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4 Solutions to Avoid “The Graduate” Trap

Spring is college graduation time and a launch into financial independence, a celebration tuition-weary parents eagerly anticipate.  Unfortunately, while parents may be eager to be free of financial burdens, graduates may not be equally eager to assume them.

Launching a graduate into independent adulthood can be a difficult transition filled with conflicting expectations and  mutual disappointments.  Now is the opportune time for parents to avoid the following traps with 4 productive solutions.

Trap:  Humans love anything FREE or EASY. It goes against human nature to pay more than necessary It’s unlikely graduates will immediately and voluntarily give up the support they have relied on their entire life.

Solution 1:  Don’t assume the graduate will cheerly embrace financial independence.  Assumptions create an invisible list of expectations the graduate will not be able to magically discern, greatly increasing the likelihood of disappointment and conflict.  Remember, it is the unusual graduate who will voluntarily embrace the burden of paying for everything on their own immediately.  Nothing about this is automatic, for the parent or the graduate, don’t expect it to be and everyone will be much less stressed.

Trap:  Children are trained to be “takers”.  Parents are normally the material “givers” in the relationship, even through college with a pseudo-adult lifestyle.  Many graduates are used to privileges without cost.

Solution 2:  Discuss and clarify new expectations following graduation.  Talk openly about goals for healthy independence and each other’s expectations in this new stage. Honest and respectful communication is critical to a productive  transition.

Trap:  It’s SCARY!  This may be the first time graduates take on full adult responsibilities. Unlike school, there is no clearly outlined path to success.  Frankly, it’s scary!  Many will apply to graduate schools, remain living at home or stay under-employed because they feel inadequate or fearful.

Solution 3:  Acknowledge the difficulty of this new stage.  Talk about how you can help the student move forward with productive support and clear accountability.  A supportive safety net will minimize paralyzing fear.  Equally important, concrete accountability will protect against comfortable complacency.

Trap:  Many will feel poor.  As new graduates pay for rent, transportation, utilities, school-debt and life they may feel over-stretched.  Feeling poor is not the same as actually being unable to pay for basic needs.  It’s difficult to give-up daily luxuries that never felt extravagant, when bought by someone else.  Given the lavish amenities at colleges today, a thrifty lifestyle is an adjustment.

Solution 4:  Resist the pull to validate beliefs that are NOT based in fact.  You can absolutely acknowledge the disappointment a new grad feels about a less luxurious lifestyle, without agreeing to a false belief that they ”can’t pay their bills”.  Instead, offer guidance on budgeting.   During the transition, it’s helpful for parents to decide what they will financially support and communicate clearly what a new grad can expect over time.  It’s equally important to discuss how you will aid the new grad in the event of a true financial emergency.  Giving a young adult a “hand up” is not the same as funding continual “hand outs”.  Defining the parameters of the ”hand-up” will alleviate anxiety for everyone.

Ongoing dialogue about changing expectations with clear measures of both accountability and support will go a long way to making the graduation celebration continue as a celebration of a productive independent adult life.

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Is your Brand Turning OFF 50% of your Prospects?

Today, I stumbled on a professional consulting website that is overwhelmingly masculine.  Clearly the business does not intend to work with only men, but their website will absolutely turn-off women, perhaps men too.  The branding impression is that: “We’re aggressive guys, we only understand aggressive guys, we’ll treat everyone like they’re an aggressive guy and our consulting will be aggressive guy tactics!”

I’m confident that the business does not intend to turn off half of their prospects, but given that women hold 51% of all the professional roles in the U.S. that’s exactly what they’ve accomplished.

Let’s learn from their mistake!  Take a good hard look at your website and marketing material and ask yourself some pointed questions:

  1. What images are displayed?
  2. What words are used to describe your services?
  3. What do your clients & fans think?
  4. What kind of brand image do you want to display?

Branding is an art and there are many interpretations of good branding.  Be prepared that marketing professionals will have diverse opinions.  You may feel confused by not getting a definitive right answer. I’ve been researching branding for years and I’ve still not found the ideal brand formula.

But you know your niche and clients better than anyone.  Listen to your advocates, clients, and your own interests for image in the marketplace.  Be confident in pursuing that look.  Branding is supposed to reflect the real you!

If you’d like to boost your brand personality* (a branding term for image in the marketplace) check out these branding worksheets which includes the Brand Personality Dimensions:  Maximize Your Brand

The website that I found today had a singular brand personality: Ruggedness which is masculine, tough, rugged, outdoorsy  & western!  It’s doubtful they intended to create this image for their professional consulting business.  Most likely, they were not intentional about their brand personality.

Since we have 6.5 seconds to make an impression (according to leading ad agency FCB) it’d be ideal to be intentional. What’s your brand personality?  Does your website display it well?  Does it appeal to all your prospects?

By the way, that website is not linked here, because that would be worthlessly snarky and embarrass this business.  Since, I spend my days helping people grow positively, nastiness goes against everything I stand for in work and life.

* Brand Personality was pioneered by Jennifer Aaker in her seminal article: Dimensions of Brand Personality




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Politics, Sex & Money

Here we go again!  Every election cycle seems to get more colorful than the last.  Why?  One reason is the focus on OR rather than AND.  The candidates advocate for this group OR that group.  It’s politics of you OR me, but not both.

Now financial services increasingly targets special groups, specifically women.  New products and services are popping up, exclusively for women.  They focus on ethics, values, transparency, clarity and ease of use for women investors.  That’s great!  It’s a vast improvement.  But, let’s not have a win for women and a loss for men.  What’s good for women investors, should help men too!  Why should men have to deal with obtuse and convoluted investments?  

OK, you laugh now, because I wrote the groundbreaking book on reaching women investors and speak nationally on this very important topic.  Am I a hypocrite?  No!  It’s very important and I applaud innovations for women AND for men.  We’re all important.  Good innovation is not for you OR me.  It benefits everyone!

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6 Tips to Calm Clients in Volatility

The markets are gyrating.  We’re dizzy & confused.  So are your clients.  Below are behavioral psychology tips for keeping clients calm:

1) First, Calm Yourself:  Up to 90% of communication is non-verbal.  Clients will notice any anxiety you feel.  Watch your speed of talking, breathing & pitch of voice.  Rapid speech, quick & shallow breathing and a change in pitch signals anxiety, no matter what your words are saying.  Get your Zen on – before talking to any clients.

2)  Listen for Emotions:  Rationality is suppressed when emotions are high.  Listen for the underlying emotions (likely fear and/or anger).  Ultimately, you’re talking to the emotion that’s driving everything else.  Remember that anger is often a cover for feeling vulnerable or fearful.  Don’t get triggered by anger.

3) Acknowledge:  Make sure to acknowledge (verbally reflect a summary of what you hear).  Do NOT agree with anything irrational or false. You can acknowledge emotional concerns without acknowledging false assumptions. Until people feel heard, they will keep repeating and may escalate emotionally.

4) Normalize:  Normalizing an experience is a powerful psychological tool.  Share your knowledge of history and market fluctuations.  Honestly and factually put things into a bigger perspective.  Normalize the experience and the feelings.

5) Show Your Value:  This is exactly your value.  This is the moment you show why clients need a human professional (not a robo-advisor).  Doctors don’t diagnose or treat themselves.  They can’t be objective.  For the very same reason, it’s a bad idea for investors to diagnose and treat their own investments.  While attending to their feelings, show them the way forward.

6)  Be Prepared to Repeat:  Stress makes humans stupid (medical fact) and strong emotions will repeatedly trigger anxiety.  Be ready to repeat the calming process more than once per client.  You’ll be much less frustrated when you expect to repeat.  Remember the panic driven media plays 24/7.  Clients may need several rounds of calming tonic.  Remember, that’s your value!

PS:  Get support to maintain your own calm.  That’s the value of your Coach!

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3 Marketing Rules & 3 Expert Tips

I follow marketing news, so you don’t have to.  Here are favorite rules and tips from marketing gurus.  Enjoy!

Three Marketing Rules

1) Selling is Out:   People have been oversold.  They’re cynical and suspicious.  Traditional “selling” doesn’t work anymore.  It turns people off.

2) Attention is Rare:  Research shows we’re bombarded with 3,000 – 20,000 marketing messages a day, but only 12 make an impression.

3) Volume is Annoying :  People are overwhelmed with tasks and activities.  Just adding to the volume is unappealing.  Be targeted, personal and relevant.

Three Marketing Tips

1) Use Your 6.5 Seconds:  FCB, a top global ad agency, reveals we have 6.5 seconds to engage our listeners or they tune out. You have just enough time to entice interest.  After they engage, you can explain more.

2) Say it with Picture-Words:  Memory research reveals that pictures stick and concepts slip.  Case in point, Tom told me “I distributes large scale vehicles used in commercial environments”. After probing, I discovered Tom sells fire-trucks. Which would you remember?  Fire-trucks!  Use words that evoke a picture or experience.  They’re powerful & sticky.

3) People Want to Like You First:  Like-ability is huge. Too often we focus on expertise and forget that personal connection is important.  No one will care about our expertise, if they don’t like us first.

For more check out:Daily Ad Exposure Why is Everyone So Busy? FCB on 6.5 seconds  Made to Stick Model The Likeability-Factor assessment


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