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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Tell Me A Story

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Let’s start with the premise that most everyone you want to work with has half a million dollars and up, and a fool and his or her money are soon parted. Therefore, the people who have accumulated significant assets in America are, as a group, pretty smart folks–and when they are looking for a financial advisor, there are several specific things they want to know. In order to attract great clients, you need to tell a compelling marketing story about yourself and your firm that answers the following five questions.

o What is your higher purpose? What purpose do you have beyond making money off your clients?

o How did you evolve to this way of thinking?

o Who can benefit most from your services?

o What are your services, and what are the benefits and payoffs for your clients?

o What step-by-step processes do you have for helping clients achieve their goals?

Let’s look at each of these questions one by one, and consider how you might answer them for your clients.

1. What Is Your Higher Purpose?

There’s a great story about three brick masons laying bricks, and a marketing consultant who asks each one of them what they are doing. The first one says, “I’m making $10 an hour.” The second one says, “I’m laying down bricks and building a wall.” The third one says, “I’m building the finest cathedral in the world.” Clearly, the third brick mason is more inspired and dedicated to his work than the other two are, because he has a higher purpose. Scientific research now shows that if you have a higher purpose–a win-win purpose, where you benefit and your client benefits, and hopefully the world benefits, too–you will be more fired up and enthusiastic about your work, and, by extension, your clients will be more fired up about you.

You need to determine the level at which you want to engage your clients. In other words, what is the purpose for your business? Are you there to analyze investments, insurance, and financial strategies? Or are you there to enable clients to fulfill their dreams? No one buys investment or insurance products or advice for today; they buy it for tomorrow. Thus, most advisors are really in the business of creating better futures.

2. How Did You Evolve to Your Higher Purpose?

Clients want to know your story. The four basic points you must make are:

1. I originally got into this industry to…

2. I became disillusioned when…

3. I decided to …

4. Now I have developed a process to…

You need to be able to explain this. Why did you get into the industry? To make money? Because you thought you could have a great lifestyle? To help people? At what point did you decide to do something different from the rest of the industry? My belief is that the industry teaches new advisors, both insurance and securities salespeople, to build dysfunctional models based around one basic goal: Making a lot of money. Maybe you made a lot of money, maybe you did not. But at some point you must have become disillusioned, or you would not have changed your practice into a fee-based business.

Point three is “I decided to….” Once you became disillusioned, what did you decide to do about it? How did you make this transition?

And finally, point number four: “Now I have developed a process to….” What do you do? What do you help your clients do?

These four items can be simple but powerful. For instance, one of the advisors I work with had been an accountant. He originally got into the industry to help people prepare taxes and keep in compliance with the tax rules. He became disillusioned when he helped his clients prepare their taxes and realized that very few of them were making any money in their brokerage accounts, even when the markets were doing extremely well. He decided to do some research to determine how the top professionals were managing their money, and he developed a process of strategic asset allocation based on modern portfolio theory. Now he has developed a process to manage money prudently and conservatively for clients who have accumulated a substantial amount of assets.

3. Who Can Benefit Most From Your Services?

Very few advisors can tell you exactly who can benefit most from their services. Many are just looking for someone who can fog a mirror. If you are doing fee-based business, you are probably looking for account minimums of $100,000 to $250,000, and your average account will be somewhere north of $500,000. That is a very small percentage of the population, so you need to understand who it is that can benefit most from your services, and you need to develop a profile of that person. The easiest way to do this is to simply look at your existing client base.

I have identified 10 specific groups where there are high concentrations of people with a lot of money. I call these “rich niches.” There is the affluent group that includes self-employed professionals, independent salespeople, corporate employees, entertainers, and professional athletes. And then there is the wealthy group of serious business builders, well-off retirees, surviving spouses, divorced persons, and inheritants.

Now look at your existing client base and determine which of these 10 groups your clients fall into, and then narrow them down to specific subcategories: occupation, geographical area, etc. From that you can develop a profile that you can hand out to people you work with, centers of influence, and top clients. In three or four bullet points each, you should describe your demographics (age, occupation, etc.) and your psychographics (attitudes, what they’re looking for in an advisor, and so on).

In addition to identifying demographics and psychographics, you want to identify the transitional events that occur in clients’ lives that would make them likely to seek out a financial advisor: the sale of a business, retirement, the death of a spouse, a changed health situation, a bonus, the sale of a piece of real estate or another major asset, or the birth of a child.

4. What Are Your Services and How Can They Benefit Me?

Asset allocation is the number-one thing that most clients want from their investment advisors. Number two is financial planning, followed by estate planning, tax planning, and ongoing investment management. A distant sixth is asset protection. You need to have a brochure or a menu of services that lists these items and the specific deliverable, such as a portfolio review, retirement needs analysis, or insurance review.

You must also be able to describe the payoffs. For the most part, people want one thing in life, and that is to be happy–to feel secure, appreciated, understood, important, and in control. These are some of the less tangible benefits that you provide. You must communicate them because emotions are what drive people to action.

5. What Are Your Processes to Help Clients Achieve Their Goals?

There are a number of different areas to cover here. First, put in writing how you define your asset allocation for each client. What’s the process you go through? Typically it is gathering of information, evaluation, and a recommendation.

What about your financial plan? What is the deliverable that you provide?

Transferring your client’s estates quickly and easily to their heirs is something most everyone wants when they get into their early 50s or 60s. What’s your process for doing that? In the professional services provider model, you are providing more services than products, so the process is the service delivery. You are going to ask people to write you a check, so you need to be able to define clearly for them what they are getting for that check.

As for minimizing taxes: What’s your process? Protecting their family’s financial security from unexpected disasters: How do you do it? And finally, what about monitoring ongoing decision-making?

Once you develop a compelling marketing story, you can put it in writing, you can communicate it, and other people will be able to communicate it for you. And once you do that, you will start to see that the people who fit your profile will seek you out. You will start to attract clients, instead of having to chase them.