide to implement a new technology, launch your own firm, join the Financial Planning Association (FPA), or form a mastermind group.

You could email the three people from the conference you think you could learn the most from. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them or learning from their presentation, and then follow them wherever they are active on social media so you can continue to learn from them.

Additionally, the clarity you get may be to not do something. Sometimes, the action we need to take is to say no! I find having the clarity on what I do and don’t want to do to be very important.

Get specific, and take action!

My #XYPN15 National Conference Experience

In my case, I walked away knowing I should not start my own firm right now (reaffirming the decision I had already made), but I did start a blog called Let Luc Finance.

Personal finance has been a hobby of mine for several years, and I would get questions from friends on occasion. Since making personal finance my profession, the number of questions I received from friends has increased significantly.

Most of these friends do not have the income level or assets yet to need a financial planner but do want to get on the right track, while others desire to do it themselves but need some guidance.

Through some conversations with friends made (see #2 – Make a Friend) and Carl Richards’ presentation on communication and his suggestion to use MailChimp to reach an audience (see #1 – Explore Your Curiosity), I decided I would launch a blog and distribute my posts weekly via email (see #3 – Get Specific).

I spent the flight home writing a note on my phone of all the topics I could write blog posts about. I knew the topics my friends would repeatedly ask questions about, and I knew some of the topics I felt they should know about but didn’t.

I spent the next two weeks learning how to build a basic website, added some friends and family members to my email list who I thought would welcome the weekly emails, and have been posting to my blog every Monday since. I am now able to respond to the questions I receive in a more streamlined way and to people I would not have connected with without the blog and weekly emails.

It feels great to give back and help my friends and family! It’s also a rewarding creative outlet.

I have realized how much I enjoy writing about financial topics in ways my peers can understand and relate to. I learned a little bit about building a website and growing an email list, and practiced my skills in communication, writing, consistency, and self-discipline. I have gained more clarity around my strengths and how I can use them within the field of financial planning.

I look forward to attending #XYPN16 to see what new inspiration and insights come this year, through all of us – as we share and collaborate together. I find this industry to be an extremely giving and welcoming one, even if you aren’t yet sure where your place is within the industry.

I encourage you to come to #XYPN16 and Explore Your Curiosity, Make a Friend (come say hi and let me know how I can help you!), and Get Specific.

 

Lucy Robeson - Head ShotAbout the AuthorLucy Robeson, CFP®, graduated from Virginia Tech with degrees in Math and Statistics. She worked as a retirement actuary for four years before moving to Fiji for a year, where she worked for a non-profit managing teams of volunteers focusing on microfinance, education, and public health projects. She then returned to the US, obtained her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM designation, and has been working for a fee-only financial planning firm for the last two years. Lucy writes a personal finance blog, Let Luc Finance, and loves to travel, read, and go on outdoor adventures.

You can connect with Lucy on Twitter at @lucyrobeson and on LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to her weekly Let Luc Finance emails here.

 

 

 

Establishing Social Proof without Testimonials

Social Proof Without Testimonials

Say what you want about your business. Tell me you care. Tell me you have loads of experience. Tell me you will solve my financial problems, get me on a budget and ease my worries about retirement.

Tell me about your business until you’re blue in the face, but I’m only really going to believe you when I hear someone else say it.

What other people think about you and your business — that’s social proof and it’s the key to marketing your business and establishing trust with potential clients.

Three Steps to Social Proof for Financial Planners

Lucky for you, as a financial planner you have to establish social proof without client testimonials or direct endorsements of your services.

The good news is, establishing social proof isn’t impossible for financial planners — it just takes a little more leg work. At least your direct competitors face the same challenge and because few will go the extra mile, you’ll have the advantage if you follow these three steps.

1. Be a Helpful Know-It-All

Establishing yourself as an expert in the financial field builds your credibility and reinforces your trustworthiness beyond what you can legally tell a prospective client.

Instead of building trust based on past results with other clients (an obvious no-no), promote yourself as an expert in your field.

Every time you speak or write about financial planning you borrow the credibility of the organization, such as a website or media outlet, that gives you a platform. You not only get access to the audience (hello, free time in the spotlight), potential clients will start to trust you as they will assume their favorite source of information only partners with top talent.

Look for trustworthy and established outlets to broadcast your expertise:

  • Land interviews on podcasts
  • Write for blogs and websites
  • Teach a class or workshop
  • Partner with other experts, influencers and business owners

Need help getting exposure? Download our free guide on working with the media.

 

2. Be a Good Person

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just post a few reviews or reveal that you have a 97% satisfaction rating with your clients?

Since you can’t, (holy cow, please never do – your compliance officer will have a heart attack or a worse, a field day) you’ll need to prove yourself by generally being a good person. Consistently show up, follow through and establish trust in other areas of your life and career.
When you demonstrate you are committed and hardworking in non-professional areas of your life, potential clients assume you carry those traits to your profession.

  • Keep your LinkedIn profile updated
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Regularly attended and support local business events
  • Actively participate in professional networks or online groups
  • Earn industry designations, recognitions and/or awards

3. Be a Light

People looking for a fee-only planner are likely jaded by the financial planning world or just don’t know where to start. No one wants to step into the murky unknown. As you open the door to a working relationship with you, let light come pouring through.

Prospects need information to feel at ease and comfortable that they are making a good decision to trust you with their financial planning needs. Transparency in the form of information about yourself, your services, fees and process will be that light.

So give your clients all the information they need to make an informed decision. Keep them from scratch their heads and wondering what you are up to or what you are hiding. The more you tell, the more they’ll trust.

  • Let your personality come through on your website
  • Blog about your process and the type of client experience you create
  • Package your services and provide detail of all it includes
  • Openly share your fees
  • Disclose any outside manager’s costs

Your Social Proof Is in the Pudding

Ultimately, with time and focus you can establish social proof without testimonials.

In fact, this kind of social proof, while a little harder to establish, is actually better. Instead of relying on other people’s words, you sit in the driver’s seat and get to show the best side of you, your expertise and your character.

 

 

Natalie GAbout the Author: Natalie Gowen is a web designer and content coach for left-brain professionals. At Moxie Tonic she pairs creativity with strategy and builds sites that provide social proof, connect with prospects and grow practices.

 

 

 

11 Myths to Stop Believing about Fee-Only Financial Planners

Fee-only Financial Planners

The XY Planning Network has a few requirements for membership, and one of the leading qualifications is that you must be a fee-only financial planner. And as easy as it seems to determine if someone is fee-only, it’s actually a fairly complicated process.

At the Network, we adopted the CFP Board’s definition of “fee-only.” While we don’t necessarily agree with every facet of it — as co-founder Michael Kitces wrote about in the past — we didn’t want to create a second definition of fee-only and further muddy the waters on what the term really means.

Where Does Fee-Only Come From?

Ever wonder where the term came from in the first place? The CFP Board simply stated their version of what constituted fee-only, and the industry moved forward with what the Board stated.. There wasn’t a precise definition.

But NAPFA — the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the home of fee-only advisors — already had their own definition of what it meant to be a fee-only financial planner. When the CFP Board rolled out new rules a few years ago with a definition that was different from NAPFA’s, it created this two definition of fee-only issue.

When we launched the XY Planning Network, we chose to use the CFP Board’s definition for clarity with consumers as well as advisors. And today, whenever we talk to advisors interested in joining XYPN, we get a lot of questions around being fee-only.

Busting the Myths Around the Fee-Only Designation

There are a lot of myths surrounding the definition of fee-only financial planners, what constitutes fee-only, and what would violate the definition of fee-only. Unfortunately, we see many people in the industry trying to use that confusion to their advantage and to find a workaround to the qualifications of what makes an advisor fee-only.

The following is a list of 11 questions or statements we often hear when we talk to people about what makes a fee-only financial planner. We’re busting the myths and shedding light on what you can and cannot do in order to uphold this designation within the industry.

1. I Can Be a Part of My B/D’s RIA, But Still Be Fee-Only

Many people claim this is according to the CFP Board — but this is a myth. In order to be fee-only, you and all related parties including the firm that you work for must be fee-only. That means is that no commissions can ever be earned.

If you’re attached to a broker/dealer, that company is able to earn commissions. You cannot call yourself fee-only because of that relationship. This is the case whether your RIA is fee-only or not.

2. I Can Be Part of a Hybrid Firm So Long as I Personally Am Fee-Only

According to the definition, you violate the definition of fee-only if you or any related party can earn commissions. What this means is that the definition of fee-only is actually at the firm level and not at an individual advisor level.

There are many financial advisors who work inside of RIAs that also employ others selling insurance. Everything the advisor does is on a fee-only basis, but this does not qualify for the definition of fee-only.

Again, according to the definition, everyone at the firm must be fee-only. Even if you worked at a firm with 100 advisors and there’s one selling insurance, no one at that firm can call themselves fee-only.

Learn how XY Planning Network can support you in starting your own firm. Click here to save your seat on our next webinar.

3. I Can Be Fee-Only and Still Sell Insurance

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s worth saying: this is a myth! This is something that we hear pretty often: “I’ll continue working in my client’s best interest and simply sell them insurance. So I should be able to call myself fee-only.”

The terms fiduciary and fee-only are not the same. You can absolutely do what is in your client’s best interest and be a fiduciary to that client while still selling them insurance. But that doesn’t mean you can call yourself fee-only.

By definition being fee-only means you can’t be earning commissions — and you can’t be in a position where you could earn commissions.

4. I Can’t Advise on Insurance If I’m Fee-Only

Not true! You can absolutely advise clients on what types of products they should purchase, how much they should purchase, what companies they should purchase their insurance products from, and remain fee-only.

Fee-only means that you do not earn a commission on the sale of a financial product, but you can give advice on what your client should pursue. There’s an obvious, inherent conflict of interest when you both give advice and sell a product. The commissions earned from the sale of a product may taint your advice whether you intentionally do it or not.

Fee-only financial planners separate giving advice from selling a product. You may only receive payment for giving advice, and that eliminates a large conflict that advisors who aren’t fee-only will always face.

5. I Can’t Join XYPN Due to Existing Trails

We do allow for members to join the XY Planning Network that still have trails. You simply need to get rid of those trailing commissions within the first 12 months of being a member.

Until you’re officially fee-only, you cannot be listed on our Find an Advisor profile and you can’t hold yourself out as a member of the XY Planning Network. You’re also not allowed to sell new products once you join the organization.

But there is a transition period, because we recognize that when you leave a broker/dealer, break away from another firm, or run an existing firm that is not fee-only today, you can’t just cut everything off overnight.

6. I Can’t Keep My Insurance License and Remain Fee-Only

This is a myth. Many states actually require that you have an insurance license in order to be able to advise on insurance at all. Consult with your state regulators to determine if you’re in one of these states that requires licenses in order to provide advice related to insurance.

You absolutely can keep your insurance licenses and remain fee-only. What you cannot do is associate with an insurance company that gives you the opportunity to sell insurance products for commission.

7. I Can Get Affiliate Revenue from My Blog and Stay Fee-Only

With the rise of financial bloggers turning into financial planners and financial planners starting blogs, we’ve created a gray area in compensation. Many bloggers get paid through affiliate links on their website. They may write a review of Personal Capital and if a reader clicks an affiliate link and signs up for an account (or takes some predetermined action), the blogger receives a kickback from Personal Capital.

These affiliate links can earn hundreds, even thousands of dollars per reader who clicks and takes action on the other company’s website. Bloggers also develop relationships with each other to provide affiliate sales for one another’s products.

Any of these relationships, in our view, violate the definition of fee-only. You cannot financially benefit from the advice that you give. So when in doubt, ask yourself, “could this taint my advice? Could getting paid to recommend Personal Capital over LearnVest taint my advice when it comes to which one I’m recommending?”

The answer is always “yes.” It’s not about does it influence your advice, but could it influence your advice. And if it could, then you need to forgo it.

Ultimately you make a referral to whichever company you think is best. If you get paid to recommend any product, service, or company, you violate the definition of fee-only.

8. I Can Be Fee-Only Even If I Have Less Than 2% Ownership in a Commission-Generating Firm

We’re seeing this question less and less, but some lingering confusion comes from NAPFA’s old definition of fee-only. To get specific, many fee-only financial planners used trust companies to do some of their investment management. In the past, trust companies required a firm actually have partial ownership in the trust company in order to utilize it.

And so they may have one share or they may literally own one-half of a percent of a trust company in order to gain access to using that company. But because the trust company was allowed to sell commission products, NAPFA’s definition of fee-only essentially said that if you own less than 2% of this company, we understand what you’re doing and we’re not going to say that that violates fee-only.

It made sense at the time. But since then NAPFA has changed their definition and the CFP Board’s definition certainly does not allow for this. This is an old-school idea that no longer applies. Today, you cannot maintain ownership — whether ia fractional share or any percentage whatsoever — in any company that can generate commissions.

9. I Can Own Both a Financial Planning Firm and an Insurance Company

Nope. This is a common workaround attempt where an advisor might say, “how about I just own a financial planning firm and I own a separate insurance company, and I’ll do all of my planning on a fee-only basis and then I’ll sell insurance to whomever.”

This violates the definition of fee-only because you would have ownership in a company that sells insurance. Now you may ask, “could I simply sign contracts that prohibit any financial planning clients from getting insurance?”

You can absolutely do that, but it doesn’t make you fee-only. Owning both is simply not permissible while trying to be fee-only.

In addition to this, another common question we here goes something the lines of, “can I own a financial planning firm and my business partner own an insurance company and we work together somehow?” The answer is no.

You can have no ownership, nor can you sign contracts that guarantee for all of your financial planning clients to go with a particular insurance company and vice versa, because now you are incentivized to refer all of that business to to a single insurance company.

10. I Can Own Both a Financial Planning Firm and an Insurance Company — as Long as I Don’t Refer Business Between the Two

Nice try, but no. If you own both, you simply cannot call yourself fee-only in any way.

11. My Clients Want a One-Stop Shop for All Their Financial Needs. I Can’t Provide That as a Fee-Only Financial Planner

We understand the desire to want to give your clients a one-stop shop at your firm for all of their needs — and this includes insurance. You do comprehensive financial planning. You do investment management. You want to provide them with the insurance they need, too.

But there’s a logical fallacy here. Why are you only focusing on wanting to sell insurance and not being able to as a fee-only advisor?

Are you also writing all of your clients’ estate documents? Are you doing all of their tax planning? Are you helping them get a mortgage? The answer is probably no.

Very, very few firms do all of that inside a single firm. Most firms refer clients out to experts. With insurance, you can do all the comprehensive financial planning and give your clients the advice that they need — and then be able to refer them to experts on insurance whenever you need to.

And this strategy actually benefits you. One, by outsourcing it to an outside company, you don’t actually have to handle all of the paperwork, the medical underwriting, getting all of the forms filled out, and everything else that comes with getting the insurance policy which is an incredibly detailed time-consuming task (and honestly, probably not a good use of your time).

Two, you can refer them to an expert. You can refer them to someone that does this everyday, all year. If you’re only writing a few term life insurance policies a year, you can’t possibly stay up on all of the changes that are happening with all of the different companies, with all the different types of policies out there.

It is likely better for the client to refer them to an expert who can get them the best policy for them. So while you’re the expert in what they need, the insurance company is actually the expert in actually getting it for them.

If you’re not sure who to refer clients to, start by checking out companies like Low-Load Insurance Services (LLIS is also a national sponsor of XYPN).

While we can’t answer every question regarding the definition of fee-only, but busting these 11 common myths should help give you a better understanding of what it means to uphold the requirements and standards. If you have further questions around what constitutes — or what violates — the definition of fee-only, please reach out to CFP Board for clarification.

 

Advisor Book Review: So You Want to Be a Financial Planner

Want to be a financial planner

For far too long, there hasn’t been much direction or advice for next generation talent interested in pursuing a financial planning career. There aren’t widely-available answers to the tough questions about how to start or get your foot in the door as an advisor who really cares about financial planning for their clients.

Resources are scarce and it’s not always easy to find a mentor to help understand how to break into the profession and succeed in the industry. But there is good news, and it comes in the form of a comprehensive read for anyone looking to get into financial planning

So You Want to Be a Financial Planner aims to fill the resource gap by covering just about every angle of the topic that anyone looking to enter this industry will want to get familiar with. This book is a full guide for anyone considering a career change, looking to transition to financial planning from another position within the financial industry, or currently pursuing higher education in financial planning.

Simply put, it gives future financial planners the start they need to succeed in the field.

Pair this book with our free business plan template. Click here to download your copy.

Must-Know Info Straight from the Source

One of the great things about So You Want to Be a Financial Planner is that it was written by someone who knows the ins and outs of the business — and whose aim in writing the book was not to market herself or her firm, but truly to provide much-needed insight for newcomers.

Nancy Langdon Jones, CFP® is heavily involved in the industry and focuses on educating professionals both through her books and through teaching courses leading to the CFP® certification exam. She’s also served on the CFP® Board Item Writing Committee and is a member of NASAA’s Investment Advisor Competency Exam Advisor Council.

The book itself provides information that’s hard to find elsewhere, and readers who are new to financial planning can trust that it’s a reliable resource to help them get started.

What’s Covered, and What You’ll Learn

The book builds on a natural progression of what it means to be a financial planner and takes readers on a step-by-step journey of what starting their own practice would look like. Beginning with establishing the educational framework, Jones explains the process of obtaining the Certified Financial Planner™ designation, and provides case studies from advisors that have attended some of the top CFP® programs across the country.

The material continues with chapters on compliance, starting a practice from scratch, and even a chapter on maintaining passions and hobbies outside of the industry while working toward growing your financial planning career. Readers will find immense value in the balance of actionable advice and psychological perspective provided throughout.

Going Beyond Theory and Hypotheticals

The opening chapter begins with arguably the most important question for someone looking to establish a career within the financial planning industry: the question of why.

Jones is transparent in her reason for choosing a career in financial planning and shares several interactions with actual clients that only reinforced her decision (and this level of transparency is a theme throughout the book). Jones shares not only her experience, but also the stories of other financial planners who detail their successes and failures along their career paths.

The insight and stories are very helpful for driving some of the points home, and reading stories of individuals who have had the real-life experience is far more helpful than simply reading hypothetical explanations of what could happen.

A Springboard for Additional Resources

The sheer amount of resources included feels impressive and is an added benefit to readers. Not only do you receive the information, but you also get a list of other places that might fill in any gaps.

For example, if you were considering the financial planning industry and had questions about what to expect on the Series 65 exam, there are actual sample questions in the book. Or maybe you’re a little further along and need an action plan for establishing the compliance and regulatory side of your planning practice. There is a step-by-step process for that as well.

Simply put, whether you are new to the industry or an established practitioner, you can rest assured that So You Want to Be a Financial Planner provides a number of resources to help level-up your practice.

Addressing the Gaps

If there’s any opportunity for improvement within the book, it would be a more in-depth look at how to market yourself as a financial planner and your financial planning firm. To be fair, Jones does open the chapter by stating that the marketing information will be relatively short because 1) she admittedly doesn’t know a lot about marketing and 2) there are entire libraries and degree programs on the subject.

While those points may be valid, the information included in the subsequent chapter feels slightly stale and outdated.

With an increasing reliance of many advisors on technology, the methods of advertising by creating and distributing flyers or placing ads in newspapers simply won’t work with more tech-savvy consumers and next generation clients.

A basic overview of some of the new marketing best practices available would be helpful, and would continue one of the book’s strong suits: providing a strong starting point and foundation from which to continue to build knowledge.

What’s Next if You Want to Be a Financial Planner?

So You Want to Be a Financial Planner places a heavy emphasis on networks in general, and networking with other colleagues in the industry. For someone looking to break into the financial planning as a career, these are invaluable resources to consider after you’re done reading.

In many of the case studies, the financial advisors profiled credit much of their success to the networking opportunities they have been afforded and the organizations that they are a part of, including:

A Must-Read for Newcomers to Financial Planning

With So You Want to Be a Financial Planner, Jones covers just about every angle of the topic that anyone looking to enter this industry will want to get familiar with. She provides answers, ideas, and solutions for people eager to start down this career track, and gives countless resources to follow up on when you’re ready to ask more advanced questions and dive deep into complicated topics like starting your own firm.

This is a must-read for anyone considering a career change, looking to transition to financial planning from another position within the financial industry, or currently pursuing higher education in financial planning. This comprehensive guide gives future financial planners the excellent start they need to succeed.

 

4 Major Networking Tips, Online and Off

4 Major Networking Tips Online & Off

Please welcome guest contributor Arlene Moss to the XYPN Advisor Blog! Arlene serves as the Network’s Director of Advisor Success in addition to running her own coaching company for financial advisors. She’s an expert at coaching planners to their greatest potential, and has spent years teaching financial professionals how to reach success in business.

Today, Arlene shares her tips on networking for advisors — both in the real world and in the virtual space. Enjoy!

“Networking” is not usually a word that evokes joy and excitement in people (especially introverted people). It’s seen as a business chore that must be done if you want to grow your business and get to the next level.

After all, it’s not always what you know, but who.

As painful as networking can feel, financial advisors can actually learn how to leverage both in-person events and online spaces as opportunities to develop genuine relationships and lasting connections.

The key is to avoid forcing anything — forcing yourself to be someone you’re not, forcing yourself into conversations, forcing attendance at events you’d rather not be at or in online communities you don’t enjoy.

Beyond that golden rule, there are only a few more things you need to know and practice in order to excel at growing your network and boosting your own visibility and success through the people you know. Consider these 4 big networking tips, for both online and off in the real world.

Seek to Build Lasting Relationships

Networking is not a professional version of speed dating. You want long term relationships that are actually productive, for all parties involved? Aim to build them!

Don’t just set a goal of meeting X amount of new people when you go to a networking event — and then neglect all the people you met the week before.

Instead of just focusing on meeting people and getting rid of all your business cards, think about setting goals like “meet people twice and have separate follow-up conversations.” And don’t make yourself wrong for showing up at a networking event and spending time with people you know. Yes, it’s easier than going up to people you don’t know. But it’s also the only way to build a genuine, lasting relationship in which you actually get to know another professional.

Plan Ahead and Reach Out Before the Event

If you are planning on attending an in-person event, don’t show up with no idea who will be there or who you want to connect with. It’s never a fun feeling to be the person standing alone at the door, scanning the crowd in an attempt to find a familiar face.

Think ahead of time about who you expect to see so you know who you might be able to connect with right away. Or do one better: reach out to potential event attendees and find out who plans to be there. Then make a plan to meet up briefly at the event.

This allows you to start the evening with reconnection — and won’t throw you off your game if you don’t know anyone from the get-go. Think of it as your warm up lap, then reach out to new people.

Join Online Professional, Social, and Networking Groups

Use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook — whatever network your people are on, you should be on there and getting active, too.

Don’t neglect industry communities and organizations, such as NAPFA, FPA, and of course, XYPN. And don’t forget about subgroups of these membership platforms, which include great, open communities like the XYPN Radio VIP Community.

You can start by lurking and getting the vibe, then start to weigh in with your opinions and questions. Online networking is all about give and take. You can’t only show up to ask, but no one expects you to know it all and never need help.

Know what gets shared where and the culture of each group you join. For example, don’t be the person who starts selling in a group that is explicitly against members doing so. (You never want to be the person who instigates the friendly “I just want to remind everyone of the guidelines” post from the community admin.)

Go Beyond the Group

Connect with people beyond just the main forum Q&A and light conversation between multiple community members. Reach out with personal messages. (This is especially easy on LinkedIn and Facebook, which reminds you of birthdays and anniversaries.)

Take a moment every now and then to touch base with folks, just to see how life if going. Use your CRM to remind you about events and issues in your connections’ lives. Sending a friendly message asking how things are going, followed by a question about how Junior’s college search is going is a simple way to say, “I remember you, and not just because you are a referral source.”

The more personal and pointed you make your connections, the more value they can provide. (And the more value you can provide for them, too!) And don’t forget — you can be the one to facilitate connections between individuals in your network, too.

Recently I heard a woman I had just met lamenting her need for a PR rep on her FPA board. I had, not a week earlier, been talking to a friend working in PR about how he needed to get more connected with folks in the financial planning industry. Voila! They are both in NYC and a match made in heaven. I connected them — and now they both think I’m amazing!

Regardless of the type of networking you do, it all takes time and it all requires that you genuinely care. There are too many people in the world to do business with to hang out with the phonies.

We all have the luxury of sticking with the old “know, like, and trust” trifecta. So as you network with folks focus on those with whom you genuinely connect, and set a goal for yourself of being authentic in all your interactions.

 

How to Deal With Failure In Your First Year

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Starting your own firm is tough. You second guess if you’ve made the right move to strike out on your own, wonder if the stress and hustle is worth it, and feel unsure of whether or not you’re cut out to be an entrepreneur.

It’s okay to feel like you’re flailing — because we’ve all been there. Acknowledge the discomfort and worry and fear. And then remember that the successful planners you might look up right now to likely felt the same way you do at some point in their career.

Other people may make running a financial planning firm look easy. But as Jon Acuff said, you can’t “compare your middle to someone else’s end.” Even the most successful planners and business owners dealt with some version of the struggles you face today.

That being said, we wanted to share tips on how to deal with failure in your first year of running a financial planning practice. It’s tough to stay motivated, but definitely possible to push through to build a great practice.

Here’s how.

Find a Support System

When starting your own business, it’s important to find support and network with other people who have gone through similar experiences. A professional association is a great way to start networking, find mentors and study groups, and potentially connect with prospective clients.

Joining an organization like XYPN, NAPFA, or FPA gives you access to education, both formally and within a group knowledge base. You can meet and learn from financial planners who have previously (and successfully) launched their own firms and advisors who are in the process. The support and guidance you can find here is invaluable.

You can discover what works for others, share your own approach, and find a way that works for you.
In addition, professional groups can help boost your visibility with potential prospects. Many feature search engines to direct consumers to advisors and their firms.

But you don’t necessarily need to make a big committment to get all the benefits of a membership organization. There are countless resources available for new business owners through XY Planning Network, even if you’re not an official member. These include sub-communities like the VIP group for #XYPNRadio podcast listeners.

Financial planning is a helping profession, whether it’s helping clients or helping each other out. The relationships you build now can also pay off in the long run.

By connecting with planners in other niches, you can even refer clients to each other if a prospect sends you an inquiry, but isn’t a great fit for your practice. If you have to say no to a prospect, it’s great to have a planner that would be a good fit to send them to.

Pitch Yourself

Marketing is an extremely important but often overlooked aspect of business. Have you spent time spreading the word about your firm?

Think about how you can leverage your website, blog, social media presence, and more to share about yourself and what you do. Look for ways to expand your brand and message beyond financial planning.

And don’t forget to look at not only consumer-facing outlets in order to market yourself — but industry-facing ones, too. Connecting with other advisors through social media and online communities can benefit you through new opportunities and client referrals.

Remember that you’re not limited to online-only communication. Network with advisors in your area. Perhaps they can refer prospects that aren’t a good fit for them, which benefits everyone involved: the other firm doesn’t have to flat-out turn down a prospect, you get leads, and the potential client isn’t left on their own.

If you focus on spending time networking and relationship building with other planners, and serving your clients well, the referrals will start to come.

Marketing yourself, both online and off, is an important step in getting prospects in the door.

Look for the Right Leads

To really be successful and find the best prospects for your firm, focus on finding people who are looking for a financial advisor, rather than convincing someone to hire a financial advisor. In approaching prospects this way, you’re already 90% of the way to landing clients.

Instead of having to explain what a financial planner does, and then selling them on why you are that adviser, if they’re seeking you out, the prospect should already have an idea of what a planner does and how it can help their business. This also helps drastically cut down on the marketing time you’ll spend educating prospects.

How to Deal with Failure

In order to be successful, it will take work every single day. Whether you’re transitioning over from a different career or plan to be full time right away, dedication to your business is paramount for success.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, either personally or for the business, consider side hustles to help increase your income. Side income means you’ll be able to cut down on the need to pull an income for your business, meaning you can invest back in the firm.

These gigs can be as traditional as waiting tables on nights and weekends, or as industry-related as giving talks to area groups or consulting with other businesses.

If you don’t have the time on your hands to take on a side hustle, there are ways to leverage your fee structure to better serve you. To be sure you’re bringing in enough revenue, charge an upfront fee for plan development in addition to a monthly retainer. As your practice builds, you’ll have those upfront fees as well as the monthly fees that will help backfill your business to be sure there’s enough revenue coming in for the business to be viable.

Some months might feel more lean than others, and hourly consultation work or one-time planning projects can help you through those months. Closing the gap with side hustle income will help relieve some of the financial stress in starting your business.

These are just a few ways to help weather the struggles when launching your business in the first year. Everyone deals with challenges — and sometimes, flat-out failure. But know that you’re not alone, and you’re not the only one experiencing this.

Get through it with supportive communities, focused attention on generating more leads, and creative ways to fill the income gap as you work to create a sustainable, successful financial planning firm.

 

Stop Doing This — and Boost Financial Blogging Productivity

Please welcome guest contributor Susan B. Weiner, CFA, to the blog today! Susan’s sharing her ideas and tips for boosting your blogging productivity as a financial advisor. Enjoy!

Would you like to increase your financial blogging productivity? Stop doing this one thing and you’ll produce more blog posts with less effort and more fun.

Here’s my advice:

Stop blogging about topics that don’t interest you.

Forcing yourself to blog about boring topics doesn’t serve your business or personal interests. It will hurt your blogging productivity and yield content that fails to excite readers. You’ll lose the referrals typically generated by a passionate, informed blogger who writes reasonably well.

Blogging Productivity Comes from Passion, Not “Should”

The best blog posts emerge from the meeting of the writer’s passion and the reader’s interests. They attract readers with the writer’s enthusiasm. I’m not the only person who thinks this.

See, for example, this article on what the best bloggers have in common. It says of successful bloggers, “…there is one thing you will find common in pretty much all of them – a raw passion for what they do.”

In contrast, if you don’t feel strongly about your topic, that’s likely to be reflected in your approach to the topic in the following ways:

  • You’ll put off starting your post.
  • You’ll struggle to organize your thoughts.
  • Your writing will be as blah as your feelings, unless you’re a skilled writer who can persevere and use time-tested techniques, some of which I mention near the end of this post.

I’ve struggled with this myself. I have over 100 blog posts drafts that I’ve started and abandoned, due to lack of enthusiasm.

Many failed blog posts originate with the writer’s feeling that they “should” write about the topic. For example, perhaps you feel that you should warn investors that actively managed funds aren’t as good as passively managed funds—or vice versa. But you just can’t get excited about tackling the topic.

Skip topics that don’t excite you in favor of topics that get you fired up. In the active vs. passive investing example, look for a small corner of the debate that interests you. Maybe you feel enthusiastic about your process for identifying exchange-traded funds that meet certain criteria that benefit investors. Tackle that topic instead.

Not sure what excites you? Here are ways to discover where your passion lies:

  • Draw a mind map of potential topics. Look for where the energy lies in your map.
  • Freewrite. Write for 10 minutes without stopping to correct or revise what you’ve written. You might start by asking, “what do I feel strongly about?” Once you’ve finished writing, review your output for the topics that inspire you.
  • Ask other people. Your colleagues, friends, and family members may have noticed the topics that you discuss with extra enthusiasm.

If You Must Write About a Topic That Leaves You Cold

If you’re writing on your personal or small-company blog, you have control over your topics. But what if you work for a larger company where topics are assigned to you?

In that case, try to tap someone else’s passion. Perhaps you can speak to a coworker about why they care about your assigned topic. Then, you can write about the topic as a reporter, reflecting your source’s enthusiasm.

If nobody at your firm cares about your topic, then put yourself in the shoes of your readers. Consider how your topic can solve a problem they face. Tap your passion for helping others.

How do you boost your financial blogging productivity? I’m always interested in ways to boost financial blogging productivity. Please share your best tips.

 

Susan WeinerAbout the Author: Susan Weiner, CFA, of InvestmentWriting.com teaches “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Week Writing Class for Financial Advisors” (next session starts Feb. 22). She is the author of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.