Another year is winding down, making this an ideal time to look ahead. I’ve outlined three plans to help advisors generate tremendous success in the coming year. They are strategies that some of the best in the business are using to knock it out of the park.

1. ENLIST YOUR TOP CLIENTS

One approach that’s gaining momentum among top advisors is client advisory boards. These boards let advisors solicit their top clients’ advice on providing superior service and other key issues that drive success.

By bringing clients into the fold, you can learn a great deal about what’s working and what needs to improve, directly from the people you serve.

What’s more, the clients you invite to join your board will come to be highly invested in your success and ready to become your marketing apostles to their friends, family and colleagues.

Working with a client advisory board provides three invaluable benefits:

  • You’ll learn how to provide world-class client service. A client advisory board is an excellent resource for learning if you are truly providing the level of client service that you promised — or if you need to make improvements.
  • You’ll gain entrée to new opportunities. One effective way to identify and reach out to new sources of business is through your existing top clients, many of whom are respected, powerful and well-connected members of their fields.
  • You’ll generate greater client loyalty. A board can strengthen your bonds with clients who are most responsible for your success; this creates loyalty and goodwill that ensures they will stick with you.

An effective client advisory board typically consists of 12 to 15 of your top clients, who are willing to meet with you as a group two to three times per year to share their perspectives.
Review your client list for those who can really help you grow your business. Who among them has skills and perspectives that are different from your own? Invite them to brainstorm with you. You’ll be amazed at how many of them are more than willing to help you. 

2. BUILD CONNECTIONS

Providing a sense of connectedness — that feeling that you get when you are part of something that is larger than yourself — can be important for your business. The advisors who are both successful and deeply fulfilled value their connections and appreciate the chance to serve their clients and to work with their teams.

Start with your clients, of course. The more deeply you can connect with them, the more successful you will be at cementing their loyalty, getting introduced to their friends and associates, and ensuring that they act on your advice. Deep connections mean that clients will stick with you — even if you make a mistake.

To build these ties, start by paying attention to your clients. Get rid of any devices and distractions that come between you and them. During client interactions, close the door; turn off the screen in front of you and slow way down.

And you need to do this consistently over time — one good client meeting isn’t enough. Have face-to-face meetings with your clients on a regular basis. Spend time with them. Meet their children. Showing curiosity and interest in their lives will amaze them, because it’s so rare: They simply don’t get that kind of attention from most of the professionals they work with.

You also need to build stronger relationships with your staff. Team members who share connections learn to trust one another and communicate with openness and candor, instead of backstabbing.

Some advisors have regular meetings with their teams to discuss strategies. At these meetings, everyone is encouraged to speak up and provide candid feedback in a nonthreatening environment.

Another idea: Engage your teams in lifelong learning activities, such as getting up to date on the latest investment strategies and wealth management best practices. Liberal use of coaching, mentoring and mastermind groups are ways to engage with your staff and nurture connections.

Finally, don’t forget to connect with yourself. Zero in on positive traits. Make a list of adjectives that describe you, and sort them into two groups: the ones you’d like to change and the ones of which you are most proud.

3. PUBLISH AN E-BOOK

Content marketing, where you provide valuable insights through self-published books, research reports, articles and the like, is an extremely effective way of demonstrating your expertise.

Your e-book should address some of the major issues confronting your client base: tax mitigation, for example, or business succession or dealing with divorce or the death of a spouse. The book should explore these challenges and offer solutions.

This is easier than you might expect. For starters, you already know all about the challenges and solutions that you’ll want to write about, because they’re what you deal with day in and day out.

To turn your knowledge into a polished manuscript, consider hiring a professional writer or editor. To find one, ask for referrals from the editors of publications focused on your niche market and contact professional organizations such as the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. You can also try online freelance marketplaces like Guru, Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com.

You are the author, the subject matter expert. It’s perfectly acceptable to get the help of a technical writer to present that expertise compellingly.

For the finishing touches, there are many publishing services that provide design and publication services, like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, BookBaby and Book Fuel.

Once you’ve completed your book, make ample use of it whenever there’s an opportunity. Some examples:

  • Provide print-on-demand copies to prospective clients, strategic partners and influential contacts.
  • Put your book cover on your business cards, brochures, your website and other marketing materials.
  • Host a webinar or in-person presentation on the topic of your e-book, and provide free downloads or copies to the attendees.

These three stratagems will deliver considerable returns on the time and energy you invest in them. By enlisting clients to help fuel growth, creating connections that keep your business humming and publishing content that showcases your expertise, you will be well along the path to achieving elite advisor status — and building a far more successful company.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.

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