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3 Choices in Business that Lead to Success or Failure

Success or failure is a choice—whether conscious or unconscious—a choice nonetheless. The thing about success and failure in your business is that you are constantly stepping toward one or the other.

Abraham Maslow, renowned psychologist, echoed this belief when he said, You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Watching which direction you step is to choose each step wisely. Choosing to step forward toward pursuing your goals could bring with it the fear of the unknown. Choosing to step backward toward complacency could bring with it the comfort of familiarity. But you must ask yourself this, is it better to boldly succeed or is it better to safely fail?

Understanding Your Daily Direction

Most advisers start each day without any thought of what direction their business is going. Granted, some may have what I refer to as proactive activities scheduled—such as prospecting appointments; but many advisers spend their day on reactive activities—such as putting out client fires and other interruptions to their schedule.

At the end of the day, many may feel like it was productive or unproductive based on their perception of the amount of proactive or reactive tasks they accomplished.

One example of this is an adviser who would be feeling accomplished because they opened a new account, thus, growing their business. On the other side would be an adviser who felt they were productive returning/taking calls, thus keeping clients satisfied.

The real question is which adviser moved toward accomplishing their goals? Let’s explore the answer below by looking at three choices and how each pertains to business.

Choice No. 1: Stepping Backwards

Stepping backwards in your business is a slippery slope that seems to be paved with good intentions. While putting out fires is important, your client base will never consistently grow unless you incorporate daily prospecting. An adviser who only works with their current client base is, in fact, taking a step backwards by doing so because over time the client base decreases due to client attrition. The solution is to schedule time to prospect daily so you can fill up the pipeline and grow your business.

Choice No. 2: Staying Stationary

Staying stationary in your business is a misnomer because a business is either growing or shrinking. However, many advisers who are on a production plateau feel comfortable because their business is not trending downward—that is until they experience a bad market and quickly realize that their assets under management are spiraling south. It is oftentimes at this crossroad where any unhappy clients leave as well.

Again, the solution here is to prospect daily. The reason why growing a client base is more important than just the returns on investment growth is because the more qualified clients you have, the less dependency you have on any one client.

Choice No. 3: Stepping Forward

Stepping forward with your business takes dedication and discipline to integrate the activities that are needed to grow and to maintain and service your existing client base. It’s done by ensuring structure to the day and having a method to prioritize and/or delegate interruptions. In also requires that you work smarter by getting more effective at everything you do and not just by working harder doing more of what you have already been doing. Look for areas of your business that you believe need improvement and find ways to make those areas stronger.

Finding Your Path

Before we explored these three choices, I asked you the question regarding which adviser took a step forward toward accomplishing their goals? The answer is neither, because each adviser focused on only one aspect of the business. To find your path to success you need to create a balance between all facets of running a business by evaluating and implementing best practices.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, Advisor Solutions’ director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

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Why Marketing is So Much More Than Marketing

Whenever the financial advisers in our network ask me for digital marketing advice, I say the same thing every time: marketing is so much more than marketing.

Yeah, that look on your face right now is one I get a lot, and understandably so. It sounds like a bunch of pseudo-marketing nonsense. It’s like that scene in the movie “Cars” when Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen, “If you turn hard enough left, you’ll go right.” (Yes, I know some toddlers. Why do you ask?)

There are so many buzzwords out there, even I get a headache. Everyone wants actionable information. If I didn’t know better, I’d cock a brow myself.

I Promise—It Isn’t Nonsense

I have no problem with advisers and planners who really want to hone SEO strategies for their digital presence. And I certainly will always encourage them to have a solid experience in place on social media—be it Facebook, LinkedIn or any other platform. I’d support more traditional marketing practices like targeted-mail drops or billboard ads. They all work, if properly planned and executed.

All well and good, but it’s only a part of the puzzle.

CWA Network co-founder John Enright says advisers need to “plant seeds to grow trees,” and that’s exactly what all wealth planners should strive to accomplish when providing comprehensive financial planning. Your marketing game may be on point, but none of it will matter if the experience you’re providing isn’t up to par. It won’t matter if what you do is exactly like what everyone else does. It won’t matter if you don’t make your practice as unique as you are.

You Are Your Brand

You’ve probably heard this before. You are your own person with a unique set of skills and weaknesses. Your practice is more than the visual identity you’ve created. It’s more than your slogan. It’s all about the tiny, little details that most advisers don’t even think about. The experience you offer your prospects (and then clients) is what becomes your strongest marketing strategy. John never prospects. Ever. He used to—when he worked 70-hour weeks and never saw his family. That’s what pushed him to create a system that did the marketing for him. Now, he pulls in a cool $2 million in AUM and takes every Friday off to be with his family. He never makes a single prospecting call. He doesn’t do any marketing of any kind. His business markets itself.

Okay, Enough Bragging, Kristina. How Do I Know I’m on the Right Track?

It starts with the right onboarding system in place. Logos, a snazzy website and brochures mean little without tying them to the best client experience you can offer. Your practice’s brand is more about the actions you take. It’s about the actual values you present from the day they walk into your office. It’s about the attention to detail. It’s about your follow-up, your technical abilities and how much you actually care. Pretty colors and nice sounds are all fine—but they are useless unless your actions back them up. During the first meeting you have with a prospect, you should have three goals:

  1. Understand your prospect’s most important objectives
  2. Lay out a plan that shows them how you’re going to get there
  3. Gather enough documents and data so that you can prove that you’re the right adviser to help

If you’re not sure you’re doing these three things right now, ask yourself if:

  • Your prospect walks away with a very clear idea of how they’re going to meet their goals with you as their adviser
  • Your process focuses on objectives that the prospect is concerned about enough to fix
  • Your process identifies areas and real issues that haven’t even crossed your prospect’s mind
  • Your process is educational, not sales-y (I can’t stress this one enough)
  • You help your prospects buy and don’t sell to them
  • Your initial fee is small compared to the value you have delivered in the last two steps, but your ongoing fees accurately reflect the value you will deliver when they become clients and go through your entire planning

Be a One-Stop Shop

Your prospect probably deals with a handful of professionals to manage their money. Their time is valuable, just like yours, so the more services you can provide them, the better! The foundation of your “do-it-for-you marketing” machine is turning your practice into a one-stop shop. Having a coordinated planning process shows the client that you’re the master of your domain—that they can put all their trust in you and it validates the fee you charge. They probably have an adviser for investments, another for taxes, etc. Be their supercenter. Offer it all in one neat, customized package and they’ll be so pleased with the experience you’ve provided that they won’t be able to help telling their colleagues and family about you.

Not Enough Advisers Offer Comprehensive Planning

You’re more than an investment adviser. You’re more than someone who pushes around money. You’re an educated professional who can improve people’s lives and bring financial security and help them meet their goals. Again, you can continue to run digital ads or segment time each month to cold-call, but to what end? By offering every aspect of planning, from estate planning and taxes to business exit and retirement (and more) and attaching your unique set of values and personality, you’ll create an experience worth bragging about.

Kristina Rocci

Kristina Rocci is the web content manager for the CWA Network, a Rochester-based financial adviser coaching business that has developed a turn-key practice management business system for the high net worth, 401(k) and mass affluent/Gen-X and Gen-Y markets. She originally hails from the fintech world in Toronto, Canada with seven years of digital marketing under her belt.

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What Good Planners Need to Do in the Digital Age

The future of finance is a mixture of robo advice and human advice, according to Charles Schwab’s 2018 Consumer Digital Demands survey.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they believe robo-advisers will have the biggest impact on the future of finance. The survey also found that Americans say financial planning is as hard as training for a marathon.

Clients will use technology, but they still need you to help them “train” in this digital age.

The Forbes article, “What You Should Expect from Your Financial Advisor in The Digital Age,” gave consumers tips on what their advisers should do for them when it comes to technology. It boils down to this: simplify their understanding of money by using and better explaining tech tools. If your clients are reading articles like the one in Forbes, they may expect you to provide the following:

Tech tools that easily do it all and have fewer steps. The Forbes article noted that advisers should offer technology that allows clients to check portfolios and their savings and checking accounts all in one spot.

Customizable technology. The Forbes article noted that clients should be able to customize their experience. “Don’t merely expect the proper customization—demand it,” wrote Forbes author Alex Chalekian, founder and CEO of Lake Avenue Financial.

A view of the big picture. Clients in the digital age will expect a picture of their total net worth and their progress toward retirement. This ties into having all their information, including all retirement, savings and checking information, easily accessible on a one-stop piece of technology.

Education on how to use the technology. Clients will expect you to show them how to use the software you provide. Take the time to ensure they understand how to use it and all the ins and outs and extra features.

“What a great adviser will do is use technology to be more connected to your life, to be able to comprehensively simplify your financial life and then interact at your convenience when you’re ready,” Joe Duran, founder and CEO of United Capital said in the CNBC article, “Here’s Why Robo-Advisors Won’t Replace Human Financial Advisors.”

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.