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Wall Street Steward Blog

The Socialite

How I, as an LPL financial advisor, use social media to build my practice.

During our long term strategic planning meeting last August, I was asked “what is your mission for Family Trust Investment Services?”

Being the narcissist that I am, you may shudder to think of what my answer might have been. Did I show humility and mumble some sports cliché like “I’m just happy to be here to help my club any way that I can?” No. No, I did not.

My mission was/is to build THE elite wealth management practice in the Rock Hill area. The standard by which others are measured. Every profession seems to have a “go-to” local personality – the best real estate agent, or the top rated attorney, etc.

I want to be THAT person -  the best financial advisor Rock Hill, SC has ever seen. When someone is able to become the trusted professional, they achieve something that money cannot buy – they occupy space in peoples’ subconscious. Meaning, if someone has a financial planning need currently, we can help them. But, more importantly, even those that do not have a need for our services right now will probably need advice eventually. When that happens, I want to be the first person they think of calling.

C’mon….you knew I would shoot for the moon, right? I don’t settle.

The execution of this goal demands a ridiculous amount of planning, hard work, and execution. It will take a long time to build the house, and we are nowhere close to being a finished product. However, I feel as though we have built the foundation.

How did we do it? That is NOT an easy question to answer. It was a true team effort, and many factors have contributed to our incredible growth over the past 2 years.

BUT, if I had to name the number one thing that has helped us, tis social media. Mind you, any time someone cites social media as a positive business influence, they run the risk of becoming Captain Catchphrase. I shall be as specific as I can. Here are the ways I have used social media to help build our practice.

DIFFERENTIATION: In Rock Hill, the investments space is a crowded one. There seem to be advisors on every corner. Whether we call ourselves brokers, financial planners, wealth management firms…blah blah blah. The only thing the client cares about is WHY YOU?? Why are you different? Save your elevator speech for the next Tony Robbins convention…tell me why specifically you are different from the other 75 planners down the street.

In my opinion, nearly all “financial people” have very similar processes. We profile risk, build relationships, earn trust, and get accounts. Once we have someone’s money, we allocate the assets across different things to try to accomplish the desired goals of the client, while taking as little risk as possible. The problem is that we all have very similar arrows in our quiver. If any advisor tells you to let them invest your hard earned money because they have some product that others don’t have, RUN the other way. Exclusivity doesn’t exist on Wall Street, unless you are talking to Bernie Madoff.

So, our challenge is to be different, but we all do the same things using the same products.

I really want you to make a movie. You have a budget of zero, no actors, and a 25 year old handheld camcorder. Good luck with that.

I decided that I would be different by using social media. I had a hunch that brokers would be slow to adapt to the ever changing cultures of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc…so far, I have been right. By using these tools, as well as this blog, I have created a different enough approach that I never get asked that question any more. I am not sure what it is, but I can tell you that nobody asks me “why you” anymore.

That battle is won.

AVAILABILITY: I work in a service business. A big part of that is learning to communicate using whatever medium THE CLIENT prefers. If you are old fashioned and prefer telephone calls, we have that. Want a face to face meeting? I can do that. However, if you prefer to send me a tweet or a Facebook message, you can do that as well.

Or, if there is something that I need to proactively communicate to clients quickly, I now have the means to do so.  Here is an example:

August 2011. Over the span of three trading days (Aug 3-8), the overall stock market (S&P 500) dropped from 1260 to 1120.  -11% in three days. Your 100k just became 89k. Oh, and by the way, your advisor is out of town at a business conference. He doesn’t have a backup advisor. His assistant is not registered, so she cannot help explain why you have lost a bundle. And no, you’re NOT on candid camera, nor did you stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

This happened. I was stuck in Chicago in meetings, while every client I had was biting their fingernails. I calmly stepped out of one of my meetings, found a computer, logged on to Facebook and wrote the following:

Dear Clients,

Today looks like it will be another big down day in the market. I am not panicking. You shouldn’t either. Here is why:

  1. Investing is a long term event, & over the long term a diversified portfolio may offer a good return with limited risk. Please just tell yourself that you don’t need ALL of your money right now.
  2. These events are outside factors that have nothing to do w/the market. USA debt problems & downgrade do not affect the fact that companies have record earnings, & that the overall market is as cheap as it has been since 1990 on a P/E basis.
  3. I have been in the biz for 17 years. This is not my first rodeo & won’t be our last. I saw 1998, 2000-2002, & 2008. The market recovered in all of those cases, & it will do it again this time.
  4. If you have lost money, one of the ways to make the funds back are to leave them invested. Hypothetically, at .5 percent per year (a 1 year CD), it will take your money 144 years to double.
  5. If there were changes that I wanted to make, I would. I did not see this coming but now that we are in it, we just need to stay on the bus.

I will hold your hand. I will manage your portfolio through this as I have before for hundreds of other clients. PLEASE do not worry about this, that is what you pay me to do. If there is anything you need, please contact Catherine at 803 367 4158.

See the link here.

On August 20, 2012, the S&P closed above 1418, or 27 percent higher than where it closed on August 8, 2011. Was I right? Yes. But, that is not the point…the point is that I was available. Every client could read exactly what I thought about the market at that precise moment. I would’ve had that same conversation over the phone 200 times if I had been in town. Since I wasn’t available to talk, all Catherine had to do was refer each client to Facebook where they could see what I thought.

THAT could not have been accomplished using an old fashioned letter.

LEGACY PLANNING: One of our biggest risks as advisors is “What happens when my clients die? Will their children stay with me or transfer the accounts to another financial advisor in Rock Hill?”

I believe that social media is the best way to bridge this relationship gap. Our clients’ kids and grandkids are not reading the Wall Street Journal (or the Rock Hill Herald) looking for their next financial planner. They use Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Why not meet them there BEFORE your client dies?

It is logical. It makes sense. But, Mr. 55 year old financial planner, it will require that you break out of your comfort zone, take a risk, be real, and reach out to that next generation in a way that THEY can relate to.

REFERABILITY: There are so many uncertainties when you first meet someone. Their appearance, hygiene, clothes, smell, handshake…a lot of variables.

What if you could remove all of those variables from the prospect’s mind before you even meet them?

Think of it this way: if you were the client, would you like to know if the person you are going in to meet is only 3 feet tall, or would you rather them see the look of shock on your face as you reach down to shake their hand? Rather, if a person had a patch over one of their eyes, would you want to know that before waltzing into their office for the first time? Men, if the broker looked like Kate Upton, wouldn’t you like to prepare yourself so you don’t stare?

Of course. The fewer variables the better, right? No surprises.

With this blog, a prospect can see my appearance, hear my voice, get a good idea of how I communicate, and see generally if they think I can be trusted.

I could not remove all of these variables in the next print ad placed with The Herald.

I could wax poetic about social media forever, but since I am now at 1,600 words…tis time to close.

I am not THE elite financial advisor in Rock Hill yet, but with the leverage of my social media marketing, I would not bet against Family Trust Investment Services long term.

Plus, even if I never wear that crown, at least I will get to have fun doing what I do.

*There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
*CD’s are FDIC insured and offer a fixed rate of return if held to maturity.