Grow Your Business: 6 Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

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First the good news: A recent study by PriceMetrix, The State of Retail Wealth Management, showed that the average advisor AUM grew by just over 7.7% in 2014. For the first time in years, not only did advisors grow their assets, but the increase was (slightly) larger than a typical 60/40 book. In other words, AUM increased over what the market gave us.

Now the bad news: The disparity between top-producing advisors was huge. In fact, the top quartile of firms increased production by over 41%, but the bottom quarter actually had a 15% decline in production.

If you are one of those firms that didn't grow by 41%, or even 7.7%, what should you do?

Most of us get comfortable doing the same things repeatedly, especially when it comes to marketing. "If it works, why mess with it?" is a common response. But does it work, and could it be better? As we step into the second quarter of this year, challenge yourself to try something new. Think about stepping out of your comfort zone.

1. Uncomfortable with social media? Get over it; it's not going away. Do your compliance homework first -- but then spruce up your LinkedIn page and create a firm Twitter account and/or Facebook page. Traditional newsletters and other mailings mean you are talking at someone instead of with someone. Go social, make connections, and engage with your clients and prospects.

2. Start a blog to share your opinions and your personality. Prospects are checking you out well before they ever call you. Give them a taste of your character, your tone and what it would be like to work with you. Let them get to know and feel comfortable with the real you.

3. Hold a small client/prospect event. Marketing events don't have to cost a huge amount of money, and they can be intimate. Try dinner with your favorite client and have them invite a colleague or family member that you know would be a great client, too. Don't talk business; just get to know them (and let them get to know you). Don't worry -- your client will "talk you up," especially as you are buying. Think about a "hard to get in" restaurant or maybe a chef's table to give the evening a little excitement.

4. Now plan a larger client appreciation event. Ditch the boring economic update or wholesaler product presentation -- no one wants to hear that. Think about something you can do that is fun (and that clients will actually want to bring a guest to). Perhaps rent out a section at a minor league baseball game, or host a "wellness" dinner with a nutritionist as your guest speaker. Or maybe you could hold a wine and cheese night at a local gallery, or have a good old-fashioned barbeque. If you want to hold a client-appreciation event, actually show them you care and don't try to sell something.

5. Reach out to CPAs. Now that their busiest season is over, are there one or two centers of influence with whom you have always wanted to build a stronger relationship? Call them and schedule that one-on-one meeting. Use this meeting as a fact-finding mission: Ask them about their business, the challenges they face and their succession plans. Try not to talk about your business. If you find out more about their challenges, chances are that you two can brainstorm some solutions that would work for both of you.

6. Is there one prospect that you have targeted but haven't found that perfect moment to connect with? Forget about trying to find the right time -- just find it. Don't send an email or letter -- pick up the phone and call. Ask him/her out for coffee or lunch. Pick neutral ground.

Doing the same old thing and hoping for a different result isn't going to make your business improve. Get out of your office, mingle with your clients and prospects and do things you've never done before.

You just may find this gives your business the boost it's needed.

John Anderson is Managing Director of the Practice Management Solutions Team for the SEI Advisor Network and the author of SEI's practice management blog, "Practically Speaking". 

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