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Walking the Client Demographic Tightrope

There are moments throughout my day as a financial adviser when I feel like a tightrope walker performing a delicate balancing act.

On one side, I have my baby boomer clientele who expect a high level of personalized service, one-on-one meetings, retirement planning advice and general counsel whenever it comes time to make an investment decision.

I’m comfortable working with these clients, who I’ve primarily served throughout my 28 years in financial planning. This demographic has also had a lifetime to build up investable assets and possesses a willingness and ability to compensate their adviser.

On the other side, I know I have to start catering my services to a younger clientele if I want to be in business 20 years from now. However, this demographic comes with an entirely different set of demands and expectations. For the most part, they’re less interested in face-to-face meetings, they are just starting out in their careers and possess minimal investable funds and they are quick to do their own research and make their own decisions. This is where the balancing act comes into play.

Advisers today are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’re comfortable serving their baby boomer clients, who also happen to be much more profitable than their younger counterparts. Yet over the next several decades, this generation is going to transfer more than $30 trillion in assets to their children, and our industry must begin to pivot our services in favor of a younger clientele if we wish to survive. However, while we know this demographic is the future, they do not exactly represent a profitable business opportunity today.

So what can we do? For starters, it’s important to remember that your career as a financial planner is a marathon, not a sprint. No one is advocating for you to completely revamp your business and cater exclusively to millennials. But here are a few steps every adviser should consider as they begin to reposition their practice for the great wealth transfer.

  1. Hire younger advisers with the wherewithal to understand and utilize the electronic forms of communication favored by Gen X and millennial investors today. These younger advisers not only bring a fresh perspective to your approach to financial planning, but will be able to counsel more senior advisers on new communication tools enabled by technology.
  2. Consider charging younger clients in a different fashion by utilizing consulting or hourly fees and establishing small account offerings with lower fee arrangements. Millennials specifically are not accustomed to paying a 1 percent management fee like your older clients, nor do they possess the level of investable assets to make this fee meaningful for the adviser. Get creative in your compensation structure, and find a way that serves both parties’ best interests.
  3. Partner with a broker/dealer that offer investments products with low minimums. These broker/dealer partners can also counsel your team on how to best put these products into the hands of your younger clients.

At the end of the day, the long-term financial needs of Gen X-ers and millennials are very similar to those of their parents, and in many ways the actual planning process will largely remain the same. However, reaching and interacting with this demographic will require a much different approach. Hang on to that balancing pole and continue to walk the tightrope. It will pay off in the end.

Beth Richardson
Beth A Richardson, CFP®, is a financial adviser at Maleta Wealth Management, a Kestra Financial-affiliated firm. She specializes in wealth management, concentrating in retirement and estate planning for senior corporate executives and high net worth individuals. 


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Your Service, Your Story, Your Value

A financial planning practice must be able to articulate and demonstrate a planner’s value, story, service menu and deliverables—these remain the most fundamental elements of your business. After all, if you can’t convey and verbalize what you do, how will you attract people to your business and grow? And, if you don’t consistently deliver your value, how will you retain clients and sustain success? As we enter the fall, it is a good time to go back to the basics.

How well can you—and every team member regardless of role—answer the following fundamental questions?

Positioning: Who are You?

  1. What is your identity as a business? How does your community perceive who you are and what you do?
  2. Do you go beyond your title and firm name when someone asks you what you do for a living?
  3. Do you have a differentiating and intriguing story? Does each team member articulate a cohesive message?

Purpose: Why Do You Do What You Do?

  1. Why are you in this business?
  2. What is your vision? What is the team’s vision?
  3. Where are you leading the team? Where are you leading your clients?

Proposition: What Do You Offer and to Whom?

  1. Can you delineate the solutionsservices and deliverables that you offer to each client segment?
  2. What problems do you solve and for whom?
  3. What is your reactive service strategy? What is included in your proactive service matrix?
  4. How do you define and delineate the ultimate client experience?

Price: How Much Do You Charge for Your Deliverables?

  1. Do you consistently execute on your pricing model or are there more exceptions than standards?
  2. How transparent are you with pricing? Do your clients understand what they are paying and what they are receiving for that fee?

Process: How Do You Do What You Do?

  1. What is your defined process for working with prospects and clients and do you consistently execute it?
  2. Do your prospects have clear expectations on what they will experience when working with your team?
  3. How efficient and systemized is your business?

Differential: What Makes You Different?

  1. Can each team member answer the question, “Why should I do business with you?”

We recommend that you schedule quarterly off-site team sessions to focus on the strategic side of your financial planning practice. You should reflect and identify successes and challenges, and then look ahead and plan for the future. The questions listed above are a starting point. Consider the strength of your value today and what changes may need to take place as you head into the future.

Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights, where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions.

 

 


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Seize the Summer with These 3 Growth Activities

Summertime can be a wonderful time to relax and recharge your batteries after a tough spring. But it can also be a great time to grow. Many advisers and their staff have excess capacity at this time of year, as clients are off on vacation. So, before you leave work early, stop and think about what a productive summer could mean for your business. You could be in high-growth mode come September instead of looking at a long list of tasks you need to complete before year-end. Here are three ways to help you get there.

Here are three growth activities you can do this summer:

1.) Connect with clients. Summer offers many opportunities to strengthen relationships with your best clients. Be sure to actively listen when clients talk about their vacation plans. If they are traveling to a particular destination, follow up with an article or item geared toward their trip. For example, clients going to a cooking school in France might love a whisk, along with a note saying you hope they whip up some wonderful summer memories. Clients heading to a national park might be thrilled to read a timely article on the “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Yellowstone.” These types of gestures could get clients talking about you, leading to introductions to potential new clients.

There’s another benefit to active listening: the ability to source names to follow up on at another time. Who is on the client’s tennis doubles team or golf foursome? Who will be at the lake house? Who’s coming to town for the family reunion? Be sure to add these names to your CRM system or database to keep your pipeline of prospects full and healthy.

2) Get to know clients’ families and friends. Are children, grandchildren or other relatives coming to town? Mention that you’d be delighted to meet them. Perhaps clients are hosting a barbecue you could attend. Or maybe there’s a Little League game in your area where you could watch their son or granddaughter pitch. Imagine their surprise and delight to find you in the bleachers, cheering on their young ones. And if you bring along a small cooler with popsicles or ice cream treats for after the game, you can quickly get introduced to a large number of players (and their parents) and make a great first impression. It’s a great way to turn clients into advocates for you.

3) Leverage community events. Many cities and towns hold free summer events that you can spin into your own unique entertainment offering. Invite clients to attend an outdoor movie in your community, and bring along blankets, popcorn, movie treats and soda to hand out. Or suggest clients come enjoy a band concert in the town square with you, and offer them wine and cheese while they relax to the music. (You’re likely to have clients introduce you to others, too, in a casual setting like this.)

Remember to take pictures (get permission, of course), and leverage the event even further by sharing those images on your website, blog or social media channels. The opportunity to delight your clients and meet potential new ones is all around you this time of year.

Make this summer fun—but make it matter to your business. When you prioritize connecting with clients, and getting to know their friends and families, you’ll create a pipeline full of prospects that can propel your business forward. And you’ll be well positioned to capture business leading into the end of the year.

Kristine_McManus_2_lg
Kristine McManus, is the chief business development officer of Commonwealth Financial Network.


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How to Get the Right Prospect to Your Event

It happens all the time. An adviser plans a high-end client appreciation dinner or wine event and spends weeks planning every aspect. The dinner menu, the flowers, the drinks, the guests to invite, the seating arrangements—everything is carefully thought through.

And since the adviser is a generous host, clients are invited to bring a guest. The adviser is casual about it but hopes clients will bring along a great prospect, perhaps an executive-level peer. And then the big night comes and the clients show up promptly, ready to have fun—with their 14-year-old daughter in tow.

That’s frustrating. Disappointing. And a missed opportunity! As the host of the event, it’s your job to make sure people know what to expect and whom they should bring to your gathering. It’s great that you want to meet new people, and your existing clients are wonderful sources of prospects for you. But rather than leave it up to clients to bring a friend, it’s far more effective if you can suggest an appropriate guest.

Listen for Name Drops

When you meet with clients, of course you listen closely as they talk about the people, places and activities that are important to them. But you should also be sure to ask questions, when appropriate, to learn more about their golf foursome, book club or brother who moved to town. Keep track of the names that come up in these conversations so that you have a ready pool of good candidates for your business and events. It’s easy from there to say something like the following:

“You mentioned recently that your tennis partner is a lot of fun. I’d be delighted to have her and her husband as my guests at the dinner as well.”

Hopefully, you’ll get to meet the prospect who would be a good fit for your firm (which you know because you’ve Googled her, just to make sure.) But even if that doesn’t happen, your clients will understand the type of person you’re looking to meet by the names you’ve brought up.

Look for Leads

In addition to your own research, you can leverage LinkedIn to find out whom your clients know. Simply visit their profile and click on “See Connections.” This list will quickly and easily give you some ideas of people to suggest your clients bring, and you’ll be able to learn some important details about these people—perhaps their involvement on a hospital board or a past job or charity work.

Hint, Hint

If all else fails, and you still want your clients to bring a prospect, try something simple, like this:

“I’d like this wine tasting to be as much fun as possible for you. As you know, we won’t be talking any business—this is purely for pleasure. Is there a friend, or a couple that you know, who also shares your passion for red wine? If you’d like to bring them along, I’m happy to welcome them. And you know you’ll have a great time.”

This should keep the 14-year-old daughter at home and hopefully open up the invite to a promising prospect. With these tips in mind, you’ll have more enjoyable events while growing your business at the same time.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Joni Youngwirth, managing principal, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, helps advisers develop the mindset and systems to grow their businesses to the next level.

 

Kristine_McManus_2_lg
Kristine McManus, chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, works with advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching.


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4 Questions to Attract More Clients

There are just four questions that every financial adviser must answer if they want to attract more clients. If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to more effectively communicate your message to prospects so that they will want to work with you.

No. 1: Who’s Your Ideal Client?

When advisers think about their business and how they help people, they tend to think the most about the services they provide. Things like the types of planning they offer, the investments and products they use for clients, the process they walk clients through, etc., but we rarely focus on defining who we serve.

The financial advisers that will survive and thrive over the long term will define their business not by the service they offer but by the people they serve.

They know exactly who their ideal client is.

No. 2: What Value Do You Provide?

You undoubtedly provide a lot of great advice to your clients. But what do your clients value the most? What’s most important to them?

Do they care about investment selection, the products, the process, your credentials, your years of experience or your past performance? I’m sure they do.

But there’s actually only one thing that your clients value above all else: their transformation.

They are seeking the positive change they experience by working with you. They want the end result. How do I know this? It’s because people buy the destination, not the plane ride.

What is the destination your clients are trying to get to? What’s the ideal end result you can help them achieve? This is the real value you give to clients and prospects.

No. 3: How Do You Clearly Communicate Your Value?

If you’re the greatest financial adviser in the world but you don’t know how to clearly communicate your value to ideal prospects, then you won’t be in business very long. If you cannot clearly communicate your value to people, nothing else you’re doing in your business really matters.

Many good advisers have failed because they didn’t know how to clearly communicate their value.

The best advisers are able to engage in a conversation with a complete stranger and within two minutes, that stranger fully understands how that adviser helps people. Even better, that stranger will have enough curiosity and excitement that they want to hear more from the adviser.

If you’re able to naturally start the conversation with people, you’ll have no trouble getting people in the door. And If you can communicate your value, you’ll have no problem getting people to become your clients.

No. 4: How Will You Consistently Attract and Acquire New Clients?

This is the most important question that advisers need to answer. It’s also the one most advisers have a hard time answering.

How do you find new clients? Most advisers rely on referrals to get new business. Some others still do seminars, lunches, cold calling and networking events. Those techniques are good but there are more and more advisers turning to newer ways of attracting prospects to them. Techniques such Linkedin referrals, Facebook ads, blogging and webinars are quickly growing in favor with advisers. This is because they are less expensive and more profitable than the “old school” ways of getting new clients. But there’s also a steep learning curve to these. You shouldn’t let that stop you from testing them out. When you find the technique that works for you, stick with it and focus all your energy there.

Take five minutes and try to answer these four questions. And be honest with yourself. If you’re having trouble with one of the questions, start exploring new ways to try and answer it. If you need ideas, download the accompanying guide to help you out.

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller, CFP®
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL


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Beta Testing Change in Your Ensemble Practice

I’ve spent decades consulting on practice management issues and had countless conversations with advisers wanting to make some sort of change in their practices. One adviser might want to hire a new employee to increase efficiency. Another might want to move into a new, more upscale office space. Yet another might want to bring other types of advisers into the practice, such as rainmakers or service advisers.

As the trend of shifting from a solo to a group or ensemble practice continues to gain steam in our industry, it’s important to realize some of the challenges going into partnership with other advisers can present.

Barriers to change

A partnership is a bit like a marriage. Your adviser partners come to the table with their own established values, perceptions and opinions. And just because one partner thinks a particular business change is a profoundly good idea, it doesn’t mean another partner (or partners) will share that belief. For example, say you think your firm should incorporate a formal business management process to help you target client acquisition and revenue goals. Your two partners disagree, arguing the following:

  • Why do we need to have a business plan? We know what we’re doing.
  • What’s the point of defining a niche? We’d have to turn down business.
  • There’s no need to create and stick to an ideal client profile.
  • Why is it important to track overhead? We can pay our bills just fine.
  • Documenting processes seems like a waste of time.
  • Who needs production goals? We’re earning enough.
  • Why do we need to create continuity agreements? None of us is going anywhere.

What do you do when you feel strongly about how to run the business more effectively and your partners put up barriers like these? Do you ignore the issue and simply learn to live with the status quo? Do you have a serious life-or-death discussion with them about the future of the firm? Or is there another option?

Beta testing change

Instead of giving up, or beating your head against a wall trying to convince others to see things your way, offer to implement the change you’re seeking in your own corner of the firm as a beta test. Of course, this requires your full commitment to the change. You’ll also need to develop a formal method for measuring the impact of the change you make. After an appropriate period of time, you can then share the results of your beta test with your partners and see if they’re now ready to agree with you.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to grow revenue. To do so, all new clients you take on have to meet your ideal client profile. You’ll want to calculate the return on this investment for your partners. You might also want to track how you help prospects who aren’t a good fit, particularly if your partners were adamant about not turning away any clients. The bigger the change you want to make, the longer it will take to document results, so try starting with a small change first, to make your point.

What is the value in this sort of beta test? You get to implement a change you believe in. You eliminate some of the frustration you were feeling. And everyone in the firm moves toward data-driven decision making.

Will this approach work in every situation? Probably not. But it can be a particularly effective technique for positioning specific changes to your partners. After all, results speak for themselves.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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Why Clients Choose You

Why would a prospect end up choosing you over another adviser?

There’s really only one thing that a prospect is looking for when they begin the conversation with you. If they believe you can provide it, it’s much more likely that they’ll become your client.

What Prospects AREN’T Buying

Despite what most advisers think, people aren’t working with them because of their:

  • Superior investment selection
  • Comprehensive financial plan
  • Account aggregation software
  • Years of experience
  • Credentials after their name, etc.

We’re all proud of those things and they play a role in the decision to work with you, but they’re not the reason people choose you over everyone else. Prospects aren’t buying the products or features you provide. They’re actually not buying the benefits either.

They’re Buying Transformation

The one thing that they are buying is the transformation that they believe they will get by working with you.

What do I mean by that? It doesn’t matter what people are buying. Whether it’s a candy bar or new car, we’re all looking for the same thing: we’re living in a current state and we want to move into a desired “after state.” We believe making the purchase i going to move us into that place we want to be.

Imagine what your prospect’s thinking. Why are they talking to you? Why are they looking for a financial adviser? I can definitely tell you that they’re not calling you because everything is perfect with their finances.

They’re calling you because they are discontent with some aspect of their financial life. They’re not completely happy with everything they’re doing. They have a problem that they don’t know how to solve and they may be frustrated, worried or confused. The fact is they’re looking for an adviser because they are in a place that’s less than ideal.

And that’s your ideal prospect. Why? Because you know that you have the solutions they’re looking for.

Where Do They Want Go?

If their existing state is discontentment, then they need to move into a place of contentment.

This is the entire value of your service business summed up in one sentence: you are helping people move from their before state to an ideal after state.

If you can clearly communicate this in a way that they understand, you’ll never have to sell anything ever again.

What’s The Next Step?

Take out a sheet of paper and write down answers to these questions.

  • Where are they now?
    1. What are their problems?
    2. Why are they looking for help?
    3. What’s their emotional state?
  • Where do they want to be?
    1. How will this change after working with you?
    2. What will they have?
    3. How will they feel?
    4. What will they leave behind?
    5. What kind of person do they want to become?

Once you’ve written these answers, you’ve taken the first step to discovering the transformation your ideal client is looking for. Start using these things you’ve discovered as you talk with prospects moving forward. Pay close attention as you talk about their desired “after state.”

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller, CFP®
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL