Pablo Picasso said “Action is the foundational key to all success.” Yes, we all know that inaction builds nothing, and there is no question that implementing ideas is a critical ingredient to the success of your advisory practice. However, there is one caveat to the action imperative: You must make sure you’re taking the right action. As the late Jim Rohn shared: “If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.”
With these two ideas taken together, I think you see exactly where I am going. If you’re seeking to transform your practice, you not only need to take a lot of action, but you need to be sure that any action you do take is applied in the right direction.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer you six actions that I have taken in my practice that have had transformative effects on my ability to attract, serve, and retain my most valuable clients. They may not all apply directly to you, so take the time to consider which ones might work for your practice. Transformational Action # 1. Craft a Clear New Client Process
Do your prospective clients know exactly what to expect from you when you first meet? As advisors, we have to remember that revealing the details of one’s financial life to a stranger would be terrifying. Imagine what must be going through their minds: Will he judge me? Will she tell people how I’m doing financially? How will she even be able to help me?
By investing the time to craft a clear step-by-step process, your prospective clients gain the security of knowing what to expect when they meet with you. It allows them to anticipate the kinds of information they should prepare for you and what kind of outcome to expect – which ultimately makes them much more comfortable with you. This process also has the benefit of helping you prepare for a smooth discussion, allowing you to better reach your goal of helping to improve their situation.
Additionally, this can give you a one-up on your peers when your process becomes what you actually sell. With this approach, you don’t sell products or strategies; you sell a process and a methodology. It shapes all of your marketing as well as your client service once a person chooses you as their advisor. Before I developed our Four Dimension Review Process, I looked like any other salesperson. Now, I operate as other professionals do. If you don’t have a process, stop reading and begin building one. It’s that important to you and your clients. Transformational Action # 2. Offer Frequent Education Sessions
If you have ever purchased a new car or remodeled a kitchen, it’s likely that there was no end to the amount of information you could consume about the purchase. Brochures, trips to the showroom, discussions with friends, you name it. People who are considering choosing a new advisor are no different. By offering regular education sessions to prospective and current clients, you accomplish several very powerful objectives.
For one, they get to learn from you without being “sold.” This offers them context for their decisions and also builds their trust in you. After all, if you know your stuff well enough to teach it, wouldn’t you be a compelling choice to manage their life savings?
As a secondary and equally beneficial outcome, you now have a safe place for your best clients to invite their friends when the opportunity arises. One of your best clients has a friend who asks whether they are planning to claim Social Security at 62 or wait. “It’s funny you should ask. My financial advisor is hosting a Lunch & Learn on that very subject next Thursday. Why don’t you join me?” Transformational Action # 3. Develop a Client Service Brochure
Do you have great client service? Care to prove it? Consider developing a service brochure. Even if it’s just a single page, summarize the services you offer your clients and make this part of your first meeting agenda. For example, list all of the ways that you can be reached, including phone, email, and your various social media channels. If you offer a monthly newsletter, mention that as well as the weekly market commentaries, quarterly client social events and quarterly client progress reviews. You also want to list your team members’ contact information.
This has three key effects. First, this allows you to lay out clear service expectations that will surely impress a prospective client. Second, you create an accountability measure that will force you to continue to provide great service. Third, you address the questions your prospective client is thinking but too afraid to ask like “What happens to me if something happens to you? Who will handle my accounts?” Transformational Action # 4. Host Regular Client Social Events
Sometimes the best business is not all about business at all. Sometimes, it’s all about relationships. Planning fun and interactive client social events can be a great way to build deeper relationships with the families you serve. They’re also a great way to attract guests of your clients who may become clients themselves. By making it very clear that this is not a sales event, you bring the stress level down and create a very attractive environment for people to gather, meet one another, and build community.
Our firm hosts events each quarter that have been a lot of fun, invaluable to building relationships, and incredibly profitable. Clients, friends, and centers of influence invite guests who eventually become clients of our firm. One word of advice: hire a professional event planner and photographer. The cost is not outrageous and the effect is amazing. They can transform a room into a tropical retreat, a 50’s style drive-in theater, or a red carpet Hollywood event. Your clients will love it and you can use the imagery in countless ways around your office and in your marketing pieces to allow the events to live forever. Transformational Action # 5. Commit to a Print Newsletter
If you don’t have a newsletter for your firm, written by you, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Moreover, if you’re only communicating with clients by email and not regular mail, please reconsider. Remember, “Consistency equals trust.”
Clients want to know who you are, what you believe, and how you do what you do. When you consistently communicate the same message to your clients, they begin to trust what you have to say. Although there are many ways to communicate this, a regular, professionally designed newsletter arriving in the mailbox cannot be beat. Yes, email is cheaper and simpler, but showing up in print form ensures that your audience will at least give a glance to what you’ve written. In fact, I have visited the homes of clients to find copies of our newsletter on coffee tables, kitchen countertops, and yes, in bathrooms. The point is: when it’s in print, it lives a much longer life than an email.
One of the tests for the effectiveness of our newsletter is this: in some of my biggest meetings, with the most successful people we serve, clients have referenced and even quoted what I had written in the newsletter as they’re moving their hard-earned life savings to our care. This does not happen with an off-the-shelf done-for-you newsletter, it happens when you tell your story, in your voice, in print. Transformational Action # 6. Write Regularly
If you’re considering writing a monthly newsletter for your practice, authoring a blog, or possibly working on a book to be published, then you must schedule time to write. If you want to move the needle on your practice, writing about what you do is a great way to not only get the word out, but also to fine-tune your message and beliefs.
I once heard, and firmly believe, that clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. That is, being able to get your ideas about retirement planning out onto paper has the effect of giving you a deliverable to share, and it also forces you to become clearer about the value that you add. If you can write it, you can deliver it. By sitting down to write about the areas of your business that you’re passionate about, you become more and more effective in communicating your value to clients, current and future.
I have found the key is to schedule blocks of time to write without distraction. By treating writing as I would my best client, I create the routine of turning my planning beliefs and strategies into actionable content for clients and the world. In fact, that’s precisely why you’re reading this right now.
Each action I have chronicled, I have tried, tested, and made habit. Each action has proven to be very profitable on its own. When combined, these actions have the power to transform your daily routines, your message to and effectiveness with clients, and the trajectory of your business. Remember that action is key, but action taken in the right direction changes lives for the better.