Is your free report “complimentary” or “complementary”?

Thursday, Jan. 29th 2015

Offering a free report to folks who sign up for your email list is a great marketing technique. However, you risk making a mistake if you substitute a multisyllabic word for “free.”complementary misuse example

Look at the example in the image to the right, which shows a sticker that appeared on a local newspaper. I feel confident the advertisers wanted to push the benefits of a free class. Too bad that’s not what they offered.

“Complementary” doesn’t mean “free.” It addresses the relationship between two or more items. Taking this ad literally, it suggests that if you pay to take a music appreciation class, it will enhance your experience in the other courses, lectures, or seminars offered by the advertiser.

“Complimentary,” meaning “given free or as a favor” is the word the advertisers needed.

When you offer a report at no cost to your newsletter subscribers, please consider making it “free.” You’ll avoid an embarrassing mistake. Also, the single-syllable “free” is easy for your readers to absorb.

If you must go multisyllabic, please use “complimentary.”


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Top posts from the fourth quarter of 2014

Thursday, Jan. 22nd 2015

Top PostsCheck out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on investment commentary (#1 and 2), white papers (#3 and 7),  writing (#4, 6, and 10), and marketing (#8). One of the posts features insights from a guest expert, Dave Grant (#5). All of my 2014 guest bloggers appear in #9.

I put a lot of thought into #1. I’m glad to see that my readers found it helpful.

  1. Writing sensitively about tragedy in your investment commentary or blog
  2. Famous quotes make your commentary memorable
  3. 4 reasons you shouldn’t write a white paper
  4. Free help for wordy writers!
  5. How and Why to Use Sliding Pop-ups ←guest post by @DaveGrant82
  6. Financial website writers, match headlines to content or lose readers
  7. E-book or white paper: which is better?
  8. Boost your newsletter list’s power with this tip
  9. Guest bloggers: 2014 in review
  10. Blog topics: Break the 3-S rule on your blog


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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8 lessons from my marketing mishaps

Tuesday, Jan. 20th 2015

As I reflect on 2014, I’ve learned some lessons that may help you. Two of my anchor clients—clients who gave me work at regular intervals—took their work in-house last year. Althoughlight bulb a couple of one-time projects replaced that income temporarily, I eventually fell behind. Catching up would have been easier if I’d done some things differently.

Lesson 1: Don’t stop marketing.

Complacency plus unrealistic expectations. That’s what hurt me.

On the complacency front, I had stopped actively contacting new prospects because I had plenty of work. I didn’t want to have to turn away work that I was too busy to take on. I did, however, continue raising people’s awareness of me in a general way via social media, my blog, my weekly and monthly e-newsletters, and public speaking.

As for unrealistic expectations, I’d dreamed that publishing my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, would sweep my business to new heights. Publishing my book was a wonderful experience. I’m thrilled by the enthusiastic reviews from my readers. I’m confident that it has brought me to the attention of new people. However, the book hasn’t directly created scads of new business for me.

Lesson 2: Use LinkedIn to meet targeted prospects.

Following the advice of some fellow writers, I experimented with sending letters of introduction (LOIs) to a group of prospects. I used LinkedIn’s search function, focusing on keywords, to identify people who might hire me. Then I sent a letter of introduction via LinkedIn that focused on how I could help them, rather than how they could help me.

I gained three new clients from LOIs in 2014. Though some may call that a low success rate, it nicely complemented clients gained from other sources.

Lesson 3: Be politely persistent.

People can’t hire you if they don’t have a need. That’s why polite persistence pays by keeping you in front of your prospects until they’re ready to hire.

When I meet people, I ask if I can add them to the distribution of my monthly e-newsletter of practical communications tips tailored to financial professionals. It’s great if I can win their permission to enter their email inbox. Sometimes that gentle reminder is the key to winning new business. However, I don’t add people without their permission. My newsletter has been an ongoing source of new business for me.

If somebody sounds like a great prospect for me, I try to follow up quarterly with a quick email asking about current needs. When possible, I share a link to an article of interest to that person. I’ve gained work this way, too.

Lesson 4: Go with the flow when new opportunities arise.

Sometimes opportunities take you in new directions. In 2014, my opportunities to speak for pay to professional associations and corporate clients increased dramatically. It felt as if most of these opportunities fell into my lap. However, in every case I had some sort of personal connection with the organization through my newsletter, social media, or previous speaking engagements.

Feeling very pleased with the response I received from my audiences, I shared the information via social media and in my newsletters. Talking about my paid speaking gigs generated more opportunities. In fact, one time a simple tweet saying that I’d like more paid speaking gigs led directly to a new opportunity, as I described in “Secrets of a speedy sale via Twitter.”

Lesson 5: Try something new.

I wondered about offering new products or services to attract business from individuals instead of large companies, which spurred me to offer my first self-sponsored paid webinar. In June 2014 I delivered a webinar version of “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” which I’ve also presented to CFA societies and corporate clients.

I was pleased with the enrollment and student participation. The technology drove me crazy, but that’s another story, which I’ve described in “Tech tips for your educational webinar–Learn from my experience.”

The webinar helped me indirectly, too, by giving me something to talk about with prospects and others.

Not every new initiative paid off with big sales. I’m glad I created Investment Commentary: Best Tips from, but I haven’t recouped my production costs yet. It’s hard to make a significant amount of money from selling inexpensive items in a narrow niche.

Lesson 6: Fine-tune your old techniques.

My newsletter has been the foundation of my success, but sign-ups have lagged somewhat over the past year or so. As I discussed in “Your call-to-action choice makes a difference,” I initially thought the position of my call-to-action box was a problem. I moved the box back to the upper right-hand corner of my website. That seemed to help some. Still, new newsletter sign-ups lagged previous levels.

I mulled over adding a pop-up newsletter subscription box to my website. I don’t like them on the other people’s websites, but people whom I respect reported that pop-ups boosted their sign-ups. I heard this from Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View, Blane Warrene, and fellow writers. Dave Grant of Finance for Teachers boosted my interest further when he guest-blogged for me on “How and Why to Use Sliding Pop-ups.”

I added the free SumoMe pop-up at the end of September 2014. Since then my newsletter sign-ups have increased. About one-third to two-thirds of my newsletter sign-ups come via the pop-up, according to my weekly reports.

Lesson 7: Track your results.

Look at what techniques have yielded new clients in the past. I describe my approach to this analysis in “Learn what works in winning clients.” I’m able to write this blog post because I look at which tactics yield new clients.

I wish there were a quick and easy formula for me to win new clients. But there isn’t. My new clients come from a diverse array of sources including referrals, my newsletter, my LOIs, and my general presence on the Web. One new client told me, “I see your name everywhere.”

Lesson 8: Get your focus right.

Your website should clearly communicate your business focus. If it doesn’t, you’ll get inquiries from people who aren’t a good fit for your services and products.

I’m still working to get this right. My online presence attracts more individual advisors than marketers and other managers from larger investment and wealth management firms, the ideal clients for my writing and editing services.

This mismatch is my own doing. I like writing blog posts that help individuals learn how to write better. My book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, is a self-help manual for these folks. I can’t stop writing this kind of content because I enjoy it too much. I also get satisfaction from my paid speaking gigs about “Writing Effective Emails” and “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” for local groups of the CFA Institute and Financial Planning Association.

It’s time to tweak my website messaging. Emphasizing my white paper and commentary work to attract more ideal clients is on my “to do” list for 2015.

What about YOU?

Do you see ways that these lessons might apply to you? What are you doing to fine-tune your marketing this year?

Image courtesy of  KROMKRATHOG at


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing | 1 Comment »

Help your readers by linking to definitions

Tuesday, Jan. 13th 2015

Using words that your audience doesn’t understand can cut your readership. That’s why I recommend using plain language or defining terms by writing parenthetically. But what if 95%ID-10066454 of your readers prefer terms like “quantitative easing” and “duration,” but you want to accommodate the remaining 5%?

Link to online definitions, but cautiously

Glossaries can help you cater to a small number of less sophisticated readers. You can link from technical terms to their definitions. This works well in online content, such as websites, blogs, and even in PDFs that are read online. In printed documents, you can refer to a glossary at the back of the piece or at an easy-to-type online address. However, be aware that it takes a very motivated reader to click, read the definition, and then return to your document. I’d only use this technique when less sophisticated readers are a small minority.

You can find good definitions online, with glossaries such as InvestorWords, Investing in Bonds, or the Morningstar Investment Glossary. You can also do a Google search, typing “Define: Term.”

Don’t blindly accept any definition you find. Read the definition carefully to see if you agree with it.

Create your own glossary

Another approach is to create your own glossary that lives on your website. This may be the only solution if you have concerns about linking to third-party websites. Your compliance professionals may worry about seeming to endorse someone else’s website or being vulnerable to changes that occur in the content after you post your link. Plus, what happens if that page disappears? Broken links disappoint your readers and damage your credibility. This gives you control over the definition and your readers’ access to it.

Another potential advantage: You can cross-link from your glossary definition to other relevant content. This could increase readers’ engagement with your website.


Image courtesy of  arztsamui at



Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Do your grammar, punctuation, and usage affect your credibility?

Thursday, Jan. 8th 2015

Does the quality of your writing matter?

Please answer my two-question survey to provide insights into your opinions on whether the quality of your writing can hurt or help your credibility. I’ll report on the results in a future issue of my monthly e-newsletter.


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in writing | 3 Comments »

Breaking your writer’s block with Robert Benson and Eric Maisel

Tuesday, Jan. 6th 2015

What can you do when writer’s block paralyzes you?

Dancing on the Head of a PenSitting down at your desk and going through the motions of writing is one place to start, according to Robert Benson in Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life.

Benson suggests that you establish a daily routine of turning on your computer and going back to the most recent stopping point in your work. Paraphrasing an NPR interview with Eric Maisel, he suggests, “If you are a writer, type in the last few bits you wrote.” You can find direct insights from Maisel on YouTube, as in “Understanding Goal-Oriented Creativity.”

I think the idea is to find an easy entry into writing. Once you start, you may build momentum. As Benson also says,

… something… magical may happen to writers if they go to their rooms and take up their tools each day.

Perhaps writing will capture them.

This reminds me of advice I read or heard long ago to stop your daily writing in the middle of a paragraph or thought. That way you’ll have an obvious path for resuming your writing.

What works for you?

What helps you lick writer’s block? For another take on this topic, see “Beating financial writer’s block with author Julia Cameron.”


Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

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“Say one thing”: a great reminder for bloggers

Tuesday, Dec. 30th 2014

Online readers have even less patience than people reading on paper. This mean bloggers should embrace journalist Donald M. Murray’s advice to “say one thing.”

In Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at WorkWriting to Deadline by Donald Murray, Murray says:

The greatest problem in news writing is the story that lacks focus. The writer tries to say too many things of equal importance. An effective news story has one dominant meaning.

To avoid a lack of focus, Murray tries to identify “the one thing the story must say.”

How do you find that one thing? Murray sets his notes aside and thinks until the answer hits him. It could be something as simple as “more taxes.”

Sometimes Murray’s technique works for me. Other times, I take a more analytical approach. For complex stories, I find mind mapping, a technique I discuss extensively in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, helpful.

Mind maps give me a bird’s eye view on patterns and themes that I can’t see when I’m too close to the data.

By the way, once you figure out your “one thing,” consider dropping it into your introduction. I wonder if this is what New York Times reporter Floyd Norris did when he opened a column with “Has Japan turned the economic corner?” You can read this sentence in context in his column, “Government stimulus lifts Japan.”

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in writing | 2 Comments »

Blog topics: Break the 3-S rule on your blog

Tuesday, Dec. 23rd 2014

This rule is made to be broken, I thought when I read about the “3-S rule” of Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat’s Gianni Agnelli in “Marella & Me” in The New York Times Style Magazineblog tips (Sept. 28, 2014). According to Marella, you should never discuss in public the three Ss of sogni (dreams), salute (health), or soldi (money).

Discussing dreams is taboo? That surprised me. Regardless of your thoughts about the appropriateness of these topics for face-to-face chitchat with strangers, I think you’ll agree that they’re suitable for discussion with clients—and on your blog.

Here are some blog post ideas for financial advisors that relate to each of the three Ss.

Sogni, dreams

Everybody has dreams for what they’d like to achieve during their lives. If your blog can help people to identify or attain dreams, that’s powerful.

Here are some potential blog topics related to dreams:

  • How I achieved my dream—and you can, too
  • 4 ways to save enough money to travel to your dream destination
  • Identify your ideal occupation following these steps
  • The most powerful technique for creating an ideal retirement

Salute, health

Health is a serious concern for many clients. Even if they’re healthy now, they can expect to spend a big chunk of their retirement savings on health care costs. Here are some potential blog post topics related to health care:

  • How much will you spend on health care in retirement?
  • Estate planning techniques to help a family member with a chronic health condition
  • Why you need a health care proxy now
  • How much disability insurance do you need?

Soldi, money

Money is a big topic, so let’s focus on money taboos.

  • Why you should discuss money with your children
  • 3 reasons to cut your kids out of your will
  • Why you shouldn’t focus solely on saving for retirement
  • 3 great reasons to borrow from your 401(k) plan

Your topic ideas?

If you have great blog post ideas related to the three Ss, please share them.


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

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Rome vs. today: My thoughts on readers’ access and attention

Tuesday, Dec. 16th 2014

Visiting Rome’s Colosseum made me think about how our ease of accessing reading materials makes us less patient when we read.

Back in the days of classical Rome, people had to work at reading. They didn’t have books lying around their homes — at least not according to the exhibit about libraries that I saw at the Colosseum. They had to go out to reach their reading material at a library or gymnasium. Then, they had to unroll and re-roll long papyrus scrolls written without any punctuation, capital letters, or even breaks between words, according to a Colosseum exhibit about ancient libraries (see “How the Ancients Read” photo).

How the Ancients Read

Click to read “How the Ancients Read” in a larger format.









Can you imagine reading this blog post under such conditions? I had a somewhat similar experience—in terms of the lack of punctuation at least—when I studied classical Japanese at Harvard way back when. It took a lot of effort to work my way through edicts of the Tokugawa shogunate.

I think that the difficulty of reading in the days of Rome or classical Japan might have spurred me to abandon books even faster than I do now. These days I drop novels that don’t grab me in the first 40 pages. I may not go beyond the first paragraph of a blog that fails to sparkle.Rome Colosseum library exhibit

However, on the other hand, I imagine the scarcity of reading materials in classical Rome would have lowered my standards for what was worth reading and how long I’d read it. When I was a girl, I read all of my brother’s Hardy Boys and many of his science fiction books. They weren’t my favorites, but I was a voracious reader who couldn’t get enough books from the library.

Things sure are different today. My favorite smartphone app is the Kindle app that lets me carry a book everywhere. While it’s great that reading is more accessible, I’m a little sad that this makes reading less of a privilege.

What does the difference between ancient Rome and today mean for you as a writer? It’s a reminder that you must work hard to keep your readers’ attention because it’s so easy for them to take advantage of other options.


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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4 reasons you shouldn’t write a white paper

Tuesday, Dec. 9th 2014

White papers can be great marketing tools. Done right, they give web surfers reasons to join your email list and persuade them that you understand—and have solutions to —their white paperproblems. However, done poorly, white papers waste your time—and your readers’ time. To help you avoid pointlessly sinking your energy into white papers, I’m sharing four reasons you should not write a white paper.

Reason 1. You haven’t identified the right problem.

White papers should solve a problem faced by members of your target audience, as I explained in “White paper marketing: Walk a fine line.” This makes them compelling to your readers. It also helps your white papers get found, as readers conduct online searches for “how do I…?”

A problem and a topic aren’t the same thing, as I showed in “Which investment white paper would you read?” “Small-cap stocks” is an unexciting topic, while “How to profit from small-cap stocks” solves a problem faced by readers who seek to boost their investment returns.

If you don’t know how to identify a good problem, listen to questions your clients and prospects ask you. You can also seek their input through social media, surveys in your e-newsletter or on your blog, or other methods. Identifying your reader’s problem is a key step in the writing process that I describe in Financial Blogging: How To Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Reason 2. Your white paper focuses on your company’s products or services

Your readers seek objective advice. If you inject your company’s products and services throughout your white paper, you lose credibility because readers view your piece as an advertisement. They quickly stop reading. Respondents to my “Walk a fine line” survey agreed that references to your company’s products and services should be limited to the end of your white paper.

Reason 3. You lack data to support your points

While blog posts can be opinionated rants, white papers typically feature data or examples to support their points. This is an area where larger companies have an advantage over smaller firms because of their data generation and analysis capabilities. They’re also more likely to have a budget to license data from providers such as Ned Davis Research.

Larger companies don’t always win in this area. For example, I’ve seen some firms generate original content by interviewing members of their target audience.

Also, there’s good publicly available data. However, please be careful to credit your sources and observe the rules of copyright “fair use.” Not sure about what’s fair use? Check the resources in “Legal danger for financial bloggers: Two misconceptions, three resources, one suggestion.”

Reason 4. You can’t write in a reader-friendly way.

Today’s readers are impatient. If you don’t write about a compelling topic in a way that’s easy for them to absorb, they’ll quickly stop reading. For tips on how to make your writing more reader-friendly, see “5 steps for rewriting your investment commentary.”

Anything else?

I’m curious. Can you think of any additional reasons why you shouldn’t write a white paper? For examples, do you think that the less formal approach of an e-book, which I discussed in “E-book or white paper: which is better?”, would better suit your audience?


Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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