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.
Happy April Fools’ Day, such as it is. If there’s one thing the coronavirus has laid bare, it’s that we truly are all in this together. So, to help you stay in touch with your clients during these challenging times, I am giving away two no-fooling gifts to advisors like you:
(1) FREE Client-Ready Content: A CARES Act Overview
My newly published piece, “A CARES Act Overview,” is now available as a FREE download from the Content-Sharing Library.Share this 1,450-word report with clients or (slightly modified) with prospects to provide an approachable but relatively substantive summary of critical content within the Act.
(2) Join the Content-Sharing Library at a Discount
If you find this free content useful and would like plenty more where it came from, you can subscribe to the Content-Sharing Library to access everything else there, plus everything I’ll be adding soon. Use the discount code NOFOOLING to subscribe between now and April 6, and you’ll receive a 10% discount off your annual membership — or $295 instead of $325.
To complete our circle of support, I’d be grateful if you share this announcement with other advisors or advisor forums who might benefit from the information. You’ll be doing them — and me — a lovely favor.
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.
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?
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.
Just when I thought cybercriminals and identity thieves couldn’t get any scummier than they already were, I’ve noticed a trickle of articles streaming in reporting a new low for them: child identity theft. Identity thieves are out to swipe your kid’s identifying information (such as a U.S. Social Security Number or Canadian Social Insurance Number) and link it to their own bad behaviors. The Wall Street Journal recently covered the growing crisis. My friends at the BAM ALLIANCE are on the beat as well, with this powerful video from Jared Hoffman.
To nip child identity theft in the bud, let’s turn that trickle of information into a deluge. Like it or not, parents around the world need to be on the look-out for the warning signs these days. That includes periodically checking to see whether your child has a credit history on file – or at least whether their identity does.
To help you share this important information with your community, I’ve created a pair of articles in my Content-Sharing Library, which you can download for free and use according to the Library’s terms of agreement. (In English, the terms essentially grant you licensing rights to remove my identifying information from the materials and brand them as your own; I retain copyright behind the scenes).
So, click on the link to the version of your choice to download it. Edit it to meet your particular needs. Help spread the word!
Especially for those of us who are artistically challenged, stock photos are the bomb. I use them in just about every post I publish, to help make my communications pop.
But there’s a trap to beware of, lest those photo bombs backfire on you. I’ll explain more in a moment, but watch out for stock photos marked “editorial use.”
First, congratulations if you’re using stock photography to begin with. That already puts you miles ahead of anyone who assumes that, just because you can download an image from the Internet, you may. By and large, you may not. If you don’t believe me, enter “photo copyright infringement penalties” into your favorite search engine and feast your eyes on the results.