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Do These 4 Simple Things to Enjoy More Business Success in the New Year

Endings and beginnings serve as natural signals for us to stop and reflect, and the fading of one year into a new one is no exception. If you haven’t yet, block off a few days (or better yet, a full week) on your calendar and devote that time to some strategic business planning now in the new year.

You’ll want to look back at the previous year and honestly evaluate what worked, what didn’t, what moved the needle toward success and what you may need to change going forward. Hopefully, going through this process will allow you to identify some actions to take in this new year.

Just in case you need a little help, allow me to suggest a few very simple things to try that could create some massive shifts toward success for you and your business. Some of these tweaks are changes in mindset, others are more tangible to-dos you can implement. But they’ll all help contribute to a more productive, creative and, hopefully, profitable 2019.

1.) Get Crystal Clear on Who You Want to Reach

If your answer to the “Who do you work with?” question is, “Individuals and families,” it’s time to do a little market research. Understanding the specific people you serve is critical to a number of functions in your business, from business development to marketing to customer service to client success and more.

After all, the clients in your book of business are real people who are just as complex, nuanced and complicated as you are. To reduce them to a general, bland group like “individuals” is disrespectful—and it also puts you at a massive disadvantage.

Why? Because it’s hard to effectively communicate in a way that persuades, delights and influences your target audience if you have absolutely no clue what makes them tick, what matters to them, what keeps them up at night and what worldview they operate with.

Be able to list off not only your ideal clients’ demographic information (age, location, earnings, ethnicity, gender, job sector, etc.) but more importantly, know their psychographic information: their fears, beliefs, values, desires, needs, dislikes and more.

2.) Eliminate What’s Not Essential

At a conference I spoke at recently, an audience member asked a great question that was about content marketing but could apply to just about any aspect of your business. This attendee asked how he could avoid becoming “the dancing bear.”

In other words, how could he avoid getting caught in the trap of producing content for the sake of throwing something out there to entertain followers day after day after day?

The answer is that you don’t have to hit publish all the time. You just don’t. Sometimes, it’s not essential—and if you come across a non-essential task, it’s a good candidate to cut from your to-do list entirely. There will be times when you don’t have anything to say. So don’t say anything. Make the choice between adding to the noise or waiting to be the sign.

Whether it’s content marketing or any other aspect of your business, quality likely matters more than quantity. Look at what you’re currently doing and ask, “What’s essential here? What’s serving a function that moves the needle—and what’s just noise, busywork, clutter or being done for the sake of quantity rather than quality?”

3.) Understand What Really Fuels Creativity

How many projects for your business have you put off because you weren’t feeling creative or inspired? It’s natural to feel like you’ll do your best work when you feel particularly compelled to act, but there’s a problem with that: creativity is not fueled by inspiration. It’s fueled by work.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I get some version of the question, “You write so much—how do you stay so inspired?” all the time. I understand why. I do write so much. (I once tried to estimate just how many words I manage to write in a month and the total easily topped a couple hundred thousand written words—every month!)

Many people assume I must be extremely creative, highly gifted or constantly inspired (or some combination of all three). The truth is, I have a system and I stick to it. If I only created content when I felt inspired, I wouldn’t write a thing. I’m able to create so much because I take the work of creating very seriously and I sit down to do that work regardless of whether I’m feeling particularly creative or inspired.

If you can make this shift for yourself and understand that putting off important projects until inspiration strikes is a sure way they’ll never get done, you may find yourself a little more productive—maybe even prolific—in the new year.

 4.) Invest in Personal, Not Just Professional, Development

Stick with me here, because it’s going to get a little woo-woo. Most of us are perfectly comfortable with spending money on professional development; we’re happy to fly to conferences, gather up CE opportunities or invest in specific training courses.

Too few of us, however, are willing to make the same investment into our personal development. That’s problematic because by skipping over the personal aspect of developing yourself, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to run a better business.

Personal development can help you improve your decision-making skills thanks to the understanding it can give you of your own thought processes. Self-awareness is critical for anyone in a high-powered position, from lead adviser to firm owner, because it allows you to better spot potential flaws in your own thinking.

Similarly, personal development work can help you uncover blind spots that you didn’t even know you had. The more things you didn’t know that you can discover, the better you’ll be at shoring up weaknesses or gaps in knowledge, skills or abilities.

And finally, I’d argue that investing in your personal development simply makes you a more engaging, interesting, thoughtful person that others tend to gravitate toward. You’ll likely improve your communication skills, boost your emotional intelligence and radiate confidence and a sense of groundedness in who you are and what you want to accomplish in your business and your life.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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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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Best of 2018: Financial Planners, Stop Making Excuses and Start Marketing

Editor’s note: Until the end of the year we will be publishing the top blog posts of 2018. This no-nonsense piece by FPA’s Marketing Director Dan Martin advises readers to just do it already when it comes to marketing. 

Collectively, the financial services industry and, more specifically, the members of and advocates for the financial planning profession have done an atrocious job of articulating the value we provide. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but on the whole, I think most of us can agree that we can do a lot better.

And, as you all know, the stakes are not trivial. Sure, our jobs and livelihoods depend on the health and future existence of the profession, but in the end, it’s not really about us. It’s about the millions of investors who need and deserve access to objective advice and support in planning to fund a future packed with variables, potential potholes and uncertainty.

Having worked with financial planners for more than a decade, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. In this profession, I’ve met some of the most selfless, generous and philanthropic people I’ve ever had the honor to know, and truly believe that these planners can and do change the lives of those who choose to work with them.

As a marketer, however, I have come across the same excuses from planners for poor or non-existent marketing, and it’s time for all of us to commit to changing the paradigm. Yes, we face some distinct challenges, but we’re no worse off than industries like health care, featuring regulations at least as strict as those in financial services, or marketing technology, in which commoditization is arguably a far bigger issue than it is for financial planners, or donation-based non-profit associations, in which the lack of resources is a daily struggle.

The point being, we need to stop letting people tell us that it’s OK to do the bare minimum when it comes to marketing or, in some cases, not do it at all, because our industry and profession are “a different animal.” The challenges we face are all real obstacles and I’m not attempting to minimize them in any way, but I do believe they are mostly a distraction from what really needs to be done to promote yourself and your practice in a healthy way.

I’ll leave the full conversation about how marketing is defined for a separate post, if only to say that I think it’s extremely easy to overcomplicate the concepts of marketing and promotion, especially for those not exposed to the jargon every day. I want to make the case that, for financial planners, keeping it simple can be a foundation on which to build and a great place to start.

You don’t have to be a marketing expert to be able to articulate your value to current and future clients, you don’t need millions of dollars to build a strong brand and you don’t need to post on social media every few minutes to become a part of the conversation. Search engine optimization, search engine marketing, digital advertising, marketing automation and content management systems are all important tools in maximizing the value of a marketing program, but together or separately, they have no value without the story they are built upon.

Thus, before making your list of tactics on how to reach your audience, the systems and tools you need to get in front of the right people and the right time, and the spreadsheet identifying the return on investment for every marketing dollar that goes out the door, spend time crafting, reworking and solidifying the story about you and your practice, about your clients (not you), and that you believe with every fiber of your soul to be fundamentally, irrevocably true.

The term “authenticity” is now so pervasive in conversations about marketing, promotion or online content that it’s routinely included on lists of overused buzz words. And yet, nothing could be more important when it comes to earning new clients, and perhaps more importantly, making sure they are clients for life. At its most basic level, marketing is and always has been, about showing the world (and your current and prospective clients as a subset) who you are, what you stand for and why you care so deeply about helping them solve their problems. If you believe in the story you’ve created, and the way you show up for your audience every day (such as your clients, prospects, your family or the Twitterverse) reflects that story, others will begin to believe in it too.

So why isn’t everyone doing this? Well, it’s not easy to come up with a concise story in the first place. It’s much easier (although ill-advised) to attempt to be all things to all people—this is why it’s often far more difficult to write a one-sentence mission statement than a 2,000-word article. Even those who do have a concerted story may struggle to stick to it, as tough times will bring the temptation to walk back on commitments or to make seemingly small adjustments to appease important stakeholders that can take away from the power of a story over time.

For those who have worked under the traditional model of marketing throughout their careers, focusing less on the quantity of tactics going out the door and content that’s all about what makes them great in favor of marketing that’s about help, not hype (to quote the legendary marketing mind Jay Baer), will be inherently uncomfortable. But isn’t nearly everything worth doing uncomfortable at the beginning?

I firmly believe that a story infused with passion, centered on transparency and guided by truth can be a difference maker for you and your practice. For those willing to take the plunge, my advice to help you get started is to:

  • Embrace your weaknesses. No true story focuses only on the positives.
  • Be vulnerable. Showing emotion doesn’t make you weak, it can make you strong.
  • Broadcast your passion. It’s better to be too passionate than to look like you don’t care.
  • Narrow your vision. Don’t worry about alienating those who are unlikely to be your clients; focus on your ideal prospects and make your message about them.
  • Focus on what matters to your clients. Eliminate the things that every financial planner offers, and center on how you can help clients relieve their pain points and solve their problems.
  • Have fun. Your enjoyment in telling/showing your story can be contagious; let others know how much you love what you do.

Happy storytelling!

Dan_Martin_Headshot

Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing.