From the March 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Gain boomer business through the click of a mouse

To effectively generate new business -- and brand yourself as a financial management expert -- think e-newsletters. Once a staple of the tech boom build-out, e-newsletters took a hit earlier in the decade, scarred by the bad advice and over-hyped predictions they contained. But with new technology bells and whistles, they're making a comeback, and once again proving to be a viable prospecting and retention tool among tech-savvy boomers.

Patrick Collins, a principal with Greenspring Wealth Management in Towson, writes two e-newsletters quarterly. One focuses on general news in financial planning. The other fills a planning niche he hit upon -- parents of children with special-needs. From his success with his e-newsletter platform, local media now frequently contact him for expert source quotes.

"We'd heard from parents and from families that there wasn't a whole lot of information available on this type of planning," Collins says. "They asked whether there was a book we could recommend or some place to go for this type of research. As we did our own research, we realized there wasn't much out there. So we decided to team with a law firm and start a newsletter that every quarter has a story written by us from the financial perspective and an article written by a law firm that deals with the legal perspective. It kind of positions us as an expert within this one area, so it's a niche."

By focusing on a clearly defined segment of the market, Collins quickly developed a large circulation of 800 subscribers. The newsletter generates calls following each mailing and has produced new clients since its inception in 2004.

It generates a response from potential clients because it's very specialized and the people who get it are in that position -- they have a child with special needs," Collins says. "It's passed around to support groups and non-profits and that type of thing, so all of their members tend to sign up for it."

Within the first six months, 400 people subscribed, due mainly to word of mouth. Each week thereafter, 30 or 40 people would enter their information in the firm's database in order to sign up, which "did quite a bit from a business-building perspective."

Ronen Yaari, founder and president of OpenMoves, produces e-newsletters for about 150 clients. Yaari understands the potential opportunities, and concerns, generated by sending e-newsletters.

"The biggest concern now is deliverability," he says. "Does my newsletter actually get to my recipient and do they actually open it. What are they interested in? The age of just throwing anything out there is, I think, slowly whittling away. Just to receive a single piece of e-mail first requires that your ISP server filters it, then your company's e-mail server filters it, then it gets filtered on your desktop. So you have three levels of filtering, all using slightly different paradigms and algorithms. Some filter for key words and some filter for IP addresses and some filter for blacklists and some filter for all sorts of things."

Many advisors avoid the hassle by using e-mail service providers. The ESP typically has thousands of clients and they all share servers -- each with a unique IP address, which equates to a license plate.

"So if your neighbor on the server is not practicing 'safe e-mail' and their IP address is blocked, then you might also be affected if you're sharing the same server," Yaari explains. "What we do is assign each one of our client accounts their own unique IP address. In other words, each client has his or her own license plate number."

The cost of using a service like OpenMoves varies from $300 to $400 when the client provides the written content, and $1,000 to $2,000 when editorial work is done.

Studies show that Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are days when recipients are most likely to open your e-newsletter. Also, uploading your e-newsletter onto your Web site is key.

"The search engine robots love it when you have lots of content that is related to your core business," Yaari says. "Your ranking in the search engine goes up. Newsletters are a great way to add to that content pool."

Yaari recommends that the word count be kept to a minimum. Ideally, a newsletter will run only 500 to 750 words. The information should be relevant to the client and his needs, rather than about advisor. Many e-mail programs come with the images turned off by default. So the newsletter should be designed in a way to work without images. It should also work within a preview pane and the table of contents should appear at the top. Future additions include audio and video.

"Today, it's still very difficult to embed video or audio inside e-mail and have it consistently work on everyone's e-mail software," Yaari says. "So we normally send it as a link. [Another] trend is to look more at the behavioral. For instance, when someone clicks on a particular link, we now have the ability [to automatically send] a follow-up e-mail at a particular time. For example, if you drive them to buy a particular book on your Web site and the book is about parenting, a day later, they would get another e-mail that tells them some tidbit about parenting and suggests other books. So it's very targeted marketing and it's marketing based on behavior."

E-mail -- as opposed to a print newsletter -- is easy to track. You can tell who opened the newsletter, how many times they opened it, what they clicked and to whom they forwarded the e-mail.

"We can track this over time and show our clients trends," Yaari says. "And we can adjust our editorial component based on that. [This is] a big component of e-newsletters. If you have an in-house list of customers and prospects -- people you have touched before and know you -- odds are that in any given send, you are going to have an open rate of 20 percent to 30 percent. That's considered good. In the old days, it probably was 50 percent. If the list is of lesser quality, people you haven't touched that often, or who have never heard of you, you could be in the single digits, or teens."

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