"Is Spelling Overrated?"

Direct marketing guru Bob Bly recently asked “Is Spelling Overrated?” on his blog.

I don’t think so. Good spelling won’t win over new clients. But sentences rife with misspellings may make the reader wonder if you’re similarly sloppy with their money.

It’s one thing to have typos in the quick emails you send to your employees, as Bly points out. Quite another to tolerate them in formal communications to clients and prospects.

People often write “it’s” where “its” should be. “It’s” is short for “it is.” “Its” is the possessive form of “it.” This trips up many people because of the exception to the rule that you form a possessive by adding an apostrophe followed by the letter “s.”

English is a challenging language for spellers. Get someone else to proofread your most important written communications.

Tips for writing case studies

Case studies can be powerful tools for the wealth management professionals who’re allowed to use them.

A case study typically starts with a presentation of a client problem–something that’s causing the client pain. The problem is followed by the solution, and then the client results. When prospective clients recognize themselves in the problem, you’ve grabbed their attention.

In “How to Write a Case Study” (available for download without registering) consultant Toby Younis lays out the steps for writing a case study. If you’d like to try doing it yourself, you may find his list of questions on page 12 particularly helpful.

However, don’t write an investment management case study. That falls under the SEC’s prohibition against testimonials.

Why baby boomers will NOT offer a gold mine for financial services

If your business strategy depends heavily on Baby Boomer-driven rapid growth in the number of retirees, it’s time to re-think your approach.

That’s according to “The Baby Boomer Retirement Fallacy and What It Means to You,” which appears on a blog on the Harvard Business Publishing website.

Over the next 25 years, the number of retirees will grow at a rate of zero to 4% per annum, according to Kevin P. Coyne and Shawn T. Coyne, the management consultants who coauthored the blog post. The Coynes say the hype around Baby Boomer retirement fails to take into account the fact that people are staying in the work force later in life.

They’re selling versions of their study, “Smaller than You Thought: Estimates of the Future Size and Growth Rate of the Retirement Market in the United States” for prices ranging from $950 to $2,850.

Six tips for listening better to your clients

In my last post, “The Client Relationship Autopsy,” I wrote about how to analyze client relationships turned sour. But if you’d listened better to your clients, perhaps they’d still be with you.

Consider applying the six tips for better listening described in “What?” a New York Times blog post by Marci Alboher.

Tip number six may be especially challenging: “Do not interrupt, even if you think you’re going to forget what you want to say.” Instead, jot down a note, so you can circle back to your idea, if it’s still appropriate later.

One of the tips suggests nodding to show you’re listening. Nodding was essential when I lived in Japan for that very reason. If I kept completely still and silent, my conversation partner would have stopped talking because she or he would have assumed I wasn’t listening. But in the U.S., you should be careful about nodding. Here, nodding suggests that you agree with the speaker.

"The Client Relationship Autopsy"

You’ve probably lost at least one client. But rather than chalk it up as inevitable, try to learn why your client left you.

The Client Relationship Autopsy” proposes a process consisting of:

  1. Talking to your team
  2. Talking to your client
  3. Preparing a report

“The process will help you choose wisely when it comes to adding new clients, and it will help you glean insights for improving existing client relationships,” says Leo Bottary, the ad agency account director who wrote the article. He goes into detail with suggestions for each step.

Thank you, Boston Women in Finance!

Members of Boston Women in Finance made my experience enjoyable when I presented my one-hour workshop on “How to Write What People Will Read about Investments” yesterday.

Here’s some of their feedback on my presentation:

  • “Although brief, packed with very useful takeaways!”
  • “Susan was able to fit in an hour what people spend days learning in conferences”
  • “Susan reminded me to remember my audience and to listen to my ideas”
  • I learned “a new thought process for brainstorming” and “ways to make my market piece more direct and to the point”

Use personal stories in your communications

“In a sea of competition, you’ve got to capitalize on what makes you unlike anyone else.”

This advice from “Feel Great Naked: Confidence Boosters for Getting Personal” is aimed at bloggers. The author urges them to share personal stories. But it also applies to financial advisors, especially solo practitioners or small firms, when you communicate with your clients and prospects.

Sharing your personality—and even a bit of your personal story—can help you connect with your clients.

One advisor’s personal story

For example, in a sales letter, one salesman shared his story of how his family had suffered needlessly because of an estate planning mistake. That mistake fueled his passion for bringing new clients to his firm. After sharing that story, the letter shifted to discussing the benefits his firm could offer his prospects.

I’ll bet that personal story prevented some prospects from dropping the salesman’s letter into their wastebaskets.

Sharing your personal stories to connect

Don’t focus your communications exclusively on yourself. Ultimately, your client or prospect will care more about the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”). But a bit of sharing can create a connection that goes deeper than dollar and cents.

Any financial advisor can heed this advice in one-on-one meetings. It’s more challenging when you work for a large firm and you get into written communications. There’ll probably be a company-wide communications policy that sets an impersonal tone. This gives an opening for advisors with smaller firms to outmaneuver their colleagues at larger firms.

Have you tried taking a personal tack? I’d like to learn what your experience has been.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my two-part series on “How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing.”

NOTE: I updated this post in Jan. 2017.


Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Does your auto mechanic communicate better than you?

“Nearly three-fourths of the 1,203 adults polled said their auto mechanic uses clearer English than their financial professionals,” according to “Financial Jargon: You Just Don’t Understand” by Cathie Gandel in AARP Bulletin Today.

Are you one of those confusing financial pros? And are your clients suffering as a result?

Learn more about the results of a survey by AARP Financial about consumer understanding of financial jargon.

"Interruption vs. Self-Service Marketing"

I’m following up my post on how financial advisors are using LinkedIn. Raising your visibility by using LinkedIn is an example of “self-service marketing,” which I read about recently in “Interruption vs. Self-Service Marketing” on marketer Bob Bly’s blog.

He quotes an article from DM News: ” ‘Self-service marketing is all about putting content where people will find it,’ writes Rapsas. ‘It makes sense to go where the customers are.’ ” Bly contrasts this with traditional marketing which interrupts people when they’re not looking for it.

Bly makes an interesting point down in his comments:

“My rule of thumb: self-service marketing works with products which consumers actively search for information (including pricing) on — for instance, installing solar panels on the roof of your home. Interruption marketing works with products people want when they hear about but weren’t thinking about beforehand — e.g., designer handbags, a home-study course on becoming a locksmith.”

It seems to me that people actively search for financial or investment advice, so maybe self-service marketing has a future in this field. What do you think?