By Jerome Lezynski
Restore revenues. Reduce costs. Grow the business. Right now, tasks like these can be daunting to most advisers. But achieving these goals in the face of such tough obstacles is possible; you just need to concentrate your efforts and resources in the right places.
Here's how to start:
1. Strengthen your strengths, delegate your weaknesses
Are you making the most of your limited time, or are you consumed by laborious tasks that generate little revenue or could be done by others? Every hour spent on the minutia of the business is an hour you're not talking to clients or generating new ones. Administrative and business tasks are important, but they divert valuable attention from clients.
- Understand your business activities: the ones clients value and pay for; the ones clients value and don't pay for; the ones clients don't particularly value. Determine which activities you can and want to do and which activities could be done by others.
- Delegate or outsource tasks that are neither highly valued nor generate revenue.
- Commit saved time to making short calls to both prospects and clients every day. Two hours of every day focused on growing your firm will have a meaningful impact.
2. Develop an ongoing marketing plan
Effective marketing demands a real plan. It's an actionable set of activities with measurable results. It also demands a real commitment.
- Identify your ideal client segment(s) as targets and focus your prospecting efforts there.
- Develop a plan that encompasses target audiences, marketing activities, metrics, budgets and responsible individuals.
- Develop a manageable budget: 2 percent to 4 percent of revenues is a good target for firms with annual revenues of $400,000 to $700,000.
- Touch each client a minimum of four times a month through efficient and low-cost touches using e-mail, videos and market commentaries.
3. Target communications to increase client retention
Communication is most important during tough times as clients need your insights and advice to cut through the noise and stay focused on goals.
- Go beyond the traditional portfolio review in meetings. Help clients understand the current markets and why it is important to reevaluate long- and short-term investment goals. Re-profile clients and conduct an updated risk assessment.
- Create a client advisory board to learn what your clients seek and allow their voices to be heard.
- Conduct a client satisfaction survey to understand what is on clients' minds, how to improve relationships and show clients you care.
4. Build prospects through client events
Educational and client appreciation events are a strong supplement to client meetings and effective for prospecting and obtaining referrals.
- Develop a realistic calendar of client events. One per quarter is a good goal (minimum two per year). Keep events small and focused on relevant topics, and free of a sales pitch.
- Select interesting topics that also involve centers of influence. These can be specific (a CPA discussing the implications of the 2010 tax law changes, or an attorney presenting estate planning tips) or universal (how the current presidential administration policy might impact taxes).
- Leverage business-building opportunities. Encourage clients to bring guests, ask for referrals and appointments, and capture contact information. Then, follow-up with all of your attendees.
5. Position yourself as a wealth adviser
To get quality referrals, you must be referable. Do your clients perceive you as a valued "wealth manager" or strictly an investment professional? Your relationship should be advice-based, not just product based.
- (Re) examine your firm's strategic focus. What do you provide? For whom do you provide it? Develop and use a one-line firm descriptor as a basis for a great "elevator" speech.
- How you talk about yourself will influence client perceptions. Use client communications to reinforce your focus where clients can see it-on your letterhead, throughout your Web site, even in your reception area.
- Resist the temptation to take every new client who comes along. Your first priority is current clients; don't do anything to jeopardize those relationships. Check with staff and factor their workload into your client acquisition plan so you don't compromise client service or burn out staff.
Implementing a plan is easier said then done, but the current environment has created a tremendous opportunity for financial advisers who stay focused on the basics of the business and take action to not just survive, but grow.
Jerome "Jerry" Lezynski is director of marketing for the SEI Advisor Network, where he is responsible for the strategy, development and execution of marketing and communications initiatives. For more than 15 years, the SEI Advisor Network has provided financial advisers with wealth management services through outsourced investment strategies, administration and technology platforms and practice management programs. This strategic business unit of SEI works with 6,500 advisers and has $27.6 billion assets under management (as of Dec. 31, 2008).
Tools to Use
This article is an abbreviated version of the 2009 Survival Guide. To receive the full version of this guide, please visit www.seianswers.com/survive, or call an experienced SEI practice consultant at 1-888-734-2679 to learn more.