Social Media Content Stream For Advisors Doubled Unique Visitors To RIA's Website

Charles D. Jones Capital Management, an RIA in Waco, Texas, says Social Media Content Stream For Advisors from Advisor Products is doubling unique visitors to its website.

“The data is pretty compelling,” Jones said in an email to me last week. “It explains itself better than I can.” Jones sent data from his Google Analytics account showing that unique visitors to his website doubles on days when he uses the wealth management content stream provided by Advisor Products.

Advisor Products released Social Media Content Stream For Advisors to beta testers eight weeks ago. It automatically posts status updates (also called “tweets”) to an advisor’s social networks. The 140-character updates link to wealth management articles and videos created by Advisor Products and posted to an advisor’s website. When your social connections see a status update in which they’re interested, they can click on a link embedded in the status update and it takes them to your website to read the full article.

Social Media Content Stream For Advisors is administered using a social media dashboard. The dashboard lets you schedule your tweets. So you can long in once a week or once a month and schedule all your tweets to be posted once a day. You can also rewrite the tweets and target them to your local market or niches, which will help with search engine optimization. Alternatively, you can your dashboard settings can automatically post your status updates and run on “autopilot.”

If you are an Advisor Products Platinum client, Social Media Content Stream For Advisors is free. Please email us to turn on your social media dashboard. You can add archiving of all your social media content for $348 annually by taking advantage of our partnership with Erado.


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Making Your Client Portal Compelling And Easy For Clients

Advisor Products has nearly five years of experience in developing client portals and provides secure portals to more than 45,000 clients of RIAs.

The key to success, we’ve learned, is in making it easy on clients.

By automatically notifying a client whenever their advisor uploads a document, AdvisorVault puts an unprecedented amount of personal financial information at your clients’ fingertips.

You’re not sending clients “canned” information. It’s about their accounts, their wealth. Clients care about that.

Your clients are not morons. They know AdvisorVault notifications provide important and personal financial information. Some clients check data daily, but most check it once a month or less.

Knowing the information is there is what’s important to clients.

Telling clients the information will always be there is good marketing for advisors.

Email Module

To notify clients when new personal information becomes available, AdvisorVault’s email communication module makes it easy to create “template emails.”

Template emails generated in AdvisorVault include your logo and come from your personal email address. They are captured by your email archive system.

The body of the text of template emails in AdvisorVault is personalized. John Smith gets a “Dear John Smith” email with a personalized URL to log into his personal portal.

The screenshot above shows 16 template emails included with AdvisorVault, covering the most common activities of advisors using client vaults. For example, when an advisor uploads a document, the email at the top of the list, “Advisor Document Upload,” can be sent automatically.

Setting up an automatic email notification is easy for an advisor. In the screenshot above, each of the email templates checked off will be sent automatically. Whenever you add a new client vault or reset a client’s password, for example, a template email can be sent automatically.

Template emails can be sent in batch or one at a time. If you change all of your clients’ passwords or upload a document for all of your clients, for instance, all of them can be sent an email notification.

Also you can create your own template emails. If you batch upload clients’ brokerage statements, for example, you can write an email and that will be automatically sent. The email is short but personal.

Marketing Advantage

While unbridled transparency may not fit your style currently, those who practice this way are likely to find the transparency a marketing advantage. Plus it’s the right thing to do.

This is where the world is headed. Full-disclosure is your friend. It’s what fiduciaries do.

You can be the guy who makes information available to clients over the Web. Or not.

If not, those who do embrace transparency this way will be happy to compete against you.

Client portals offered by advisors are not consumer apps. They’re made for advisor clients. Email templates is just one feature of many enabled by AdvisorVault that advisors won’t get from consumer apps like Dropbox and FileShare, which are being promoted by some consultants who don’t have our experience.

Data from portfolio management, CRM, and professional applications can’t be found in consumers apps. With 50 million users, integration with your PMS system is not a high priority to DropBox. It is a high priority in AdvisorVault.

Batch Process Any File

AdvisorVault recently launched an app that lets you batch process any file you get in a batch. If you get 1099s, brokerage statements, tax returns, or any other documents in batch, you can batch upload them to AdvisorVault.

For Methodical Advisors Only

AdvisorVault is not for everyone. Advisors who do not want to share information with clients won’t like it. Advisors who won’t follow through with setting up clients with vaults and using template emails are also not well suited for it. It’s only for advisors with an attention span long enough to facilitate following through with a plan.

Coming Soon

AdvisorVault is continuously evolving. New features we’re planning to deliver in the next 12 months will allow you to deliver clients your Form ADV, provide “star” reports on mutual funds, and enable clients to sign account documents digitally.  In addition, we plan to be enable delivery of personalized news in a client’s vault so you can address behavioral finance issues in times of volatility. We also plan to integrate with consumer vault systems like AdvisorVault so advisors can easily move documents from the most popular consumer apps to AdvisorVault’s app for professionals.
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How An RIA With $1.6 Billion AUM And Serving As A Multi-Family Office Uses Advisor Products Client Vault

After 25 years as a hand surgeon, Dr. Bob Tucker left his position as medical director of a large orthopedic group in St. Louis in 2006 to become a financial advisor. Tucker joined Plancorp, an RIA in St. Louis with $1.6 billion AUM founded by Jeff Buckner. Buckner, a co-founder of Zero Alpha Group, a network of nine RIAs managing about $9 billion, gave Tucker oversight of operations, drawing on his experience in running a medical practice.

In October 2010, Plancorp selected AdvisorVault as its client portal platform. Plancorp, which uses Schwab PortfolioCenter for portfolio management and reporting, uploads client data daily to AdvisorVault.

“There were some technology issues initially, but they’ve been resolved, says Tucker. “Our clients do like it and we like it.”

Tucker says it takes about 15 minutes a day for staffer to upload the portfolio data. “Every client’s vault is branded to Plancorp, and we like that,” says Tucker. “We also like the fact that we are presenting clients with HTML reports and not just PDFs.”

AdvisorVault, like many client portfolio reporting solutions, allows RIAs to prepare PDF reports. The HTML reports use the Web medium better, allowing an RIA to present links to securities with Podcasts, news and other data. In addition, HTML reports are interactive allowing clients to export tables to Excel, reorder a report by clicking on a column heading, drill down into links to individual tax lots, and more.

Plancorp inserts a disclosure that all its clients must view before accessing reports in AdvisorVault.

Tucker says the firm recently added AdvisorVault’s integration with TD Ameritrade Institutional, which is free with AdvisorVault. TD Ameritrade Institutional integration with AdvisorVault allows RIAs to provide their clients with access to TDAI account data daily from the RIA’s website instead of directing clients to the TDAI Veo advisor-client website.

RIAs can see reports on which clients are logging into AdvisorVault to check account values and which documents are viewed. In addition, RIAs can post content that all clients will see before accessing account statements, enabling advisors to address behavioral finance issues in times of volatility.

While an operations staffer is charged with uploads of daily performance data, Tucker says financial planning associates are responsible for uploading other wealth management documents for clients. As a service to clients, Plancorp offers to post estate documents, tax returns, health care proxies, passports and more. Tucker says that although not all clients “recognize the value of having those documents available from any internet connection, a number have posted their own documents.”

Tucker says use of the vault by client is not correlated with age. “It’s more highly correlated with how obsessive the client is and whether they see the value in having documents in a place where they are safe and accessible. I don’t know that they’re interested in technology as much as the benefit.”

Attorneys, accountants, and other allied professionals are provided vault access, Tucker says. “We have created vaults for key professionals with whom we share a lot of data.” Tucker says Plancorp has relationships with several accounting firms with mutual clients, and professionals at those firms are given access to their clients’ documents.

“Another situation is a family office, where we give the outside professionals access to certain parts of the vault,” he says. “Plancorp provides the family office, but if the family has attorneys and accountants, we’ve structured vault access so that those professionals can get access to some documents.”

Tucker cited the case of a family matriarch who gets access to everything in her family vault, but her children get access that is “somewhat limited.” “Anything we can do to strengthen the relationship with next generation is done” using AdvisorVault, says Tucker.

Advisor Products is proud to have Plancorp using its secure client portal systems.



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How A Sole Practitioner Is Scaling His RIA With Client Portals

With a background as an industrial engineer, CFP® Rick Epple says he realized in December 2008 that he needed to radically shift the way he managed his practice. “After the market crash in October 2008, I thought to myself that I could not do this anymore,” says the founder of Epple Financial in Wayzata, Minn. “With all the time it took to reassure clients, the fact that my technology systems did not talk to each other made it difficult to quickly get information and communicate.”

“I took a step back and asked myself what my vision was for my practice, and it was clear that I had to automate more,” Epple says, “I needed a system where I did not have to spend as much time accessing client data, where information would be at my fingertips and my clients’ fingertips.”

In early 2009, Epple decided to make the Client Portal his platform for secure client communication. He made the decision because of Client Portal’s interface with Redtail CRM. After further research, Epple selected AssetBook as his firm’s portfolio management accounting application, largely because of its integration with the Advisor Products Client Portal. He chose MoneyGuide Pro as his financial planning solution because it, too, was integrated with the Client Portal from Advisor Products.

“Changing everything was not an easy process,” says Epple. “You don’t have to be an industrial engineer to do it, but you need to make the time and financial commitment to transfer to new systems. You must be able to handle change and follow through on your plans.”

By July 2010, Epple says all of his practice management systems were running smoothly and he was ready to start marketing and scaling up.  “The benefit were not evident until early 2011,” he says. That year, Epple says his fee-only firm’s assets under management rose more than 40% from $26 million to $37 million. By the end of the first quarter of 2012, Epple Financial Advisors was at $42 million in AUM.

“It took me from working in the business to working on the business,” says Epple, who added 13 new clients and is now focused more on working with dentists and business owners in the Lake Minnetonka area near Minneapolis, Minn.

According to Epple, once AssetBook, MoneyGuide Pro, and Redtail were set up to feed client data into each client’s portal, the benefits of the automation kicks in. “The difficult part of the shift is not the Client Portal,” says Epple, “It’s switching over client data and then learning use new tools for performance reporting, financial planning and client relationship management.”

Epple says a virtual assistant sets up a portal and vault for each new client. The portal automatically generates email notifications to clients and forces them to create “strong” passwords. “It’s a user-friendly system and it does not take a lot of work to implement,” Epple says.

Some clients log into their portals daily to check their performance of their portfolios, which Epple says “does make me a bit nervous.” However, he says they are also looking at the same time at performance of their financial plan’s performance, which puts portfolio performance in perspective. On average, Epple says his 37 clients check their portal once a month.

A feature in the client portal that Epple is using extensively allows him to assign to-dos to clients. Epple creates a to-do in Redtail’s CRM and checks a box to automatically push it into a client’s portal. Clients receive an email telling them to log into their portals whenever they are assigned a to-do.

“I love the fact that my notes ion my CRM regarding a to-do for a client is exactly the same as what the client sees,” Epple says. “I don’t have copy and paste and it’s really easy.”

Epple says he meets with three times in the first four months of every new client-relationship. In that period, a series of “standard” to-dos are assigned to clients, such as getting their latest tax returns from their accountants. Other to-dos are more personalized. “Right now I am looking at whether a client should refinance the mortgage on a vacation home and communicating the personal information involved using the client portal and vault,” he says.

Epple says clients must have a “comfort level with technology” to use the portal. “But I have clients who are retirees and barely know how to use a computer but love the client portal and think it’s cool,” Epple says.

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Tooting Your Own Horn Versus Telling Stories About How You Help People

Bob Powell, in his post today on A4A about advisors using social media, says he does not like advisors tweeting about calling the last market top correctly. I agree. Apart from raising compliance issues, most investors would doubt your ability to call every market turn. However, it is good to tell stories about clients you help. For example, let me tell you about a client of mine that I just spoke with.

His name is Adam Wright. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in supply chain management and working in the field for five years, Adam joined his mother, Kathleen Wright, and her partner, Greg Lintner at Wright Associates. Kathleen and Greg are both Chartered Financial Analysts and manage about $100 million for wealthy individuals.

Adam says he was referred to Advisor Products by a Schwab Institutional relationship manager. Advisor Products was one of several firms Schwab mentioned that builds sites for RIAs, and Adam narrowed the list down to Advisor Products because of our online portfolio reporting solution that is integrated with Schwab PortfolioCenter.

Adam, who says he enjoys technology, says he wanted to start with a simple site. Nothing too fancy.

“Because this was our first foray into the Web, we wanted something cost-effective,” he says. “Advisor Products had the simple template we wanted, while other companies we looked at were much more expensive and complicated. This was easy.”

Adam started the site development process with Advisor Products on April 18 and the RIA’s website went live on May 18.

“Your staff was proactive and energetic about getting our site built,” Adam says, adding that his calls and emails were returned promptly. “But the most important thing that I appreciated about working with Advisor Products was that we were able to delegate design decisions to you. We are process and finance people and did not want to have to make graphic design decisions.”

While I personally would like to see every one of our website clients get the snazziest graphics and get involved with their firm's graphic design, the Wright solution was a simple one and the firm is happy with it, which is what counts. They address search engine optimization and copywriting and incorporating their processes into AdvisorVault in the months ahead.

Point is, advisors don’t need to claim to have called every market turn in their status updates or blog posts. Just tell stories  in your blog about how you help people in your practice every day.

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SlideShare Remains The No. 1 Content Marketing App For RIAs; Brainshark Overpriced

SlideShare is still the best slideshow app for small businesses. Brainshark has more features but it's too expensive for most RIAs.

If you’re an advisor and you want to generate sales leads online, the content marketing apps you use for posting should meet the following requirements:

  • Shareable. You want to post your content so it will be easy for people who see your ideas to share them with their social networks on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

  • Embeddable. You (and your connections) must be able to embed your content on their websites.

  • Displayed On All Devices. You want to post so can it to be viewed on all types of devices — smartphones, desktops, and tablets — and on all operating systems, iOS, Android, and Windows.

  • Trackable. You must be able to see how many hits you get.

  • Lead-Generating. You want to be able to generate sales leads from your content.

Before I tell you what to do with your marketing, please allow me to introduce myself. Unlike many “social media experts” giving advice to advisors on the Internet, I actually do this stuff. Advisor Products over the past three years posted 90 videos to its YouTube Channel and 25 “slidecasts” to its SlideShare channel. (Slidecasting is when you upload a PowerPoint slideshow and then an MP3 narration. SlideShare and Brainshark allow you to synchronize a narration with a slideshow.)

Amazingly, slidecasts have generated nine times as many views for Advisor Products as YouTube videos.

In fairness to YouTube, I put a lot more thought into the slidecasts than most of those videos. But I do believe slidecasting is a better online communication medium than video for advisors, or any business for that matter.

That’s because the focus of creating a slidecast is not lights, camera, and your actions. Slidecasting entails a deliberate act of communication of solely focused on explaining ideas — substance not form. To be sure, you could make a video that’s as compelling as a slidecast. In fact, video is a more personal medium because it shows you speaking into a camera and the camera doesn’t lie about you. However, making video that’s as effective as a slidecast requires expending the same effort at researching and explaining ideas, but it then adds the complexity of making a video, which is more complicated than making a narration.

Slidecasts are also better than video on the Web because the slides can contain links. As Marshal McLuhan would say, it is a “hot” medium — arguably hotter on the Internet than video.

SlideShare is not the only app for sharing PowerPoint presentations, of course. It’s biggest competitor in slidecasting is Brainshark.

Brainshark has more features. Brainshark’s main advantage over SlideShare is that you can view Brainshark presentations on the iPad. You can’t view slidecasts on an iPad or other mobile devices, which really is bad. But when you look at the cost of Brainshark, you’ll probably find the price difference unacceptable -- especially since its main advantage will be short-lived.

Aptly named, Brainshark shrewdly hides its pricing plans to sucker you into trying the app. You cannot see Brainshark’s pricing until after you sign up for a trial version. For a social media marketing tool to use such old school, hide-the-facts marketing indicates something is wrong at Brainshark. I posted a screenshot of Brainshark's pricing below.

Brainshark Pro Prices

Brainshark Pro lures you with by advertising a price plan starting at $9.99 monthly. But sign up for the demo, you learn that that’s $9.99 monthly per slideshow. In other words, if I posted my 25 slidecasts on SlideShare at Brainshark, it would cost $7.99 each per month — $199.75 monthly. With a price plan that’s paid once a year, Brainshark would cost me $1400 a year. At SlideShare, a Gold annual plan for $432.58 a year allows upload up to 20 presentations per month. Bottom line: SlideShare costs me $967.32 a year less than Brainshark!

In addition, HTML5 enables slidecasts to be played on iPads, so it’s only a matter of months before Slideshare crushes Brainshark  by converting all of its slidecasts to HTML5 to make them viewable on any mobile device. Slideshare was purchased recently by LinkedIn.

By the way, I tried contacting Brainshark's CEO and founder, Joe Gustafson, and Andy Zimmerman, Brainshark's CMO, two weeks before writing this post by connecting with  them on LinkedIn. Gustafson looked at my profile but never accepted the connection. Neither did Zimmerman. Again, not impressive for a social marketing company.

What's the bottom line?  Here are some practical tips, including a slidecast:

  • The Advisor Products BackOffice content management system allows you to embed any slide show you create on these platforms on your blog. In fact, you don’t need to write anything except a title for your slidecast and you can make one of these presentations a blog entry. Just call the service desk if you need help (888-274-5755).

  • For search engine optimization and niche marketing, it’s wise to target slidecasts to your ideal clients: doctors in Duluth, IBM employees Westchester, N.Y. with deferred compensation plans, retired professors at Arizona State University.

  • Keep slidecasts short, no more than three minutes. Write three to six sentences, five to 20 words in length, about each slide. I made a slidecast showing how you can use PowerPoint’s “Presenter View” to write your script for each slide.

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Timely Technology Questions And Answers For RIAs

  • Do you have a reliable way to archive and retrieve emails if you’re inspected?

  • Do you systematically archive all your firm’s social media content?

  • Is your practice using cloud-based vesions of Microsoft Office or Google Apps?

  • Can you batch process and deliver any type of document to clients securely?

  • Can you stream financial news to your social networks?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” please join us Thursday at 4 p.m. EST for a webinar with better answers.

Advisor Products has been in business since 1996 but solutions we’re launching now are more helpful than ever.

Our unrelenting focus on client communications for RIAs makes us unique and more valuable than ever to investment advisors.

What we are doing is high quality, priced well, and  good for RIAs.

Feedback from our clients is very positive these days because our service team is stronger, but these new solutions will add to our already-strong platform.
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Two Minute Video Shows Social Media Content Stream For Financial Advisors

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Erado, An Advisor Products Compliance Partner, Named To Gartner's "Cool Vendor" List

You just don’t see vendors to advisors get named to Gartner’s list of “cool vendors.” Sorry, I know RIAs think they are really a big deal but in the enterprise world covered by Gartner, the RIA segment of the financial services industry just does not matter much.

So when Craig Brauff, founder and CEO of Erado Message Control Solutions, an email and social media compliance solution, sent me a copy of Gartner’s research naming his company a “cool vendor” today, I was thrilled.

Erado was on my radar screen for the last few years but did not get on my personal list of “cool vendors” until about three months ago, when Brauff came to visit me here in Long Island.

Brauff is an economist who taught himself programming. In his early 50s now, he’s an entrepreneur with a track record of success.  He’s a hands on guy, totally obsessed with doing great work. For instance, Brauff built his own data center because he decided that was a requirement for building a world-class advisor compliance business.

With an intensity that matches my own, Brauff and I are kindred spirits. When we sat down together in my home office after dinner one evening and got to know each other, we almost immediately became excited about one another’s work.

Erado was making technology simpler for advisors. For example, other social media compliance vendors had created proxies for logging into social networks. Big social media vendors have been requiring that advisors log into a compliant version of Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter and use that to post content to their social networks. That means those other vendors have to support software proxies for smartphones, desktops , tablets, Androids, Macs, and PCs. I have learned from personal experience that ths is a bad approach.

Erado’s approach is different. It does not create a proxy to log into social networks in order to enforce compliance. It rids advisors of the need to use a proxy. Erado capture what is posted and turns it into an email where it can be reviewed by compliance officers and archived. Brauff went in a different direction from most vendors gaining momentum with enterprises. And it has paid off.

Gartner’s recognition is fantastic but the real recognition that Erado is doing something better it that its systems are getting adopted by large institutions. Erado now provides email and social media archiving for tens of thousands of advisors, and it is the compliance vendor chosen by many large BDs, including LPL Financial.

When Brauff told me about his ideas for advisor email and social media compliance three months ago, I knew right away that Erado was a cool vendor. But what was really cool is that Brauff felt the same way about Advisor Products!

I showed Brauff how the Financial Advisor Social Media Content Stream from Advisor Products would work. (It just went live recently and we are looking for beta testers.) Brauff got it. While other vendors offered content, Brauff on the spot that evening validated that what Advisor Products is doing would be better.  Advisor Products, Brauff understood, was dong something really cool!

It was at that moment when we decided Erado and Advisor Products would work together.

In a few days, Advisor Products and Erado will start providing RIAs with Erado compliance solutions — email archiving and encryption as well as social media archiving.

The price will be 20% below what Erado charges RIAs for its compliance solutions. Erado is treating Advisor Products like a large enterprise buyer and Advisor Products is passing on the savings to RIAs.

RIAs will be able to buy cloud solutions for Office 365 and Google Apps bundled with email and social media compliance.

Advisor Products has been in search of a compliance vendor that could meet the needs of RIAs for about five years. But Erado really is a cool vendor and that’s why we chose Erado.

Congratulations Craig!
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Seeking Beta Testers For Financial Advisor Social Media Content Stream

Tonight, at long last, we’re going live with a financial advisor social media dashboard (SMD.

People who have seen SMD say it’s like HooteSuite for advisors.

We create content — articles and videos — and we write three status updates (tweets) about each topic. You use SMD to send your tweets.

SMD is an ingenuous way for a wealth manager to post updates to social networks once a day on topics high-net-worth individuals need to know about: how the improving financial condition of state governments might affect muni bonds, utilizing “stretch” IRAs, how not to spoil their kids, and asset protection strategies for doctors.

The beauty of the SMD is that Advisor Products does the heavy lifting by writing about these strategies authoritatively. All you do is rewrite the tweets we provide to target it to you social networks.

The SMD is included free with all Platinum-licensed websites. You can add the social media content stream and our content to any website for $1337 annually.

If you’re interested in becoming a beta tester, please email and let us know.

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