Female financial planners heard several smart ways to expand their practices, develop specialties and better help each other and their clients at SourceMedia's Women Advisors Forum in San Francisco.

More than 150 attendees crowded the room to learn, network and collaborate; they also got a healthy dose of inspiration from the event's speakers and panelists.

“The female financial advisor has changed this business from a transactional business to a relationship business,” Advisor Group CEO Erica McGinnis reminded the audience during the opening keynote presentation.

Here are a few of the smartest things we heard at the event. You can see the slideshow version here.

Ask the right questions. Advisors should sharpen their focus on what they discuss with prospects and clients Kate Holmes, CEO of Las Vegas-based Belmore Financial and Employee Financial Advice and also a founding member of the XY Financial Network. “Are we asking the right questions?” she quizzed the crowd. For example, she mentioned a conversation with a client who asked Holmes whether she should buy a house. “Prudent, the best investment you can make,” the client’s father had advised -- but then the client began articulating other priorities like international travel and starting a business, which didn’t include the financial and lifestyle commitment of homeownership.

Start your succession plan now. Mary Brooks of Integre Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, Calif., was 49 when she was diagnosed with cancer -- and she had no idea what would happen to her practice or her clients if she became unable to work. “There’s nothing like having a life-threatening disease to get you to focus on succession planning,” she told the room.

Take charge of your social media strategy. “You are the captain of your social media and marketing campaign,” said Lynn Ballou of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors in Lafayette, Calif. “You should choose the crew, set sail, make midcourse adjustments.” Among the social media best practices that Ballou outlined: Use original content, be consistent, don't overwhelm followers and stay on top of what's working -- and what's not – and make adjustments accordingly.

Structure your pay to support your business strategy. Instead of giving cost-of-living salary increases, create an incentive plan that connects compensation to the firm's success, said  organizational consultant (and Financial Planning columnist) Kelli Cruz. "The more influence an employee has on firm success, the more incentive pay they should receive,” she said.

Pay it forward. The profession's female pioneers owe it to the coming generation to bring them along, McGinnis said. “I have never had a female mentor, let alone a female boss who helped pave the way for me,” she noted -- but she credited several men who recognized her talent along the way. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said, citing an oft-repeated comment by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “Don’t be the successful female financial professional who says: ‘I had to do it all on my own, so should she.’ ”

Be patient (but take action). “Some of the bias against women will disappear as the industry matures -- [but] not fast enough,” Eleanor Blayney, the CFP Board’s consumer advocate, told the group.

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