One of the most remarkable things about independent advisors is their wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, personalities, and approaches to life and business. Despite this broad range of professionals, however, our industry’s top producers often share common traits.

Most top producers become successful by consistently focusing on a core set of basic, tried-and-true practices that, over time, have become the backbone of their businesses. Every advisor, regardless of where you are in building or maintaining your practice, can immediately benefit from the following seven basic habits.

#1: See any client any time
We are in the service business, and our livelihood revolves around spending time with clients when they need us the most. Sometimes this can take place on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but many times, evenings and weekends are the only times during which clients will spare the time to meet with an advisor. This can be particularly true of double-income families, who are often rushed to meet their work and family commitments and don’t have the extra time to allocate for important things such as financial planning and life insurance.

Plan to commit a certain amount of your evening and weekend time to meeting with your clients. By doing so, you will enhance your value-add and pick up additional business.

Remember, however, to be fair to yourself and your family. Determine how many hours a week you will meet with clients after normal business hours. Then, determine how you will reimburse yourself for that time. This may be as simple as leaving early the next day to pick your children up from school or taking your spouse out for a long lunch.

#2: Establish a great personal brand
When you started your business, chances are that there were several advisors in your market who could make a case for comparable products and services. So how do you stand out? Create your brand. A brand is a promise, whether it’s Nike’s “Just Do It,” which speaks to the inner athlete in all of us, or McDonald’s promising a pleasant reward with “You Deserve a Break Today.” A brand promise speaks to a need and, with repetition and need fulfillment, creates a brand preference. To create your own personal brand, assess your strengths versus your audience’s needs. Then, craft a message that promises to fulfill that need.

No matter how large your company grows or how many other people you employ, this simple premise will always apply: Clients will remember and identify with your practice because of your personal brand.

Once you clearly understand what your personal brand is, determine how to best leverage it across all of your marketing and communications efforts for new and existing customers and staff.

#3: Name your company after yourself
When searching for professional service businesses, clients seek out those with a strong brand and which give them a high level of comfort. You can leverage both aspects by simply naming your company after yourself. This is particularly helpful once you have determined your key differentiator and established your personal brand.

Clients will refer their friends and family to professionals they know and trust. Chances are extremely good that your practice already has benefitted from referrals and your name recognition. By directly tying your name to your company’s brand, you will be able to more efficiently increase your name recognition and further differentiate your business from your competitors.

#4: Employ a complete marketing mix
With the countless number of marketing tools that are available today, the challenge is determining which tools should be used, as well as how and when to use them. The top producers consistently focus on the basics and add additional layers as their business matures and grows, but they never lose sight of what helped them achieve their initial success.

Referrals, especially warm leads from friends, family, and existing customers, are the foundation of a successful business. As you build your network of customers and prospective customers, develop a direct-mail program. Nurture this program to include a combination of campaigns that are designed to generate immediate leads as well as programs for items such as quarterly newsletters that will help you maintain a relationship with your current and prospective clients.

Once you have a direct-mail program established, explore what kind of cornerstone program, such as seminars or radio shows, is best for you. As your business grows, consider a branding campaign to connect with your customers on a higher and more emotional level.

Ask your customers how they learned about you and why they took the time to meet with you. Use that information to refresh your marketing program and to keep current with changing market trends.

#5: Test new programs
Markets are always changing. It’s important to stay informed of new products and how they benefit your clients. But just as important is the need to stay current with how your clients consume media and make family decisions.

Is your client base going through, or about to go through, a new phase of life? Are there customers in a geographic, cultural or socioeconomic set that you have been thinking about exploring but have yet to approach? Reach out to them. Discover what their needs are and how they want you to communicate with them. You may be surprised at the opportunities you uncover.

#6: Develop a written growth strategy with goals
The best way to find success is to plan for success. Take the time to write out your goals and how you will achieve them. This can be as simple as a checklist or as complex as a formal business plan. The important part is that you set a clearly defined path to guide your actions and work toward your goals.

#7: Cultivate and retain a great staff
Never underestimate the value of a great staff. If you invest in the best professionals that you can afford and treat them well, they will more than repay you with exceptional performance and happy clients. A good staff that is properly trained will act as a natural extension of you, freeing you to more effectively meet with clients and manage your business.

Maintain a positive attitude and incorporate “best places to work” practices into your corporate culture. This will help keep your staff happy, which transfers to longer tenure and a willingness to work late hours and occasional weekends. Offer health insurance and 401(k) programs as soon as you can. Set clear performance expectations and establish accountability checkpoints. And treat your staff like family and friends instead of employees.

There is no secret to becoming a top producer. The key is to find joy in what you do, set your goals, work hard, and consistently follow these seven simple steps. Then, every few years, revisit these steps and evaluate your progress. By doing so, your business will be well-positioned to prosper for many years to come.

Michael Poirot is a field marketing manager with GamePlan Financial Marketing. He can be reached at mpoirot@gameplanfinancial.com or 800-886-4757.