Monday, March 14, 2011

Best of the Blogs

Looking for a site to model your own after, or to recommend to your clients? The frugal-living site WiseBread has declared The Consumerist to be the best personal finance blog out there. As the title indicates, it's mostly about consumer items - a current topic is "What's the Worst Infomercial Product Ever?"

But there's nothing wrong with that. As long as you maintain your authority, you should feel free to roam far in the area of financial planning on your own blog. it's those far afield items that often end up sticking in people's minds the most.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

As You Probably Know...

One tricky thing about blogging for your clients is that each one brings a different set of knowledge. Someone might want to know how the S&P 500's current P/E ratio compares to historical norms at this stage of an economic recovery; others will want to know what "P/E" stands for.

How do you provide basic information for the latter group, without turning off the former group? Whenever you present something simple, it helps to acknowledge that a lot of people will already know it. "As you probably know, bond yields and prices move in opposite directions." Or, "Remember, the key thing to watch is not the earnings themselves but whether they beat expectations." And so forth.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Importance of Cross-Branding

I hope no one interpreted that last post to mean that I was down on using Twitter as a way to reach your clients. Twitter is fantastic! My general feeling is that all of these media allow you to reach out to your clients at the exact moment that they are looking for more information. It’s better to put all this stuff on the Internet and have it lying there when the clients are ready, as opposed to a cold call or a mailer.

The key is: Use them all, then cross-brand everything. When you post something on your blog, tweet that you have a new article for everyone to read, and put the link on Facebook and LinkedIn too. On your blog’s home page, there should be a clear notice that you’re on Twitter too, and you might even want to explain to people how they can follow you there. And so forth.

Remember, not everyone is on every social medium. In fact, most people are only checking one or two of them regularly. Make sure you don’t miss out on notifying anyone of all the great material you’re providing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blogging vs. Twitter

Most advisors who’ve begun to make use of social media find it easier and more immediate to use Facebook or Twitter to reach out to their clients, as opposed to putting items on their own site, such as in a blog. And make no mistake: Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and all the rest are excellent ways to get your name and expertise in front of people.

But it’s important to realize the limitations of these media. It’s not just that there’s a practical limit to how much you can communicate in a status update or a tweet. Let’s take a look at my own personal Twitter feed: I’m following 48 people, which I don’t think is outlandishly high. If I click on the MORE button at the bottom of the page, I get taken back to tweets from four hours ago.

Now, imagine someone had tweeted something yesterday, a link to an article that might really help me clarify my thinking on an estate planning issue. Maybe I thought, well, I don’t have time to read that now, but I sure should check that out. This morning, how easy is it going to be for me to find that? I can keep clicking MORE till I’m blue in the face, or I can search for the hashtag #estate, but either way there’s no guarantee I’ll find it. Maybe the readers are savvy enough to find their way to their advisor's Twitter home page, but maybe they’re not.

If I can go to that advisor’s blog, though, it’s liable to still be right on the front page. Or there’ll be a search box at the top, and I can type in “estate” and find the post immediately. And even if you run into the dreaded link rot – where the links you’ve posted are no longer operable, because the story or site you linked to no longer exists in cyberspace – your explanation of the issue will still exist. In short, what you can get from blogging that is hard to come by on Twitter is permanence.

The Never-Ending Search for Blog-Post Ideas

The biggest concern I hear from financial advisors about blogging is that they don’t think they can keep up with a daily or even weekly pace, and basically want to shoehorn a new post in once a month or so. My blogging clients receive new material on their sites every weekday, so obviously, that’s what I think the best pace is. At the same time, I understand that it’s not easy for a nonprofessional writer to come up with fresh ideas all the time.

But I think it’s mostly a case of not recognizing a good idea for a blog post. We all read the Wall Street Journal every day, or check out Bloomberg News online, or otherwise come across new material that our clients might want to know. Right now on Bloomberg News, there’s a story about how McDonald’s sales are up 3.9 percent in Asia, which is a faster pace than the 2.7 percent growth in the U.S.

That’s interesting! Everybody can identify with McDonald’s, everyone is interested in Asia’s economic growth…. This is what is sometimes called a “teachable moment,” an instance where we can use a readily understandable example to illustrate why economic growth overseas can be a great thing for an All-American company like McDonald’s. It's not a big deal, but it's easy for people to understand, and your clients will appreciate that you're staying on top of the news.

The key is to get into the habit of reading the news with an eye toward turning stories into blog posts. It would take about ten minutes to read that story, write up something on what McDonald’s success in Asia means, throw in a link to Bloomberg, and put the whole thing up on your Website – as long as you’re in the proper mind-set to do so.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Am I Blogging Often Enough?

Is it really necessary to blog every day? Well, think about how you cycle through your Internet bookmarks when you sit down to the computer each day. You’ll click on your favorite news site, Facebook, your Twitter feed, maybe ESPN for sports, a humor or political blog, and see what’s fresh on each site.

If there’s nothing new to read on one of the sites, that’s no big deal. If tomorrow, there’s still nothing fresh, you might feel a little disappointed. If there’s nothing by Friday, you might decide – even subconsciously – to stop dropping by there every day.

At the same time, even one little item – maybe a link to an interesting story that person found elsewhere on the Net – is likely to keep you coming back for more. At least you know that person’s site is still alive, and still being updated; you don’t have to worry about whether it’s been abandoned.

Ask yourself: How long will I keep clicking on a non-updated site before I stop visiting there altogether? However long that is, you want to make sure your own blog gets refreshed more often that that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

New in the Journal of Financial Planning

In case you haven't seen it, I invite you to take a look at my interview with Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan, in the new March issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. Dan has some really provocative ideas about how financial advisors can run their businesses in ways that improve client service while also enhancing the quality of life for the advisor.

A big part of Dan's program is encouraging advisors to outsource tasks, allowing them to take more time out of the office. It's a little scary, but ultimately worth the effort. I really think you'll enjoy the entire interview.