Developing Your “Marketing Mindset”

If you ran into an old buddy at your high school reunion, you’d probably be asked, “So what do you do?”

As an independent financial advisor, you have several ways to answer the question. What comes to mind first?

“I am a certified financial planner.” Or “I am a financial advisor.”

If he was curious to learn more, you might describe  your approach to financial planning, estate planning, or risk analysis. You might talk about the financial markets, indexed annuities, or CD rates. You might mention the value of annual reviews and portfolio re-balancing.

This answer focuses on the main operational focus of your firm. It touches on your education, experience and what’s on your business card.

Yet in a big way you’d be wrong!

While you might really rather focus on planning all day long and every day of the week, the reality is that you need to see yourself as a “Marketeer.”

Just what is a “Marketeer”?

A “Marketeer” focuses on defining, reaching and serving his target market. This is job #1.

A Marketeer sees every aspect of his business as a way to enhance (or detract) from defining, reach and serving his targeted market. What does this look like?

  • Whenever he meets someone new, he wonders how he might help him reach his financial goals.
  • When the telephone rings, it’s not a bother but a chance to speak with someone who discovered his website and wants to learn more.
  • Every client interaction is an opportunity to earn (or lose) future referrals.
  • Marketing, like breathing, is done all the time…not just when the appointment book is getting slim.
  • Hiring a new receptionist is a BIG deal.

Think the last bullet is a joke? Let’s take a closer look at this one.

If you only get one chance to make a good first impression, your receptionist will likely be the person to make it.

Will your clients care if she knows the ins and outs of six major phone systems? Or types 100 words a minute? Or has a degree in business from your local community college?

Frowning receptionistNone of this matters if your receptionist greets your office visitors with a frown or a grunt.

If your receptionist has to “turn on the charm” because her default position is “strictly business” you have a problem in the making.

Your receptionist ought to care enough about people to chit chat while the client waits. Perhaps offers some coffee, tea or water upon their arrival. Ideally she knows what they like to drink and gets it without asking.

This does several things for you:

  • You learn more about your clients lives and what’s driving them that day.
  • You gain a bit of slack if you’re behind schedule and you can’t start the meeting on time.
  • People like doing business with people they like and your receptionist has made YOU more likeable.

Of course knowing your phone system inside and out can help your receptionist better connect you to your clients. And typing 100 words per minute can keep your files up to date. And a business degree might bring new ideas into your practice and enhance customer service.

Yet do these things really matter if your receptionist greets visitors with a frown for a split second before the smile kicks in? Or makes callers wish you had a direct dial number so they didn’t need to “bother” the receptionist when they had a question?

In short, your marketing mindset causes you to hire the right person for every job, train them to know what’s really important (treating people kindly and with respect), and the all-importance of supporting the marketing vision of the firm.

When you develop a marketing mindset, you’ll view every aspect of your firm from the eyes of an A-List client. You’ll see many areas to improve:

  • Is your reception area clean and inviting? Or does it look like a receiving dock?
  • What do your clients see as they walk from your reception area to your office or conference room? A kitchen with a sink full of dirty dishes?
  • Does your desk make you appear disorganized, overwhelmed, and out of control?
  • Does your website look the same as when you got it back in 2002? Do clients or prospects have any need to come back a 2nd time?
  • Do you use a Yahoo email account to correspond with clients?
  • Do your clients only hear from you when it’s time for their annual review? Or worse, do you only speak with them when they call you with a problem?
  • Do you spend time doing administrative tasks which could be delegated or outsourced?
  • Do you use your planning abilities to create and follow a Marketing Calendar?

I think you get the idea. A marketing mindset, once developed, can liberate you from the administrivia which drains time and energy and keeps you from growing your practice and turning your clients into raving fans.

Yes, your business card should say “Certified Financial Planner Professional” or “Financial Consultant” or “Financial Advisor.”

Be sure to give one to your friend at your high school reunion.

But tell him, you “help baby boomers plan for and enjoy a prosperous retirement” or however you benefit your targeted clientele.

No More Fax Machine

fax machineYou can eliminate a lot of paperwork by replacing your fax machine with an online fax service.

One of my clients has used the Metro Hi Speed fax service for several years. He and his staff love it.

For $25.90 per month he has all his incoming faxes sent via e-mail to his receptionist’s Outlook in-box. During the day, the receptionist routes the faxes to the recipients and attaches client related faxes to the client contact record inside Act! He kept his local fax number so his business cards and letterhead didn’t need to be reprinted.

His “faxes” now are really just e-mails with PDF attachments. You can do the same thing and dump your fax machine.

Because your faxes are already digitized, your service assistant can forward important fazes to you wherever you happen to be. And then attach them to the client record in Act! or Goldmine for future reference.

You can also send outgoing faxes from within Metro Hi Speed. This client uses his main copier/printer/fax machine for outgoing faxes. Click here to find out more about MetroFax.

Of course, you can choose to print them out and stick the pages in client folders. At least you’ve taken the first step toward a paperless office!

Compliance Caveat: Rather than investigate these online fax options yourself, consider giving your compliance officer a call. Your broker/dealer may already have a list of approved Fax Server and online fax solution providers for you to choose from. This will save you valuable time AND make a few points with your compliance officer. Why wait to speak to him when you need an advertisement approved?

Eliminating paper faxes is a big first step toward a paperless office and will save you time from day 1.

‘Evil’ Madoff Gets 150 Years in Epic Fraud

Victims Cheer Tough Sentence; Judge Slams Financier for Stonewalling Investigators; True Size of Losses Still a Mystery

[Richard: This Wall Street Journal article wonders whether wealthy families will flee money managers and just go to an index fund. Or if it will just blow over and be forgotten in 10 years. One reaction we can count on: regulatory compliance will get tightened once again.]

Madoff_sentencedBernard Madoff, the self-confessed author of the biggest financial swindle in history, was sentenced to the maximum 150 years behind bars for what his judge called an “extraordinarily evil” fraud that shook the nation’s faith in its financial and legal systems and took “a staggering toll” on rich and poor alike.

The landmark sentence, one of the stiffest ever given for a white-collar crime, came just six months after Mr. Madoff, a pioneer on Wall Street, allegedly told his sons that his entire business was a massive Ponzi scheme. The penalty sparked a burst of applause in a courtroom packed with victims of the fraud.

Earlier, nine of those victims confronted Mr. Madoff in court, calling him a “monster” and a “low life.”

“I hope his sentence is long enough so his jail cell will become his coffin,” said Michael Schwartz, 33 years old, of New Jersey, who said his family’s funds with Madoff had been for the care of his mentally disabled brother.

U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin noted that more than 100 victims had written letters to him, citing one from a widow who said she went to see Mr. Madoff two weeks after the death of her husband, who had invested their life savings with him. Mr. Madoff put his arm around the widow and said, “Your money is safe with me,” according to the letter Judge Chin cited. Judge Chin said Mr. Madoff didn’t receive a single letter or statement of support before the sentencing.

Mr. Madoff, dressed in a charcoal gray suit and wearing rimless glasses, appeared without a single member of his family in attendance. He kept his back to the victims as they spoke. But for a brief moment during his remarks, he turned around to face them and said: “I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t help you.”

Mr. Madoff, 71, also told the court, “I will live with this pain, with this torment, for the rest of my life.”

While the trial phase of Mr. Madoff’s legal battle is ended, many questions remain unanswered. The public still doesn’t know the exact breadth of the losses and whether co-conspirators were involved. The case has also highlighted shortcomings of financial watchdogs, particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission, which failed to catch the crime despite repeated warnings.

Judge Chin faulted Mr. Madoff for failing to be more forthcoming with authorities since his Dec. 11 arrest. “I don’t get a sense that Mr. Madoff has done all he could, or told all that he knows,” the judge said.

During a short statement in court, Mr. Madoff spoke softly and pressed his hands against the defense table. He continued to insulate his family and co-workers, saying they were lied to. Family members who worked at the firm, as well as some employees, remain under scrutiny but haven’t been charged. He periodically drank water from a paper cup.

Following Bernie Madoff’s sentence of 150 years in prison, Kelsey Hubbard gets reactions from victims of the fraud and talks with WSJ’s Peter Lattman about what went on inside the courtroom.

“I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior,” Mr. Madoff said. “How do you excuse betraying thousands of investors who entrusted me with their life savings? How do you excuse deceiving 200 employees who spent most of their working life with me? How do you excuse lying to a brother and two sons who spent their entire lives helping to build a successful business? How do you excuse lying to a wife who stood by you for 50 years?”

Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth Madoff, after the sentencing made her first public statement, saying that “like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.”

Mr. Madoff’s attorney, Ira Sorkin, said that Mr. Madoff was a “deeply flawed individual” but maintained that most of the fraud money went to other investors. He added that the $13 billion figure cited by the government as the net losses suffered by account holders since 1995 was overstated, since at least $1 billion in recovered assets will be returned to investors, and perhaps a lot more. The judge said that was irrelevant to the case. Mr. Sorkin said Mr. Madoff deserved only 12 years in prison, since he was 71 and had helped the government in its investigation — a statement Judge Chin questioned.

After the sentence, Mr. Sorkin said he hadn’t decided whether to appeal. “The judge has ruled,” he said. Because the sentence is within the federal sentencing guidelines for the case, which are advisory, few lawyers believe an appeals court would rule that it’s too high.

The sentence marked a victory for federal prosecutors who asked for the 150-year sentence, the statutory maximum for the 11 criminal counts he pled guilty to, citing the fraud’s size and duration. Mr. Madoff ran the Ponzi scheme for at least 20 years, prosecutors say.

It’s unclear where Mr. Madoff will do his time; the decision is made by the Bureau of Prisons. Mr. Sorkin asked for a medium-security prison in Otisville, N.Y., but Judge Chin said only that he would recommend to the bureau that it choose an appropriate facility in the Northeast.

Bureau of Prisons guidelines recommend a high-security prison facility for inmates serving sentences longer than 30 years. However, the bureau may still determine that a lower-security prison is appropriate.

There’s no parole in the federal system. Mr. Madoff is eligible for 15% off from his original sentence for good behavior, which would still leave him facing at least 127 years.

The sentencing, while high, isn’t a record for financial fraud. In the past decade there have been sentences as high as 330 and 845 years.

The case continues to reverberate on Wall Street. Michael Holland, chairman of Holland & Co., a New York investment company, says he thinks the Madoff case is one reason a number of investors, including wealthy families, endowments and charities, are moving from using a money manager to more “passive” investment strategies, such as index funds that track broad markets and leave less room for individuals to direct money.

“The future of the money-management business looks less rosy,” he says. “Years ago, people had to have their money managed somewhere, but today you may not be able to charge the large fees and live in Palm Beach to do it.”

But some are skeptical the impact from the Madoff case will be long lasting.

“Every time you get a bubble that bursts, scams come to light, but 10 years down the road we’ll be well past this, it will be ancient history,” says Bert Ely, a longtime banking consultant in Alexandria, Va. “There always will be new scammers and they won’t be dissuaded by this. He’s getting life in jail but look at all the great years he’s had.”


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