November 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Branding and brand development is an ongoing process.
No successful company—or one of its corresponding brands—has experienced continued success by resting on its laurels. Branding, like selling, is an evolving process.
A cohesive and comprehensive look is important for a successful brand. It is reflected in a logo, a set of colors, and the basic words that go along with your advertising and promotion.
If you have this part nailed down, great! But if you’re wondering how to pull these elements together, here are a few tips to consider before moving forward. In this installment, the focus is on logo and color.
Unless you have a degree in visual arts or graphic design, paired with an incredible threshold for constructive criticism, hire a graphic designer to create your logo and color scheme. Why? A graphic designer has the software and skill set to serve as an independent, objective voice in the creation of your look.
A good designer will take the time to talk to you about your business, your clients and the competition. You should expect to receive three to five options to mull over and tweak before settling on a final design. This designer also should provide you with a color and a black and white version of your logo (in .JPG and .EPS formats), as well as a set of colors that you can use with your logo.
You can do some homework before you meet with the graphic designer. Look at the logos and color schemes of your competitor and your industry. (For example, financial organizations love blue, because to them it represents stability, trust and loyalty.) It’s up to you to decide what you want to communicate to your customers. A designer will help you communicate that message.
Need some inspiration? Take note of the brands or products that you respect. What do they look like? What colors do they use? What do their ads looks like? Then think about how you could apply the same concepts to your brand.
A logo and color palette are the first pieces of the look. In my next blog, I’ll talk about how to develop a tagline and some basic written pieces that can be used side-by-side.
If you’d like to read the previous entries in our branding series, click here.
November 5, 2013 by Kyle Pieper
I love to ask questions.
It’s a natural part of building relationships. Asking questions is the fastest way for me to get to know you. It also helps me find out what financial professionals are looking for in their business.
In building relationships with financial professionals, I’ve heard them say that one of the most important things a broker dealer can do for them is to allow them freedom to sell what they want. There are a couple of different ways that your freedom can be restricted. One tell-tale sign might be that payouts may differ depending on the product. Another, more obvious, is that you’re restricted to proprietary products or a limited product list.
Why does this matter?
Restrictions from a broker dealer may turn into restrictions you have to ultimately place on your clients; meaning you are not able to offer a full scope of solutions.
In the end, who wins: The client, advisor or broker dealer?
If you’re not sure how much freedom you have, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you unclear what you pay for in your current fee arrangement?
- Are you initially told that you don’t have to submit fixed insurance to your broker dealer, but you ultimately have to?
- Does your payout vary depending on the product?
Do you see a pattern in your answers? Click here to download a questionnaire to help you determine if you are getting the support and access to products that best service your clients. If you answer yes to three or more questions, you might want reconsider your current position with your broker dealer.
At the end of the day, your clients’ needs come first. You deserve a broker dealer that supports that goal.
Securities and investment advisory services offered through Brokers International Financial Services, LLC, Panora, Iowa. Member FINRA/SIPC. Brokers International Financial Services is a strategic partner of Brokers International, Ltd.
October 1, 2013 by Kristine Garrett
What is customer loyalty? If you search this question online, you will find many definitions and opinions on how to cultivate it. BusinessDictionary.com defines customer loyalty as the, “Likelihood of previous customers to continue to buy from a specific organization.” How likely are previous customers to return to you for financial services? Do you have a plan to keep them coming back?
There are many ways to foster customer loyalty and most are not new. Here are five of my favorite customer loyalty tips to keep customers coming back.
- Make people happy. I love this quote by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, “The single most important thing is to make people happy. If you are making people happy, as a side effect, they will be happy to open up their wallets and pay you.” Enough said.
- Provide superior customer service. Many times I have walked into a business and sworn never to return because of poor service. However, when I experience superior customer service, I become a brand advocate, spread the word and send referrals. Have you ever asked your clients how you are doing? Check out our blog post “What’s your client’s experience?” for tips on soliciting feedback.
- Do more than expected. George S. Patton, considered one of the most successful combat generals in U.S. history,1 said, “Always do more than is required of you.” Take the time to add personal touches: Send hand-written thank you notes, acknowledge birthdays and remember the little things—even if it’s as simple as if they prefer coffee or tea.
- Listen. Principle number seven in Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People is, “Be a good listener. Encourage other to talk about themselves.” In the financial services industry, this seems especially important. We must understand what clients need (for example, income or legacy planning) before we can propose a solution.
- Keep in touch. Create a client nurturing program to make sure you stay connected with customers on a regular basis. Nurturing not only helps you maintain and build client relationships, but it helps move customers from point A to point B in the buying cycle. To learn more about nurturing, visit our blog post, Nurturing Dos and Don’ts for Sales.
1 “George Patton. biography.” bio. True Story.. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sep 2013. <http://www.biography.com/people/george-patton-9434904>.
2 Carnegie, Dale. “Golden Book Principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Dale Carnegie Training. Dale Carnegie and Associates, Inc., n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2013. <http://www.dalecarnegie.com/assets/1/7/GoldenBook_English.swf>.
September 26, 2013 by Kyle Pieper
The concept of fiduciary duty has received a lot of attention from financial publications, like Investment News, lately, due to the effort of the U.S. Department of Labor to set stricter standards on professionals providing advice on retirement plans.1
So it brings up a good question. What is the difference between fiduciary and suitability, and how do they affect you?
A fiduciary is a person or company that has the power and obligation to act for another under circumstances which require total trust, good faith, and honesty.2 FINRA suitability Rule 2111(a) states in part that a member or an associated person must have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy involving a security or securities is suitable for the customer, based on the information obtained through the reasonable diligence of the member or associated person to ascertain the customer’s investment profile.3
It’s a lot to understand, which is why you can download this informational graphic to see detailed differences between the two.
So why does this all matter?
Recently, it has been questioned whether there should be a separate fiduciary standard—implemented by the Labor Department—for financial professionals selling individual retirement accounts, as outlined in the Investment News article. And so what has commonly been a standard for those selling securities-related products is now under consideration for other financial and insurance professionals.
In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering increasing the standards it imposes on broker dealers,4 which then might work its way to other areas of the financial services and insurance industries. This all comes under the guise of the 2010 Dodd- Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, regulations developed after the economic collapse that began in 2008.
Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball to say what, for sure, will be the fate for professionals working in insurance, retirement planning or financial planning. In an ideal world, the rules for financial professionals would be streamlined by the various regulatory bodies, and the expectations laid out in Dodd-Frank would be clearer.
In the meantime, go ahead and take a look at the infographic provided in this blog. And don’t be surprised if you see another blog post as the regulations change. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 877.886.1939 or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 Investment News “Fiduciary duty boosts revenue, not compliance costs: FPC” July 8, 2013.
4 Investment News “White says SEC is moving on fiduciary but other rules to come first” July 30, 2013.
September 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Take three of your marketing materials and lay them on a table. Can you tell they are from the same brand?
If so, you’re doing well with blending your brand into your marketing and promotions.
If not, don’t worry: You’ve got an opportunity.
This installment of our branding series is about promoting your brand; specifically, how to weave your brand identity into your marketing materials and campaigns. Promoting your brand is the proverbial cherry on top of your branding strategy sundae. It’s your final step of execution. If you’ve missed the previous brand steps, click here to read them now.
If you’ve been with me for my previous posts, you’ve probably taken the time to develop your brand, and ascribe characteristics like color and logos. A successful brand—like Starbucks—puts it together all the time to create a coherent message. The idea is that each time you touch a customer, you reflect your brand.
My colleague Courtney Redfern wrote about this in her recent blog about consumer touchpoints. In it, she points out that your clients expect to receive a consistent experience from you and your business in every interaction.
Promoting your brand is the same concept.
Every marketing piece needs a consistent use of logos, colors, fonts and tone of voice. When it’s all tied together, it creates visual shorthand or instant recognition for your reader. For example, when you see a yellow M on a red background, you immediately know that it is McDonald’s. That’s because McDonald’s has been successful at creating a visual identity.
If you’re having a hard time using your brand elements consistently, develop guidelines using these tips. Brand guidelines outline how and where to use your colors, fonts, logos and other elements. Just like the saying goes with goals, amazing things happen when you put actual pen to paper, and write them out.
The goal is to stay on message. Create consistency and your brand will become more recognizable over time.
September 5, 2013 by Brokers International
By Kristi Piehl
Founder/CEO Media Minefield, Inc.
“When can I be quoted in the Wall Street Journal?”
It’s a pretty typical question that we are asked at Media Minefield.
Before you determine that a framed Wall Street Journal article featuring a quote from you is the next “must have” for your office lobby, ask yourself: Why?
National financial publications certainly carry a significant amount of credibility. When a client walks into the office and sees a framed article with a quote from their financial professional, it is impressive. The majority of financial professionals I talk with are quite good at working with clients who visit their office. But they have a bigger problem getting new prospective clients to actually walk in their front door.
If your goal is to get your message in front of prospective clients, then it is important to spend your time, energy, and money focusing on the media they utilize. If they are like many people in or nearing retirement, then they likely are getting information from local news, and are connecting with friends and relatives on social media. Your message can be targeted to a local audience (by local I mean people who could get in the car and drive to your office) via local news and/or by targeted social media posts.
National news placements can sometimes do more harm than good. I recently heard a story from a financial professional who acquired a new client from a competitor, because the client felt the competitor only communicated to tell him about his next national news appearance. The client had the perception that the financial professional was spending too much time on national television and not enough time managing accounts. This is a problem. However, if you appear on local news talking about issues that are of concern to your target demographic, then you are positioning yourself as someone who cares enough about his or her clients to help them by utilizing media.
Don’t misunderstand. This blog does not discourage seeking national coverage. In fact, we frequently have clients quoted in national publications including Wall Street Journal. However, if the purpose of engaging media is to attract new local clients, then any national media strategy should be paired with a sound local media strategy.
Think about your own news consumption habits. When you are watching or reading national news, do you think that the person being interviewed lives in your area? Probably not. However, if you see someone quoted in local news, you may be inclined to make an appointment or get more information from a website or social media.
Before you get ready for your close up, consider this: You might get more prospective clients through the doors of your office by meeting them first in their living rooms on the local news.
August 27, 2013 by Kristine Garrett
My husband, Scott, and I live on a small hobby farm in rural Iowa consisting of a few unruly acres, a 160-year-old farm house, and a menagerie of animals. I’ll translate that for you: I’m broke and always fixing something.
I have taught myself to be pretty handy. I have a tool belt; I can do some plumbing; and my 18-Volt ½-inch Cordless Nickel Cadmium Compact Drill is my prize possession.
One day I went into a large home improvement store looking for a length of chain long enough to wrap around a fence post, and the gate that holds it closed, because my goats had been escaping.
While selecting the chain, an associate came to my aid. I explained that I needed to have a piece of chain cut. He responded, “Do you have a man to help with this project?” (Remember, I just needed a chain to hold the gate shut.) He then asked how much chain I needed. “Do you need enough to wrap around my arm?” he said showing me the girth of his arm. “Or, is it more like my thigh?” he said, standing on one leg with his other knee in the air. Oh boy . . .
I normally find these situations amusing, and will joke that I’m pretty handy . . . for a girl. It shouldn’t make any difference that I’m a female. I have all the faculties I need to use power tools!
Are you a pretty good financial professional . . . for a girl? According to a survey conducted by Edward Jones, one in five cited the financial services industry as the hardest glass ceiling for women to break through.1
Why is that? Don’t women have all the faculties necessary to excel in this profession? In the survey, which polled 1,010 men and women, 83% of respondents not only agreed that women faced career barriers, but cited a male-dominated environment as the main impediment.
Other obstacles the survey noted were: juggling family and corporate responsibilities; inadequate policies for women; and lack of mentoring and defined career paths.
Fortunately, there are programs available to support and mentor women in this industry. Check out our Women’s Mentoring Agent NetworkTM (WOMANTM). This program is dedicated to helping independent, female financial professionals to develop their practices—in spite of the male-dominated environment—by providing opportunities to network, share, and learn from their peers.
For some great face time with other female financial professionals, join us September 18 to 20 in Panora, Iowa for the WOMANTM Fall Forum. This event gives women the opportunity to discuss relevant topics with their peers; learn what makes other women in this industry successful; and cultivate valuable relationships.
To learn more about this event and the WOMANTM program, visit www.BILTD.com/woman.
1 Edward Jones 2013. Edward Jones Survey Reveals 65 Percent of Americans Agree “Glass Ceiling” Remains a Career Barrier for Women. [press release] June 5, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/edward-jones-survey-reveals-65-percent-of-americans-agree-glass-ceiling-remains-as-career-barrier-for-women-210226341.html
August 22, 2013 by Kyle Pieper
In a previous blog, you learned why obtaining a Series 65 license is a necessity for professionals looking to become an investment adviser representative. This blog focuses on other securities licenses, and why they may be important for professionals to consider. Here are the basic licenses required of securities agents: Series 6-Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representative This license provides authorization to sell “packaged” investments, including mutual funds, variable annuities, and unit investment trusts.
- Questions: 100 multiple choice
- Testing time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Series 7-General Securities Representative Authorization to sell individual security items such as common and preferred stocks, etfs, bonds and other individual fixed income investments (including products with Series 6.)
- Questions: 250 (administered in two parts of 125 questions each) multiple choice
- Testing time: 3 hours for each part
Series 63-Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination Gives authorization by state to conduct business; required for all Series 6 and 7 holders.
- Questions: 60 multiple choice
- Testing time; 1 hour and 15 minutes
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversees licensing procedures and requirements. FINRA also administers the exams and keeps track of the records. For information on all of the license types and testing requirements, visit the FINRA website. ADR-1169