I’m often asked for recommendations for different solutions, so I put together this handy list of services that I recommend for most financial advice practices.
You can jump to what’s of most interest here:
- Financial Writers
- SMS Global
- Valenta BPO
- Informed Investor
- Website planet
- Video setup
- Human To Human
- GBST Equate
- Aon Cyber Insurance for Small Business
Unless stated on here, I’m an active user for each of these products. For every product here, I think the product is best in class for at least one use case.
Where I receive some kind of benefit from a recommended product, it’ll be marked with a reference.
Greenshot is my recommended snipping tool. It’s lite, simple, easy to use, powerful, and free!
If you don’t use a snipping tool, START NOW! When it’s free, there’s no excuse.
Favourite things: Being able to number steps super easily, obfuscate private info, and tailor what happens when you hit Print Screen.
Beware: Fake alternatives.
Alternatives: SnagIt, especially if you want video capture in the one tool or have enterprise-level concerns for data security.
Loom is a brilliant tool for capturing video, webcam, or both from your desktop. For team training, bug reporting, providing feedback, and lots of other uses: Free is all you’ll ever need. Pro gives you HD and editing tools.
Cost: Great free version, otherwise USD $10pm.
Favourite things: So. Easy. Especially as a browser plugin. Hosts video easily. Options to keep from Google indexing. Password protect videos. Easy trimming. Get notified when watched. So good!
Alternatives: If you’re going to do some serious editing anyways, sure, capture in that software (I like Camtasia myself, it’s come a long way over the years). Otherwise, Loom it.
Zoom has come to dominate the video conferencing market on the back of an excellent free offer.
Cost: Free version is great. $21pm suits most, $28pm for the branding perfectionists.
Favourite things: Video quality, range of free features, dial-in and computer audio options.
Beware: If someone connects by PC for video and phone for audio without using their audio key, they’ll count as two participants (relevant for free users). Web-based version (no downloads) exists, but is hard to find.
Alternatives: SuiteBox (excellent tool, recommended if taking digital signatures in meeting and aren’t doing webinars, also integrates with XPLAN), GoToMeeting (possibly superior if using primarily for webinars, as I do prefer it’s webinar functionality). Microsoft Teams is great for internal or B2B clients, but I wouldn’t touch for client use.
Note: The link provided is a referral link.2
Mailchimp is an excellent email marketing tool, easy to use, and has a great free option. If you don’t know your open rates of your newsletter, you should get Mailchimp NOW.
Cost: Free version is great (comes with branding, but it’s subtle). $17pm brings a very powerful tool.
Favourite things: Strength of free offer, drip-feed marketing, XPLAN integration.
Beware: Mailchimp does a great job protecting their service from spammers, but that does bring small challenges. Read this before starting.
Alternatives: I don’t use Campaign Monitor myself, but do consider it a great tool. It’s a logical upgrade if your needs require it and budget permits it. InfusionSoft by Keap is another popular choice for the more technically minded. HubSpot is also incredibly powerful and something you can grow into overtime, especially if your long term plans include serious scale.
Discount: I have arranged a $30 account credit for those who sign up by following the these steps:
- Sign up to Mailchimp
- Go to mailchimp.com/referral1
- You will receive a $30 account credit.
The link provided is a referral link.1
Calendly is just too good as an appointment scheduler. Clients and prospects can see when you’re available, and book themselves. It has everything you might need: Buffers, maximum daily limits, the lot.
Cost: Free version is decent and totally usable in live situations, but at USD $12pm the PRO version (incl. unlimited SMS) is worth it.
Favourite things: Polished UI, great support library, sign-in with Office 365 login and it just connects your calendars (soooo good), direct Zoom and Teams integration, and included SMS.
Beware: Like anything with automation, it requires an awareness of how it’ll impact your work. We’ve written about this more here. Whilst set up is usually simple, if you just want an expert to take the pain away, or you might need help for multi-adviser/multi-location set up, we provide a Calendly set up service.
Alternatives: Microsoft Bookings isn’t as easy to use, its interface isn’t as clean, and it doesn’t include SMS but it’s part of Office365 which probably makes it better than Calendly’s free option.
Project / Task management
Asana is a great workflow/task management tool. Whilst I do prefer client task management to be embedded within the CRM, Asana is the best option for everything else.
Cost: Solid free version. Once jobs get more complex (start dates, dependent tasks, etc) may want Premium which starts at $338 per annum for five users.
Favourite things: Handles complexity very well. Never find yourself working around things because what you need to do doesn’t fit. Email direct to Asana to create tasks. Also, unicorns.
Beware: You may enjoy adding light users while you’re running free, but you may have to cull them if unwilling to pay for them on upgrading.
Alternatives: Trello is nice when focused on simple visual representations of status, but Asana handles complexity better and has boards anyways. Monday.com is good but doesn’t handle depth as well. Honestly, free versions of any of the above are better than Microsoft Planner. Existing CRM, but these are rarely as strong and are annoying when things are business level, not client level.
Resources: I’ve put together a Project Plan template based on the Kaizen PDCA methodology, which you can download and import from here.
Client portals are a funny thing. It’s something many advisers think their clients want, but often isn’t really given due consideration.
That said, done well they can be powerful and close a gap for the independently minded adviser, giving an answer to some of the benefits banking all in one place normally provides.
On this, myprosperity leads the way. This is all they do, and they do it well.
Cost: Starting at $279pm, it’s not for the faint of heart. And nor should it be. Whatever you choose, the real cost is in your time and energy.
Favourite things: Easy to use (critical for client-facing). Property and car valuations (repaying the effort of logging in with immediate value). Ability to store documents against assets/policies. XPLAN and other integrations.
Beware: 12-month commitment on sign up. Client Portals are powerful if used well, but you must drive client interaction and that takes effort.
Alternatives: The one built into your CRM (I’m partial to Advice OS‘ from what I’ve seen), Moneysoft is also good and my recommendation if your focus is cash-flow management.
Blog article services
Financial Writers helps you solve the issue of writing your own content for client newsletters. They have all the content you need – and more time to focus on your business!
New content is added on a weekly basis, you can access content in the library 24/7, and there is no lock-in contract.
Feel free to visit www.financialwriters.com.au for immediate access.
Cost: Starts at $130pm.
Discount: Our clients through our Simply Advice Website’s service can access our exclusive discount if they use our code on sign up. Please contact us before you sign up so we can give you the code.
SMS Global have a rare functionality called email to SMS. It’s very simple, you send an email to <Destination Number>@email.smsglobal.com and SMSGlobal send a text to the number.
Cost: One thing I love about it. $0.10 per SMS, and can add credit in bundles as low as $5 easily. No ongoing commitments.
Favourite things: Australian presence. Ease of use. Integrates perfectly with XPLAN’s Email SMS functionality, but can do just as well with Outlook rules, and any other number of interesting options.
Beware: I’d keep the pre-purchased value in there low, and the approved email addresses to a minimum, to mitigate risk of spoofed emails causing trouble.
Alternatives: If it’s just for appointment reminders, check out Calendly again, otherwise check out Twillo which can do the same via this Zap.
Process mapping and diagrams
Brilliant, easy tool for process mapping. I use this a lot.
Cost: $9pm for the Basic version, which covers most use. Good thing is Free version is decent, and enough for collaborators/colleagues to use without having to pay.
Favourite things: Moves intelligently. Allows you to add descriptions for depth, and comments for collaboration. Google docs integration.
Alternatives: Draw.io is a nice option (if a bit fiddly) but completely free and browser based. Microsoft’s Visio is wonderful, but expensive and requires a license to edit a file which is impractical for most collaboration. Gsuite Drawings/Docs have options too, and whilst free it’s time consuming to use. (This gives you an idea).
Resources: I’ve put together a New Business Process template which you can use as a starting point on which to map your first new process, available here. (You will need a Lucidchart account to access my template. A free account will do the job).
This doesn’t really fit anywhere else, but it can’t go unmentioned. This thing is like your Word spellcheck/grammar check, but better and for everything.
Cost: Free version is a must have for everyone, even if only as a browser plugin. Pro is worth it if this is a weak spot for you, starting at $140pa. (Cheap if it prevents a fail in a big LinkedIn post.)
Favourite things: Awesome as a browser plugin, gets to where your other spellchecks don’t.
Beware: When running in Word/Outlook you lose the ‘Undo’ function, which makes it hard to use ongoing, although great for reviewing a final draft.
Alternatives: Inbuilt spell checkers, which are worse. Specialist freelancers which are expensive.
Created following the combining of Odesk and Elance, UpWork is a leader in freelancing.
Cost: Free to join, pay-as-you-go options the only ones you’ll need. I do recommend paying the $30 to promote jobs, especially if you are new.
Favourite things: Breadth of freelancer base, platform is pretty user friendly on both browser and app.
Beware: Using freelancers can be fraught with challenges. Keep the communication clear and take responsibility for making it work if you want to succeed.
Alternatives: Toptal an option, pricey but good for one-off engagements if they fall within it’s scope. Fiverr, below.
Fiverr is the original ‘small jobs’ site, targeting jobs for USD $5. Whilst the value for money isn’t quite what it used to be IMO, it’s still an excellent place for little things like photo touch ups, basic video editing, or some truly random stuff.
Cost: Free to join, gigs start at USD $5.
Favourite things: Cheap, easy. Refunds good.
Beware: Not my recommended service where what you want doesn’t fit perfectly into a pre-existing clear offer. Not a service for collaboration.
Alternatives: See Upwork above.
Note: The link provided is a referral link. It gets you 20% off your first job, and I get a credit for 20% of your first job.2
Building up your panel of freelancers is a great way to get regular support for specialist functions, but when things are high volume and you just need support, outsourcing offshore is a great option. Valenta BPO is a service I know well and have used directly for a long time.
Cost: Starting from $1,100pm for a Part-Time support.
Favourite things: Strong data security (ISO 27000 certified), multiple locations for your support, can provide screen and security camera monitoring, all giving confidence that your client data is safe.
Beware: Offshoring is never as good as it is promised to be. It’s a great strategy, but needs investment and patience to be successful, and the ROI is less than most anticipate.
Alternatives: There are others out there that specialise in financial planning. I hear good things about 5elk as well.
Through my relationship with Valenta BPO, I’m able to offer some additional resources, especially if combined with other work. If you’re interested, please contact me to discuss.
Social media management
If you want to schedule your social media or post to multiple accounts, Loomly is an easy solution. I often find this useful when I’ve been a bit active and need to spread out further sharing (no point nailing just the ‘9am Monday waiting-for-the-third-coffee-to-hit’ time slot, and then being off for days). It’s simple and easy to use.
Cost: There is a 15 day free trial. You’ll need a paid plan after that, which starts at $25pm for an annual subscription, or $34 for a monthly one.
Favourite things: Easier to use than peers, uses bit.ly shorteners (not their own proprietary), easy suggestions for optimal post scheduling, and very affordable when delegating social media to a team member.
Alternatives: Hootsuite and Buffer are more classic options that we’ve used in the past, and we’re having really good early experiences testing out Publer. Once you’re taking your social media more seriously, services like HubSpot would be more your thing.
Digital tools for informed advice
Informed Investor’s easy to use tools increase practice efficiency, saving time and lowering costs with SOA production, independently to your advice software.
The most accurate source of PDS’s I have found, with links checked daily.
I appreciate that the platform not only provides PDS provision but also offers educational resources and is recognised by ASIC as “an aid to understanding the PDS.”
Favourite things: Uniquely, it provides a data point on when each link was clicked for tracking purposes in the event of a complaint.
Cost: No charge to advisers and licensees, but may seek engagement with Product Issuers on your behalf.
Contact Stephen Mackinder, Value Creation Consultant at Informed Investor, to learn more about how they can support you.
Otter.ai is an automated transcription service that can automatically transcribe audio recordings or Zoom video recordings.
Favourite things: At the Pro level it can automatically transcribe Zoom recordings saved to the could, making searchable meeting recordings easy.
Beware: The Zoom Live Notes is cool, but probably not worthwhile the extra cost/work unless being used for webinars or where closed captions are important.
Note: The link provided is a referral link. It gets you one month of ‘Pro Lite*’ and, if you use that, I get credit to use Otter.2
QR code generator
Website planet provides a free QR code generator that is perfect for brands through customisation.
Benefits: After you choose the content type (Facebook, URL etc), this tool lets you change the colour, add a logo, and add a frame. You can then download the file as a png, jpeg, or svg, ready to embed in your website or print!
Cost: There is none. There are no limitations on the number of QR codes you can create using this tool.
Alternatives: There are lots of free alternatives, but why bother when this one lets you tailor the design perfectly to your brand for free. Only rare exception we’ve found so far is Rebrandly, where you want to integrate shortened URLs on a custom domain that can also integrate with tools like Publer.
Video caption editing
Splasheo is a simple and effective service for extremely basic editing and captioning needs. You put in a video, you get an output with a heading, human-reviewed captions, and a little add-on at the end if you want it.
Favourite things: Simple engagement, not trying to shoot the lights out, just helps support simple content production really well. After submitting your video, you are allowed endless edits to text and colours etc.
Beware: Captions are in the video image itself, instead of the attached .srt file, which could be better/worse in some situations. Not something that should be an issue until you really hit that next level of ‘influencer’. Would suggest you watch the video to ensure the captions 100% match your speech – if there is something you wanted to be edited, it’ll typically be fixed within a few hours.
Alternatives: Tools like Otter.ai can provide audio transcriptions automatically, albeit without the design or human oversight of Splasheo. This service could be something you could replicate pretty easily with an UpWork contractor to do as a fixed service (although I feel the slight reduction in cost you could get isn’t worth the hassle/person risk).
Why: USB connectivity, onboard video encoding, Zoom certification.
Budget alternative: Your phone, so long as it’s stable. Get a small tripod if needed.
Mic: RØDE Podcaster
Why: Best available cardioid (uni-directional) USB mic, onboard sampling/converter.
Budget alternative: RØDE SMARTLAVPRode SmartLav+, which will still be useful as a lapel mic if you upgrade later.
Lighting: Simple Photography Softbox
Why: Lighting is one of the most cost-effective upgrades to your videos you can make.
Budget alternative: Soft home lighting, using some cloth to soften if required. Outside somewhere quiet and not windy on an overcast day.
Human To Human
Human To Human is the consultancy of the award winning Michael Back.
Michael has a broad range of skills, but is especially talented in setting and clarifying vision and building remarkable client experiences.
Like me, Michael doesn’t just advise, but he gets his hands very dirty in practical doing.
Michael and I do joint client projects together, bringing the best of CX design and process design together for the perfect end to end experience and process.
I find website calculators an interesting beast. I don’t think they attract clients per se, but when working with clients on your own website, it’s a resource delivered through you that keeps coming back to you. When integrated into client meetings, blogs, or more, they become more than play things. They’re powerful tools.
Cost: Through my relationship with GBST, I’ve secured pricing from $49 pm for a single calculator, down to $22 pm per calculator with the full suite of 21 calculators.
Favourite things: Clean, crisp, simple calculators. No login required. Used by major banks. Definitely looks better than links to MoneySmart. We’ve also integrated these into the Simply Advice Websites service.
Beware: These work as marketing or engagement tools, but not as part of a bigger client portal.
Alternatives: I’m not aware of any others that look presentable, although some CRMs do have options (even if they aren’t typically designed to use as part of a public site). Otherwise, it’s MoneySmart.
To secure the pricing listed above, contact me for further information.
Aon Cyber Insurance for Small Business
Small business are among the most susceptible to hacks, data breaches and cybercrime – and financial advice is a real honeypot.
A good IT contractor, hosting on a cloud server, and having good contracts are all great steps to controlling your risk. However when something does get through they don’t help.
Cost: Approx. $125-250/month, depending on your business size and level of cover.
Favourite thing: Emergency hotline with forensic IT specialists help reduce impact and guide next steps. Can’t overstate the value in this.
Alternatives: Probably worthwhile exploring with your existing PI insurer as well or considering broking that at the same time. That said, there isn’t much overlap so may be better going for best in class on separate fronts.
Contact me and I’ll put you in touch with a broker I can recommend.
Most of these brands have great Twitter streams as well. You can find them all easily, and subscribe to my Twitter list, here.
These things are always changing, so if you’ve found something better please contact me and let me know.
The above are recommendations based only on my opinion regarding their usability, effectiveness, and value for money. I make no warranty for their security, continuity, or anything else.
- These products are either owned by me, or I am a reseller for. Where I am a reseller, unless I am value adding services, I charge the minimum permissible price. I’ll typically receive some money for these.
- These products have a referral link, a referral program, affiliate marketing program, certification program, or something similar. If you click on the link supplied and buy something, I may receive a small financial benefit at no additional cost to you. This helps keep the work that I do and share going.
- If there is no reference against a product, I do not stand to receive any direct financial benefit from it’s recommendation.