3 Things Advisors Can Learn From Steve Jobs

After news of Steve Jobs’ death earlier this month we started talking at Financial Finesse about the impact he’s had on us individually and on our society. It was a brief moment of realization that the influence he had made with Apple was enormous—beyond what we had ever really put thought into until that moment.

I think it is common understanding that Jobs literally changed the world we live in. AdvisorOne’s Jamie Green wrote a story about the influence Jobs’ technology has had, and will continue to have, on advisors. Looking around my own office, every piece of technology I own is a byproduct of his genius—iPhone, iPad, and a Mac computer (the list gets even longer when you include my home office). He was a brilliant innovator, mainly because of his ability to be intuitive and understand what consumers wanted.  This is something many of us find difficult when dealing with our own clients: being intuitive to their needs and how to meet them. But advisors, who work with clients in one-on-one settings on a daily basis discussing private details about their personal goals, dreams and concerns, have an advantage to gaining this intuition that can stimulate genius insight.

This got me thinking about what we could learn from Jobs, and how the principles he had lived by could be applied to other industries and utilized by anyone to make a difference.

These days consumers are smarter and savvier but also jaded, especially after a financial crisis that left them with little trust in the financial services industry. According to an Edelman survey earlier this year (as cited by Temma Ehrenfeld in the Financial Planning article Investors Still Don’t Trust Financial Services Firms) 46% of surveyed investors said their trust in financial services companies had declined since the year before, despite a better economy. They are no longer comfortable with handing over their investments to a pro without question. They want a more active role in understanding the decisions that are made with their finances. After all, their future depends on how well you manage their funds. You can be a thought leader like Steve Jobs and be the difference in effectively reaching investors, or you can be left behind.

Here are three things advisors can learn from what Steve Jobs did to grow Apple from a two-man team in a garage to a multibillion dollar technology giant:

  1.  No Two Customers Are the Same
    Jobs understood that the world was moving toward individuality as consumers continued to grow savvier about options. No two consumers were going to want, or even have, the same experience with Apple’s technology, so he made his products as customizable as possible.
    This same concept can apply to how advisors work with their clients. Yes, most of your clients want

an advisor that’s going to help them build a strong portfolio so they can comfortably live out their dreams, but their dreams are not the same by any means, and when you think about it, you are in the business of making dreams come true. That’s a lot of responsibility, but if you look at each of your clients’ experiences with you as individually as possible, just as Jobs saw each of Apple’s users uniquely, you can create an experience that demonstrates your commitment to their individual financial goals and concerns. An advisor’s job is already very hands on, so this doesn’t mean handing out your personal cell number to every client for 24/7 access to you, and it even goes beyond sending out occasional birthday cards. Spend less time with these types of communications and more time on those that help educate clients and potential clients on things that are important to them and which will help them meet their goals. Check in with them when you know they are worried about the market or when they’re approaching their child’s first college semester. Being proactive about their unique concerns and individual circumstances will help advisors make each client feel like their issues are also important to you.
 
  • Create a Community
    Just four years ago, over 20% of Americans owned an Apple product according to research from the Solutions Research Group. Today, that number is expected to be even higher with the variety of products Apple has introduced, including the iPad which reached one million units sold twice as fast as the iPhone, but this isn’t a popularity contest. It is proof that Steve Jobs understood (there’s that intuition again) that people, though they want individuality, also want a sense of community.

    Jobs capitalized on this through marketing that spoke not to any one demographic, but to the Apple community; it tapped into what every Apple customer had in common and brought them together. For advisors, building a community among your clients and prospective clients is an important tool to managing their satisfaction. Advisors have the opportunity, as Jobs did, to speak to a group that may be very different, yet have something in common: they’re working with you and they want to obtain their financial goals.

    Sending regular communications such as newsletters that share expert insights, news and tips are just the beginning of creating a community. According to AdvisorWebsites.com research, 58% of advisors surveyed felt email marketing was the most effective way to communicate with clients, tied with face-to-face events. Spend more time around email campaigns and individual outreach in ways your clients will respond to.  If you don’t have one already, create social media pages for your community so that your clients can communicate and help each other with their financial questions. Highlight success stories and share them to inspire others to make good decisions with their financial plans.
  •  Make Decision-Making Simple
    Jobs hugely influenced the Apple design process so that its products had few buttons (as many know, he hated them) and limiting the products that were made available to consumers. He tapped into his intuition to design products that would appeal to a wide net of consumers rather than throw out many different products for them to choose from. In this way, he made decisions easier for people rather than overwhelming them to the point of decision paralysis.
    Advisors can take a lesson from Jobs in simplifying their communication with prospects and clients. At Financial Finesse, we aim to follow this principal and write all of our education content without too much financial jargon so the average person will understand and relate to it. Advisors should speak to the average investor in their communications as well. Try to simplify complicated concepts and help clients narrow down their investment options through analysis that looks at more than just risk tolerance. Ask questions that relate to their personalities, how they like to learn, how much interest they have in the market, and so on. Make questions like these part of your early assessment before you begin digging into the details so you are more on target with what you present them. The fact is, helping people create a financial plan involves a lot of psychology. If you can tap into how people think and present them information in a way that fits their style and knowledge level, you will save more time and effort and have more satisfied clients.
  • The reach Steve Jobs has had on our society can’t be outlined in one article. There are many lessons we all can learn from him in understanding our clients and how to provide them with something that exceeds their expectations. But we can begin by learning from his intuition and his passion for making a difference. Now more than ever before, advisors have the opportunity to change investors’ perceptions and how they manage their finances. The question is, will you choose to be a Steve Jobs?

    Additional resources for better practice on communicating with and understanding your clients:

    Following are some additional resources you can use to help you with the principles in this article.

     

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