The landscape for financial advisors is rapidly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up. Now that a new year is at hand, its time to reevaluate your business and take a fresh approach to growing it. Here is my list of the 15 big business moves advisors should make in the new year.
1. Find Your Niche
Afraid to miss a single opportunity, most advisors strive to make their practices appealing to every potential client. This thinking is flawed because it overlooks an important fact: Investors prefer to work with advisors who specialize in helping people in situations similar to their own.
Business leaders, for example, prefer to work with advisors who specialize in helping successful businesspeople. Ultrahigh-net-worth investors prefer to work with advisors who specialize in assisting affluent clients. Doctors prefer to work with advisors who help doctors. The bottom line is that, the more narrowly focused your niche is, the more success you will have within that niche.
2. Be Creative
People love feeling special and appreciated. While clients are unlikely to talk about the annual review they had with their advisor, they will brag about how he threw them a surprise wedding anniversary party.
Advisors who look for creative ways to make their clients happy will make a deep impression that will generate referrals. Is a clients car dirty when he comes in for an appointment? Have it washed. Have a client laid up with a broken leg? Send dinner over. Does your client have a new grandchild? Give him a 'World's Greatest ' hat or sweater.
In the words of management guru Ken Blanchard, "Just having satisfied customers isn't good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans."
3. Implement a Minimum
The idea of turning away clients because they don't have enough money is scary for many advisors, but its the key to success for others. Our research has found that even having a minimum as low as $50,000 can help advisors attract larger clients. When you put a minimum in place and stick to it, you send the message that your time and energy are worth more than the Joe Shmo financial advisor down the street.
In addition, having a minimum can spare you from taking on multiple smaller clients who can place a significant drain on your time and profitability. While reasonable forethought and planning is required, if you pick the right dollar amount, communicate it properly and notify your clients in the correct way, you will improve your business by having a minimum.
4. Gather Client Feedback
There are many things clients don't freely share with their advisors, including health concerns, private investments, marital problems, debts they have incurred, and even stocks and real estate they have purchased. Furthermore, clients won't usually indicate their communication preferences (type and frequency) unless they are asked.
For this reason, advisors should survey their clients once per year and use the results to initiate meaningful conversations and improve the quality of their service. In many cases, advisors who survey their clients will even uncover assets they didn't know their clients held.
5. Pay Attention to Xers and Millennials
Generation X and Millennial investors will inherit more than $41 trillion by 2052, according to the Social Welfare Research Institute at Boston College. Even now, 29% of wealthy investors are under age 50 and control 37% of investible asset, a study from Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group shows.
In spite of this, most advisors still focus their marketing efforts on aging baby boomer clients whose wealth will gradually diminish as they draw down their retirement accounts. What's left over, plus any hard assets and life insurance payouts, will go to their children.
As it stands today, though, those children won't be using their parents' financial advisors. According to a 2009 Rothstein Kass survey, 86% of them will move the money to new advisors.
This should be a wakeup call for advisors who want to make sure their book of business will stand the test of time. 2015 is the year to start engaging clients' children in a big way.
6. Host Social Events
Client social events present the perfect opportunity to meet new prospects without spending a lot of time or money, but many advisors aren't organizing them. To host your own social event, simply plan an activity you enjoy and invite a few clients along, while offering to pick up the tab. You could go fishing, golfing or skeet shooting. You could host a cooking class, a pedicure party or a wine tasting. All you have to do is plan the event and pick up the phone.
7. Refresh Your Website
Many advisor websites feature the same lousy stock photos of retired couples riding bikes on the beach, bulls and bears, Wall Street signs or white columns with unclear significance. What's worse, the majority of the content on those sites consists of irrelevant and overly technical articles that have little relevance to an advisors actual clients. In many cases, firms even use the same templates as their competition does.
2015 is the year to throw cheap template websites out the window. Today's consumer is more discerning than ever. Prospective and current clients crave unique experiences, authenticity and valuable information delivered in bite-size, eye-catching and interesting ways.
8. Heed Robo Advisors
Right now your main competition may be the advisor on the next block, but in a few years, it will be the robo advisor. New tools such as Wealthfront and Betterment are giving consumers access to consolidated reporting for all their accounts online, cheap or free investment advice and intuitive technology that blows what most advisors offer out of the water.
Advisors would be wise to invest in mobile-friendly technology that allows clients to see all their holdings with the click of a button on a smartphone or tablet. Theres a good reason why billions of dollars are flowing into these new platforms. Advisors who ignore this trend do so at their own peril.
9. Understand Social Media Is Not a Fad
Every recent respectable report shows social media is here to stay. In just eight years, social media use among adults has increased more than 800%, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. I could cite 100 more studies that confirm the same thing: Social media is not just a fad.
While it is not the silver bullet marketing strategy some "experts" purport, it is a valuable communication tool that millions of people use daily. Like the telephone and email, financial advisors should use social media to communicate with their clients, build their brand and find new prospects.
10. Use Video to Market
When it comes to being on the cutting edge of marketing, video is where it's at. The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video, and email marketing featuring video can increase click-through rates by more than 90%, according to Mist Media. Video also attracts two to three times as many monthly visitors, doubles their time spent on a website and has a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines. Need I say more?
Video marketing doesn't have to be difficult. If you can't afford a recording studio or don't have the expertise to operate one, just buy a good quality webcam, spend two minutes recording stock market and economic commentary for your clients, then email them the link and embed the video on your website. If that's still too complicated for you, call me and I'll walk you through it.
11. Add Online Advertising to Your Marketing Budget
Traditional methods of advertising via billboards, magazines and mass-mailings are extremely expensive and rapidly decreasing in effectiveness. At the same time, cutting edge methods of advertising online have become affordable, highly targeted, measurable and effective.
With a budget as low as a few hundred dollars per month, advisors can be prominently featured on websites including Forbes, Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal. Even better, theyre not charged for this exposure until someone actually clicks on an ad and visits their website or landing page. Now is the time to shift some marketing budget into this largely untapped (by advisors, that is) space.
12. Understand the Value of Accountability
Most advisors are used to being their own boss, but top-performing advisors know they can benefit by having an impartial and experienced confidante who can hold them accountable while also teaching them to think and act differently. The right consultant or coach can help an advisor work smarter instead of harder, enhance client relationships, attract and retain the right staff and ultimately expand his or her business.
Not convinced the investment will pay off? We recently completed a study that quantified the value of using a coach. Within the group of 938 advisors we surveyed, 26.94% of their growth during the past 12 months was attributed to leveraging the services of a marketing and practice management consultant.
13. Dedicate Time to Business Planning
It can be a real challenge for advisors to meet the demands of running and building their business, caring for their clients and also maintaining a personal life. For this reason, many advisors struggle to balance time-sensitive duties such as placing trades, returning voicemails and checking emails with other vital activities.
Every advisor should block out weekly dedicated hours in his or her schedule for business planning. This time should be used exclusively for tasks including analyzing profitability, marketing planning, evaluating employees, and reviewing and setting goals.
14. Delegate and Outsource
Advisors who want to take their business to the next level must shift their priorities so 100% of their time is spent on things they are uniquely qualified to do. If something can be outsourced, delegated or eliminated, it needs to be. This is one of the critical factors that sets top performers apart; they know their time must be focused strictly on revenue-generating activities that can't be delegated.
Granted, it costs money to do this staffing assistants, paying for research, hiring outside firms to help but it's a vital business investment. The only activities advisors should engage in are the ones directly connected to managing existing client relationships and creating new ones. Proper delegation can dramatically enhance growth and improve quality of life.
15. Create a Written Plan
While most advisors will stroll into 2015 without a written plan, elite advisors will commit their goals to writing. When you invest the time to put your plans in writing, you demonstrate intention and commitment, make your ideas more concrete, find clarity, build your confidence and increase your likelihood of achievement.
The process doesn't have to be long and painful. Just one hour with your computer may be enough. If you're not sure what to include, review the 15 points in this article and there's a good chance you'll find a few you'd like to incorporate.
Kaizen is Japanese for "improvement," or "change for the best." It refers to the practice of focusing on continuous, even incremental, improvement in business something all advisors should strive for.
If you can't immediately address all 15 points in this article, just pick a couple, or even one. A commitment to continuous improvement will surely lead to achieving greater success in 2015.
Robert Sofia is the founder of Platinum Advisor Strategies.
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