Boulevard R Partners with FPA

We are happy to announce that Boulevard R has partnered with the Financial Planning Association® (FPA) to offer our software to consumers through FPA’s consumer website.  Our long-standing relationships with financial planners, particularly the NexGen group within FPA, is how we created most of the educational content on the Dashboard and in the Starter Roadmap.

FPA logoBoulevard R started out with a mission to serve those who traditionally did not have access to financial planning / wealth management services.  The partnership with FPA has moved us further along on our mission to make sure that all consumers, regardless of how much they’ve saved or what their income is, have access to some tools to establish whether they are on track and how they can improve their situation.

We have been talking with FPA’s consumer group since 2008, so when we agreed to work together in February (they’ve been beta testing our software on their consumer site over the last two months) we were excited to get their vote of confidence.  In fact, the Advisor Branded Marketing Platform (AMP) grew out of discussions that we had with FPA about how we could leverage our technology for individual FPA members.

At FPA’s 2008 national conference in Boston (as the financial markets were imploding), we sat down with Michael Kitces, who is now the Director of Research at Pinnacle Advisory Group in Maryland, and hashed out how we could better reach consumers by building a marketing platform for advisors.  I still remember Michael’s comment at the end of the meeting, “Imagine that- a marketing service that actually delivers value!”

Two years later, we’re convinced that we can deliver real value to both prospects and advisors.  Whether it’s advisors such as Jay Peroni who has attracted five new clients in six months or Ben Baldwin who is using AMP to deepen relationships with their existing clients while also reaching out to prospects, it feels good to be making a difference.

In their own words (and a few of ours), here is the press release that FPA started circulating yesterday:

DENVER – March 31, 2010 – The Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) today announced a new partnership with BoulevardR.com, an interactive website which allows consumers to create a personalized, detailed financial Starter Roadmap. FPA will host the Boulevard R software on its website so that consumers can easily find out if they are financially on track.

The easy-to-use, interactive tool, developed by leading Certified Financial Planners™ and a top behavioral economist, leads individuals through a process that evaluates their goals and helps them understand whether or not they are on track. They can choose various financial goals such as buying a house, saving for college, or saving for retirement, and can drag-and-drop the user-friendly pictures onto a visual timeline. Next, users enter details about their current income, family status, geographical location, debt amounts and ideal retirement goals. The tool then produces an eight-page Starter Roadmap and customized online Dashboard.

While other personal finance tools focus on cash flow management, BoulevardR.com offers consumers a unique financial Starter Roadmap document that highlights consumers’ current financial health and offers suggestions to get on track.

“It’s important for consumers to learn first-hand about the financial planning process, and this unique tool is a great way for them to get started,” said Marv Tuttle, CAE, Executive Director and CEO of the Financial Planning Association. “We hope this roadmap approach helps consumers understand the need for creating a solid, financial plan and will motivate them to work with a qualified financial planner to help plan their future.”

“Consumers need an easy, fun way to dip their toes in the financial planning waters and see if they are financially on track,” said Matt Iverson, CEO of Boulevard R. “By partnering with FPA, we are able to give consumers the tools they need to help them understand and improve their financial situation.”

To access the tool, visit www.FPAforFinancialPlanning.org.

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About Boulevard R
Boulevard R’s Advisor-Branded Marketing Platform (AMP) is the first web-based marketing software created for financial advisors. AMP helps advisors find new clients by automatically engaging, qualifying and setting up a first meeting, while effortlessly delivering real value to every prospect through the complimentary Starter Roadmap and online Dashboard. Visit www.BoulevardR.com for more information.

About FPA
The Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) is the leadership and advocacy organization connecting those who need, support and deliver professional financial planning. FPA demonstrates and supports a professional commitment to education and a client-centered financial planning process.

Based in Denver, Colo., FPA has 97 chapters throughout the country representing tens of thousands of members involved in all facets of providing financial planning services.  Working in alliance with academic leaders, legislative and regulatory bodies, financial services firms and consumer interest organizations, FPA is the community that fosters the value of financial planning and advances the financial planning profession.  For more information about FPA, visit www.FPAnet.org or call 800.322.4237.

The Financial Planning Association is the owner of trademark, service mark and collective membership mark rights in: FPA, FPA/Logo and FINANCIAL PLANNING ASSOCIATION. The marks may not be used without written permission from the Financial Planning Association.

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Small video examples

Below are different sized versions of the same educational video, which illustrates how the Boulevard R software works for consumers, along with the code that you can put on a website to embed the video.

It’s a good idea to accompany the video with a website button (embed code can be downloaded from the Advisor Management Interface > Marketing tab > Website buttons page) just below it. In the first example, the video is the same width as the website button (can be used if you have a column width constraint).

Video not in HD (loads faster and is less likely to stall when playing), at a width of 175 pixels:

Video embed code:
<object width=”175″ height=”124″ data=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”src” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0″ /><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /></object>

Video in HD at a width of 175 pixels:

Video embed code:
<object width=”175″ height=”124″ data=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0&amp;hd=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”src” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0&amp;hd=1″ /><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /></object>

The same video, not in HD, at a width of 300 pixels:

Video embed code:
<object width=”300″ height=”193″ data=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”src” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0″ /><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /></object>

Video in HD at a width of 300 pixels:

Video embed code:
<object width=”300″ height=”193″ data=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0&amp;hd=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”src” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/I214wWJE2l4&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;rel=0&amp;hd=1″ /><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /></object>

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You’re a financial advisor, not a financial marketer

Financial advisors are generally challenged when it comes to marketing.

Advisors didn’t get into the business in order to be marketers, but with an increasingly difficult and competitive business environment, they’re now having to focus on business development much more than in recent years.

I spent last week at FPA’s Business Solutions conference in Dallas (we were in Dallas this time last year for T3) and it became clear to me that Boulevard R’s Advisor-Branded Marketing Platform (AMP) needs support in two areas:

  1. Helping advisors generate leads (i.e. those individuals AMP helps engage, qualify and then set up a meeting for), by providing easy, concrete ways that they can incorporate AMP into their workflow
  2. Once they have a prospect who is qualified and wants to meet, helping advisors communicate their value proposition so that the prospect selects them

The combination of a marketing plan on the front end, accompanied by coaching (to bring accountability, discipline and improved communication skills) throughout the prospect life cycle seems to be the winning solution.  To help advisors really leverage our software, Boulevard R is going to spend an hour with each advisor (two 30 minute sessions) to create a personalized, free marketing plan if they sign up for either the Performance or Firm plan.

When you consider the following, which I gleaned from the Business Solutions conference and various publications, you get a pretty clear picture of how poorly financial advisors are performing when it comes to being effective marketers:

  • Regarding prospecting and lead generation, 21% of firms with $100MM+ have NO process.  A whopping 41% have an informal process and only 16% of all these firms are tracking their process (Schwab 2009 Benchmarking Study)!
  • When it comes to barriers to growth, “marketing and business development” takes the cake, with 22% of $100MM+ firms identifying it as a major barrier to growth, while “staffing and organization” and “strategy and planning” tied for second place as major barriers to growth with 8% each (Schwab 2009 Benchmarking Study).
  • Most advisors spend fewer than 5 hours a week on marketing (Tiburon Strategic Advisors, January 2010).
  • 2 out of 3 independent advisors have no written marketing plan, while 75% of top producing independent advisors have marketing and business plans (Tiburon Strategic Advisors, January 2010).
  • The top 15 challenges agreed upon by advisors include finding new clients and building revenue (Quantuvis Best Practices: Business Performance Study 2009)

When it comes to firm growth, the biggest drivers by far are referrals.  According to Schwab, while average firm growth from prospecting and marketing programs accounted for around 10-20% of growth, referrals from clients and business partners accounted for roughly 65-75% of firm growth.  This is why Boulevard R is coming up with ways for advisors to incorporate AMP into their client meetings, so that clients have a reason to refer their advisor by promoting the Starter Roadmap and online Dashboard to friends and family.  AMP is also a great way to engage business partners, by being able to effortlessly help all of their clients.

The premise that business growth is generated through referrals was backed up by Quantuvis’ Best Practices: Business Performance Study 2009, recently published in Financial Planning, which indicated that advisors anticipated that the primary growth drivers over the next three years will be driven by:

  1. Referrals from existing clients (91%)
  2. Referrals from other professionals (60%)
  3. Stock market growth (50%)
  4. New client acquisition from firm marketing (47%)
  5. Referrals from strategic alliance relationships (44%)

To help advisors break through their resistance to planning and executing on their marketing plan, as well as to help them boost their referrals, Boulevard R will personally work with advisors who sign up for a Performance or Firm plan to create an actionable, step-by-step marketing plan.  We’re also partnering with coaches who specialize in working with financial advisors, in order to keep the plans on track and the firm accountable.

Just because your training isn’t in marketing, doesn’t mean you can’t plan and execute your way to attracting new clients and increasing your profitability.

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No Comment: Our FINRA Letter Finally Arrives

Our compliance ship came in today.

After months of waiting and extraordinary service from Ken in VSR‘s compliance department (one of their advisors signed up for an Advisor-Branded Marketing Platform (AMP)), we received a No Comment Letter from FINRA:

This is great news for any advisor who wants to use AMP and currently has to run advertising materials (though we don’t think of ourselves in this way, FINRA sure does) by a compliance team at their broker-dealer.  It’s our understanding that compliance letters don’t come any cleaner than this.  It’s great news as we head to FPA’s Business Solutions conference next week in Dallas.

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Meet and More: AMP’s latest release

With the new release we pushed out today, AMP now has the ability to allow prospects to opt-in for a complimentary consultation. This strengthens our new mantra of:

Engage. Qualify. Meet.

The goals process engages prospects (76% of known users who enter through an email campaign complete the interactive goals process), then qualifies them so that advisors can effortlessly identify those that they can help, and now allows them to opt-in for a complimentary consultation to “review your financial goals and investment strategy.” We’ve incorporated this into the Dashboard popup for both the unknown (Google search or HTML button) and known (email marketing campaign) user flows. Here is what it looks like:

New Complimentary Consultation popup

Besides this, we also updated the Basic plan Contacts’ data page by adding a column showing whether the prospect requested a consultation. More significant, though, was the update to the Performance/Firm Contacts’ data page, which also has the new consultation column, as well as:

- A new row on the popup with information on a complimentary consultation, including the best time to call

- The ability to launch your email client/CRM system from the popup, in case you want to send the an email that way (thanks Ben for suggesting this)

- A [ ? ] tooltip that you can scroll over to get a description of what the status means

- The ability to view and edit the email templates

- The option to either (a) save any changes and automatically send the automated email that corresponds to the status level, or (b) save any changes without sending an automated email

To watch a short video on the recent changes to the Performance/Firm Contacts’ data page, please visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OdkdhP9U8s

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New! AMP Best Practices Group

There are a lot of advisors doing interesting things with AMP to find new clients and automate their marketing.

Some are using it to amplify referrals by sending emails to clients and including elements of charitable giving in the campaign as a reason for clients to refer them. Some are getting amazing conversion rates with the email campaigns to contacts and old prospects. Some are looking to use it as a natural follow up to a small/medium-sized company presentations. Some are writing articles in the local newspaper promoting the service. Some are partnering with local CPA firms and using AMP as a way to engage and qualify the firm’s clients for wealth management services.

To capture all these great ideas, there is now an easy-to-use Google Group.

lightbulb

The Google Group is for current AMP advisors and has some useful files, such as screen captures of the AMP software that can be shown to a group of prospects (perhaps at the end of a Rotary club lunchtime presentation, before you pass around the sign up sheet for people interested in getting an invitation), as well as PowerPoint presentations on topics including investing for retirement and IRA conversions in 2010, all of which can be easily modified.

So if you’ve signed up for AMP, send your Google account email address or a Gmail address to support@boulevardr.com. If you want to learn more and haven’t signed up for AMP, then click here for more information on AMP.

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Engage. Qualify. Meet.

In essence, Boulevard R’s value proposition for financial advisors can be summed up in three words:

(1) Engage
(2) Qualify
(3) Meet

We know that we do the first two particularly well.

The average conversion rate for email marketing (entails clicking on link in the email, clicking on “Get Started” on a landing page, clicking through to the five pages of the interactive goals process and reaching the Results page) is 7.7%. By industry standards, a good conversion rate on an email marketing campaign is 0.5-1%. The application is also “sticky.” The completion rate for the goals process (a roughly 5 minute interaction) once a prospect clicks on the “Get Started” activation button on the landing page is 76%. For Unknown prospects who are not registered through an email campaign, the average sign up rate of those who start the goals process is around 17%.

From a qualification standpoint, even basic advisors are now able to view all the prospect profile information to assess whether the prospect is truly qualified. This new increased access to data is part of a new release we pushed out two days ago. If you want a quick overview of how the new Basic plan Contacts’ data page works, go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7AVaaj_hpY

Key Changes in the New Release
In order to improve on each of the three themes of this post, we just released some new features. The one that most impacts the current Performance plan advisors is the new Contacts Data page. For an explanation of the workflow and how to use it, we created this short overview video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIUFuYFhCus

One of the key changes is that we’ve updated the Status levels, so that they’re more intuitive. Here is a screen capture of the new Performance plan popup:

Contacts' data page status popup

Here’s what’s different.

A prospect is assigned the status of “Incomplete,” when they start the goals process, but do not finish it (i.e. reach the Results page). When this happens, Boulevard R sends them an email with a link that takes them back into the goals process, so that they can complete it and get their Starter Roadmap and online Dashboard. This improvement was all about increasing engagement.

Instead of “No Assessment,” we now have “Roadmap not sent” and “Roadmap sent.” Since it takes about a day to generate and review the Starter Roadmap, we now pass the information along to advisors regarding whether the Starter Roadmap PDF has been emailed to the prospect.

The main change for both “Not Qualified” and “Qualified” prospects is the mention of complimentary consultation. This is a new feature that is not fully implemented yet. What it does is ask the prospect, once they reach the Dashboard, if they’d like a complimentary consultation to review their goals and investment strategy. If they indicate “Yes,” then two follow up questions are asked: “What number should we call you at?” and “What is a good time of day to call?”

Because we have not implemented this feature yet, currently all prospects are “No consultation requested.” However, once this question is implemented on the Dashboard, we’ll be including this information (i.e. Consultation requested: “Yes/No” and details if indicated “Yes”) on the status popup and on the Contacts’ data page.

In addition to the consultation question on the Dashboard, if a prospect is qualified, but didn’t request a consultation (currently, this is all qualified prospects), advisors can include a link in the “Qualified: No Consultation Requested” email to a form where the prospect can set up a consultation: Click here to see an example.

Keep in mind that for now Performance plan advisors should ignore the “Not Qualified: Consultation Requested” and “Qualified: Consultation Requested” status levels. There are no corresponding emails for these yet.

The “Qualified: No Consultation Requested” status corresponds to the the “Qualified” email on the Email > Automated emails page. The “Not Qualified: No Consultation Requested” status corresponds to the the “Not Qualified” email on the Email > Automated emails page. This will be updated shortly.

Finally, we added a new status for “Qualified: Already a client” since some advisors where including current clients in their email campaigns or sending clients an email asking them to forward on the offer for a complimentary Starter Roadmap, which is resulting in some of the clients signing up for a Starter Roadmap themselves. Incidentally, engaging current clients with Boulevard R’s software has turned out to be a pretty good idea for some advisors. Here’s what one advisor had to say:

“AMP offers an amazing way to engage both prospects and clients. I can market to the next generation of prospects, while learning more about my current clients as they interact with the software. Three months later, I’m still trying to catch up with all the new client information and planning that my first email campaign generated!”

- Ben Baldwin III, CFP®, ChFC, Responsive Financial Group

Boulevard R’s software is the only financial advisor marketing platform that posts such impressive conversion numbers, while also effortlessly qualifying prospects. We’re now focused on the third pillar, which is further helping advisors convert engaged prospects into first meetings.

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Find new clients in 2010

Start off 2010 by engaging and qualifying up to 200 of your contacts with a free email marketing campaign from Boulevard R.

With this new feature, advisors have been getting off-the-charts results, with an average of 7.7% of email recipients registering and getting Starter Roadmaps (0.5-1.0% is considered good). Here is an example of the Starter Roadmap:

It’s easy and free- just send us your list and we’ll do the rest.

To see how the campaign works, watch this short 2 minute video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njXHKEJltmA

What’s unique about this email marketing service is that it pre-registers your contacts so that they automatically get a Starter Roadmap and Dashboard when they click on an activation link in the email. This new approach has been delivering exceptional conversion rates, while identifying prospects with millions of dollars in assets.

The beginning of the year is a great time to engage prospects, since their recent resolutions are still top-of-mind.

So if you’re interested in starting the new year with sensational results on a free email marketing campaign, then take a minute to reserve your place by answering the 2 questions on this form:

https://theboulevardr.wufoo.com/forms/email-marketing-campaign/

Happy 2010!

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The case for sending reminders

As we started sending out email marketing campaigns for advisors this week, I took some time to go back and explore the metrics behind the campaign that led to this new email feature.

When we created the initial email marketing campaign for an advisor in the Washington DC area, we were really blown away by the conversion rate (6% on a series of 3 emails- 2 of which were actionable with registration links). We thought we might be onto something, so we recruited some advisors to help us test and optimize this feature.

We ran the initial email campaign in the middle of summer (starting on July 14th) and while the initial response from her list was positive, it wasn’t until I created a timeline that we saw the significant role that the reminder email plays. Check out the below timeline on her campaign:

Iniital email campaign timeline

What’s really interesting is the huge response rate after the reminder email was sent (these were simple text emails, not fancy HTML emails which we’re currently testing). The initial response rate was modest with an email sent at 3pm EDT on a Friday (not great timing). A number of people were out of the office on that day (we got back a bunch of vacation auto-responders), so there was a nice bump on Monday.

What is particularly interesting is that of the people who clicked on the link in the Link email, 9 out of 11 went all the way from the landing page through the five pages in the goals process to the results page. That’s 82% conversion rate from the email click and keep in mind that it takes about 5 minutes to get your result after you click on your goals and set the sliders.

Part of the reason these prospects could have been highly motivated is because of the Intro email we sent for the advisor, preceding the Link email by one hour. These people were actually waiting for the Link email. In fact, due to a technical issue, we had sent out the Intro email to about 20% of recipients 3 days before and hadn’t been able to send the activation right after so the advisor started getting emails from their prospects asking about the promised link email. Now that’s prospect engagement.

When we sent the reminder email in the middle of the following week, there was a surge in clicks and Starter Roadmaps generated (what happened in the middle of the chart). In fact, over 60% of the Starter Roadmaps (indicated by the green boxes) that were generated happened after the Reminder email was sent. We also had a higher percentage of bounces/incomplete engagements on the two days when the activity spiked, but in those two days there were more conversions than there were clicks in the previous 8 days.

In the recent email campaigns we haven’t seen this reminder trend play out as dramatically, so I think that the list and the timing of the emails has quite a bit to do with it. On the flip side, since we’ve been able to run different email formats (HTML and text) along with different messages, we’ve seen advisors getting up to a 5% conversion rate on just the initial Link email.

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Have an email list? We’ll qualify it for you!

Boulevard R is in the process of testing out a new feature for AMP: Email marketing. We’ve had initial success with this- a trial with an advisor in the Washington DC area got a 6% conversion rate (0.5-1% is considered good).

Here’s our offer:
If you have an old list of prospects or an eNewsletter list or a list of contacts from a presentation/seminar, just sign up for the free Basic profile and we’ll create an email campaign for up to 200 of your prospects. This way you can find out which of your prospects are most engaged and interested in your service and you’ll have provided them all with a Starter Roadmap.
> Sign up for free to qualify your email list

If you want to see prospects’ profile data, you can easily upgrade to the Performance plan for $99/month (no contract, no long term commitment). If you don’t want to upgrade, you’ll at least have provided each prospect with a valuable Starter Roadmap and an online Dashboard, which is fully automated so you don’t have to lift a finger. It’s a great way to build your local brand and stand out from your competition.

A little more on this new feature
So seizing on the initial 6% conversion rate, we added some features that allow advisors to take their email lists and run them through the Boulevard R engine by sending out activation links that take prospects to an optimized landing page. On the landing page (below), they can learn more about the value of the service you offer.
New email marketing landing page

To optimized the whole email marketing process, we brought on the former director of eCommerce acquisition from a large financial services company. The metrics that we get from these initial campaigns will help us further optimize this new feature- delivering more value for the prospects and more leads for the advisors.

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