While the vast majority of advisors have implemented some form of client relationship management (CRM) software in their practices, most of them continue to overlook what may be CRM’s biggest benefit to an RIA business: the ability to fuel and support growth.
There’s no question that, after focusing on existing clients during the downturn, growth is once again a key concern of RIAs today. Schwab Advisor Services’ recently released 2011 RIA Benchmarking Study reveals that more than half of advisors placed growing the firm at the top of their business initiatives, with nearly nine in 10 planning to grow their firms aggressively or moderately over the next five years. Fifty-four percent of advisors said one of their top three strategic initiatives today is “getting new clients through referrals from existing clients,” while another 46% reported “new client referrals from partners” as a top goal.
A robust CRM system is one of the best tools available to help advisors track, capture and convert those prospect opportunities to drive firm growth. Just as important, the CRM can play a major role in enabling advisors to maintain exceptional, high-touch service as they grow and scale their practices. We believe the firms that are most likely positioned for growth will be those that take advantage of CRM technology in two main ways: maximizing the use of the CRM system’s most powerful capabilities to drive growth, and leveraging the CRM as the central hub of an integrated technology platform customized for their practice.
Tapping CRM’s growth drivers
On one level, advisors seem to understand the value of CRM: A full 84% of advisors have a CRM system—an increase of 24% over the past three years—and 90% of those users report that CRM is critical to the success of their business.
But the benefits of any technology stem directly from how well that technology is used. Schwab’s data show that despite CRM’s high adoption rate, most RIAs today are neglecting or don’t have access to the very features that can be instrumental in helping them attract new clients and fuel growth—including business development, task management and integration (see chart above). Of the eight popular features in CRM, the average firm uses 5.3 versus 4.9 just one year ago.
By taking advantage of these key untapped growth drivers, advisors can boost their success in three areas:
1. Business development
As advisors’ attention shifts back toward business growth and expansion, firms must be able to measure progress with new prospects and maximize the effectiveness of referral strategies. Despite the importance of client referrals to nearly all firms, 41% report that they do not track client referrals as a success metric and 59% do not track client satisfaction in a systematic way.
Similar to previous years, a majority of firms in the study have no documented processes related to prospecting, lead generation or staff training. A CRM system allows advisors to organize and track leads throughout the entire sales process, helping identify which sources of new leads are most valuable and how long it’s taking to convert prospects to clients—thus enabling advisors to focus on business development strategies that work and shore up areas that are lacking.
For example, I recently visited a firm that used its CRM’s business development features to identify two relationship managers who were bringing in more referrals than other team members and determine some of the key activities that were driving their success. Their methods were then documented in the CRM to create referral best practices that could then be leveraged by the entire relationship management team.
2. Workflow management
While more RIAs today are focusing on workflows—documenting each step involved in various key tasks, like opening new accounts and preparing for client meetings, to ensure consistency—there is still a significant number of advisors who are failing to document mission-critical duties. When advisors do document their workflows, they typically store that information in basic Word documents or Excel spreadsheets where processes can get outdated quickly. As a result, they’re missing an opportunity for their workflows to have a major impact on their practices.