POLL: Which mind mapping solution works best for you?

Mind mapping is a powerful tool for brainstorming, analysis, and presentations. I know a handful of advisors and investment professionals who feel passionately about the value of mind mapping. I do, too.

You can create mind maps with paper and pencil or on the computer. I prefer the old-fashioned way, so I asked some of my social media friends what they use and why.


“I chose Mindjet because it has the most extensive array of templated maps as compared to other systems. For example Mindjet has ready made templeted maps for business plans, story outlines, SWOT analysis, etc. I have found Mindjet to be very useful in this regard and as I have used them for our company strategy sessions and general brainstorming,” says Alex Murguia of McLean Asset Management.


Jude Boudreaux of Upperline Financial likes Mindmeister.

I’ve used it, too, because the basic version is free and pretty easy to pick up.


Russ Thornton of Wealthcare Capital Management is one of my favorite resources for new technology. Here’s what Russ says:


Dave Grant of  Vantage Financial Partners says, “I use xmind as a project management tool. We have monthly meetings and each meeting is its own “spoke” from the main subject, then each discussion in that meeting is its own “sub-spoke.” You can see see a year’s worth of project in a quick glance – great tool.”

Paper and pencil

Like Nathan Gehring of MyFirstFinancialPlanner.com, I like paper and pencil.

I imagine that when children learn mapping in school, as I discussed in “What your kids can teach you about writing,” they use paper and pencil.

If you’re not familiar with mind mapping…

There’s a decent introduction to mind mapping on Wikipedia.

Please answer my poll on mind mapping solutions, which you’ll find in the right-hand column of this blog. If you don’t see your software listed there, you can add it. I also included paper and pencil as an option.

Here are links to the software options listed above:

If none of these options work for you, you’ll find more listed in my 2008 post on “More options for mind mapping.” To learn more about using mind mapping in your blogging, check out my class on “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read.”

Financial Planning Association of Mass. annual conference in tweets and posts

Here’s some of what you missed at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts (#FPAMA), as reflected in my tweets and blog posts. I grouped my tweets by speaker. My comments on the tweets are preceded by an arrow (<–).


Blog posts from #FPAMA

Bill Bachrach of Bachrach & Associates

  • Advisors, do you find your clients love being videotaped by you? Bill Bachrach says they do. #FPAMA <– Personally, this would make me feel self-conscious. However, I would like the idea that my advisor hangs on my every word.
  • “Financial planners’ income need not decline with the market or the economy.”  — Bill Bachrach #FPAMA
  • “People who are competent know the right questions and when to ask them.” — Bill Bachrach, #FPAMA
  • “You build trust by listening to their story, not telling yours.” — Bill Bachrach #FPAMA  <– This last point is one that more financial advisors should consider when writing their websites, newsletters, and other communications.

Bruce Brumberg of MyStockOptions.com

The restricted stock session at #FPAMA was way more interesting than I expected. Things sure have changed since I listened to stock option talks as the employee of a wealth manager.

  • “Performance shares come in many flavors” — Bruce Brumberg #FPAMA
  • To identify prospects with stock compensation, see proxy statement, Form 10K, and Section 16 Forms. — Bruce Brumberg #FPAMA <– This might work well for advisors targeting public companies that are big in their local area.
  • “Rise of restricted stock, RSUs, SARs, & performance shares makes financial planning more complex.” — Bruce Brumberg, MyStockOptions.com #FPAMA

Mark Tibergien of Pershing Advisor Solutions

  • “Advisors, do you feel your business has become more complex?” — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA <–I felt the entire room nodding in agreement
  • “My job is to disturb you.” — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA
  • Top performers spend more on client experience. Top 25% = $4,306/client, rest = $3,735. — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA
  • “Advisors, what does ‘wealth manager’ mean and does it differentiate you?”  — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA #in
  • “Bull markets camouflage a lot of sins.” — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA
  • “Companies hire people, managers lose them.” — Mark Tibergien at #FPAMA

Craig Zablocki, speaker

  • “The ability to be silly is a blessing.” — Craig Zablocki at #FPAMA conference
  • “When we give more, we have more fun.” — Craig Zablocki at #FPAMA conference
  • “We have a tendency to argue for what we know.” — Craig Zablocki at #FPAMA conference
  • “Get used to ‘no.’ ‘No’ is just information. Yes lives inside ‘no.’” — Craig Zablocki at #FPAMA conference
  • “Fear limits us.” — Craig Zablocki at #FPAMA conference


Confession: I did not live-tweet

You may notice the conference took place way back in May.  I’m not much of a live-tweeter, unlike the folks who live-tweeted the Financial Planning Association of Northern California’s recent conference. Even though I tweet like crazy, I prefer to write at greater length about interesting presentations. Also, I feel I absorb information better when I focus on taking notes.

Mark Tibergien’s one thing for financial advisors’ business improvement

“What’s the one thing that most people in this room can do to improve their business?”

Photo by dawning.ca

This is the question I asked Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions, at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts on May 20.

Tibergien hit four points in his reply describing how financial planners can build a practice that differentiates them.

1.  Identify your core capabilities–both as a planner and a business person.

2.  Identify your optimal client. Target them in terms of characteristics other than wealth.

3.  Identify competitors who attract your optimal clients. Figure out what makes them special. Think about how you compare.

4.  Identify your personal definition of success.

This four-step process will help you figure out if your current business strategy is still relevant, said Tibergien. If your strategy is outdated, this assessment provides clues about how to tweak your strategy. I imagine it helps you focus your marketing, which can provide an incredible boost to your efficiency.

Have YOU tried this? I’d like to hear how it has worked for you.

Love, hate, and the CFP ad campaign

The CFP ad campaign stirs up strong feelings. You either love it or hate it, judging from the brief public discussion during lunch at the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts’ (FPAMA) annual conference. The following ad was shown.

There was a call for feedback on the ad.

Respondent 1: I love it. I’m happy to pay more in dues.

Respondent 2: I don’t like it. It’s too frenetic.

Love and hate. That’s what I heard.

However, the conversation at my table was more nuanced.

• Anything that builds the brand is good. This is just the first step in a long process.
• It’s good that the CFP mark is displayed prominently.
• It may be frenetic, but it’s eye-catching.

• Planners focus too much on the process. Consumers don’t care about the process.
• The ad doesn’t speak effectively about benefits to the consumer.

Blogging idea

Bloggers with the CFP credential may be able to start a conversation simply by posting the ad to their blogs. Or try addressing the questions that the ad raises for you.

Let’s get possessive: A financial writing tip

Sometimes it pays for financial writers to get possessive.

No, I’m not suggesting that you jealously hoard your office supplies or isolate your clients from other professionals. This is a writing tip.

Instead, I’m suggesting that you use the possessive case to shorten phrases.

For example, turn “The tone of the market improved by Friday” into “The market’s tone improved by Friday.”

The next time you find a sentence including “the X of Y,” see if it sounds better rephrased as “Y’s X.”

Plain English means writing sentences that flow better. It’s not only about choosing more basic words.

WSJ video highlights plain English for financial advisors

The Wall Street Journal continues to highlight the case for plain English. An article, “A Tip for Financial Advisers: When Possible, Use English,” expands on the ideas introduced in the video.

If you like this article-video combo, you may also enjoy former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt’s opinion essay, which I discussed in “The Levitt test for financial risk disclosures.”

Guest post: “Personalized Risk Management Planning–A Great New Business Opportunity”

Risk management is one of Mike Carpenter’s passions, as I quickly realized when I met him. His guest post discusses how risk management planning offers opportunities for financial advisors and others who wish to grow their businesses.

Personalized Risk Management Planning

– A Great New Business Opportunity

By Michael T. Carpenter

Financial advisors, wealth managers, and asset management firms can attract more assets and grow their business more easily by meeting the enormous unmet need for user-friendly, nontechnical, personal risk management planning.

Everyone’s Worried About Risk

“Risk” is THE word of the day. It’s on everyone’s mind. Client-centered, personalized risk management planning is a massive unmet need.  Increasing concerns about risk pervades all aspects of our lives. As we’ve recently and so tragically seen in Japan, we can’t even count on the powerful forces of the earth and oceans not to reach out and surprise us with devastating consequences.

Today the entire world seems to be an unguided missile rocketing off into the future with more speed than control. Things that aren’t supposed to happen are happening more and more frequently.  These increasing uncertainties and uncomfortable feelings of the risks controlling us rather than us controlling them, have led to increased anxieties, fears, and even more concerns about risk.  This unsettling environment presents both an enormous challenge and a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the investment business to help investors better understand and manage risk. However, capitalizing on it requires we look at our business, at risk, and risk management in a new way, and offer a more holistic, user friendly, non technical (less quantitative) and more practical solution.

Knowledge, Understanding, and Preparation Are the Solution

The key to converting investor concerns, anxieties and fears about uncertainty and risk from business frustrations and impediments into powerful business building forces is to follow through on the observation made by thought leader Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Over 150 years ago he stated,  “Knowledge is that antidote to fear.”  The power of his insight is the simple fact that risks we’ve identified, thoroughly understand, and are fully prepared for cannot harm us, and as a result carry much less anxiety. Better identification, knowledge and understanding of risks, and how to plan for and manage them more effectively, in both our clients’ minds and their portfolios is the answer. The big challenge for most investors is that the vast majority of them don’t really understand the true nature of risk or how to manage it effectively. That critical understanding is the key first step to minimizing their anxiety, fear, and emotional decision making and successfully executing risk management planning at the portfolio level.

Meet an Enormous Unmet Need

Who can individual investors seek out to help them identify, understand, more effectively plan for and manage the many risks they face in our increasingly less certain world?  Who can help them identify, prioritize and address the risks they’re most worried about and those they should be concerned with but aren’t? Who can help them determine which risks to totally avoid, which risks to accept and manage, and the risks they can accept outright, while also helping them make necessary adjustments over time?

Right now the answer to that question is “NO ONE.” Insurance providers can be very helpful in providing casualty and life insurance solutions. However insurance addresses only a few of the many risks (both financial and non financial) investors face.

A 6-Step Implementation Process

Of course many people, including your clients, have financial plans. But how many have personal risk management plans? Doesn’t living and investing successfully in the most rapidly changing period in human history require both?  The comprehensive identification and assessment of the risk faced be each client, very early in the planning process, makes risk management planning, investment policy, asset allocation, and portfolio design easier and more effective.

The heart of this change is to insert a thorough personal risk identification and analysis session into the beginning of your client fact-finding and discovery process. The steps go in this order:

1. Discussion. This is not a brief, simple risk quiz or a cursory questionnaire. This is a detailed, two-way interview and identification by investors of the risks that concern them now and in the future.

2. Follow-up. Continue the discussion of the specific risks of greatest concern of each client, as well as the risks that you know clients will likely face and should plan for, even if those risks are not mentioned initially by the client.

3. Prioritization. Help the client to prioritize those risks based on the potential personal impact, even if the likelihood of the risk(s) occurring is low. Also, agree on risk management strategies for each risk.

4. Agreement. Gain agreement about the importance of integrating those risks and risk management strategies into the financial planning & asset allocation process

5. Document. Create a written & signed personalized risk management plan

6.Monitoring. Establishing a regular, formal risk management plan review process, to be integrated into  your normal  investment or financial plan review process.

Give Yourself a Competitive Advantage

Offering comprehensive, personalized, user friendly, non-technical risk management education and planning, alongside financial and investment planning will meet a critical need.  It will also convert the uncertainties and anxieties created by the accelerating pace of worldwide change into powerful business building forces, instead of the business impediments they are now.

That enormous and growing unmet need represents a wonderful opportunity for investment sponsors, wealth managers, and financial advisors to enhance their services and their business.  Forty years ago comprehensive financial planning was in its infancy, now it’s mainstream and advisors who don’t provide it are considered unethical.  Today comprehensive risk management planning is where financial planning was in the 1970s. The only difference is that the accelerating pace of worldwide change, and the increased uncertainty, risks, and opportunities it generates insures that strategic risk management planning will become mainstream much more quickly.

Offering strategic risk management planning before it becomes mainstream will provide you an attractive and powerful competitive advantage.

Michael T. Carpenter is author of the advisor and investor book The “Risk-Wise” Investor- How To Better Understand and Manage Risk, published globally by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  ( www.RiskWiseInvestor.com ).  He consults, conducts presentations, workshops and seminars on risk management for boards, business people, investment management firms, financial advisors, and their clients, and can be reached at MikeCarpenter@MCarpenterAssoc.com.

Guest post: “Articles You Publish in Financial Trade Publications Will Impress Prospects”

PR expert Beth Chapman has years of experience helping financial advisors. Plus, she’s a longtime friend and one of my first guest bloggers. It’s a pleasure to welcome her back to my blog in response to a comment by one of my Facebook followers.

Articles You Publish in Financial Trade Publications Will Impress Prospects:

You can post them on web sites and include them in prospecting kits

By Lisbeth Wiley Chapman

Contacting trade publications with good story ideas can be a straight path to great clips that enhance your reputation and increase good referrals.

Yes, trade publications speak to your competitors.  Understood.  Stay open to the idea that the result of contributing an article to a trade publication gives you a better opportunity to impress clients, prospects and your centers of influence than a one-paragraph quote in a national publication, as ego-boosting as that can be.

Many advisors are disappointed when rebuffed by their local newspapers.  The usual explanation for not taking original material is that they would have to do it for all your competitors.  This has some truth to it, as the local newspapers need the advertising of you and your competitors.  Also, local papers use syndicated columnists regularly.  It is far better use of your time to contact syndicated columnists, whose work appears in your local newspapers, and convince them to use you as a source on a story idea you are providing.

Contribute an Article and Bask in the Glow

There are numbers of trade publications that want your input

You will find many articles in your financial trade publications, both print and online, that have been written by a peer or colleague.  The publications themselves are always looking for the thoughts of those people in the field who are dealing with the issues of financial planning every day.

Editors are particularly interested if you are doing something differently and it is working. Some topics that have appeared recently in the trade pubs that were authored by advisors, have included the following:

·  How to manage ethics training for the entire firm.

·  The financial issues faced by senior couples who choose to marry

·  The hidden fees in group annuity/401(k) plans.

In each case, the advisor, after receiving proper reprint permission, was able to use this information by posting it on their web site, sending it via an e-mail campaign, printing it and including it in prospecting kits, and using it as a handout at a seminar.

The challenge, of course, is to find a topic that the publications have identified as important to their readers.  Your persuasive cover e-mail to the editor will specifically state why this issue is of interest to their readers and why you are an expert on this issue.

In addition to the financial advisory trades, don’t forget that all of your best clients have earned their wealth in an industry or profession.  If you have a wealthy contractor, search for publications that speak to other contractors.  If you have a large percentage of doctors, look for publications that are read by the doctors in multiple-physician practices who need help with employee benefits, 401(k) plans, and insurance.

Articles in Prospecting Packages Create Trust

Articles that you have written get attention from prospects

Think about handing a prospect a marketing package that has numerous articles that you have written.  Prospects are not likely to notice that the article has appeared in a financial trade such as Investment Advisor.  What they notice is that not only were you smart enough to write it, but you also were perceived as expert by the publication, or they would not have published it.

You are aware that most clients will now stealthily cruise through your web site before talking with you.  A web site that has your authored articles posted or linked back to the publication adds an extra amount of shine to your reputation.  You are using the third-party credibility that comes when a publication deems you to be an expert.

Your clients want to trust you.  They want to be able to turn to you for advice, but first they have to be convinced.  There is no better way than offering your prospects articles you have written.  They go a long way in convincing a prospect to trust you.

Use Your Articles as Requests for Referral

Send your clients, your prospects and those professionals who are positioned to send you referrals copies of the articles you have had published.

A cover letter can go something like the following:

Dear Client:  Recently, I was quoted in (name of publication), a publication that goes to XXX,XXX financial professionals, on the topic of (give the title of the article and explain its premise.  If it is an online publication, give them the topic title and the entire URL.  Consider sending this by e-mail so accessing the article is just one click.)

You have already made the decision that working with a financial advisor is important to you by becoming a client of this firm.  Please pass the attached copy of the article to your friends who may be struggling with the difficult decision about whom to trust with their financial affairs.    If you need additional copies, please call our the office (phone number.) We would be happy to speak with your friends and colleagues about any financial issues, whether a single pressing question, or a need for comprehensive financial planning.

Thank you for your business and enjoy the article.

Requesting referrals and at the same time offering important information that educates your clients as well as their friends who may become clients, is an important strategy for your firm.

SEO: What’s right for your financial blog?

SEO–search engine optimization–can help prospects for your investment or wealth management firm find your blog. That’s good. But taken to an extreme, SEO can sabotage your business development. This is what Claire Cain Miller’s “Web Words That Lure the Readers” in The New York Times (Feb. 11, 2011) made me ponder.

SEO that goes too far

Miller describes SEO gone wild. There are online articles that use “a wide range of behind-the-scenes tactics for getting search engine users to visit a Web site, like choosing story topics based on popular searches,” as Miller states. Additional strategies include “filling articles with keywords that people might search for, writing teaser headlines that people cannot help but click on and including copious links to other stories on the same site,” says Miller.

Taken to extremes, these tactics result in highly ranked articles with little useful content. This is not a good strategy for bloggers like you who want to develop relationships with readers. These articles repel readers. When an audience doesn’t find what it expects on a blog, it’s not likely to explore or revisit the site. This is no way to start a relationship that leads to new clients for your advisory business.

Use SEO in moderation

I’m not suggesting you ignore SEO tactics. In fact, they’re good in moderation. That’s how I use them.

Blogger Russell Dunkin has done a nice job of using celebrity names to attract readers to his firm’s blog. Here’s what differentiates him from the tricksters I discussed above: He provides meaningful content in posts such as “Jim Cramer is a clown” and “What do hot waitresses, dead cats, and Paris Hilton have in common?

I like the suggestion of a Google engineer quoted by Miller. “…don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want, because that’s what Google’s chasing after,” says Matt Cutts.

Social media may beat SEO as a tool

Promoting your content via social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook may be more effective than SEO, suggests Miller. SEO alone won’t make your blog post go viral on Twitter. “…the best way to get links on Twitter is to write a story people want to share with friends,” says Miller. Folks who share your posts may also refer you or become your clients.

How important is SEO to YOUR blogging strategy? What has worked for you?

Business plans for financial planners: Low-cost options

A business plan can help you launch your new financial advisory or investment management business so it’s destined for success. Or it can help you ratchet up the growth of a business that’s lagging.

Gwen Moran, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans, said, “The process of mapping out a business plan can save time and money while helping financial planners identify potential opportunities or pitfalls. The process of running a business can be a frenetic experience. It is only when we take ourselves out of the day-to-day and look at the direction and needs of the business that we get a clearer vision of the best next steps.”

Here are some low-cost resources for business plans.

1. “Two Page Mini Business Plan”

Brian Plain (@oakparkplanner) said, “Check out @ProsperousCoach Mini Business Plan template. I used it for my 2011 plan &… liked it.” The formal name of this plan is the Two-Page Mini Business Plan. It’s offered by Suzanne Muusers of Prosperity Coaching. Suzanne coaches financial advisors and has guest blogged for me about “The Lost Art of the Thank You Card.”

2. Financial marketer Kristen Luke’s blog

Kristen Luke’s blog, Wealth Management Marketing, doesn’t offer a formal business plan. But you’ll find a wealth of practical advice on her site, including some useful worksheets.

3. “Professional’s Planning Procedure”

A Twitter friend recommended Professional’s Planning Procedure from Kinder Brothers International (KBI). The KBI website describes this 20-page publication as “An extremely practical and positive, step-by-step guide for the Sales Professional’s annual goal setting along with an action plan for attaining those goals.”

4. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans

Writing about The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans, Moran told me, “While writing this book, my co-author and I were very careful to include key questions and points that are relevant to any business–even those not seeking external loans or investment. We believe a business plan can be a very important management tool, providing a way to monitor growth, evaluate personnel needs, track sales and marketing results, and generally ‘take the temperature’ of the business.”

Gwen is a writer whom I’ve gotten to know through some professional writers’ organizations.

Have you written your 2011 business plan?