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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Jump In! Get Your Feet Wet In Social Media-How To Do It

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Is your social media plan a simple act of dipping your toes in the water? If so, you should be prepared for the consequences of premeditated drowning by your competition. NOW is the time to jump in and get your feet wet. Social media is a critical business tool which is no longer considered a stand-alone marketing option; you must streamline it into your overall marketing strategy. If you haven’t read our article, Ready To Jump On The Social Media Bandwagon , review it now for simple and basic steps to get your toes wet. Today’s blog guides you further with a blueprint to incorporate social media into your overall marketing plan.

Financial advisors are expecting and planning for social media to play a meaningful role in 2013. Research conducted by LinkedIn partnered with FTI Consulting  reports seven in ten financial advisors are using social networks for business. Adoption rates will continue to grow as 2013 unfolds representing an 80% increase year-over-year. Advisors face unique compliance challenges unlike other professions, however, the good news is advisors recognize ways to overcome these obstacles.

According to Forrester Research, two-thirds of U.S. online adults with an investment account now have social network profi­les. Presented with the adoption rates of clients and prospective clients utilizing social media, advisors are facing their fears head on by linking social media strategies to their overall business and marketing plans.

7 Steps To Create Your Social Media Plan

1.  Establish Your Foundation You know I preach “always begin with the end in mind”. The same holds true in a social media plan. Creating a social media plan requires a solid foundation and a vital first step. Many firms engage in social media but do not have a structure in place to support their efforts.   Identify your goals and objectives while ensuring they link to your overall firm goals. Keep your objectives SMART! (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Timely). Read our blog, The Gold Rush To Social Media-How To Track Your Success, to gain insight on developing a secure social media foundation.

2. Identify Social Media Channels Best For Your FirmFind out what networks your clients and prospective clients are engaging. A simple start, and the most common, is to incorporate LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Create A Social Media CalendarThis goes beyond scheduling your own social media content. Schedule time to engage in conversation. Avoiding engagement in online conversation is the biggest reason for social media failure.  Tip: use social media streamlining to simplify your social media efforts. Hootsuite, SocialOomph and TweetDeck give you the ability to schedule and simultaneously post to social media channels.

4. Create ContentSchedule time for content creation. One of the best ways to organize your content is to create a library of topics relevant to your industry. Research and save documents in your library to compile information related to your chosen topics. If your firm has adopted blogging, which I highly recommend, use a blogging template.

5. Identify Contacts Make connections by following relevant conversations. By interacting, connections will happen naturally. Tip: create a list of centers of influence you would like to connect with along with a plan for introduction. Share their content through re-tweets and shares.

6. Research Competition – Schedule time to stalk your competition. Find out what they are doing, what they are talking about and how they are engaging with others. Read their posts, tweets and blogs. In this case, advisors need to keep up with the Joneses.

7. Track and Measure Results There are many ways and tools available to track and measure your social media efforts. To get started, refer to your goals and objectives you established in step one. Identify the increase in followers, engagement level, connections and leads you have made. Watch for our follow up in another blog with more information  for you to use in tracking and measuring your social media results.

Don’t become overwhelmed with social media. Have fun with it, follow these steps and reap the benefits.

Question: What do you think about social media?  What challenges or success have you experienced in social media? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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The Gold Rush To Social Media- How To Track Your Success

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Social Media is still baffling business owners as well as the question, “Is it worth it?” and “How will I know?”  An eConsultancy survey of 1,000 companies found 41% of respondents had no idea of social media’s financial impact. Despite the hearty rush for firms to jump on the social media bandwagon, social media represents only a fraction of most marketing budgets, if any at all. Once firms are using social media, many do not have a structure in place to track results.

“Social media success comes to those that link their social media choices to the firms overall business goals,” as stated by Susan Etlinger. Etlinger represents her findings with 60 social media marketers to understand how businesses measure social media through research completed for the Altimeter Group.

Etlinger goes on to say, “48% of social strategists indicate their primary focus is to develop ROI measurements.”  By focusing only on ROI, many pieces to the puzzle are missing, as ROI is just one metric in social media toolkits. Her study further reveals, despite advances in integrating social media into business, the majority of companies surveyed do not have a standard framework in place to measure its value. This was found to be true of businesses scratching the surface and more than half of the companies fully engaged in social media.

Before Choosing Tools-Establish a Foundation                               

Before a firm is ready to think about analytical tools, a foundation must be established. Entliger sites four steps to follow prior to selecting measurement tools:

Align social media strategy with business objectives: Determine what you want to accomplish.

Determine what success means to you and how you will measure it: Identify benchmarks to measure – such as brand awareness, lead generation, educational resource access, etc.

Evaluate your firm’s readiness to measure social mediaThis step is the most critical and most overlooked in social media tracking. Firms lack sufficiently trained staff for social media measurement and delegate it to over committed and under-prepared employees. 

Choose tools to compliment your overall strategyOnce you have identified what you want to accomplish, how you will measure success and what resources are available, you are ready for tool selection. Keep in mind, there is no one single-best tool for every objective and tools available are changing quickly.

Once you have addressed each of these steps, you are ready to move on to an organizational plan for social media.

Outline Team Roles and Responsibilities

Jeremiah Owyang has written extensively about how companies should organize for social media. I have included some of his findings here.

Identify your social media measurement team. This can consist of a group of team members working collaboratively or be the responsibility of one individual. Regardless of the anatomy of your measurement team, you will need to address the following components and identify solutions for each.

  1. What resources and skills are available within your firm?
  2. What resources and skills are not available within your firm?
  3. Who will design and implement your social media strategy and process?
  4. Who will be responsible for tool selection?
  5. Who will design and implement your tool selection strategy and process?
  6. What education and training will be required?
  7. How will the social media measurement team collaborate with other team members?

A good place to start with each of the above questions is to identify your current situation and identify where you would like to be in the future.

In our upcoming blog, One Size Doesn’t Fit All In Social Media Tracking Methods, we will identify resources to aide you in tool selection.

Question:    Is your firm or organization fully engaged in social media? How do you measure your success?  Leave us a comment by clicking here!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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6 Ways To Expose Your Differences Through A Capabilities Proposal

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Are you using your capabilities presentation to its full capability?

Providing solutions and differentiation to clients and prospects are vital components of your firm’s capabilities presentation and should be a fundamental element in your business development strategy for 2013.

Your capabilities proposal should target your niche markets concentrating on challenges and obstacles they are facing in today’s economy and the solutions you offer. You will also want to include the benefits of working with your firm along with a call to action.

In our blog, A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include, we reviewed how to create your story and what to include in your presentation. Now that you have created your story, is it in alignment with your firm goals and strategically placed to educate existing clients and attract new ones? Advisors should focus on the following 6 ways to expose differentiation from competitors and to increase client acquisition.

Implement your capabilities presentation through:

• Print marketing materials
• Networking and one-on-one interaction
• Build a strategic alliance program
• Increase online and social media presence
• Develop connections through media
• Provide education to organizations and businesses

Your goal is to spawn new connections, referrals, introductions and contacts by earning trust and sharing your expertise consistently through all marketing and new business development opportunities.

Print marketing materials
Include your capabilities proposal in your core marketing pieces. This may include a marketing brochure given to prospective clients, a 1st appointment brochure or a single brochure dedicated to your firm’s capabilities proposal. Fact sheets are another resource to include in your marketing strategy. Typically a fact sheet is one piece of paper, highlighting services your firm offers or your investment strategy.

Networking and one-on-one interaction
Get out of the office and play a bit. Become involved in community events to interact with COIs, community officers and key board members. When networking and interacting one-on-one, YOU are your capabilities presentation. Before anyone becomes a client, trust needs to be earned. Make certain you don’t become impatient waiting for relationships to evolve. Trust and the relationship sell, not the service or products.

Build a strategic alliance program
Work closely with a select group of partners such as CPAs, Attorney’s and Estate Planners. Lay the foundation by identifying specific goals. Educate your alliances about your firm and provide them with resources and small displays including firm brochures, white paper studies, articles and links to your online presence making it simple to refer clients to you.

Increase online and social media presence
Most firms fall short in recognizing the potential of expanding their capabilities presentation to an online presence. Be certain to include your story on your website along with PDF files that can be downloaded of your firm brochures including links to blogs, market research or other feature articles important to your target market. Statistics provided by HubSpot, reveal that 78% of Internet users conduct product research online. That means your website stands a good chance of being a prospect’s “first impression”. That also means your new business card isn’t a business card—it’s Google.

Develop connections through media
Build a list of local media connections and identify which reporters and editors specialize in industry news. Establish yourself as a local expert by providing proactive information through articles, reports, press releases and interviews with an emphasis on solutions you provide to the needs of your market.
Provide education to organizations and businesses
Offer workshops, seminars or panel discussions to charitable organizations and businesses within your target. Groups are always looking for industry experts to provide interesting and pertinent information.

Strengthen your presence through these initiatives by providing strategic financial information as a solution to your target market needs. Providing consistency throughout each interface will reinforce your capabilities proposal and put your firm in position for growth.

Read more about Capabilities Presentations:

Mistakes In Your Capabilities Presentation-Avoid These
A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance
Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started!

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

How do you promote your capabilities presentation? Share your ideas!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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13 Ways To Reduce Operating Costs in 2013

Apply these 13 cost-cutting-busters as you prepare your 2013 budget. Applying simple tactics will help your business remain profitable.

“Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely.”

 – Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) English Biologist

  1. Establish a budget– Before you decide where you can afford to cut costs, you must have control over your costs. A budget helps you analyze expenses and income, as well as forecasting financial variances.
  1. Develop and implement systems for everything you do in your firm Implementing workflow processes increase efficiency which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. Many firms tend to overlook their operational systems and workflows especially during a good economy.  Review your firm’s operational systems regularly and recognize the static processes. Just because “that is the way it’s always been done,” doesn’t mean there is not a more efficient process. Be flexible to change.  This is imperative to reducing your operational costs and remaining viable amid the rising costs of operation.
  1. Turn off office equipment when not in useSometimes the simplest things can be things we overlook. Turn off all office equipment and lights when not in use. If your equipment is plugged into a power strip, make sure the power strip can be turned off or is on an automatic timer.
  1. Use social media to advertise – Still not on the social media bandwagon? Social media provides you with an avenue for fast-paced, high-results and low-cost marketing.
  1. Align the responsibilities of your staff members to their specific needsReview workflow for areas that need improvement or display a lack of clarity. Making revisions in a workflow and ensuring that there are no duplicate efforts or wasted energy will prevent you from superfluous costs.  Besides cost savings, you benefit from a significant increase in productivity.
  1. Invest in more training It may sound ironic to invest more money while trying to reduce costs,  however, investing more in your employees shows them that they are valued. There is an endless source of training models available online, which in-turn will also reduce your travel expenses. Employees who feel valued, are more engaged and more productive at work. SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, estimated that it costs $3,500.00 to replace one $8.00 per hour employee when all costs — recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, reduced productivity, et cetera, were considered.
  1. Build strategic alliances In our blog “Strategic Alliances Build A Strong Foundation For Long Term Success”     we talked about how building strategic alliances positions your firm to stand apart from the competition.  Share expenses with your alliances by implementing joint advertising/media promotions, shared mailing lists and shared educational workshop expenses.  You will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line by meeting client needs.
  1. Outsource Review the organizational structure of your firm.   Pinpoint which roles could be outsourced, such as payroll, HR or mailings. Outsourcing will give you more time to focus on building your business.
  1.  Go paperless Consider converting to an electronic paperless system when possible and utilizing email for a portion of your communication efforts.
  1.  Capitalize on technology– Take advantage of the cost savings offered through the use of technology. From telecommuting to teleconference services operational costs can be reduced.
  1. Buy in bulk– Negotiate for a better price if you purchase in bulk or agree to purchase all of your supplies from one vendor.
  2. Consider contract and virtual employees– Consider housing some of your staff “in the cloud”.  Also consider contract employees.  Hire contract employees for special projects or ongoing tasks or when  in need of specialized skills. The 2011 Employment Review from Elance shows   that despite a stagnant employment market in 2011, online hiring has grown at a record pace, up more than 100% from 2010. For your firm you can expect reduced turnover, employee engagement and fewer workplace complaints.
  1. Find Cheaper Space– Renegotiate better terms on your current lease now that real estate markets in many areas are leaning in the tenants’ favor.

Reducing your operating costs without sacrificing the team’s operational effectiveness, the quality of service and the value you provide to your clients, will go a long way toward improving your bottom line.

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached. 

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

 Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your branding questions and let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

  

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Build It & They Will Come – Earning Referrals

Imagine your field of dreams overflowing with all of the referrals you could ever hope for!  Closing your eyes and picturing a huge field full of perfect referrals to help you grow your firm doesn’t have to be a dream, you can make it reality.

The old way of getting a referral is more than just old.   It’s now considered greedy, pushy and desperate.  Asking for referrals puts your clients in an uncomfortable position.  Building loyalty and trust with clients is paramount to ensure client retention.  Making clients feel uncomfortable by asking for a referral could jeopardize your relationship, thus causing more harm than good.

I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.   ~Calvin Coolidge

Referrals are still the best and most profitable source for new client acquisition.  Learning how to earn referrals is the key to a successful referral plan. It is easy to ask for a referral, anyone can do it.   Elite advisors don’t ask, they earn.  Implementing a referral program at your firm should be a goal for every advisor.  Learning the correct way to implement and use your plan is vital to overall firm reputation, growth and profitability.

Putting your reputation on the line; why would anyone give you a referral?

When a client or strategic alliance partner provides a referral to your firm, their reputation is on the line.  To earn a referral, the referee needs to feel confident that you are trustworthy, knowledgeable and will provide a positive experience to a new prospect.  As an advisor, your primary focus must be on the client and the overall client service  you provide.  If you are “just in it for the money”, clients will eventually see through the bogus wall.

Steps to earn referrals;

Ironstone has compiled a list of the best practices you can use and apply to start earning referrals and stop asking for them. 

  • Become friends with your clientsMeet with clients socially at business networking events and other non-sales related events.
  • Provide incredible client serviceThis will instill a “no-fear” mindset in your client.  Clients will feel there is little risk in recommending your firm to a peer.
  • Pay It ForwardYou need to give to get!  Avoid making the mistake of expecting something in return.
  • Be availableMake it easy for clients and prospects to do business with anyone in your firm at all times.
  • Be patientKeep in mind that relationships take time to build, let them develop over time otherwise you come off as “needy”.
  • Provide educationUse newsletters, client meetings, email, websites and social media to keep your clients and prospects informed of current issues.

Client referrals start with the quality and depth of your client relationships.  You may choose to include asking for referrals in your overall strategy; however, once you have incorporated earning referrals in your strategic referral plan, provide first-class service and a memorable experience; referrals will fill your field of dreams.

We are curious!!  How do you earn referrals?  Do you ask or earn?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about operational effectiveness and your service matrix!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Ready To Jump On The Social Media Bandwagon?

As social media has taken a front seat for many advisors, there is still a high percentage  not taking advantage of this prospecting tool.  Many advisors simply don’t have the time, knowledge or staffing to implement a social media platform.  The benefits of having a social media presence will out-weigh the efforts you invest  developing your prospecting strategy.

The fundamental element needed to implement a successful prospecting plan at your firm is to systematically position your practice to attract new clients.  Choose activities that will put you at your best in order to invoke natural enthusiasm with the purpose of cultivating trusting relationships.  Within  your marketing plan, you will need to develop a comprehensive prospecting strategy appealing to new clients.  Begin with the 7 strategies  Ironstone recommends as your foundation.  If you missed our blog, “How to Write a Prospecting Plan for Your Firm,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/learn-how-to-write-a-prospecting-plan-for-your-firm/you can read it here.

Top financial advisors have one common denominator:

  • A marketing plan and a follow-up strategy

 The biggest difference in this  common denominator is what is within the marketing plan and how committed each firm is to their follow-up strategy.

Adding Social Media to Your Prospecting Platform

Ironstone suggests starting small and simple.  Establish  your social media goal.  Don’t feel you need to take on the world.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging are all easily managed social media channels  you should be using; START TODAY!   By using social media, you will gain:

  • Name recognition
  • Establish credibility
  • Client acquisition and retention
  • Deepen existing relationships

 Follow Ironstone’s simple guidelines to get started with your social media presence.  By following these basic steps, your social media goals will be easier to reach and more rewarding.

Create Basic Profiles on the Social Media Channels You Wish to EngageYou must realize  social media is an active exchange of information.  In order to establish relationships, you must engage in and actively participate in discussions.

Add Your PhotoUse a professional photo.  If you don’t have a professional photo, make the investment to have one taken.

Be YourselfEngage in social interaction.  Relationships are developed when you allow others to get to know you.  Talk about your family, your interests and things that will interest them. Consider scheduling random posts or blogs about health and wellness or other generalized topics that pique interest levels.

Target MarketPick a small niche.  Remember, you don’t need to take on the world.  Find out where your target/niche market hangs out online.  You might find your COI’s on Linked In while retirees are making posts on Face Book.  Connect with your clients in these various social media channels.

Provide ValueBeing the solution to a prospect is the key to landing new business.  Provide information that will genuinely help others.  Review profiles;  find out the interests of your clients and prospects.  Gather relevant content  you can post and distribute on your social media channels that are devoted to your target market.

Provide A Capture FunnelAdd a form that is short and simple to capture information from readers and those who are downloading your content.  Do not simply ask readers to call you;  they are online and that is where they want to stay for now.  An Ironstone best practice tip is to provide a capture form that leads readers to valuable and relevant information; example:  “The Top 5 Ways To …………..”

Manage TimeDefine your own unique publishing schedule and pick a specific time to post and read updates from those in your network.  Make adjustments as needed,  test different times and days.    If you find  you get more interaction on certain days and times, stick with it.  Maintain a continued presence online, but be cautious of overdoing it!

Follow-Up – It is imperative and courteous that you follow up with those who have accessed your information.  Be ready to provide them with additional information that will be useful to them and offer a solution to their needs.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a social media plan for your firm.  Let us know how you are using social media in your firm!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Getting To The Core Of Your Marketing Plan

With so many means to market your firm, it is easy to get off track by wanting to do it all.  Developing a marketing plan, reviewing it, and making changes are vital to the success of your firm.

Advisors have more marketing strategies to use and take advantage of than ever before, but lack of time and knowledge to hone in on every opportunity.  Hiring a marketing consultant, a marketing manager or outsourcing marketing will have a fundamental impact on the bottom line of your firm.

Always start with the end in mind by defining what you want to accomplish.  This declaration can be applied to almost everything you do in life and is most definitely applicable to your marketing plan.    Once you have determined your desired outcome, focus on the core of your marketing plan and what tactics you will use to reach your goals.

Today’s elite advisors know that introductions, strategic networking, referrals, and intimate client events typically produce the best results in bringing new business to a firm.  These marketing tactics should be at the core of your plan.   Structuring your marketing plan around these tactics and developing strategies to reach your goals will provide you with a solid foundation.    Decide how you will carry out each of the above core marketing tactics and include a process to define strategies for each.

  • Introductions– Ask your clients for introductions to their friends that can benefit from your services. If you haven’t started using social media in your firm, this is a great starting point.  Use LinkedIn and other social media channels to see who your existing clients know and who you would like to meet.
  • Strategic Networking– Develop a networking plan by writing a process that you will follow.  Research potential alliances to ensure that you are networking with the appropriate partners and continue to review and broaden your opportunities.
  • Referrals– Have a formal referral plan in place and focus on providing first class service to your clients that establishes trust and loyalty. By doing so, your clients will refer you to their family, friends and co-workers automatically.
  • Intimate Client Events– Plan several events throughout the year and encourage your clients to invite friends.  Keep the event fun and personal.

Build your marketing plan around your core elements.  From there, you can branch out into other marketing avenues to test the water or begin a pilot program.   Trial and error will allow you to perfect your plan, therefore it is imperative that you implement changes as often as needed.    Evaluate your existing plan and track the results to be certain that your focus is placed in the core marketing areas that will generate the best results.

Optimize your efforts within each avenue and lead your firm down the path of obtaining your goals.

Ironstone can assist you in developing core marketing tactics for your firm and the strategies to carry out and seize each opportunity.  We will collaborate with you to gain a comprehensive understanding of your goals and review or design a marketing plan that is tailored to your firm.

Contact Ironstone for more information and additional strategies that will assist you in starting and improving your Marketing Plan.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best marketing ideas with us!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Operational Effectiveness-Staff Meetings

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us: