Use LinkedIn to find prospects without being sleazy

“You are a mosquito in a nudist colony of opportunity,” said Kevin Knebl in his on-demand session on “LinkedIn for Huge Sales and Referrals Success!” at the NAPFA Spring Conference in May. He was referring to the opportunities that financial advisors—or anyone—can find using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a paid service that Knebl views as inexpensive relative to the opportunities it offers. Knebl discussed how you can boost your prospecting using Sales Navigator after you improve your LinkedIn profile using the tips I wrote about in “Reboot your LinkedIn profile for better marketing!” in the NAPFA Advisor.

Connect with prospects on LinkedIn infographic

1. Search using LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn is a “database on steroids,” said Knebl. Take advantage of that by filtering the 750 million people on LinkedIn by some of the couple dozen factors available using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. These include geography, titles, number of employees, language, industry, college, and more. Don’t forget to search on common interests, such as golf, skiing, or wine, said Knebl. Those are important because it’s much easier to start a conversation with someone when you share a common interest.

Look at the results of your search. You may pay particular attention, for example, to those who changed jobs recently, which may create a new need for advice. Or perhaps you prefer to focus on those who are more active on LinkedIn or who went to the same college as you.

You can save your search and get notified every day of any new individuals who fit those search criteria.

2. Start a conversation with someone in your target group

No one will hire you to manage their money without having a conversation with you, so Knebl said you should figure out how to start a conversation with a targeted message.

Do not start your email by asking, “Can I manage your money?” In fact, Knebl never mentioned anything financial in the sample message that he discussed in his session. Instead, he opened by mentioning commonalities, such living in the same state and enjoying the same sports, including golf. Then he offered to buy his prospect a cup of coffee to discuss golf courses if the prospect ever visits his area. This kind of opening will make a good first impression.


Try it!

Try Knebl’s approach. See if it works for you. It’s unlikely to deliver instant results, but you may develop some relationships that could eventually evolve into new business for you.

As I finished up this article, I read an InvestmentNews article, “RIA marketing is getting more personal, transparent.” Knebl’s approach fits with this trend toward more personal marketing. The article quotes Tina Powell of C-Suite Social Media saying, “People want to do business with people they know and trust, and if you don’t put yourself out there and I’m not able to see every facet of your life, how am I going to know if I want to work with you?”

With Knebl’s approach, including his approach to LinkedIn profiles that I mentioned above, your prospects will get a fuller picture of your life than with traditional marketing. And they’ll certainly get a fuller picture than with old-fashioned cold calling, which was in the news when I wrote this, as Merrill Lynch ended the use of cold calling, which it had already put limits on.




Controversial topic spurs LinkedIn discussion

One of my LinkedIn Pulse posts on a controversial topic received 34 comments in less than two days. It also received 33 likes and more than 200 views in that period. That floored me.

The comment-spurring post was “Periods: One space or two at the end of a sentence?” It’s a topic that spurs strong feelings in people, especially if their teachers or editors have emphasized that there’s only one correct answer.

What can you learn from my controversial topic experience?

You may assume that my post generated comments because it was controversial. In “13 Types of Posts that Always Get Lots of Comments,” ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse lists “Debate or controversy posts” as one of his 13 post types. “Put two or more opposing arguments to your readers and step back to see what happens,” says Rowse.

I think it’s more than that. I think part of my post’s success was due to my choice of a controversial topic that is also safe. Punctuation isn’t a sensitive topic in the same way as politics or religion. Readers can disagree on punctuation without others thinking “Oh, how horrible that person is for opposing my opinion!” I doubt that clashes over punctuation have ended any friendships or turned off potential clients.

Another strength of my post was that it posed a question, inviting comments. Moreover, it was an easy question—one space or two?—that could be answered briefly. Rowse’s article listed question posts among the types mostly likely to spur an above-average number of comments. He said, “Ask a question and those who hear it are wired to answer it. I find when I include a question in the title of my posts that comment numbers tend to be at least double normal posts.”

My post wasn’t one of my more in-depth or insightful posts, much as it hurts me to say this. Sometimes being safely controversial and asking an easy-to-answer question can override the quality of your work. On the other hand, I am relieved to report that some of my more thoughtful posts have also spurred comments. In his article, Rowse listed “meaty posts” as good candidates to spur comments.

What’s YOUR experience with comments on LinkedIn Pulse?

To get a sense of whether controversial topics—especially those that are safe and pose a question—work best at spurring discussion on LinkedIn Pulse, I invite you to share the name of your most commented-upon LinkedIn Pulse article in the comments, along with a link to your post.

If you’d like to learn more about my experience with LinkedIn Pulse, read “My experiment blogging on LinkedIn.”

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

Wonder if people read your LinkedIn status updates?

If you’re like me, you sometimes wonder, “Is anyone reading what I post to LinkedIn or other social media?” I believe they are, for reasons I discuss below. I also have some tips to boost your readership.

I’m fortunate that people sometimes “like,” comment on, or share my social media updates. (Thank you very much, if you’re one of those folks!) However, plenty of my status updates go without any explicit recognition.

However, that doesn’t mean that my updates—or yours—go unnoticed. People don’t acknowledge your updates for a variety of reasons, even if they read and enjoy your updates. For example, they may:

  • Be too busy to take any action beyond reading your update and clicking on your link
  • Not realize that clicking “like,” commenting, and sharing are a valuable part of social media culture—your connections probably include plenty of social media newbies
  • Be scared of getting in trouble with the compliance department—they may be especially wary of appearing to endorse financial advice

Ironically, it takes meeting with people face-to-face for me to understand the power of social media. At one of the last events that I attended in person, I said “hello” to a woman whom I hadn’t seen or corresponded within more than five years. I thought she might not remember me. Instead she responded to my greeting with “I love what you post on LinkedIn!” Wow, that gave me a jolt of positive energy. You may have similarly enthusiastic yet silent readers.

3 ways to discover whether people are reading

If you’d like to know for sure that somebody—anybody—is reading your updates, here are some techniques you can try.

1. Use your updates to pose questions

Ask a simple question in your social media updates to make it easy for people to engage with you. Simple doesn’t have to mean a yes/no question. It could be something like “What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about saving for your children’s college education?”

2. Ask people if they’re reading.

You can use a poll on your blog, e-newsletter, or other location to ask your clients, colleagues, and other connections if they’re enjoying what you share on social media. You can also ask how you can improve.

3. Use tracking links.

Some of the links you share via social media can provide statistics that tell you how people have clicked on them. Check out or the link shorteners in HootSuite or Buffer for more information. Also, LinkedIn has a built-in measurement tool that’s shown in the image above of “Who’s Viewed Your Updates.” You can click on the arrows in the upper right-hand corner of your box to see that statistics on other updates that you’ve posted.

3 reasons no one reads your status updates

If your statistics disappoint you, it may because you’re making one of the following common mistakes.

1. Your updates are all about you.

Your connections don’t want to read a steady flow of self-promotional updates. Focus on content that helps your target audience. You’ll earn their interest.

2. You don’t post often enough.

Most members of your potential readership don’t spend all day scouring the Internet for your updates. You must post regularly to catch them online. The ideal frequency varies by social media channel and individual preferences. For example, people expect more frequent status updates on Twitter than on LinkedIn. In an informal poll on LinkedIn, respondents suggested that posting up to four times a day—with breaks between your updates—is ideal.

3. Your status updates are poorly written.

Have you seen status updates that consist solely of a website address? That’s an extreme example of an unappealing status update. Another example is simply posting “July newsletter” plus a link. When you share links, it’s for better to offer an enticement, such as “3 tips to save on taxes.”

What’s YOUR experience?

What kind of feedback do you get on your social media updates? What’s working for you? I enjoy learning from you.

Mind mapping technology for financial advisors

Technology can boost your effectiveness when you use mind mapping with your clients.

Using a digital pen in client meetings will spare you the inefficiencies of an old-fashioned pen or pencil as well as the awkwardness of struggling with complex mapping software in front of your client. After the meeting, using software to make your map more attractive and to manipulate the data will make you more effective with your clients. I recently learned how Jaime Bordelon, executive assistant for an investment advisor, uses a digital pen, in addition to MindJet and SmartDraw software, to capture and share information collected in client meetings.

Five-step process for your client meeting

Here’s the five-step process Jaime suggests for your client meeting.

1. Take your digital pen to your client meeting, along with an appropriate template. Jaime’s firm has templates for topics such as new client, prospect, center of influence (financial advisorspeak for referral source), re-discovery meeting, asset allocation, next phase, and retirement distribution.
2. Begin a general conversation and map it using your digital pen. Expand into more details.

3. After the meeting, you and the client sign the map to show that both of you agree on the information.
4. Dock your pen to save the data on your computer.
5. Give the client the original copy of the map. It’s satisfying for the client to get something to take away.

By the way, Bordelon uses an Okidata MC560 Plus Digital Two-Pen Solution purchased from Futureware in Omaha. It appears have been discontinued.  But there are other digital pens out there and you may find the Okidata model left in stock somewhere.

Mapping’s prospecting potential

“What’s really interesting is what happens after the client takes the map home,” says Bordelon. Mind maps are conversation starters in a way that plain text documents are not.

Sometimes clients leave their maps out in plain sight. Then, a friend sees and asks about it. Before you know it, you’ve got a referral. In many cases, these are referrals of persons whom your clients wouldn’t have suggested on their own initiative.

Another benefit: your clients often think of more information to add when they review the map later. This is especially true when they show it to the spouse, significant other, children, or friends.

Using MindJet or SmartDraw after the meeting

After your meeting, you or your assistant can clean up your map and make it more attractive by inputting the information into MindJet or SmartDraw. You can also color-code sections to make the information easier to understand at a glance.

The resulting map isn’t just pretty and digital. Using the software, “You can expand and collapse the ‘octopus’ it creates,” says Bordelon. “This way you can control the conversation and avoid overwhelming your clients with details” in subsequent client meetings. It’s also easy to update the map in future meetings.

What are you waiting for? Give it a try!


P.S. The beauty of LinkedIn

I owe LinkedIn as well as Jaime Bordelon for this blog post. I didn’t know her when she responded enthusiastically to a mind mapping question I posted on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be an amazing resource for meeting new people.

Edited October 2, 2011

“Just do it” – LinkedIn status updates

I know many investment professionals who feel skittish about dipping their toes into social media. To them, I parrot Nike’s line:

Photo by Ivars Krutainis

“Just do it.”

LinkedIn is a great place to start.

Try this experiment. Post a LinkedIn status update once a week for a month. See if you get any responses.

Start by writing status updates within your comfort zone. You can say something as innocuous as “Have a great weekend!” or “I’m reading today’s Wall Street Journal.” You can steer clear of compliance-sensitive content, but still show some personality by commenting on your hobby or other leisure activities.

If you monitor your LinkedIn account regularly, try posing a question.  People love to talk about themselves. Again, you can keep the topic innocuous. For example, “Beach or mountains – which vacation spot do you prefer?” or “What’s your favorite hobby?”

If you’re willing to venture into financial topics, you might link to an article you enjoy. Check with your compliance professionals to see what they’ll allow.

Half the battle in social media is just showing up. Try it, and see what happens!

Social media lessons from the top nine Investment Writing posts for 2010

LinkedIn and Facebook are powerful.

The 2010 analytics on my blog made me appreciate the power of social media more than ever.

The influence of LinkedIn revealed itself in my most popular blog posts of 2010. These posts ranked high because they attracted attention in LinkedIn groups. “LinkedIn Groups Help Blog Posts Soar,” my guest post on the American Society of Business Publication Editors blog, discusses this phenomenon. I’d like to thank all of the LinkedIn members–and other visitors–who took the time to visit, forward, and comment on my blog posts.

As for Facebook, it has become a top five source of referrals to my blog. This is true even though I only launched the Investment Writing Facebook page partway through the year. Twitter didn’t rank as high as I expected on this count.

I also saw some themes in my most popular content. Top posts addressed marketing, social media, writing, and opinions of leading financial experts.

My blog’s nine most popular posts during 2010

  1. Notable quotes from the CFA Institute’s emerging markets conference
  2. My five favorite reference books for writers
  3. ISI’s Straszheim: China’s interest rate hike is “tapping the brakes”
  4. FINRA/SEC compliance guidance for bloggers
  5. “CFA credential implies a standard of care not always upheld,” says Forbes magazine opinion piece
  6. LinkedIn’s fatal flaw for financial advisor compliance
  7. Great blog posts don’t matter…
  8. “Has housing bottomed out?”–Karl Case and others on the U.S. housing market
  9. Reader challenge: What’s the writing lesson from Physicians Mutual?

Why top nine?

You may wonder why I’ve listed my top nine posts instead of the top 10.

It’s not because I’m ornery. I figured I might pique your attention with an odd-numbered list. Did I succeed?

Guest post: “Be Compliant When Using LinkedIn Messages”

Social media compliance is a big worry for financial advisors, so I was delighted when Bill Winterberg offered to write a guest post on three easy steps to be compliant using LinkedIn messages. I’ve quoted Bill in numerous blog posts and tweets on technology, social media, and tweets because he’s a great resource.

Be Compliant When Using LinkedIn Messages

By Bill Winterberg, CFP®

An earlier post on highlighted a “whopping flaw” in LinkedIn’s messaging system that poses compliance issues for financial advisors. The concern is that no viable solution exists to archive and retain messages using settings on LinkedIn.

I believe that advisors can use LinkedIn messages without violating regulatory requirements, provided they follow the three steps below. The key in all three steps is to leverage an existing e-mail archiving service to capture and retain messages sent via LinkedIn.

Here are three steps advisors can follow to demonstrate proactive compliance when using LinkedIn messages.

1.      Use an e-mail archiving service and use the e-mail address being archived with all LinkedIn messages. If you’re not archiving e-mails today, you’re going to have a challenging time responding to audit requests by examiners. They almost always ask for e-mail communication in one form or another.

2.      Configure your LinkedIn E-mail Notification settings to control how you receive e-mails and notifications. All of your General options should be set to deliver Individual E-mail, as shown below. This will feed all LinkedIn messages sent to you into your e-mail system, so they will subsequently get archived by the service you established in Step 1.

3.      Here is the only part that requires you to do something manually. When you compose new LinkedIn messages−or reply to messages received−you must click the “Send me a copy” check box under your message window. Again, the copy of the message will be sent to your e-mail address that is subject to archiving through your archiving provider.

These three steps will leverage an e-mail archiving service to capture and retain message sent through the LinkedIn messaging system. Upon examination by a regulator, advisors will be able to quickly produce all messages sent using LinkedIn.

Bill Winterberg, CFP®, is a technology consultant to financial advisors in Dallas, Texas. His comments on technology and financial planning can be viewed on his blog at

LinkedIn’s fatal flaw for financial advisor compliance

LinkedIn has a whopping flaw for advisors who’d like to keep their compliance officers 100% happy, and there’s no solution in sight. At least, not to my knowledge.

The problem is records retention, which is at the heart of conservative management of compliance risks from advisor communications. Much of what you post to LinkedIn can be automatically saved and archived using solutions provided by third-party vendors. But there’s no way to do this for messages sent via LinkedIn.

How to cope with LinkedIn’s weakness

If you’re a solo financial advisor who’s not subject to rigorous compliance controls, you may use one of the following approaches:

  1. Taking the risk of neither automatically nor manually archiving messages
  2. Manually copying your LinkedIn messages to your corporate email account, which I assume is automatically archived, by clicking on “Include others on this message” and then checking the “Send me a copy” box below the message.
  3. Avoiding the use of LinkedIn messages, although the LinkedIn message function cannot be disabled–at least not to my knowledge

If you work for a large, conservative organization, your compliance department may ban you from using LinkedIn. I know this happens.

What’s the problem?

The barrier to solving this LinkedIn message problem may lie with LinkedIn, according to a communication from the @Backupify Twitter account. But I’m not sure if this is a challenge specific to Backupify or to all vendors.Meanwhile, I must thank @BillWinterberg of FPPad for connecting me with Backupify.

To back up what you can on LinkedIn

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a partial solution, Arkovi backs up most of LinkedIn. I believe that some of the firms listed in my blog post on “FINRA/SEC compliance for bloggers,” such as Smarsh and Socialware, also tackle this problem.

Please tell me if I’ve overlooked a solution. I’d like to share it with my readers. Meanwhile, check with your compliance professional about how to keep them satisfied as you use LinkedIn. You CAN do it.

Six tips for snaring reporters with your market commentary

Chief investment officers, strategists, and portfolio managers sink a lot of energy and brain power into their quarterly market commentary. If you’re among them, your return on investment should include greater visibility in the media.

Here are six tips to help you achieve your publicity goal.

1. Publish your investment commentary – or at least some brief observations – prior to quarter-end.

Most newspapers publish their quarterly stock and bond market report the day after quarter-end. So they must conduct their interviews before asset management firms receive final benchmark returns and other analytical inputs. Journalists can’t wait for you to polish your commentary. Consider writing a first draft of your quarterly commentary two to three weeks prior to quarter-end, so you can send it to reporters on the timetable that works best for them, not you.

In calm markets, you may only need to drop in benchmark returns after quarter-end. This was often the case when I wrote economic as well as stock and bond market commentary with Columbia Management’s chief investment strategist. Even in volatile times, you’re unlikely to find yourself discarding all of your pre-quarter-end writing.

2. “Think different.”

Just as Apple successfully, although ungrammatically, markets itself as different from other computers, you should stress to reporters how your views differ from other investment commentators.

This is easiest when, for example, the crowd fears inflation, but you foresee deflation. But even when you agree with the consensus, you can distinguish yourself with a striking analogy, statistic, or sound bite.

3. Make it easy for reporters to grasp your market commentary’s main points.

Just like you, journalists are busy, so they may only skim your headline or first paragraph. Don’t title your piece “Fourth Quarter 2010 Commentary” or lead with “During the fourth quarter, the S&P 500 returned X.X%…” Instead, smack the reader with your most interesting point. For example, “Trading volume indicators suggest a less volatile 2011.”

Follow your provocative headline with a brief summary of your main points. A few bullet points may make your introduction easier to scan.

4. Connect electronically with reporters.

Your commentary will get stale if you wait to send a professionally printed copy via U.S. mail. This is why I recommend email and social media.

As for email, you’ll get better results if you ask reporters’ permission before adding them to your quarterly email. Plus, a phone call gives you the opportunity to start a personal relationship with the reporters by asking about their “beats” (the topics they cover) and what kinds of sources they need.

Social media are also a great way to circulate your commentary. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can get broader exposure for your compliance-approved material with little additional effort or legal risk.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to post your commentary as your Linked In status update, as I explained in “How can I post my investment commentary on LinkedIn?

5. Find reporters who are looking for you.

Your professional association may have a media relations manager who fields requests from reporters looking for sources. Wearing my reporter hat, I’ve often contacted the CFA Institute, Financial Planning Association, and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for help finding sources. Some associations send email blasts to any members who sign up. Others hand-pick interviewees. Some handle PR locally; others work best at the national level. Contact your professional association to ask how its PR activities work.

6. Make it easy for reporters to work with you.

  • Reply promptly to journalists’ inquiries. They’re almost always in a hurry.
  • Give your full name, title, company name, city, state, and phone number in your emails to ensure any article gets your details right. This also makes it easy for the reporter to contact you with follow-up questions.
  • Listen carefully to reporters’ questions before answering them.
  • Offer to email related materials to the reporter. Sometimes a graph or table can earn you bigger play in an article.

What are you waiting for? You can start today by posting your firm’s third quarter commentary as your LinkedIn status.

Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at

Great blog posts don’t matter…

…if people don’t read them. As the saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Don’t count on readers for your financial advice or investment services blog posts to come to your blog. Grow your audience by making your content available the way your readers prefer.

A client recently reinforced this lesson for me. She said, “Susan, I love those links you post on LinkedIn!” I was surprised. This client had declined my offer to send her my e-newsletter, which is the main way my clients read my blog posts. However, my content developed greater appeal when delivered via LinkedIn, a way that suits her style. Linking to my blog posts in my LinkedIn status updates is a bigger success than I’d realized.

Here are some ways you can make your blog posts available to satisfy your readers’ preferences.

1. LinkedIn status updates. I explain how to post links in “Reader question: How can I share my investment commentary on LinkedIn?”

2. LinkedIn groups. If you’ve found a LinkedIn group that gets good traffic, then share your post there.

3. E-newsletter. An e-newsletter is a great way to package your blog posts for readers who’ll never visit a blog or use an RSS feed.

4. Other social media: Twitter, Facebook, and more. You can post links to your blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites much as you would on LinkedIn. Of course, link-posting will reach a point of diminishing returns. Figure out which sites yield your best results, and then focus on them.

You may find that more of your prospects are on Facebook than Twitter or other social media sites.

5. Guest posts. Appearing as a guest on someone else’s blog is another way to get your content seen. While many blogs want original content for their guest spots, some don’t. You can learn more in “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments, Part I: Your approach” and “Part II Blogs that accept posts from financial advisors.”

If you’re not using any of these methods, it’s time to re-think your approach to blogging.