Financial advisor article published at Agent eNews: Are you ready for the toughest questions every financial advisor is asked?

I’m co-writing a series of articles for financial professionals, along with my colleague Rosemary Smyth, an international coach to financial advisors.

One of our articles was posted at the Agent eNews site. The article the types of questions that financial advisors will most likely face and it provides them with tools to handle those questions effectively.

Check out the article at the link below:

Are you ready for the toughest questions every financial advisor is asked?

The ShamWow business model

There was an article in BusinessInsider recently about the ShamWow guy (Vince Offer) and his “comeback”. The article describes his rise to fame as the guy who pushes the ShamWow product, the Slap Chop, and the Schticky, and then his subsequent fall because of a run-in with an alleged hooker.

If you can look past the tabloid-headline shock of the article, or the “let’s-see-what-he-can-do” introspection at the end of the article, you’ll find some interesting gold buried in this article… specifically about the ShamWow business model. All these quotes are taken from the article…

THE PRODUCT

I’ve got bad news for you: Vince Offer didn’t invent the ShamWow or the Slap Chop, but he’s also not just shilling for some corporate giant either. Rather, he takes a regular product, makes some improvements to its brand, and then brings a certain style to the presentation…

[quote]Like most infomercial producers, Vince didn’t invent the products he’s known for pitching. He found them by scouring flea markets, trademarked better names, and made funnier ads.[/quote]

THE PRESENTATION

Vince Offer started pushing his products at flea markets, honing his sales craft. Later, he moved to an infomercial format and then later to the well-known (and much loved and parodied) commercial format…

[quote]By 2002, broke, Vince was selling the ShamWow and Slap Chop at flea markets… He bought time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Comedy Central. It made money, he said, and something clicked. With direct TV marketing, he didn’t have to please the gatekeepers of taste to make a sale.[/quote]

[quote]Because Vince owns his products, he can “push the envelope” more than other pitchmen, delivering “schticky” jokes and sexual innuendos with “cocky confidence,” said Kevin Harrington, chairman of infomercial clearing house As Seen On TV, Inc.

While most demonstrators focus on function, “what he tries to come up with are demos that will make you laugh,” said Harrington.[/quote]

Here are his three big commercials.


(I love the arrest reference at about 1:05!)

BRINGING THE PRODUCT TO MARKET

Vince isn’t just pushing some big corporation’s products and then letting that corporation fill the order. He owns the products. That means he’s also doing all the other legwork involved in creating the product and bringing it to market. As the article tells us…

[quote]Infomercial producers have to find a reliable factory, get them a mold or drawings, and hire a fulfillment facility, a telemarketer to take orders and a media buyer to purchase air time. Then there’s packaging, shipping, returns, customer service, an Internet storefront and more.[/quote]

PROFIT POTENTIAL

Vince doesn’t invent his own products. He takes existing products and rebrands them and adds his unique pitch. He’s honed his pitch for years on the flea market circuit and in infomercials. Not surprisingly, that legwrk has paid off…

[quote]He refused to answer questions about how much money he raked in, but the chamois cloths can be bought wholesale in bundles of three for $.50. Vince sold them in packs of eight for $19.95, plus shipping and handling.[/quote]

Even with overhead…

[quote]A product that sells for $20 usually costs $2 to $3 wholesale. After overhead costs, the hope is to squeeze out a $4 to $5 profit.[/quote]

And then there are other distribution channels…

[quote]A producer can also sell a commercial to a distributor, who then can sell the product to a retailer such as Wal-Mart. The per item profits for the producer are smaller, typically up to a $1 commission, but the volume can be massive. In some rare cases, royalties can add up to the millions.[/quote]

THE BUSINESS MODEL

The business model is simple: Find a useful product and add some flavor — better branding and a more effective presentation.

Even though I describe it as simple, it isn’t easy. You need the right product, the right brand, the right presentation, and then the willingness to do the hard work of putting together the distribution. That’s why there aren’t more Vinces selling more Slap Chops.

However, those things are all out there. Good products are being invented all the time. Smart marketers can develop compelling brands. Sales skills can be honed. Distribution channels exist and just need to be contracted.

Don’t expect me to be pushing a clever household product on a 3AM infomercial any time soon but the business model is sound and very compelling.

What I’m working on this week (Sept 16 – 20)

How can I be expected to work on ANYTHING today? I’m still reeling from last night’s Breaking Bad episode.

Okay, I do need to actually do some work, if only to keep the wolves away. And I was getting ready to write this post, I saw that I wrote last week’s ‘What I’m working on this week’ blog post was incorrectly dated with this week’s date. Apparently I thought last week was this week. Scary! It’s all fixed now but not after some confusion on my part (specifically: “Did I already write this week’s blog post? When??? — haha).

So here are the projects that have my attention this week:

  • A series of monthly newsletters that real estate investors can use in their businesses
  • A book for a mortgage broker
  • A couple of articles for a debt repair specialist
  • A series of articles about the junior resource space
  • And I have some serious catching-up to do in my 100 Proposals In 100 Days project. :(

Back to writing!

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Fundamental analysis, monetary policy, and medical ethics’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here’s what I’m reading this week.

  • The limit of fundamental analysis: You. I love investing and I particularly love fundamental analysis. There’s something really fun (perversely so, I realize) about doing your own due diligence on a stock. So the title of this article caught my attention. In the article, Jordan Terry talks about the challenges of performing fundamental analysis and how the analyst’s biases can skew the numbers, and he rightly points out that good fundamental analysis should also force us to consider whether our own point of view is influencing what we see.
  • Monetary policy hindered by demographics. Way back in the day when I was a stockbroker, it was hammered into us at the time that we should be looking forward to the great asset transfer in which baby boomers would pass along their assets (some of it while they were still alive and some of it after they had died) to their children. We were trained to sell around those concepts. So I was fascinated by this article, which reports on how the aging demographic is changing the face of economics in unexpected ways, and I’m particularly interested in the conclusions drawn about how monetary policies need to change to keep up with the massive shifts in demographics.
  • Five days at Memorial: A hospital becomes hell. Normally I write about business and the markets because that’s the kind of stuff I like to think about but I try to read more widely than that because it keeps the old brain juiced up. I stumbled across this article in Salon about the events that occurred at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. This article was a tough read — partly because it’s true and partly because it exposes darker truths about ethics (in the medical system and in myself). I want to think that I would do the right thing in that situation but it’s such a complicated situation… and what is the right thing? It’s easy for us to sit comfortably in judgement at things that seem very wrong but gosh, what a crazy scenario. Read this article but be warned that you may ask yourself the same questions I asked… and not like the answers.

5 problems of social media

A friend of mine asked me recently why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. For me it’s simple: I’m an extrovert in an introvert’s job. I work at home and I need that social interaction so that I don’t go crazy.

I love social media. It connects people and it levels the playing field of connection, as was the case when my wife and I were both thrilled to get a mention from @NASCAR:

That totally made our day.

In spite of how much I love social media, it’s not without its problems. And here are five of those problems:

1. SPOILERS

As indicated by the tweet above, I love NASCAR. However, I can’t always watch a race the moment it airs. So I PVR it. But there’s a period of time between when the race starts and when I can actually sit down and watch the race that I have to stay off of social media (mostly Twitter) because I don’t want to know what’s happening.

The same goes with Breaking Bad. I watch Breaking Bad the night it airs but I avoid Twitter and Facebook in the hours leading up to my watching just in case someone posts a spoiler. And although I don’t watch football, I have several friends who do and I’m able to stay up to date on the games and the season over-all from what people post during the game.

Of course, this same social media problem might actually save television because it will encourage people to watch TV when everyone else does so that they can engage with others while watching TV.

2. NO FILTER

Real time communication has its advantages. But it has its disadvantages too. Namely: Real time strips away the filter of research and due diligence. Balloon Boy. Enough said.

3. METRICS

Social media is about connection. For businesses, social media is about engaging people, building credibility, and adding value. For personal use, it’s about conversations and interaction. But it can be so tempting to let social media become something else — a desire to demonstrate social approval.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve clicked on someone’s Twitter profile and thought “How can they have 10 times the number of followers that I have when their tweets are so crappy?”. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s too often. I have to remind myself that I’m not using Twitter to have a certain follower count and I can’t let follower counts determine the value I perceive my Twitter account to have.

Twitter isn’t the only one, of course. Someone asked me recently how many Facebook friends I have and I couldn’t remember but gave them a rough number, and then they bragged at having a higher number. I hope they didn’t see my eyes roll. This isn’t third grade and if you are using social media as a way to prove your popularity, you’re doing it wrong.

4. PANDERING

Facebook likes (and Twitter Favorites and retweets) become a sort of measure by which we rate whether or not our content is “good”. (See my blog post: The currency and comfort of the Facebook ‘Like’). And it can become tempting to start writing content in order to jack up our likes or favorites. I’m guilty of this.

5. TIME SUCK

The most notorious of them all! Social media is a time suck (at least for me). I usually keep Twitter open throughout the day, and I usually check Facebook between projects. But if I’m not careful, I can discover that a lot of time has vanished while I’ve been retweeting tweets and liking pictures of my friends’ vacations.

I love social media and I think it still has massive untapped potential. But it comes with a dark side that you need to fight against.