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Are You Lost in the Weeds Without a Plan?
Impact Communications, Inc.
Monday, November 12, 2012
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“A man without a plan for the day is lost before he starts.” -- Lewis K. Bendele

Many advisors become so entrenched in the daily routine of responsibility, duties and heavy workloads that they fail to adequately plan for the ongoing success of their business. As we turn the corner from this year to the next, I invite you to take a “planning break”—to step back, to get away from the office, to turn off the email and texts and social media for an hour (or two or three), a weekend or a day, to stop and reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed, to journal a bit, and to create your strategic plan for 2013.

Your Big Vision Appreciative Plan for 2013

Some of you will want to include your management team, a partner, or your assistant in reflection and planning efforts. Whether you include other people in your planning process or not, if you need and want an “appreciative planning” coach, there’s no one better in our industry than Ed Jacobson, Ph.D. Dr. Ed has years of experience working with financial planners, leading strategic retreats and coaching advisors in the “appreciative process.”

In my conversations with him, Dr. Ed would often ask, “What’s good here, and what do we want more of?” Those questions in and of themselves could yield some very profound results. Stop for 15 minutes, get a blank piece of paper and your favorite pen, get centered, and write down the first 10-12 things that come to mind. Imagine Dr. Ed asking you in a wooded retreat setting, “What’s good here, and what do you want more of?”

A psychologist, business coach, consultant and public speaker based in Madison, Wisconsin, Ed works with individuals and organizations to help them to identify, plan for and achieve important goals that truly matter. He focuses his practice on serving the financial planning community—because he believes that planners make a profound difference in the lives of their clients and the wider community. You can learn more about Ed and purchase a copy of his book, Appreciative Moments—which would make great reading over the Thanksgiving holiday—at www.EdwardJacobson.com.

Your Laser-Focused Marketing Plan for 2013

I had the privilege of co-presenting with Loring Ward’s Chief Marketing Officer, William Chettle, at the Loring Ward Advanced Symposium in Chicago a couple weeks ago.

Before joining Loring Ward (www.loringward.com) in 2007, Chettle was the Director of Brokerage Marketing for Wachovia Securities. He also has an M.F.A in film-making from New York University, and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard with an A.B. in English and American Literature and Language. Chettle oversees all the firm's marketing and communications efforts, including public relations, marketing to prospective advisor partners, ongoing communications to advisors, and developing investor materials, such as brochures, fact sheets and articles.

Sheesh, I didn’t know whether to be grateful or intimidated.

Thankfully, Chettle was a gracious co-presenter with much to share. It’s no wonder that he quotedAntoine de Saint-Exupery saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”—very appropriate to the one-hour session we lead together at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business - Gleacher Center. With the words of a passionate Nick Murray (www.nickmurray.com) ringing in our ears from his presentation the day before—“now’s the time…get out and tell the story!”—Chettle and I did our best to motivate and inspire the 50 or so advisors in attendance.

Financial advisors cannot afford to “wing it” in the years ahead. You must have a clear vision of what you want to do, why you want to do it, who you best serve and why you are uniquely qualified to serve them. The most important element of a marketing plan is defining your market and then developing the messages and methodologies to reach 2-3 specific target markets. As my friend Steve Wershing, the “referral coach” for Financial-Planning.com, likes to say, “the biggest mistake advisors make is not having a clearly defined niche or two—without a clear and specific target market definition and a compelling value proposition, you’ll be diluting your message and wasting your time.”

To create a laser-focused marketing plan, take out a blank notebook or open a new document in your favorite word processing program. On page one, your table of contents, write down the five essential steps:

Step 1: Target Market Definition

Step 2: Message Development

Step 3: Marketing Methods

Step 4: Time And Money Budget

Step 5: Timetable And Steps

Now take 20-30 minutes and flesh out each section of the five steps.

  1. Who is your ideal client and why? What unique needs and mindsets do they have that no other group has? Where to they congregate, what to they read, whom do they trust? What are their pain points?
  2. To what key words and benefit statements will this group of people best respond? Why should they do business with you right now? Why should they trust you? What are your proof points?
  3. How will you reach this group or groups? There are really only three marketing methods that work for advisors today. Pop quiz: what are the three main marketing methods that I’ve been hammering home on the past few years? If you don’t know what they are, go back and read this article “Keeping in Front of Clients, Prospects”
  4. Now budget your time. And your money. How much time will you spend on “free” activities such as serving on boards, networking in the community, or writing articles for your blog and/or the local newspaper? How much money will you spend on “paid” activities such as advertising, seminars, directory listings, radio shows, and the like?
  5. Get out a calendar and pencil in key dates and events. Think about the seasons and recurring mindsets that are likely to occur in 2013—you know, new year’s resolutions in January, last-minute tax strategies in March, graduations and weddings in May and June, summer vacations and back-to-school in July and August, year-end tax planning in October and November. Work backwards to ensure that key promotional dates and in place.

Bottom line, a marketing plan can help you:

  • Understand the types of clients you are best suited to serve
  • Define the unique value you bring to serving these clients relative to your competitors
  • Identify specific barriers you may be facing
  • Identify the most appropriate tactics for your firm
  • Line up the right resources and execute effectively
  • Stop wasting valuable resources via uncoordinated marketing effort

Shaping Up Your Practice for 2013

Chris Kirby, Financial-Planning.com’s “productivity pro” shared some additional good thoughts on “Shaping Up Your Practice” for 2013. “Have you thought about what you can do in your practice to improve how you operate your business, making sure that this year is a better year than last year? Do you think your practice needs improved focus in order to be more profitable?” Take a look at Kirby’s 5 suggestions that could streamline your business to a “leaner and meaner” more profitable machine.

Building a Strong Online Presence for 2013

In preparation for my presentation at the Barron’s Top 100 Women Advisors conference in West Palm Beach at the end of November, I’ve created an interactive diagnostic tool to help independent financial advisors determine where the gaps are in their online strategy. Are you putting the cart before the horse? Find out now: http://ow.ly/fbmxB

What's Ahead

If you’ll be attending any of the conferences below, tackle me and let’s chat. Otherwise, you can post your comments on the discussion thread below or interact with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Nov. 13-16: Schwab Impact in Chicago

Nov. 28-30: Barron’s Top Women Advisors Summit in West Palm Beach

Feb. 11-13: T3 Technology Tools for Today conference in Miami (use code T32013IC to save $50)

Marie Swift is a communications consultant in the financial services industry. Learn more at www.ImpactCommunications.org. Follow @marieswift on Twitter, “like” ImpactCommunicationsInc on Facebook, or search for Marie Swift on LinkedIn.

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