From the May 2010 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

What Google can do specifically for advisors

How did we ever live without Google? They didn't create search, but showed us why it's relevant to our business. While search is the most obvious of capabilities, there is so much more to it, including maps, news, shopping, books, blogs, etc. While it's not always easy to get through their maze of offerings, here are a few specific applications that might help you become more efficient, save money and even help drive smarter client relationships.

Google Alerts allows subscribers to get e-mail updates of the latest Google results based on your choice of query topic. For advisors, it can help keep current on a specific company that a client may work for, an industry or company you're following for research purposes, or your clients favorite sport team. If you have a client that has a somewhat public profile, it can also help you stay connected to what's going in their world and what others are saying about them. As with most things in life, what you get out of Google Alerts is only as good as what you put in. If your search terms are general and not specific, you're likely to receive a lot of updates in your e-mail box that are not likely to be exact matches to what you're trying to stay updated on. Getting relevant updates on areas of interest to your clients can position you even further as a trusted advisor in your relationships.

Google Finance provides a suite of basic, easy to use tools including a market page, a stock screener, news, and a portfolio tracker. While all of these capabilities are fairly standard on finance sites, they do have a unique feature called Google domestic trends, which tracks Google search traffic for specific sectors of the economy and companies. Changes in the volume may indicate something is going on within a particular company or index. They also provide a historical pricing functionality that can be helpful in figuring out valuations for securities without cost basis associated with them.

We've spoken before in this article regarding the fact that you shouldn't be in the business of hosting and having to maintain technology applications. It's not likely to be your core business and the world is moving away from this model and more towards where the hosting and maintenance is taken care of by solution providers. Google Business Solutions contains a number of different capabilities that you may find helpful in helping in building your business, but Google Apps, and more specifically Gmail for Business, can help advisors stay out of the hosting and maintenance of servers often required to support an in-house e-mail program.

The most interesting Google application of all may be something they're currently in a very controlled beta with. Google Voice provides you with one phone number that is capable of ringing all of the phone numbers you want (office, cell, home, etc.). For example, this might be a number you provide to your better clients to ensure that their call always gets picked up either by you or your assistant. It also allows for customized outgoing messages based on the caller that's calling in. For your better clients, this could make them feel a heightened level of importance versus just receiving a generic voice mail message. It could also help you stay more focused during the day by sending any unrecognized calls directly to voice mail instead of taking your or your assistant's time up. Lastly, Google Voice is an inexpensive way of giving the appearance that you have a presence in a local market without having any bricks and mortar.

Marc Butler is managing director with iNautix (USA) LLC, an affiliate of Pershing LLC in Jersey City, N.J. He can be reached at mbutler@inautix.com.

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