Instructions for a bad wife

I’m a bad wife. I confess that I don’t always give my husband 100% of my attention. Maybe not even 75%. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. But in the meantime, you may learn something about communication from my failure to accurately follow my husband’s parking instructions.

Lesson 1: Don’t over-explain

As a financial advisor, you’ve probably given instructions to people—clients, employees, vendors, and fellow professionals—who are distracted as they listen to you. If you give them too many details, they may zero in on the wrong points and make mistakes.

In my case, my husband gave me very detailed instructions about where he wanted me to park my car and why I should park there. It involved our shed, his tires, the garage, and the patio. Since I wasn’t listening closely, I imagined a mistaken scenario in which his tires were in the shed, so he needed me to park far back in the driveway.

If only my husband had said, “Please park in the driveway like you usually do when I need to park on the patio. You can’t park in the garage because…”

Lesson 2: Listen and ask questions

My husband forgave me for messing up, but you may not be as lucky if you don’t listen to the folks giving you instructions.

If you can’t concentrate on the conversation, maybe you should wait until another time to get instructions. Or ask questions to confirm that you’ve understood the instructions properly.

I plan to try one of these two methods the next time my husband asks me to do something for him.


Image courtesy of stockimages at

Please, no tiny fonts on your PowerPoint slides

You don’t want to make your audience strain their eyes, so make the text on your slides sample slidebig enough.

Savvy friends have told me to go no smaller than 28 points in my PowerPoint slide text. This squares with what Nancy Duarte says in slide:ology:

For keynotes, don’t go smaller than 28 pt. If you are consistently reducing your point size to under 24 pt and using third-level bullets, you have officially created a document and not a slide.

The Financial Planning Association has similar standards, as I learned preparing for FPA Experience.

Slide:ology presents a handy tip for your slides’ visibility: “Put your file into slide sorter view. Look at the slides at 66 percent size. If you can still read them, so can your audience” (p 152). Of course, if you have unusual eyesight, like a former employee who said she had “fighter pilot eyes,” with vision better than 20/20, you may need to adjust accordingly. 

Poll: How quickly and often should you follow up with prospects for your financial services?

Gaining new clients is important to you. That’s the whole point of your marketing. However, a blog post by Karyn Greenstreet suggests that you aren’t making the most of a great opportunity: systematic follow-up with prospects who contact you.

“Most people will make one follow-up call or email to a prospective customer. But if they don’t get a response back, they often drop the whole thing,” said Greenstreet in “Why Marketing Fails #3: No Follow-Up” on her Passion for Business blog.

Your follow-up mistake

That lack of follow-up is a mistake. Why? Because there are plenty of good reasons why genuinely interested prospects may not follow up. They may even be grateful if you persist in contacting them. I’ve experienced that gratitude more often than not.

Greenstreet follows up her leads three times: first, within one business day; second, seven days later; and third, 10 to 114 days later.

What about your follow-up with prospects?

What’s YOUR follow-up policy?

Here are your poll choices

  • First, within one business day; second, seven  days later; third, 10-14 days later
  • First, within one business day; second, whenever I get to it
  • Within one business day
  • Whenever I get to it
  • Wait for them to contact me
  • (Add your own answer)

I look forward to hearing from you.

Evoking emotions boosts the power of your writing

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

Quarterly investment letters–Tell me “What makes them great?”

Quarterly investment letters are central to many asset managers’ communications with their clients. That’s why I’m asking your help in defining what makes them great.

Please answer my six-question survey (NOTE: I’ve removed the link to this expired survey]. I’ll report on the results in a future blog post.

You inspired me. Thanks!

Investment professionals care intensely about these letters, as I learned when I asked members of  my LinkedIn Groups the following question:

The responses to this “one word” question inspired this survey. I feel fortunate to belong to this community. Thank you!

You vs me — or we: A rant on financial marketing

Investment and wealth management executives like to talk about themselves. Who doesn’t? But this hurts their firms when it’s reflected in their marketing.

Photo: World Series Boxing

What financial advisors say about you vs. me–or we

A group of financial professionals helped me test my belief that talking about “you,” the audience, is more powerful than discussing “me”–or, by extension, “we,” the company that’s marketing to you.

Here’s the question I asked participants in “The Power of You: The Secret of Great Blogs that Boost Your Readership”:

Which introduction do you prefer? Introduction #1 focused on you, the audience or Introduction #2 focused on me, Susan. Explain your choice.

Prior to asking the question, I’d introduced my webinar in two ways. In Introduction #1, I’d discussed the benefits my audience would receive from watching my webinar. In Introduction #2, I described my blogging success and other credentials related to the webinar’s topic.

You may wonder how my two introductions relate to you, if you’re a financial advisor, investment manager, or wealth manager. In my experience, many financial websites – and other marketing pieces – use Introduction #2. They are about “we, the firm,” not “you,” the prospective client.

The results? A knockout by “you”

Respondents unanimously preferred the introduction focused on “you.” Here are some of their comments about why they preferred a focus on “you” over a focus on the speaker.

  • When you spoke about yourself, I stopped listening
  • You connects with me, lets me know whether it’s useful
  • I don’t care about you, but I do care about what I can do to be successful
  • “I” sounds pompous
  • It’s not about the speaker, it’s about meeting the need of the target audience.

What this means for you

When writing marketing materials or client communications for your firm,

  1. Use “you” more than “we”
  2. Communicate in terms of benefits to your readers more than products, services, or characteristics of your firm
  3. After you write something, ask yourself, “Why will my reader care about this?” If it’s not obvious, then delete or re-write.

Which do you prefer for your company – marketing materials that use “you” or “we”? Why?

Please comment on your opinions.

Mind mapping your way to client appreciation: An FPA article

Mind mapping has rescued me many times. “A mind map can be a complexity buster, translator, connector and simplifier,” as mentioned in the online blurb for the article discussed below.

Mission: Map a Better Client Value Relationship” describes how one advisor uses mind maps to help clients understand why they should pay for work other than money management. Essentially, creating a mind map helps clients to visualize the value of other services provided by their advisors. This article by Gary Klaben of Proninus appeared in the Jan./Feb. issue of the Financial Planning Association’s Practice Management Solutions magazine. I suggest you read the article.

For more on mind mapping, check out the following blog posts or learn to use mind maps as a writing tool in “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Lesson Writing Class for Financial Advisors.”

How I managed my presentation-writing anxiety

I freak out every time I have to write a new presentation. Well, not literally, but my anxiety does run wild. However, I managed to tame my most recent jitters with an exercise from life coach Cheryl Richardson.

Photo: Joe’s-photos

In “Break the Spell,” Richardson says,

“The minute you start worrying about something, stop and congratulate yourself for being so present and aware. Then, put pen to paper and list at least five positive outcomes you’d most like to have happen. Keep repeating these present-focused, positive statements throughout the day and notice how the energy starts to shift.”

Here are my five positive outcomes:

  1. The presentation is well-organized.
  2. Each member of the audience learns something that helps them write better.
  3. I come up with new ways of explaining things to people.
  4. My email list expands.
  5. My presentation helps me land new clients.

This exercise calmed my nerves enough that I could focus on writing my presentation. I hope it helps you, too.

If YOU have a good way to control presentation-related anxiety, I’d love to learn your tips.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Guest post: “Creating Pitch Books Without Losing Your Mind: Design & Content Management Tips”

Margaret Patterson, the co-host on my recent webinar, is a financial pitch book expert. She has created sales support tools and provided production management expertise to numerous institutional asset managers and consultants, mutual fund companies,  and wealth management advisors for 25 years. She shares her expertise in the guest post below, which originally appeared on one of my earlier blogs.

Margaret is great about answering questions, so I hope you’ll pose some.

Creating Pitch Books Without Losing Your Mind:

Design & Content Management Tips

by Margaret Patterson

Typically many employees provide input for a firm’s pitch book. To pull all that information together you need a good plan.

1. Delegate pitch book content management to one employee. That person will be the key contact for every employee and consultant who influences the pitch book.

2. A small approval committee, 3 to 5 people, should determine what content works best.

3. Give considerable attention to investment process but whittle it down to no more than five steps. Don’t over-explain. Let your graphics be a starting point for conversation.

4. Emphasizing investment professionals’ expertise gets new business. Don’t leave out the support they get from marketing, client service, operations and reporting. Finding inefficiencies in markets, sticking to disciplined investment processes and impressive client service are the marks of well-structured firms regardless of their size. An impressive organization chart carries a lot of weight with prospects.

5. Request senior management approval only after you have a complete draft that can be defended with valor. You need a concise mission statement supported by brief, punchy text and elegant graphics. 20 to 25 pages are enough. After all, people are pitching to people. Be a good listener and let your spoken story address a prospect’s unique concerns.

6. It’s a good idea to customize books if you clearly understand your prospect’s investment objectives. Customized pages can be inserted into your standard book.

7. Handouts are also valuable tools in a high courtship pitching process. Use fact sheets, company profile handouts and composite performance PDFs to provide more detailed information. Handouts also help you control who gets the information and when. Conversely, prospects will resort to taking phone calls and planning golf games if your pitch book is too long and intense.

I create a PowerPoint design system guide for each client to help them maintain consistent, effective messaging.

Input and questions are welcome. Your thoughts may show up in future articles, so let me know if I can quote you.

Mind mapping for brainstorming as a group

Mind mapping is a powerful tool for brainstorming. Without it, I’d find it much more difficult to write articles about complex topics. But mind mapping isn’t only for individuals. Groups can also harness its power.

“I think mind mapping would be great for group brainstorming.” It’s funny, but members of the New York Society of Security Analysts and the Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources (PAICR) made similar comments when I spoke to them about mind mapping on April 28. For example, PAICR members thought it would be a good way to discuss investment commentary ideas with portfolio managers.

I imagine a group would appoint one person to draw a mind map on a flip chart, with input from other members of the group. However, I suggest some other options in the mind map embedded below. Click on it to see a larger image.

YOUR group mind mapping ideas?

How about you? How do YOU suggest mind mapping as a group?

May 2013 update: Since I published this post, I learned that you can use mind mapping software for online collaboration. For example, I’ve shared one of my maps created in MindMeister with a client to help him brainstorm how to organize his draft. Also, here’s a MindJet video that suggests how you can use it to manage a product launch. The mind map above was created using Mindomo.