Leave a comment

3 Steps to Create Excellent Habits

Habits play an important role as we go about our business as advisers. Creating excellent and productive habits is a combination of being able to recognize and eliminate any poor practices while implementing a series of positive and effective behaviors. This ability allows us to most efficiently complete our most complex and oftentimes repetitive tasks (i.e. cold calling, handling objections and closing a sale). Being aware of and consistent with what we do and accountable for our daily actions contributes to cultivating habits that can help put you into success mode.

Aristotle is widely cited as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Let’s take a look at a step-by-step approach successful advisers can use to create and maintain excellent habits:

Step 1: Create Conscious Activities

Oftentimes, rookies and veterans alike find themselves reactive all day long. The reason that this is so prevalent is because they are not consciously aware of how they are going about their daily activities. Instead they simply show up to the office and put out fires which can lead to neglecting several other vital facets of their business.

Here is a real-world example of how one financial adviser client of mine experienced this challenge:

Bill C. is a 20-year veteran financial adviser who explained to me in our first coaching session that his business was stagnant because he didn’t have time to prospect. Instead, most of his time was spent servicing his client base. Later, he admitted that his prospecting skill sets were rusty and that at his age he didn’t like getting rejected.

The first step for Bill was to help him understand what he was doing. He was not delegating tasks to his assistant that he easily could have. As a result, he was doing many unproductive activities and his business suffered. So, we mapped out structure to his day and a way for him to handle—and prioritize—interruptions and tasks.

Step 2: Create Consistent Activities

The next step after knowing what activities will help move business into and through your pipelines is to focus on doing them consistently at the same time each day so that good habits are formed.

In Bill’s case he needed to prospect first thing in the morning instead of putting it off until he had time, which was nearly always limited. His first time block at 8:00 a.m. was to make outgoing prospecting calls to his natural market. After helping him script the proper dialogue it didn’t take him long to start to enjoy prospecting again. However, in order to ensure that prospecting would become a habit he needed to take the next step.

Step 3: Create Accountability for Activities

You MUST have someone that you can be accountable to everyday. The best way to do this is to assign yourself to send an “accountability email” that is sent to an accountability partner (mentor, colleague, trusted individual) for at least 30 days.

Bill began sending me daily accountability emails and we had actually attached a reward or punishment system to his activity level. This created an additional level of accountability because he was trying to reach reward status while attempting to avoid any punishment.

So, what happened to Bill?

His level of productive activities increased exponentially, his pipeline filled, he closed additional business and formed excellent habits while truly enjoying what he did for a living again!

Why Practice Makes Permanent

It’s been said that practice makes perfect however, part of my coaching philosophy is that “practice makes permanent.” Perfection can be elusive, so a focus on streamlining your habits with an eye to constantly evaluating them offers a more realistic process.

Now, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I tackling activities in a way that is producing positive habits with desired outcomes?” If not, it’s time to take some dedicated time to review the aforementioned steps and get yourself a plan for creating your own set of excellent habits.

If you would like a free coaching session, email Melissa Denham, 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.


Leave a comment

Tips to Build More Authentic Diversity Programs

Episode 2Many years ago, after dropping off his son at an area high school to play a baseball game, Ed Gjertsen, II, CFP®, decided to grab a quick breakfast. He found a cozy spot and ventured inside. As soon as he walked in, all eyes were on him. He was the only white person in the whole restaurant.

Slightly uncomfortable, yet undeterred, he sat down and ordered and enjoyed a lovely breakfast.

But that day, he realized how many of the Financial Planning Association members from diverse backgrounds must feel at conferences, so he, along with Trudy Turner, CPA/PFS, CFP®, and Lee Baker, CFP®, decided to establish the FPA diversity committee in 2006.

Gjertsen shared this story on a recent podcast episode of 2050 TrailBlazers, on which he and Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, both shared what they’ve done to champion diversity efforts in the profession.

They discussed with Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, tips on what has made their efforts more successful.

Be authentic. Your diversity efforts won’t work if you’re not authentic and you’re still arguing whether there’s a business case for it. In that case, perhaps engaging in these programs is not for you. Because whatever you do to attract millennials, women and diverse planners needs to be authentic. You can’t just be checking a box. Make it part of your values and create a position for programming; that way, somebody is accountable.

That’s what TD Ameritrade Institutional did. Their authentic efforts have come to be seen as a successful model in the profession.

“We are trying to be a leader here because it is so important that as an industry we take the appropriate steps necessary to make sure that we are prepared,” Nally said. “It’s a moral imperative, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Build internship and/or scholarship programs (or tell people about them). Both TD Ameritrade Institutional and FPA have scholarship programs. TD Ameritrade has 12 $5,000 scholarships for students studying financial planning, and they also have a grant program (one $50,000 grant for established programs and another $25,000 grant for emerging programs) for universities committed to educating the next generation of financial planners. FPA has a Diversity Scholarship, which sends deserving planners advancing diversity in the profession to two of its conferences.

Write inclusive job descriptions. Craft job descriptions that have gender-coded words and focus on more straightforward words. For more tips on how to craft an inclusive job description, see this helpful LinkedIn blog post. This post advises to only include necessary requirements on the job description and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Be intentional about casting a wider net. Always hire the best person for the job. But that could mean the person you’re hiring has the highest capability for the job, and perhaps not the years of experience. Plus, make sure you’re casting a wide net for applicants so you’re bringing in more diverse candidates. From that point on, may the best person for the job win.

Engage everybody. In planning a women’s panel for the FPA Annual Conference, Gjertsen and his team decided to have two men on the panel primarily to discuss how they have successfully attracted and retained female planners, but also to attract and engage both men and women.

Because, Gjertsen said, if it had been a panel of just women, perhaps the men attending the conference would have missed out on valuable information because they would have said, “That session is not for me.”

These tips can help you improve or launch your diversity initiatives, which Nally said is a necessary step to take.

“America is changing from a demographic perspective in every category, whether it’s age or race or ethnicity in general, it doesn’t look the same as it used to and it’s going to continue to change,” Nally said. “We need to be prepared as an industry to serve the needs of that changing demographic and right now we’re not.”

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate 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.

Leave a comment

Why Memorable Experiences Will Always Trump Flashy Marketing Tactics

My wife and I recently welcomed our first child, and we are, of course, filled with incomprehensible and indescribable joy. We were lucky enough to deliver our son at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver, and our truly incredible experience, from start to finish, is what prompted this post.

It’s not a new concept by any means, but those four days hammered home for me the fundamental truth that the best marketing is often not marketing at all.

But, you ask, aren’t you a marketer? Yes, and I do believe there will always be a need for marketers and marketing for every brand, company and organization. Just not in the way marketing is currently perceived (or executed, in many cases). Marketing is not about trying to make your brand or product look different or better than it is, or trying to trick people into signing up for your email list or attending your event—it’s about showing people who you really are and why they should care.

As such, I believe a marketer’s most important function is often in helping organizations understand which of their experiences are most important and why, and how current and potential customers perceive those experiences. Let me use St. Joseph’s as an example to explain what I mean.

Long before we entered the hospital for the main event, we knew we would be welcoming Simon at St. Joseph’s due to insurance company mandates. In the lead-up to the birth, the unequivocal assessment from everyone (and I truly mean everyone) that we spoke with, from parents of children delivered at the hospital, to friends and friends-of-friends who had past experiences at St. Joseph’s, to our own doctor, was that the hospital was the gold standard for birthing in Denver—if you’re having a baby, try to do it at St. Joseph’s.

Think for a moment how surprising it is that nobody in our circle had a negative thing to say about their experience. If you’ve spent more than four seconds on Twitter or Yelp over the past five years, you know that most people don’t mind sharing their negative opinions on pretty much everything. Compound that with the fact that health care receives, often for good reason, a large volume of gripes,  the hospital would appear to be facing an uphill battle in terms of perception.

From our frantic late-night calls to assess whether it was time to come in, to our first moments in the building, it was clear that St. Joseph’s would be making good on its brand promise. Every nurse assigned to us and to Simon was knowledgeable, personable and, most importantly, working at St. Joseph’s because they actually loved babies. Every doctor took great pains to explain to us each step in the process and make every decision as informed as possible, but ours alone. Every specialist exuded skill and authority, but also an underlying commitment to make sure we felt safe and calm.

I fell in love with those people and that place because they took truly extraordinary care of us and made it clear that our satisfaction was their most important objective. The sum total of what they did was provide a consistently memorable experience, and I can’t think of any flashy or expensive marketing tactics or campaigns that could come close to outweighing that experience.

This isn’t to say, again, that marketing is unnecessary. For most organizations, it is critical. I am saying that those who choose to focus on experience first may find that their marketing job becomes fundamentally easier. And can great marketing and advertising exponentially expand the reach of a wonderful experience? Absolutely.

Experience First, Then Marketing

So how do you know if you’ve created the type of experience the gets people talking about your brand in the right way? As it so often does, it comes back to what people say about you when you’re not around. I like to use the following template as a rough rubric for the measurement of experience:

“I went to/visited/talked to __________ and the ________ was really ________.”

You can elicit these types of responses from clients and, importantly, your own staff, and analyze the content to see what bubbles to the surface. Be direct to get answers like “we are ridiculously good at ___________” or “__________ is something only we do well.” It’s important to note that a memorable experience can also be a negative one, and that understanding any negative experiences clients or customers have had with your business can be just as valuable as the positives.

You may look at this as data gathering and analysis, a marketing process, or generating core messages, another marketing process, and you would be right—but I would urge you to think outside of the common perception of “marketing” when it comes to experience. In other words, create and perfect the experience first, then use marketing to spread the word—don’t make the mistake of making your marketing more substantial than what lives behind it.

Because experience spreads by word-of-mouth, and neither experience nor word-of-mouth communication can be purchased or manufactured. That makes it both the most difficult type of “marketing” to pull off, but also the single most powerful tool you have.

To use St. Joseph’s again, they have clearly listened to what their customers and peers identified as their best assets, and focused efforts to become the absolute best in those areas. The experience became so powerful that it began to generate positive word-of-mouth, and because it went in that order, every message was genuine (not bought and paid for or offered as a quid pro quo). Although I don’t have access to their advertising and marketing budget, my guess is that the power of their experience allows them to spend less on push and pull marketing than at least some competitors.

You might be tempted to make the case that, because many patients don’t have a choice as to whether to use certain hospitals’ facilities, they don’t really need marketing. In my experience, too many business and organizations would use this as an excuse to provide sub-par service. If you want an example of how this mindset can sink an entire industry, look no further than Uber and Lyft versus traditional taxi companies.

Compare the positive buzz about the St. Joseph’s Women and Infant Center to the decidedly negative perception, perpetuated by both mass media coverage and word-of-mouth (horror stories), of professionals like car mechanics, insurance agents and yes, financial advisers, who are often branded with the reputation of taking advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable. Just because you have a steady stream of people coming in the door doesn’t mean that providing a poor experience won’t cause major long-term problems.

So Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

OK, if it’s that easy, why doesn’t everyone just focus on building an unassailable experience that people can’t help but talk about? The first reason is that doing it right takes tremendous diligence, time and effort and a level of deep introspection that most organizations are unwilling to pursue. It is phenomenally difficult to look inward at our businesses and make the decisions to adjust things that we have grown attached to.

The second is that focusing on experience first is not likely to result in short-term financial gain. In fact, if an organization is willing to take a big enough step to line up experience with brand promise, they must occasionally be prepared to take a loss. For example, when CVS Caremark announced the decision to remove cigarettes and tobacco products from its shelves in 2014, the company forecasted a $2 billion shortfall in sales as a result of the change.

And yet, the move needed to be made, as the company was re-branding itself as a one-stop-shop for health services, launching the new slogan “Health is Everything” in the same announcement. Words matter, but they must mirror actions.

And that’s why many organizations choose to spend marketing dollars over enhancements to their experience, as if the two are mutually exclusive. It’s just easier to spend money in an attempt to manufacture perception than to focus on and perfect an experience. My brother Joe Martin, partner at Red Six Media advertising agency in Baton Rouge, is fond of saying that advertising doesn’t make mediocre businesses good, it makes good businesses great, and he’s right. You have to be extraordinarily proud of and supremely confident in the product or service at the core of your business, or any and all marketing attempts will fail in the long run.

In the case of St. Joseph’s, they have a slight advantage in that the payoff at the birthing center is pretty great and bound to make people happy on their way out, but it is at its core a place where people go when they need help. Financial planners have an incredible opportunity to become the person on the short list that clients call when they’re feeling fear or loss, and to create experiences that matter in those instances.

If you spend the time to make your experiences unique, consistent and memorable, they may eventually serve as the only marketing you’ll ever need.


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.