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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Advisor, You Need a Marketing Retreat

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Two or three times a year, we will invite an advisor to our offices to host his or her private, one-day marketing retreat. We used to do a lot more, but I am too busy with my own practice!

We just hosted one last week and I realized the process we use could be good for readers to implement on their own. This is the perfect time of year to do a marketing retreat, so you can be ready to go in January with a plan to see lots of new people in 2014.

First, do these work? A few years ago, we did a marketing plan around a very successful advisor’s 30th anniversary in the business. Prior to the marketing plan, he had two qualified, hot prospects in his pipeline. After the plan, he had over 50! Putting the effort into your marketing plan, can pay huge dividends if you do it right.

Second: Always start with the goals of the day. Here are some typical things we cover in our retreats:

  • Identifying the ideal or heavenly client

  • Identifying the ideal client’s pain points

  • How do you, as a firm, fix their pain?

  • Why do your favorite clients enjoy working with you?

  • Draft your compelling story

  • Draft an elevator statement

  • Draft a tagline

  • Create a 12-month plan of educational and social events to go after the ideal client

  • Address ancillary marketing efforts like newsletters and memberships in different groups

Yes, this is a lot to cover in one day. I remember one successful client firm that had over 20 million-dollar advisors—it took me three days just to draft their compelling story. If you can’t get this done in one day, then just add additional days until you cover all these items.

Third: I find these retreats are hard for advisors to do alone. They work best when you can get as many of your team involved as possible. If you don’t have a team now, then I would look to strategic partners, spouses or people at your broker-dealer to help. You will need someone to bounce your ideas off of. It helps to have a young intern there with a laptop to take notes. I also find these retreats work best when you are off-site and not distracted with the day-to-day of running an advisory business.

Fourth: Before the meeting, it helps to survey your top clients—the ones you want to clone. We have a few questions we like to ask, but the most important one is: “Please give us three reasons you like doing business with us.” One of the things we do in the retreat is to consolidate these responses into our compelling story. If they appeal to our favorite clients, the same services are likely to appeal to our ideal prospects.

Fifth: At the meeting, we kick off with our goals for marketing and new clients. I am always amazed at how few new clients will satisfy most advisors. Our most recent retreat guest only wanted 10 new business clients for all of next year. This is good news for us as the advisor to the advisor, because any marketing efforts should be able to help him accomplish his goals—they don’t even have to be great marketing efforts.

Compare that with the goal we have for our own practice: Two to three new clients per month—which of course, comes to 24 to 36 for next year. This has been more than doable for us. We are 28 months into our start from scratch in Rhode Island, and over 180 of our target clients have engaged us.

Sixth: Next we pull out my favorite 3M flip charts and do a bullet list of characteristics of favorite clients. Here is what our most recent retreat advisor told us:

  • Age: 40 to 70

  • Married

  • Have children, but they are old enough not to need a babysitter

  • Owns their own business

  • The business is in manufacturing, construction or real estate

  • Have between five and 100 employees

  • Have free cash flow of about $100,000 per year for investments

  • Have many needs including estate planning, asset protection and qualified plans.

Seventh: From here we identified the ideal clients’ biggest pain points. In his case he said it was:

  • Cash flow, cash reserves

  • Debt (how much, how to manage, how to eliminate)

  • Growth and costs (how much do they have to spend to get there)

  • Human resources (whom to hire, how to manage, cost, training)

  • Exit strategy, transition and valuation

  • Taxes

Eighth: This can be the most difficult part of the process—drafting a succinct but very compelling story on why your prospects will want to work with you to fix their pain. We start with the compelling story, then boil it down to two to three sentences for an elevator statement, and from there try for a three to four word tagline.

Ninth: Map out marketing plans for the next year. When doing this, I find it helpful to use a matrix that identifies what the activity is and who is invited. Some events will be open to all your clients, but some will only be open to the top clients, the ones you want to clone. We also like to track the “touches” per client and prospect.

The table above is what the first quarter might look like.

I learned a lesson from a very successful supervisor at Ameriprise. He coached over 100 of the firm’s top advisors. He did about 50 educational or social events per year! The focus was on making sure top clients and prospects came to at least two events per year. Advisors would invite people to the Super Bowl party in January. If the invitees couldn’t come, they’d soon get an invitation to an educational breakfast. If that didn’t work, next up was a basketball game. The coach didn’t quit until invitees had attended two events in a year. This is a great way to build close relationships with your best clients and prospects.

At the end of the retreat, make sure you have an action plan, with each activity assigned to someone on your team. Good luck with your marketing retreat. Let me know how it works for you.


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