When it comes to running your business, the bad news is, it’s only going to get harder, with the upcoming fiscal cliff and regulatory and fiduciary uncertainty. But the good news is, there is free and low-cost technology that you can implement today to help you communicate with your clients, collaborate with others, manage your information and manage your time, said financial planning tech consultant Bill Winterberg of FPPad.
During the Financial Planning Association’s Experience 2012 conference in San Antonio, Texas, Winterberg shared some transformative technologies that can make advisors’ lives easier. Here are a few:
1. Virtual Meetings: While it’s not always easy to meet clients face-to-face, virtual meetings allow you to conduct meetings online via your laptop, PC, or iPad. Many iPhones and iPads are built with webcams, and chances are, the majority of your clients have these tools too, Winterberg said. Some options include Skype and GooglePlus Hangouts.
2. Share Your Screen: There is software out there that allows you to share your computer screen with your clients, so they can see any document or graph you’re looking at. GotoMeeting and Webex have low-cost pay programs, but Mikogo and Join.me are free services. This as well as the virtual meetings tool can be used to expand your influence nationwide.
3. Public Calendar: It’s hard to coordinate schedules with clients, when they throw a time out there when they’re available, you’re not available, and you have to suggest another time, and so on. Don’t play e-mail battleship to coordinate with clients. You can use software that allows you to synchronize calendars, such as TimeBridge, WhenisGood, Bookeo, TimeTrade and ScheduleOnce. They don’t see your whole schedule, but they see your availability and can propose meeting times right in your schedule.
4. Flexible Phone Services (VoiP): Tired of getting messages on multiple phones? There are free utilities, such as GoogleVoice, that allow you to control your phone calls. With a Google Voice number, you can have people call all of your phones at once, or none. You can also see text transcripts of any messages left via text or email.
5. File Sharing and Syncronization: These free, web-based programs allow you to share files easily with clients when you drag and drop files into a shared folder. They have friendly interfaces, and look just like a folder of files on your computer. These services include DropBox, Box, Spideroak, and Sharefile.
6. Internal Network: These systems provide you with a Facebook-like news feed that allows you to keep up with everything that’s going on in your business. Your office staff can leave updates, and you can see it all in one place. A few common ones include Jive, Yammer, and Chatter, powered by Salesforce.com.
7. Social Listening: Many clients and prospects already publish information on social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. These tools allow you to grab that information and aggregate it in a way you can digest. Some examples are Rapportive, Newsle, and Outlook Social Connector.
8. Full Text Indexing and Search: You can move all your paperwork to digital as a better way to manage your information using scanners and OCR (optical character recognition) technology.
9. Desktop Search Appliances: Using desktop search capabilities on your computer, you can conduct a fast search of all your files on a computer. Resources include Windows Search, Mac OS Spotlight and Google Desktop.
10. Automated Time Tracking Software: These tools allow you to track your personal productivity. Some common ones are RescueTime, ManicTime, and EasyTimeTracking.
11. Text Expanders: These help make shortcuts for frequently typed phrases and information. Resources include TextExpander, PhraseExpress, and AutoHotKey.