Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Should you drop subscribers who don't open your e-newsletter?

If you're like most e-newsletter senders, you track the statistics on how many subscribers open each issue. Personally, I check them multiple times because I get a rush out of every click on my monthly Investment Writing Update. But there are people who never seem to read my newsletter.  

This made me ask, should you drop people whose names don't appear on your open list?  

I've been mulling this over for awhile. After all, you'll get charged more each time your readership rises above a certain level by firms such as Constant Contact that provide a way to manage your email lists and format your newsletters. 

I finally decided that I should not drop the non-openers. Not if they are good potential source of business or referrals. Open statistics aren't all that matter because
1. Newsletter open statistics aren't 100% accurate.
2. You may benefit from people who don't open your newsletter, but will think of you when they finally need you, your product, or your services. 

Inaccurate statistics
 "Your open rate could be higher than what is reported," says Constant Contact, the newsletter service that I use.

There are all sorts of technical reasons why open rates may be under-reported. To my non-technical mind, the reasons boil down to your audience's choice of email reader and email reader settings--things over which you have no control. "Open rates are becoming less accurate with many people reading email from hand held devices and disabling image downloading, says the Email Marketing Metrics Report (June 2009).

I know one e-newsletter writer who deleted all of the subscribers who hadn't opened at least one recent issue. She got many complaints from readers who were inaccurately categorized as non-openers. Plus, she lost subscribers like me who enjoyed the newsletter, but only read it occasionally.

You may benefit from non-readers
 "I never read your newsletter," said a colleague. She's just too busy and my content doesn't isn't relevant enough to her narrow circumstances. On the other hand, she said, "I see your name every month in my email, so I'm reminded of you." This jolt has contributed to her giving me dozens of useful contacts over the years.

It can be useful to gently remind your prospective clients and referral sources of your existence.

Sometimes "they would prefer to ignore your messages until they are ready to buy," according to Dela Quist, as quoted in "Just Wait For Me" in MarketingProfs' Get to the Point: Email Marketing  newsletter. This has happened to me. I got a very warm introduction--and a great client--from someone who had ignored me for months.

My conclusion? If individuals have voluntarily signed up for your e-newsletter, there's no harm in keeping them on your list. Indeed, one of those subscribers could become your next client. 

July 29 update: Thanks to Morningstar's Mike Barad for reminding me that Outlook's preview pane can produce false "open" statistics. You may mistakenly think that an Outlook user opened your email. However, it's hard to know if this overreporting outweighs the underreporting. Perhaps you just shouldn't rely too much on open statistics.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest post: Attaining and Sustaining High Productivity in Investment Management Marketing

Investment management firms need optimal internal collaboration to achieve the best possible communications, marketing, and client service as they cope with anxious clients, tight budgets, and lean staffing. Tips for how to achieve this goal are the focus of this guest post by Jacqueline L. Charnley and Christine M. Rostvold, founders of Charnley & Rostvold, a marketing communications firm.

“Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to
excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.”
~  Paul J. Meyer

Now more than ever, investment firms need to become well-oiled machines, leveraging every possible resource to produce the highest quality communications and service.  Timely and relevant content, whether for reporting or sales, needs to be developed, produced and distributed…all too frequently with too few resources.  What are best practices to attaining and equally as important, sustaining high productivity in marketing and communications?  How can counterproductive politics be minimized, good decisions be made and stressful deadlines be met in the face of rapidly fluctuating workloads?

Know Your Objectives and Plan to Achieve Them
First, management must document key objectives and agree on a plan to achieve them.  Communicate both the goals and the plan to everyone on the team and to senior management.  Document priorities (by product, by client, by consultant) and adhere to those priorities.  Stay focused by making it okay for anyone to question whether an activity is a fire drill or is on plan.  At the same time, recognize when deviating from the plan is a good idea.   

Train People for Success
One firm is known for promoting people to roles where the individual’s past experience is not relevant to the new role.  Then when the individual fails, the firm simply moves to another candidate.  Instead, know the required skill sets for the new role in advance.  Know what can be trained and what cannot be.  Measure the individual against criteria required to do well in the role, and train and support that person to be successful.

Document Your Procedures
In a recent survey, members of  the Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources (PAICR)) shared that only 57% had written procedures for their firms and only 56% for their marketing departments.  You need procedures that are current and easy to follow.  In addition to being written, procedures need to be updated regularly.  Empower employees and trainees to question existing procedures, and to rewrite them to reflect their most current (and useful) form.

Commit the Time to Communicate, to Train, to Debrief
Time is one of the biggest obstacles to regular communications, training and debriefing.  Other priorities will always come first until you recognize and commit to the importance of communicating your plan and procedures, to train people to succeed and to debrief after major projects as to what worked, what didn’t work.  Debriefing leads a team into greater and greater productivity and away from politics and failure to produce.  

Evaluate Systems and External Resources
New systems and technologies to enhance productivity are constantly being brought to market.  One of the biggest time and resource drains is updating and proofing data.  There are systems that can connect and update client files, presentation books, database responses and RFPs instantly and provide tracking.  Software and service systems can help with project management and communications.  Commit resource and time to stay on top of what is available.

“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”
Keep your culture positive and supportive.  Constantly ask what can be done differently to help clarify and streamline a direction or process.  Avoid blame games when something does go wrong.  Instead, find the solution that will make it go right the next time.  Evolve from your own experiences.  Critique in private, praise in public.  Celebrate victories and accomplishments.  Celebrate being a productive team.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Useful LinkedIn Groups for investment and wealth management job hunters

Generous job hunter Steve Hartel shared some of his LinkedIn group recommendations in his comment on my blog post, "What are the best LinkedIn Groups for job hunters in investment and wealth management?" I've provided links to the groups below.

Here's what Steve said:

Here are a few groups that I like for their job listings:
Financial Services Career Center Investments
Finance & Accounting Professionals

For good topic-specific groups, I like:
Wealth Management Group
Financial Executive Networking Group (open to FENG members only)
Financial Planner Alliance
Greater Boston Estate Planning Professionals
Wealth Management Exchange

Another LinkedIn member pointed me to the CFA Careers group on LinkedIn.

While I was poking around LinkedIn, I noticed that JP Morgan Chase is posting its job listings to a LinkedIn Group. I wonder how many other financial services companies are doing this. 

I welcome feedback on this post or additional suggestions of helpful LinkedIn groups. I know some great people who need work. I'd like to see them land jobs soon.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, July 17, 2009

What financial advisors can learn from the "60-Minute Naked Truth Salesletter Formula"

Having a hard time writing your first sales letter? The "60-Minute Naked Truth Salesletter Formula" can get you started. But you should tweak his formula to reach your audience and to keep your compliance officer happy.

The formula 
Here's my interpretation of the formula. You can read more details in Michel Fortin's explanation of Dean Jackson's formula in "60-Minute Naked Truth Salesletter Formula."
1. Start by completing the following sentence: "I'm writing to you because I want you to..."
2. Complete the following sentence with a bulleted list: "The reason I'm writing to you specifically is because I think you want..."
3. List your services' features and benefits.
4. List your prospects' top 10 questions or objections--and your answers to them
5. Explain how you guarantee results or remove risks. Obviously this step poses challenges for financial advisors.
6. Write a "call to action," giving steps the reader can take to connect with you or your company and describing exactly what the reader will get.
7. Give your reader a sense of urgency, so they'll act soon.
8. Supply testimonials. This is another step that financial advisors--especially investment managers--should skip because of the SEC prohibition against testimonials. 

Pros and cons of applying this formula 
The pluses of this formula include
* Making it easy for your readers to understand what you want and how it'll benefit them--Too many financial advisors get hung up on features instead of benefits. Or they fail to anticipate objections.
* Organizing your information logically  
* Developing a good understanding of topics that you need to discuss with prospects
* Ensuring that you include an action step, the "call to action," in your letter 

The drawbacks of this formula include
* Landing you in trouble with your compliance officer through discussion of guarantees or testimonials (although it's easy enough to skip Steps 5 and 8)
* Sounding too formulaic and too much like a late night TV ad for something that grinds, chops, and does everything else
* Creating a letter that's so long no one will read it

I learned about Michel Fortin's blog post in an email from marketer Sonia Simone of Remarkable Communication. Thanks, Sonia!

Related posts:
Focus on benefits, not features, in your marketing
Your mail has three seconds to grab your reader's attention
"Institutional investing" isn't as great as you think
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bloggers' top two punctuation mistakes

"Financial blogging has it's challenges", said the copywriter. 

If you identified the errors in the sentence above, you probably aren't making bloggers' two most common punctuation mistakes. These mistakes aren't confined to blogs. I see them in every kind of financial and personal communication. 

It's vs. its
"It's" is a whopping exception to the rule that you form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter s.

"The performance of the mutual fund" becomes "the mutual fund's performance," but "the performance of it" becomes "its performance," with no apostrophe.

"Apostrophes should not be used with possessive pronouns because possessive pronouns already show possession," as explained by the Online Writing Center at Purdue University. So don't add an apostrophe to "yours," "ours," "his," "hers," or "theirs."

Remember: "it's" always means "it is."
Quotation marks and misplaced punctuation
Punctuation generally belongs inside the closing quotation mark. So my opening sentence should be punctuated like this: "Financial blogging has its challenges," said the copywriter. 

The Associated Press Stylebook puts the rules like this:
1. "The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks."
2. "The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence."
The Stylebook is talking about punctuation at the end, not the beginning, of a quotation.

However, if you're writing for a British or Canadian audience rather than a U.S. audience, punctuation goes outside the quotation marks. Grammar Girl says, "Printers found that the periods and commas were more stable when they were placed inside closing quotation marks, so that's the way they started doing it," according to "Why are British English and American English different?" Grammar Girl seems to agree with my friend who thinks the British practice is more logical. Still, punctuation-conscious Americans wince when you flout the American way. 

The bottom line

Earlier this year I asked my newsletter readers "Do grammar or punctuation errors affect the writer's credibility in your eyes?"

 0%   No, I don't notice errors
 2%   No, I don't care
22%  Yes, but I forgive small errors, especially in social networking posts
75%  Yes, it generally hurts my opinion

Only 2% of respondents answered "No." That sends a strong message about the impact that errors have on your readers.

So, please
* Distinguish between "it's" and "its."

* Always put your commas and periods inside your closing quotation marks.

Do you have a question about these punctuation practices? Ask it in the Comments below.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner      All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Behavioral Finance – A Three-Part Model for Client Relationships

Behavioral finance can deepen your client relationships during market turmoil, if you recognize your clients’ emotional right-brained reactions before you offer insights based on your analytical left-brained analysis. By applying a three-pronged process of Recognize-Reflect-Respond, you can adapt to new information in a thoughtful and effective framework.

Gayle H. Buff, president of Buff Capital Management, proposed this model in "Behavioral Finance: So What?" her June 15 presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS). Buff has 20 years of experience working with individual investors and is a past president of the BSAS. As a member of the CFA Institute’s Speaker Retainer Program, she has spoken about behavioral finance to CFA societies around the world.

Continue reading my article, "Behavioral Finance – A Three-Part Model for Client Relationships," in Advisor Perspectives.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A title can make a world of difference

"Titles and subtitles are turbocharged text. They are your work distilled," says Francis Flaherty in The Elements of Story, p.247.

So, don't just dash off your titles and subtitles. Put some thought into them. Make them convey the main points of your articles or blog posts. You'll get more readers, if you follow this advice.

For example, which article would you read? One entitled "Cost Basis Records" or "Save Your Cost Basis Records Now, Or Pay More Taxes Later"?

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What are the best LinkedIn groups for job hunters in investment and wealth management?

I'm collecting recommendations for LinkedIn groups that are helpful for job hunters in investment and wealth management.

If you name a group, I'd like to know WHY you recommend it. Is it good because it shares job postings? Does it give great job hunting advice? Or does something else make it stand out?

This is for a post on my blog, so please mention if it's okay to quote you by name and affiliation (or field in which you're job hunting). If you prefer, you can make your comment on LinkedIn.

To get you started, here are the names of some LinkedIn groups that may be helpful:
* Family Offices Group
* Financial Services Career Group - eFinancial Careers
I occasionally read and enjoy Jon Jacobs' articles on eFinancial Careers,  even though I'm not job hunting
* Hedge Fund Group
* Investment Professionals Group
* Mutual Fund and Investment Jobs & Careers

Thank you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fixed income attribution week

I just learned that the Spaulding Group, which I wrote about in "Fixed income attribution falls short," will run a week-long series of webinars on fixed income attribution from July 13-July 17, 2009.

If you remember the Campisi model that popped up in my earlier blog post, "Fixed income attribution falls short," you may enjoy hearing the model explained by Steve Campisi himself in one of the Spaulding webinars. If you attend, please comment on my blog to tell me what you learn!