Crafting Your Out of Office Message? OOOh, Be Careful.

@ Can Stock Photo / marog

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 perfection.

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 absence.

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.

Here are a few basics to watch for:

Continue reading “Crafting Your Out of Office Message? OOOh, Be Careful.”

Facts, Finance, and Feeling Good About Yourself

© Can Stock Photo / benchart

Recently, I finished reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling. I discovered Rosling’s work nearly a decade ago when his YouTube video “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes” went viral, at least among us data-dorks.

Finding Factfulness

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 investing.

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 matter.

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 & mortar store.

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.


Wendy J. Cook Communications Turns 10: Let’s Celebrate in Style! 🎁🎈

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! 

DISCOUNTED — In addition, through January 31, 2019, you can use the special discount code WENDY10 to download this commemorative sketch (AND/OR any other Behavior Gap sketches) for 50% off Behavior Gap’s usual $100 licensing fee. 

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 10th Anniversary to us all!!!

Get Ready: I’ve Got a Surprise in Store for You 🎁🎈

Let’s get right to it: Unless all heck breaks loose between now and January 5th, I’ll soon be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the day I filed my articles of organization for Wendy J. Cook Communications, LLC. Wahoo!

For now, I just wanted to let you know to be on the look-out for a January 4th announcement about a very special gift. Because friends don’t let friends party alone.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours the warmest, most wonderful holiday season. To swipe a quote from a holiday greeting I received from People Science, “May your workload lighten, your in-store crowds be showered and your traffic jams be merry and bright.”

In fact, let’s start the giving early. In case you missed it, Cliff Asness of AQR Capital Management just sent out his own announcement, commemorating AQR’s 20-year anniversary by giving away a nifty book: 20 for Twenty: Selected Papers from AQR Capital Management. The book includes one of my all-time favorite reads, “My Top 10 Peeves,” which includes one of my all-time favorite quotes (still every bit as relevant today): “Every time someone says, ‘There is a lot of cash on the sidelines,’ a tiny part of my soul dies. There are no sidelines.”

Looking forward to staying in the fray with you, in 2019 and beyond!

PS: Here’s a hint about your upcoming gift. It involves a friend and colleague who’s been hanging out in New Zealand lately. You’ll find out more on Jan. 4 … especially if you sign up to receive my announcements directly to your inbox. 😉

Bogle’s Actual Folly

 

There isn’t an evidence-based investor or advisor around who doesn’t owe an enormous debt of gratitude to John “Jack” Bogle for popularizing index fund investing. He was able to see – and more importantly, stubbornly stick with – a vision of what it could bring to everyday investors, even when his peers were taunting his idea as “Bogle’s Folly.”

Hooray for Bogle; he not only got the last laugh on his detractors, it’s been an incredibly long and lucrative laugh. Well-deserved!

Which brings me to this week’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bogle, “Bogle Sounds a Warning on Index, Funds.” In it, he warns of potentially dark days ahead in an industry that could end up being dominated by a few massive fund managers.

Far be it from me to assume Bogle is wrong. There are certainly lessons to be learned from those who laughed at him the last time he stuck to his vanguard guns (pun intended).

That said, I do have a quibble with how he communicated his message. In particular, his data visualization, i.e., the charts and graphs, struck me as disturbingly disingenuous.

Continue reading “Bogle’s Actual Folly”

Why “Google My Business” Is Critical To Grow Your Business

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

By Larry Goldstick, Capture Digital Marketing

Claim Your Business for Free

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.

Continue reading “Why “Google My Business” Is Critical To Grow Your Business”

Dimensional’s Investor Insights Survey: A Brainy No-Brainer

© Can Stock Photo / ivelinradkov

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.

Continue reading “Dimensional’s Investor Insights Survey: A Brainy No-Brainer”

Preventing Child Identity Theft: Spread the Word!

© Can Stock Photo / 72soul

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!

> Protecting Your Child from Identity Theft (U.S. version)

> Protecting Your Child from Identity Theft (Canadian version)

Questions? Let me know.

A Summer Summary of Swell Stuff

 

© Can Stock Photo / Valya

It’s time once again to catch up on my blogging backlog, sharing some substantive suggestions for my favorite peeps: the evidence-based investment advisor community. Kick back, grab a cool beverage, and read on about:

  1. How to strengthen your online privacy (compliments of GDPR)
  2. A Plutus Award financial publisher honor you may want to aim for, and
  3. A handy robo-advisor resource …

Controlling Computer Clutter, GDPR-Style

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a big fan of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Sure, it’s created some extra work for us business owners, but it’s also driving improved infrastructure to help everyone take better control over their online privacy. In a world in which we may feel our privacy slipping away, that’s important, and I’m happy to be a part of the cause.

Teaser: In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing a bold next step I’m taking on that front. In the meantime, here’s a tip I learned when establishing GDPR-compliant cookie consent on my own website: Thanks to GDPR, you can now more tightly control what cookies you accept from many websites around the world.

Continue reading “A Summer Summary of Swell Stuff”

A Tricky Stock Photo Trap: Beware of “Editorial Use”

© Can Stock Photo / Smit

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.

Continue reading “A Tricky Stock Photo Trap: Beware of “Editorial Use””