As innovation gives rise to new products and delivery platforms, advisors face competition from low-cost robo-advisors and automated turnkey solutions. Advisors also are confronting a generation shift as baby boomers enter the drawdown phase and advisors must reach out to a new generation of clients with different needs and preferences.
In this environment, advisors who aren’t taking active steps to grow their businesses, gain market share and strengthen client relationships risk slipping behind. For advisors to survive in this competitive environment, they need to look for innovative ways to build their brand and communicate their unique value. They need to take a strategic, flexible approach that capitalizes on new technology and outsourcing opportunities to provide enhanced value to clients.
To put your business on a growth footing for 2018 and beyond, consider these best practices of top-performing advisors who have been successful in today’s changing environment:
1. Focus on client needs. Top-performing advisors are client-focused. They understand and address individual client needs. These advisors look beyond generalizations such as age or income level to explore clients’ individual goals, concerns and values. They communicate frequently with clients to review changes in their situation and to anticipate potential family or professional situations that may affect their long-term financial needs. They then use their in-depth understanding to select the right tools and options to meet their clients’ needs.
Consider scheduling “client rediscovery meetings.” Sit down with existing clients and revisit their goals and concerns and explore any changes since your last conversation. The focus of these meetings should be on conveying how much you value your clients, and how concerned you are about their well-being and success.
2. Offer solutions, not products. By focusing on client needs, rather than a list of products you want to promote, you may open up new ways to add value to your client relationships. By reviewing the needs of top-tier clients, you may discover opportunities to expand the products and services you provide. While broadening your practice to provide new types of insurance or financial planning may require additional education or certifications, it’s a relatively low risk to diversify your revenues.
To meet client needs, you might also build a network of other professionals who offer expertise or products you don’t. CPAs, estate attorneys, and insurance providers are obvious examples, but many advisors have found success forming relationships with other professionals who interact with people at key transitions in their lives. These might include marriage planners, realtors, mortgage lenders, funeral directors or elder care specialists. These relationships might be as simple as sharing business cards, or involve greater collaboration such as hosting joint marketing events or collaborating on brochures and checklists. By vetting and recommending other professionals, you not only strengthen your value proposition to your clients, you also tap new prospecting opportunities.
3. Commit to winning new clients. Successful advisors look for strategies to differentiate themselves, communicate their brands and encourage referrals from their top clients. Many advisors have found success by focusing their marketing and client development efforts on a particular niche. Consider focusing on medical professionals, small-business owners, socially conscious investors or a specific large employer in your community. Once you’ve decided on a niche, you can focus your business development and networking on building solutions targeted to this niche. You can also work to establish personal connections with these investors, while communicating how you’ve helped people like them in the past. Hold client appreciation events targeted to your unique client niche, and ask your clients to bring two colleagues. Become involved in your community, especially on boards or organizations where you might network with your target audience. You might also volunteer to be a subject matter expert in the media or at community events, helping to demonstrate your expertise and your social commitment.
4. Invest in your brand. To grow your business, you need to think of ways to differentiate yourself and to communicate this difference in compelling ways that focus on solutions for investors. The first is to think about what sets you apart. It may be your educational background, personal experience or professional network.
Once you’ve reflected on who you are and what you do well, the next step is to craft a story that tells people why you are the right person to help them meet their goals. In building your story, focus on personal touchpoints — clients you’ve helped in the past as well as experiences from your own life. This story should also let people know the kinds of clients you’re looking for.
5. Establish a dynamic digital presence. Successful advisors use a variety of platforms to engage their clients and communicate their brand, including email, social media and, critically, their website. An effective website must serve a number of functions. It should powerfully communicate your brand story and reaffirm your value proposition to your clients. It should also provide your clients with a way to view and make changes to their accounts, and learn about additional products and services you offer while communicating your expertise in key subject areas.
A website is an important tool for drawing prospects to your business through “inbound marketing.” The idea is to use your site to distribute free content and tools as a way to draw visitors and boost engagement. This content might include educational articles, market updates, blog posts or recorded webinars, as well as videos. By offering complimentary content, you not only build goodwill with your clients and prospects, you also help to build awareness of your unique expertise. Look for ways to make your content timely, and refresh it regularly to encourage frequent return visits. You can use email blasts or social media links to alert your contacts about new content.
6. Target the next gen. The next generation of investors will be important sources of business and assets as baby boomers enter the drawdown phase. To build relationships with these investors, advisors must provide both advanced technology solutions and exceptional client service. They also should explore hybrid options that combine collaborative, personalized advice with an orchestrated mix of outsourced solutions.
Because younger investors are more likely to take a do-it-yourself or automated approach to investing, they often first turn to a financial advisor to address a particular need, such as starting a college savings plan. Advisors who can establish a relationship with these clients through fee-based solutions and referral services can potentially forge a beneficial long-term relationship.
While younger investors may be valuable sources of fee-based income, they may fall below your current assets under management requirements. For this reason, you may consider a “minimum fee” screen as an alternative to a “minimum AUM” threshold. You might also consider unbundling services or instituting tiered pricing to help you compete for younger investors who may be a fruitful source of fee-based income.
With cost pressures, increasing competition, enhanced regulatory requirements and evolving client preferences, 2018 will likely be a pivotal year for your business. Despite these challenges, 2018 will provide exciting opportunities for proactive advisors who are flexible, visionary, and focused on using technology and integrated solutions to win new clients and grow their businesses.