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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Estate Planning

Keeping an eye on the future

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Have you thought about where you want your practice to be five years from now? How about what changes the industry will endure in the next five years?

Nobody has a crystal ball, but there’s one thing I do know for certain: We work in an industry that thrives on change and evolution. The most successful producers are those that can anticipate the upcoming changes and adjust their practice accordingly.

I am talking about making decisions that are no longer reactive but instead proactive and progressive. These decisions involve all aspects of your practice, from marketing methods to products you use to how you service your clients.

Let’s use seminars as an example. In the late ’80s, there was an absolute boon in the estate planning seminar circuit – akin to the “senior financial workshops” being hosted all over the country today. My estate planning colleagues would mail thousands of invitations or put an ad in the local newspaper, and several hundred people attended to learn about the hot estate planning topic of the day – the revocable living trust.

A handful of creative and marketing-savvy attorneys began treating the RLT like a product (almost like a mutual fund or annuity) – a product that was to be sold and not bought. They devised client-friendly seminars explaining estate planning and the RLT in real specifics. Guess what? It worked like a charm for more than 10 years until the late 1990s, when the saturation of “trust” seminars seemed to be complete and attendance at seminars begin to dwindle.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Starting in the late ’90s, the fixed indexed annuity became a very hot product that could be mass-marketed through public seminars. This senior seminar circuit still appears to be going strong, although I have heard rumblings from colleagues complaining about low attendance and fewer genuinely interested prospects.

The lesson that I drive from the estate planning seminar analogy is that we should never take anything for granted. In short order, estate planning attorneys who were spoiled into acquiring clients through inexpensive public seminars suddenly saw their client pipeline dry up. Many were forced to reinvent themselves by practicing in other areas of law. Others were forced to pursue different marketing methods to fill the void that the seminar bust had left – they were forced to react from a position of weakness.

I cannot predict how long senior financial seminars will continue to yield a steady stream of qualified clients. I hope it lasts 20 years or more. But the reality is that there could be a bust similar to the one the RLT seminars experienced. Then what? Wouldn’t it be nice to have anticipated the potential slowdown in seminars before it happens and to have diversified your marketing methods so they are not contingent on just one method? It’s analogous to diversifying your investment portfolio.

I recommend not placing all of your marketing “eggs” in one basket. Stop the “follow the herd” mentality. Take a step back and think proactively so that you can shield your practice from potential issues before they happen. This is at least one good lesson that my fellow attorneys have managed to teach me.


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