2 Comments

Making Social Media Work for You

“I need to start using social media in my practice.”

Is that what you’re telling yourself? It’s a great place to start, but there’s a lot more to social media success than just “being there.” The first question I ask planners to consider is, “Why am I using (or planning to use) social media as part of my marketing strategy?”

If it’s because you want to let the world know your political stance or complain about something, it’s probably not the best use of your time (on or off the clock). But if it’s to build a community, get the word out about your business and show you are an expert in financial planning—then social media can be an extremely valuable tool! It’s all in how you make your plan, execute it and stick with it.

I’ve included a few of my favorite tips below to help you get started.

Social Media Has Its Place…

…But that doesn’t mean it should run your schedule. It’s so easy to get sucked into your Facebook timeline, or deep into the string of replies to a tweet. Responding in a timely manner is important—and now platforms like Facebook track your response rate—but don’t beat yourself up trying to answer every message or comment 15 seconds after it comes through.

An easy solution is to turn on notifications for direct messages, which is where most people go when they are seeking help from you or your business. For comments that come through, set aside a daily time block to monitor your page(s). I recommend 10 minutes; unless you are a social media superstar, that is likely enough time to ensure that you are seeing all of the comments that have been published on each of your posts.

It’s also equally important to have an established process in place to handle complaints, mentions and comments on your social media platforms. Whether it’s the CEO or a part-time intern who is monitoring the account, you want everybody to be on the same page and know when to respond, and how to respond when it’s appropriate.

Create a Lasting Connection

Social media offers a great way to help people understand who you, and your business, really are. If your customers are really buying “you,” what do you want and need them to know ? Use your social media platforms to connect with your audience and have a discussion. Keep asking them questions and producing different types of content—if you pay attention, you’ll start to notice patterns and understand the topics that truly matter to your followers.

Did you post something that got absolutely no engagement? Take a deep breath and remember it’s not the end of the world. Social media is a process of trial and error: test, gather data and adjust your strategy.

Consistency is Critical

Raise your hand if you think consistency is important. If you don’t see your hand reflected in the computer monitor, we need to take this offline. (And if you’re the guy who raised his hand on the subway, don’t worry—you’re definitely not the weirdest one on that train.)

When it comes to social media, consistency is key. It doesn’t matter whether you post every day or once per week—being consistent builds trust with your audience. An easy way to keep track of your content is through a calendar. It doesn’t matter if you use an Excel spreadsheet or a sophisticated project management tool; find what works for you and use it. You can stop at Level 1, or go 100 Levels deep – it all depends on your skill level, interest and the time you can put toward social media. Here’s what Levels 1, 10 and 100 might look like:

Level 1: I want to post on each platform once a week. How do I make it look like I’m active on social media?

Determine the platforms you want to be active on and spread out your content. Use the ideas in Level 10 below for content generation, and set up a simple calendar like this:

Calendar 1.png

Level 10: I want to post on each platform once per day. But how in the world will I create enough content for that?!

It’s a lot easier than you think! All your content doesn’t have to be original blogs that are thousands of words each. Here’s one example:

Level 10 Calendar.png

Build fun stuff about you and your company into your social media plan. People want to know about you; they can easily learn about your products and services through your website and by contacting you.

Level 100: Alright, I’ve got all this down. I want to post on multiple social media platforms multiple times a day.

Awesome! Remember how I said you could use an Excel spreadsheet for your content calendar? If you didn’t believe me, now you should! I love Google Docs, and use it for scheduling content across the Financial Planning Association’s social media platforms.

Here’s my outline:

Level 100

It’s color-coded by type of content. Each type of content goes out the same day each week (consistency is key). I sprinkle in Instagram posts throughout the calendar, based on what content I think will work well there (it’s not a huge platform for us, so I don’t put as much attention there).

A content writer I work with swears by Airtable—I’ve used it with her, and it is a neat platform. Ultimately, it boils down to what works best for you and what will keep you organized and on track.

I’ll close with a few of my key things to remember about social media:

  1. A consistent, regular presence is key.
  2. Make sure your profile info is completed and detailed; people often go to social media instead of Google to learn more about you or how to get in touch with you. Just because something is not my favorite platform doesn’t mean I would take my company off it.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Case in point: Instagram not updating anybody’s feeds after the iOS update earlier this year. It took at least a week before I saw any new content in my feed…which means I didn’t see any new content from the businesses I follow.
  4. Create a content calendar—it makes your life easier!
  5. Your social media posts, retweets, likes, favorites (all of it) is reflective of YOU, your beliefs and your business. Be intentional with what you like and what you post.

As a final note, social media is a free* platform to tell your story. Why the asterisk? Because nothing is truly free. Organic content costs you your time, and paid advertising costs you time and money.

The takeaway? Be intentional with every piece of content you create and post.

Now, get out there and hashtag make it a great day!

Mari Shirley Headshot

Mari Shirley has worked in communications and marketing for a decade, mostly in the financial industry. She started her career in public relations at the University of Georgia Athletic Association (Go Dawgs!), and before joining the Financial Planning Association, she was a brand marketer for Dave Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers and SmartVestor programs. At FPA, she focuses on social media strategy and brand and digital marketing.


1 Comment

5 Steps to Jump-starting the Ownership Conversation

The decision to pursue ownership in a financial advisory firm is a crucial choice in your career. This rewarding goal comes with both benefits and responsibilities that go beyond the role of adviser, and require a variety of business skill sets. Before you consider asking for ownership from the existing owners of your firm, you need to prove that it is not only something you are capable of, but something you have earned.

Here are five essential steps to consider as you build the strongest case for ownership:

Step One: Get Involved

First things first, you must establish your commitment and dedication. Take interest in the ins and outs of running a business (as far as is appropriate) and offer to take on responsibility in these areas. Seize every opportunity to enhance your managerial and business operational knowledge and skills. Not only will this allow you to build up experience to support ownership, it will also help you be better equipped to take on ownership.

You must be willing to do more than just produce revenue. By assuming operational obligations, you are investing in the future of your career and contributing to the overall efficiency and profitability of the firm. Adapt a leadership mindset and work for the good of the team rather than your sole interest.

As you get involved and learn more about the business, examine the company culture and team. Ownership is a long-term commitment, so be sure this is the team and business you’ll be passionate about working with for years to come.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

It is important to recognize the priorities and goals of the existing owner(s) of the business. It’s helpful to get to know your future fellow owners on a personal level, to be sure, but you must dig deeper. Take time to learn about their journey in building the business. Consider how they envision their own careers, including their plans for eventual retirement.

A big part of this step is recognizing the time, energy and money the founding owners have invested in building the business. You should acknowledge that your goal of ownership is meant to build upon and to work alongside them until they’re ready to fully hand over the reins. Keep in mind that a well-crafted succession plan means business growth for the entire company. If you help to make the company grow, everyone involved—including the founding owners—will reap the rewards of a sustainable business.

As you develop your own ideas for the business, directly address the ownership team’s largest business concerns and demonstrate how you can contribute. Ensuring that your objectives align with other owners’ objectives will help you avoid undermining your proposal of ownership.

Step 3: Demonstrate Your Value

In order to take your place amongst the owners of the business you will need to convince the existing ownership team that you add value. Look back at all you’ve accomplished, invested and taken responsibility for. Look to the future, think about the growth of the business and identify contributions you can make that will prove that you are prepared to make a long-term commitment to the business. From there you can establish your value proposition:

  • Refer to your achievements with examples and measurable contributions to growth
  • Present your goals and ideas for the future
  • Research the business’s position in the industry
  • Identify challenges and improvement opportunities and outline your plans for addressing them
  • Be as specific as possible

Step 4: Build the Strategy

Facilitating the addition of a new owner in a financial services business has many moving parts and requires careful consideration and planning. The more you understand the process yourself, the more effective your conversation will be.  You can do some of the legwork in advance by:

  • Exploring effective strategies for internal succession, especially in the context of this unique, relationship-based and regulated industry
  • Understanding the logistics and mechanics of modifying the ownership structure and consider the best way for the business to move forward
  • Considering the business’s organizational, cash flow and compensation structures
  • Examining financing options and how they could integrate with and alleviate hesitancy during the transition process
  • Knowing where to access tools and support to help develop and execute a smooth transition plan

Be proactive about addressing questions and concerns that might arise and show how your proposal can be accomplished, including how you will pay for your share of ownership and how long the process could take. By having some of these answers at the ready, you will show your commitment to the role and your respect of their time and consideration.

Step 5: Timing and Approach

You’ve built a foundation of demonstrable value. You’ve prepared your plan to contribute to the growth of the business. You’ve thought about how to make it all happen. Now it’s time to actually ask for ownership.

Given the weight and delicacy of the proposal, you should find the right setting. Request a formal meeting (an annual review provides an optimal opportunity). If there’s more than one owner, consider whether you want to broach the subject with all of them at once or with just one owner with whom you have a strong rapport.

You should also be sensitive to timing. Pay attention to what’s happening in the company (and the industry) that could either support or undermine your goal of having a productive conversation. It’s best to avoid times of stress due to market performance, taxes or client issues. Identify any potential immediate needs your ownership could help fill such as the imminent retirement of an existing owner or a planned acquisition. Piggybacking on a big professional win can help your case. There is no perfect moment, but a cognizance of timing and circumstances will certainly help the outcome of your request.

The road to gaining ownership in an existing business starts far ahead of asking for it. You must earn the privilege, responsibility and rewards. And you cannot expect that ownership will be granted without evidence of your value as an adviser and as a leader. Once you’re able to demonstrate your initiative, ingenuity and your commitment to the long-term success of the enterprise, you are ready to take the next step in your career as a business owner.

Editor’s note: This article by FP Transitions originally appeared in the May issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner. Download the NGP app today to read all back issues! Stay tuned for the next piece of helpful content from FP Transitions in the December 2019 issue, in which Kem Taylor explores the three questions all next generation planners should ask in a job interview.  

May Issue.jpg

FP Transitions is the nation’s leading provider of valuation, M&A, succession planning and enterprise consulting for financial advisers. Its integrated team of consultants includes analysts, legal professionals and industry expert consultants working together to provide end-to-end business growth solutions for advisers. Founded in 1999, FP Transitions launched and continues to operate the largest fully supported marketplace for buying and selling financial practices. FP Transitions is the official sponsor of the FPA Next Generation Planner, committed to providing resources and tools that elevate the profession that transforms lives.


1 Comment

Are CPAs a Looming Threat?

Lately more articles and videos—in publications like the CPA Journal and the Journal of Accountancy—are popping up encouraging CPAs to become comprehensive financial planners.

According to an article from ThinkAdvisor, “Should Advisers Fear Accountants,” approximately 120,000 CPAs currently play a role in financial planning.

Andrea Miller, director of financial planning for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said the organization is encouraging its members to evolve their skills to provide advisory services. This is evident in AICPA’s Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation.

“We believe that CPAs are in a unique situation to advise clients, and we want to encourage them to do more in this area,” Miller told ThinkAdvisor.

Perhaps those CPAs don’t want to do financial planning and they’d rather work with you. In that case, reach out to your clients’ current CPAs to figure out ways to better serve your clients, says a Financial Planning article “Should I …Work with a CPA?”

If CPAs are a looming threat to financial planners’ livelihood, some media reports recommend CFP® professionals become one (for more information visit aicpa.org/becomeacpa.html).

Sharif Muhammad, who is both a CPA and a CFP® professional, said it being both makes tax planning easier for his clients.

Forge Relationships with CPAs

So you’re not a CPA, you don’t want to become one, but you want to work with one. Forging a relationship with your client’s current CPAs would be a logical starting point—especially in an effort to provide your client with the best comprehensive service.

“People will always need advice around taxes, and you need to know enough to know when you’re out of your depth,” Justin Harvey, founder of Quantifi Planning in Philadelphia said in the Financial Planning article.

For Mike Alves, CFP®, CLU®, CRPC®, forging a relationship with a client’s CPA starts with the clients.

“Normally, it’s the client who introduces us to them,” Alves said. “We have an in-person meeting to set expectations.”

That initial meeting is setting the stage for the financial planner to become partners with the mutual client’s CPA.

According to the Kitces.com article, “3 Ways Financial Advisers Can Get CPAs to Actually Refer Clients,” the best time to connect with CPAs is between May and September (well after the tax filing deadline and before the swing of the next tax season). The article also noted that CPAs need help with three things; help with those, and it’s likely they’ll partner with you.

The three key things, writes author Dave Zoller, CFP®, are (get approval from your client first for all of these): (1) communicating with your client’s CPA about any money moves that have tax implications; (2) helping your client’s CPA create a list of all the client’s accounts and whether that account has a 1099; and (3) helping the CPA find missing cost basis of your client’s older investments.

But even when you forge the relationship, you should still be well-versed in tax law, Muhammad said.

“Nothing could differentiate a CFP® professional more than being well-versed in taxes,” he told us. “Especially during a massive tax change like the one we just experienced and especially when you’re dealing with small- to medium-sized businesses as well as certain families whose tax situation could be significantly impacted by the tax law.”

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn