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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Hornblower or Blowhard?

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Many planners are uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion. If you’ve decided to bite the bullet and try to make your silhouette a little more visible, however, here are some books to help you along.

First is Credibility Power: The Art of Selling Yourself, by Richard Hansen and Allyn Kramer with Larry Upshaw (Prestonwood Press, 2001). The book uses the stories of a number of famous people–everyone from Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame to Bruce Jenner–to illustrate how you can build on your expertise in any given field to become a “known expert” and perhaps even a celebrity. By building a business, writing books, marketing self-help videos/audios, and going on the lecture circuit, say the authors, it is possible to gain credibility for your expertise and to attract the kind of business that you want.

There’s quite a bit of useful information in this book–suggestions on how to approach the press, how to find a way to do something that appears impossible, even get yourself on radio or TV. The book itself is interesting, with its “success story” format, and can get you enthused about the possibility of promoting your practice in ways you may never have considered.

Then there’s Attract and Retain the Affluent Investor, by Stephen D. Gresham and Evan Cooper (Dearborn Trade, 2001). The authors offer some very specific strategies for changing your practice to make it into one that caters to, and retains, wealthy clients. Using the strategies of a number of advisors who cater to the wealthy, the authors have assembled a checklist of methods you can use to lift your practice above the crowd.

One of the methods the authors suggest is that you trim your client base. Operating on the principle that “20% of the clients generate 80% of the revenue,” Gresham and Cooper look at the process used by one of their contributors to winnow his client list to a more manageable, and more sustainable, group.

Through the use of screens, “George K” learned that 13% of his clients generated more than 90% of his income. Moreover, George was spending much of his time going after new accounts rather than doing actual financial planning for the clients he had–all 631 of them. What he really wanted to do was pay more attention to the planning side of his business, and devote more time and care to the clients who appreciated it. So George got to work and created a series of screens–11 in all, but subsequently reduced to three– and took four months to determine where in his practice each client fit.

Taking into account hard dollars (expenses on trips that lowered a client’s profitability), soft dollars (how much it cost to service some of those accounts through handholding, time on the phone, etc.), and other benchmarks, George reduced the size of his practice until he was able to provide optimum service to the remaining clients. Then he told those remaining clients what he was doing and why, so that the clients he wanted to keep would not jump ship at his shedding of so many others. He committed himself to providing those remaining clients with superb service, personal meetings (including a one-day sojourn at each client’s business or home), and other visible signs of a caring planner. He also asked those clients for referrals to potential clients who would enable him to continue to provide this level of service in the future instead of being sucked back into chasing new clients.

Whether it’s evaluating your current client base to uncover the “20% that generate 80%” or enhancing client meetings so that you can convince clients to hand over assets currently managed by other advisors, the authors offer lucid examples of how to figure out where your time is most effectively spent and how to increase your bottom line.

The Networking Game

For those of you who are into networking, or who have considered it as a way of boosting your client base or your credibility, we have two books: Masters of Networking: Building Relationships for Your Pocketbook and Soul, by Ivan R. Ensnare and Doug Morgan (Bard Press, 2000), and The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret: Building Your Business with Word-of-Mouth Marketing, by Ivan R. Misner (Bard Press, 2000).

The former book contains quotes, excerpts, and anecdotes from everyone from Deepak Chopra to Fran Tarkenton about the practice of networking and the benefits thereof. Through the networking group founded by author Misner, BNI, or Toastmasters International, or any of the other groups and strategies offered in these short and to-the-point anecdotes, there are multitudes of opportunities listed for readers to see how they can promote themselves and their businesses.

By adhering to the principle Misner quotes in his introduction–that networking is based on the concept of gaining through giving–the authors assert that anyone can better not only himself but also the people around him. Therein lies the key to self-promotion, in that people will remember someone who does something for them without expecting a return–and be much more inclined to give that person their business or steer more business to him.

The latter book contains information on business organizations and service clubs that offer members networking opportunities that can and frequently do lead to new business, as well as repeated insistence that networking and meeting people are vital methods of increasing your business. If you are interested in promoting yourself this way, these two books will give you plenty of places to begin, and lots of suggestions on how to form a network of your own or capitalize on opportunities that already exist.