In Part 1 we covered three pieces of technology that have paid for themselves several times over. Here are four more that have also had such a big impact on our practice that we just can’t live without them.
4. OneNote ($100 – or included with some versions of MS Office)
Sometimes you just want to show someone exactly what is on your screen. You know, when the tech guy asks you what the error message looked like or you want to copy an important chart from the Internet and paste it into a letter you are sending to clients.
I use OneNote at least 10 times a day. Simply push two buttons on your keyboard and your screen darkens slightly. Then use your mouse to highlight the part of the screen you want to copy. Finally, open Word, PowerPoint, an email, etc., and paste the image the image in. What you highlighted on your screen is what is pasted.
OneNote has made copying tables and charts from the financial planning software we use into our Word based financial plan template a breeze. It used to take a few minutes to copy, paste and crop an image. Now, it takes 3 seconds. All the screenshots of financial plans on AdvisorPractice.com were taken with OneNote. If you make a lot of presentations, OneNote will quickly become your best friend.
Benefits: Make great looking presentations in less time.
5. Constant Contact Email Marketing ($13 USD/month)
It used to be a novelty. Now, clients expect you to not only send email updates but also some kind of electronic newsletter as well. We use Constant Contact to create a monthly eNewsletter for our clients. Constant Contact provides the template and we provide the content. Each month we find a financial planning, investing, and insurance article. We write a brief introduction to each article and then add a link so if they want to read the full piece, they can. Sometimes we write the newsletter articles and other times we choose to link to articles we find insightful and valuable instead.
The software allows you to pull up stats on such things as the click through and open rates of your newsletter so you can get a better idea of what is most important to a particular clien. In that way, you can better connect with your next review.
Once you get comfortable with the software, you can set up the Autoresponder. The Autoresponder allows you to pre-program a series of emails to be sent out to a client when they sign up for your newsletter. For example, you could create a three-part email template covering: (1) your approach, (2) your team, and (3) client statements. Every new client will then receive one email every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. for three weeks introducing them to your services. Spend 30 seconds adding the new client’s name and email address to the database and the software will automatically send out the emails for you. Just set it and forget it!
In our newsletter, we include a section on upcoming events for existing clients as well as events for prospective clients. We also include a link to our website so they can RSVP for all our upcoming events. The last section of our newsletter is called ‘Diversions’ and has nothing to do with money. In the past we’ve discussed online picture books, Google’s street view and other random topics of general interest. Ironically, this is the most popular section of our newsletter. I think it shows clients we’re human.
We ask all prospective clients if they would like to start receiving our newsletter. This is the ultimate DRIP campaign because for no additional cost, we contact them monthly and over time they begin to realize the value we provide our clients since they can see all the information we provide and all the events we hold for our existing clients. If a prospective client ends up unsubscribing then we know we should stop contacting them as well.
Benefits: More frequent contact for significantly less cost than traditional newsletters. Autoresponder is an excellent DRIP tool for prospective clients.
If you have a young family, travel to meet clients frequently or like me, simply hate driving during rush hour, you need to check out a web-based program such as GoToMyPC.
The software allows you to log into your work computer from home or on the road securely and quickly. What you see remotely is exactly what you would see on your computer at work. So at 8 a.m. you can edit that Word document at home without having to load MS Office on your home computer, print the final copy remotely at 9 a.m. and when you arrive at the office after rush hour, it’s sitting at your printer ready to be picked up.
The second benefit of the program is that it lets you invite a client to view your work computer. With the click of a button you can send an email invitation to anyone and within about 30 seconds they see what you have on your screen. This is a great feature when you just need 10 minutes to review an investment concept or if you’d like to show a new client where to go to access their web account for the first time.
GoToMeeting allows you to invite multiple people to your computer, and also includes all the features of GoToMyPC, which is perfect if you’d like to meet with a client and her accountant.
Over the past 12 months I’ve started to hold about 10% of client reviews online. Nothing will ever replace an in-person meeting but this is a great option for out of town clients who can’t make the drive to our office every six months. Clients who work in the technology industry are probably already using this software at work and I’ve found they really appreciate the effort we’ve made to make things more convenient for them.
Benefits: More flexible work schedule; hold client meetings online.
7. Rules/Reminders in Outlook
When we were with the MFDA, I remember receiving about 30 to 40 emails a day. Now, that we’re with IIROC, a typical day is about 60 emails and some days it tops 100. Some of you probably get 200 or more! That’s a lot of email and creating “rules” in Outlook (under the “Tools” menu) helps me manage the volume.
With set rules, I can tell Outlook to chime when I get an email from a top client, move all emails from suppliers to a particular folder, and automatically delete emails from a sender who just won’t take me off his mailing list.
This keeps my inbox clean and allows me to review important emails right away and less urgent emails once a day.
The other feature I depend on is follow-up flags (under “Message” in Outlook 2007). Most people leave an email in their Inbox until the issue has been dealt with completely. In our industry sometimes that can take weeks or months; which can lead to a lot of emails in your Inbox. Then you end up reading the same emails every single day while you’re waiting to hear back.
Before I send an email that requires a response, I set a follow-up flag for the day that I need to follow up on. Then I send the email and remove it from my Inbox. This way I don’t look at the email again until it’s time to follow up, at which time the email I sent pops up on my screen automatically. If ever I need to refer to the email before the due date, it is automatically stored in my “Tasks” folder. The end result is that most days I have about 5 emails in my inbox and I spend less time reading the same emails over and over.
Benefits: Drastically reduces time spent reading emails.
The lesson to be learned is that if we all use technology wisely, we can offer clients a higher level of service while running our practices more efficiently and profitably.