The right wording is always important. But an appealing design entices people to actually read it. That’s the inspiration behind Wendy’s Wares, where I’ve married my writing services with polished, professional design. The results? Customizable handouts tailored for you and your evidence-based advisor messaging.
If you’ve been plenty busy with your own challenges and opportunities lately, you may not have noticed a dearth of blog posts from me in 2020.
But, hey, it’s 2021 now! And buried under the more startling events of the week, I quietly marked the anniversary of 12 years in business as Wendy J. Cook Communications, LLC on January 5. Yay.
So, let’s get back to it, shall we? In a year characterized by so many plans that didn’t happen, here are a few of the things I did instead in 2020:
COVID-19 was as good an excuse as any to hunker down with some classic favorites. I spent a lot more time reading, for work and pleasure. I’d forgotten how much I love reading just for reading’s sake. Also sleeping more. With fitness centers closed here, I have moved my routine in-house, which has saved me a lot of prep and driving time. Then there’s Netflix.
In addition to my day job (including custom-writing engagements and Content-Sharing Library materials), I was also keeping our local American Association of University Women (AAUW) branch chugging along. The pandemic happened to hit about halfway through my term as branch president. So some fancy footwork was required to sustain our organization (well over 100 years old and counting). Thankfully, most of even our senior members embraced Zoom with the same zeal they applied to rotary phones earlier in their octogenarian lives. Score another one for the enduring value of an intrepid spirit and a college education … at any age.
Today’s post is in part inspired by an email I received a couple days ago from an advisor, enquiring if I was still in business. “I noticed your last post was in July,” he said. Ouch. I suppose it’s good to know somebody’s keeping an eye on me.
Saving the best for last, I’ve been goofing with an entirely new service offering, inspired by another advisor’s request. We’re still working out a couple technical kinks, so keep an eye on your inbox and you’ll see more details forthcoming. But here’s a hint of what’s to come: If your firm could use a handsome, custom-branded, one-page fact sheet describing your key differentiators, you’re going to be able to order one from me soon.
That’s it for now. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2021 in which we try our level best to proceed thoughtfully and in kindness. And yes, I’m here! 😏
TWO BONUS TIPS:
(1) If you’re a financial advisor and you’ve not yet found Lang Cat’s Mark Polson and his weekly Top Class Wednesday blog, do tootle over to his site and sign up for them. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, Polson offers fascinating first-hand insights into how the financial advisory business is faring over in his stomping grounds. In a world where it’s too easy to become bubble-wrapped in my own polarized perspective, I find Polson’s “out there” commentary of great value (even though I only understand about half of it). Besides, his writing craft is indeed top class. Just don’t read his posts while drinking coffee, or your morning brew may end up your nose.
(2) Speaking of thoughtful and kind, AGC (Advisors Growing as a Community) is another quiet little group that’s been making good strides in 2020. Its co-founders Taylor Schulte and Justin Castelli have been carefully cultivating a short list of advisors interested in growing “personally and professionally alongside their peers.” They appear ready to take off more meaningfully in 2021, with some nifty collaborative projects, so give them a follow and see if they’re a good fit for you.
The best marketing advice is often the most obvious, at least once you’ve heard it. As a financial advisor, you probably already have solid instincts for what marketing strategies make the most sense for you and your community. The right ones just feel right, right from the beginning. The wrong ones make you want to take a shower after you’re through.
But, it’s also likely you’re unsure whether your instincts are correct. To help you decide, I am pleased to share some thoughtful commentary from Shubha K. Chakravarthy of THEWEALTHMARKETER.com (with permission). Thanks for your thoughts, Shubha!
Why (Traditional) Marketing Won’t Work in Wealth Management
If you’ve ever tried to take a deep dive into marketing to shore up your business development efforts, you’ve probably run across a wealth of advice on how to get your marketing up to snuff. It’s all about creating a wide-mouthed marketing funnel that’s designed to capture as many possible prospects at the top to maximize your chances of getting paying clients at the other end:
Find and “capture” as many prospects as possible by casting a very wide net across your network or the internet, depending on your marketing method of choice
Work through all your prospects to figure out if they’ll fit your criteria or not
If they don’t, thank them for their time and move on to the next until you do succeed in signing up a qualified new client. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve concluded that this approach won’t work in wealth management.
Are you planning to hire new team members in 2020? As my year-end gift to you, I’m going to share my handy list of new-hire interview questions. I use these to quickly get to know a new team member whenever a firm engages me to help craft their public announcements about the news.
How quickly and widely you broadcast your new-hire news depends on the position and your firm’s particular dynamics. General rules of thumb:
Personal introductions are in order as soon as possible if the new team member will be working directly with your clients. Make the connection in person, and/or via email or phone, depending on the circumstances.
Website bio updates, social media profiles, e-news and press releases might be best postponed for a while. Unfortunately, not every new hire works out as fabulously as hoped for, so it’s worth giving everyone a little breathing room before making a big splash about it.
Now, back to those interview questions. Here are the questions I start with:
New-Hire Communication Questions
How did you connect with [firm]?
What appealed to you about joining [firm]?
Why do you think [firm] selected you?
What are your key roles today?
What might key roles become moving forward?
In what way(s) do you add your own special touch to [firm’s] culture and community?
What prior positions have you held?
Do you have any credentials, degrees, professional organization memberships or board positions that aren’t already listed in your current website bio?
Are/were you familiar with [firm’s] investment strategy? What’s your perspective on it?
What are your personal and professional goals over the near- and long-term?
What are your personal, family, and community interests?
Any mentors and/or milestones that stand out?
What’s something fun people might not guess about you until they get to know you?
Anything else you can tell me about what makes you … you?
Sometimes these starter questions will generate others, resulting in a pretty good sense of a person’s roles and personality in a conversation lasting about 30–45 minutes. They also usually generate a good quote or two I can incorporate into any communications that may call for one.
You do not have to use every Q&A in every communication you craft about a new hire. But with this material on hand, you should have plenty of good substance to pick and choose from. In short, I find these questions helpful for getting to know a new hire, so I can adeptly introduce them to others. I hope you find them useful too!
I don’t receive as many Out of Office (OOO) auto-responder
messages as I used to. For better or worse, our mobile devices make it difficult
to ever be truly out of touch.
That said, OOO emails aren’t extinct yet either. Whenever I send out an e-newsletter, I typically receive at least a dozen or so automated replies, letting me know who is out and about. The numbers seem to increase on Friday afternoons, when spring is in the air!
I wholeheartedly endorse unplugging now and then. It’s good
for you and your business. But before you head out, do think twice about the
content in your Out of Office message. There’s an irony to it: You’ll spend untold
dollars and countless hours creating your communications: your website, your
newsletters, your client materials, advertisements, etc., all crafted to
Then you’ll give scarcely a thought to your OOO response,
even though what it says about you is just as important.
Properly crafted, your OOO message can contribute to your
business development by appealing to clients, prospects, the media, and strategic
alliances alike. It’s a free opportunity to shine, by leaving anyone who has
reached out to you feeling good about your professionalism, and impressed by
your dedicated supported team, ready and waiting to assist them in your
Or not. If you’ve slapped together your OOO message as
you’re heading out the door (already running way later than expected), it can instead
leave your recipients wondering what you were thinking.
Making the leap from Rosling’s four-minute video to his full-length book took some time. Unfortunately, it was time Rosling himself did not have, having passed away from pancreatic cancer in February 2017. Reminiscent of the late Gordon Murray’s inspiring collaboration with Dan Goldie on The Investment Answer, Rosling dedicated the last year of his life to completing Factfulness. He collaborated on it with his son and daughter-in-law, who published it in 2018.
Referring to “data as therapy” and “understanding as a source of mental peace,” Rosling urges us to employ “factfulness” to recognize that the world is usually better off than we think. With Bill Gates describing it as “one of the most educational books I’ve ever read,” I figured it was worth checking out.
Factfulness and Finance
How does factfulness work? Without it, we become overwhelmed
by all the bad news going on around us. With it, the greater facts remind us
that historical conditions have been even worse. In other words, we are
making enormous progress, but close up, we can’t see it. Rosling explains:
“Journalists who reported flights that didn’t crash or crops that didn’t fail would quickly lose their jobs. Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and impact millions of people. … Safe flights are not newsworthy.”
It’s easy to connect these messages with the same ones you
likely espouse for yourself and your clients as you help them embrace evidence-based
A Higher Purpose
Beyond that, I took a greater message from the book. If your
advice has been incorporating insights gained from behavioral psychology, it’s
one you’re already familiar with, but it bears repeating: By losing sight of
factfulness, it may often feel as if BIG acts, ENORMOUS effort and MAJOR
improvements – the kinds we read about in the paper – are the only changes that
All facts considered, this could not be further from the
truth. Ordinary, everyday accomplishments are what Rosling describes as “the secret
silent miracle of human progress.” Your and my small, unsung deeds are the streams
that feed rivers that run to oceans of accomplishment.
So, whether it’s going that extra mile for your clients or
dedicating some time to a community project, let’s each take on one or two good
deeds – today, tomorrow, and the day after that. They don’t have to be huge;
just make them a habit and, over time, that will do.
Give the Gift of an Amazon Review
Here’s one small possibility you may not have thought of: Give a
good financial book a positive Amazon review.
You see, some of my best friends are financial authors. So,
I happen to know, one of the best ways you can help them increase their sales and
readership is to review their books on Amazon. These days, a strong presence there
is electronic gold, like being in the “featured books” section of a brick &
Your review need not be novel-length itself. Two minutes,
five stars, and a few sentences should do it. Go ahead. Pick some of your
recent favorite financial reads, and go to it.
PS: Need another good book to read and review? Larry Swedroe and Kevin Grogan recently published a landmark book to help people get a grip on retirement planning at any age. It’s aptly entitled, “Your Complete Guide to a Successful Retirement,” and it’s got my five-star approval as well, plus it’s available to order in bulk with your own custom foreword.
As I suggested in my recent teaser, it all started on January 5, 2009. 10 years ago tomorrow, I filed my articles of organization for Wendy J. Cook Communications, LLC. My simple mission, then and now: to offer writing, editing and related services to evidence-based investment advisors. It’s been a wonderful ride so far!!!
I couldn’t have done it without you, so I consider the event to be yours to celebrate as much as mine. I’m thrilled to have commissioned Carl Richards of Behavior Gap to help us celebrate our anniversary with a commemorative sketch he has created for this very purpose. (Thanks, Carl!)
TWO SPECIAL DEALS:
FREE — First, as my gift to the evidence-based advisor community, I have purchased 10 FREE downloads of the “Compound Impact of a Decade” commemorative illustration, for the first 10 advisors who jump on the opportunity. Simply click here, enter the discount code WENDY10FREE, and the first 10 downloads will fulfill at no cost. Lucky you!
It’s worth noting, Carl and I go back even further than a decade. As our paths kept crossing, we both imagined a world in which terms like “fee-only,” “index funds,” “evidence-based investing” (back then, “passive”) and “fiduciary” would no longer need an introduction. Who could have imagined how far we’d come in that early quest — you, me, Carl and all our like-minded allies?
Happy Cyber Monday, my friends! Discounts, schmiscounts. Let’s talk about value-added ideas that will cost you nothing at all. Today, I’ve joined forces with Larry Goldstick of Capture Digital Marketing. In his guest post, he shares his excellent insights on what “Google My Business” can do for you (and leaves me hungry for some pizza). Take it away, Larry …
Why “Google My Business” Is Critical To Grow Your Business
Google My Business is free to verified businesses. Using this tool increases your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack. Local Pack is a query tool that displays the top 3 most relevant businesses based on the users’ search criteria. Details about the business are shown with a ‘pin drop’ location on Google Maps. Establishing a Google My Business account also increases ranking on Local Finder and Google Maps. Gather the necessary details first and then claim your business at Google My Business.
Essential for SEO
SEO or search engine optimization affects the ranking of a website via a search engine. Think about the last time you used Google to search for ‘pizza near me’. Keeping your Google listing up to date, adding photos and getting and responding to reviews influences the ranking level of local pizza restaurants in your area. Google shows 10 results per page, so if your restaurant is ranked 13, chances are the order for a Deep Dish Supreme is going to be given to a competitor.
Sometimes, it’s hard to decide. Especially if you’re like me and you overthink every little thing. (Just ask my husband.)
Then there are the occasional no-brainers. For example, for some time, I’d been reading our local newspaper online, recycling the print versions untouched. One day, I finally inquired about changing from “Print + Digital” to “Digital Only.” Not only was the switch going to cut our monthly bill in half, it would save a ton of trees. Duh … and now done.
This summer, while attending a Dimensional Fund Advisors workshop in Portland, Oregon, I encountered another no-brainer decision that seemed just as obvious as my digital change-over. I’m talking about Dimensional’s annual Global Investor Insights Survey.
With three surveys under their belt and the next one just released, here are some of the reasons firms that are incorporating Dimensional’s fund line-up for the core of their clients’ portfolios should consider participating every time:
Data Points of Distinction. The survey results are helping advisors like you affix solid numbers to how differently you’re serving your own clients compared to the typical run-around most investors experience (which, hint hint, can be incorporated into your marketing materials).
Client Appreciation. The current survey is designed to be delivered as a tailored reach-out between you and your clients, letting you demonstrate how much you value their candid feedback.
Opportunity Identification. If there are weak spots worth tending to in your service offering, the survey may help you find those as well.
Breaking news. Each year, Dimensional has been refining and modifying its survey to explore new and different avenues. Even if you’ve already participated, each round should yield new insights.
Horse, Meet Water
Why would an evidence-based advisor not participate? Beats me. And yet, when our summer conference hosts asked the room of several hundred attendees who had participated in last year’s survey, I was surprised more hands weren’t raised.
Maybe it’s a matter of time. It’s easy to get so busy on the daily details, even excellent opportunities can slip through the cracks.
To learn more, I reached out to Dimensional’s Head of Advisor Communication Jake DeKinder, who shared with me some of the highlights from past surveys, as well as a preview of some of the newest concepts they’ll be rolling out soon.