What’s the Story?
So, you want to grow your advisory business—that much you know. But where should you begin? It all depends on where you are now and how quickly you want to achieve the growth you envision.
To help you get started, try one (or more!) of the actionable ideas below.
1) Set Business Goals
Conventional wisdom holds that having a plan for a goal makes it more likely you’ll achieve it. You work with clients to set goals every day, so why not take your own advice. What are some goals to consider? Fee-based assets under management, the number of referrals or introductions you receive, and production are all worthy goals to track.
Be sure to set both realistic and stretch goals. If you aren’t pushing yourself, you’ll never know your full potential.
Want to break free and take control of running your business? From prospecting strategies to real-life case studies, the Commonwealth Guide to Independence provides the tools to help put you in the driver’s seat on the road to freedom.
2) Track Revenue-Generating Activity
You’re busy. Which is why it’s important to keep track of the activities that regularly get you
in front of clients and prospects. Otherwise, the day could go by and you won’t have done
any business development activity. At Commonwealth, we recommend our advisors use the 20-point system.
Using this spreadsheet, you assign a point value to each activity and then keep track of when and where you get your points. If an activity is simple, such as asking for an introduction, perhaps that’s worth 1 point. A time-consuming client event, on the other hand, could be worth 5 points. You decide the point values, but the goal is to get at least 20 points a week. If you want to grow your advisory business more quickly, try for 30.
3) Develop Your Brand
Few advisors give their marketing and branding strategy the attention it deserves. What do people who don’t know you think about your practice? There’s a world of prospects out there, and they’re learning about you from your website, community activities, and social media. If you haven’t consciously thought about your brand and how to convey it, now’s the time to make it a priority.
4) Ask for Introductions (Not Referrals)
That’s right. Stop asking for referrals and start asking for personal introductions. According to the Oechsli Institute, today’s affluent don’t like being asked for a referral. Instead, when you identify a specific person in your client’s sphere of influence, approximately 80 percent will be happy to facilitate a personal introduction. LinkedIn makes this easy by enabling you to see who your top clients are connected with. This is also a great activity to track within the 20-point system.
5) Establish COI Relationships
Building strong relationships with centers of influence (COIs) helps expedite practice growth, particularly when you network with complementary professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, insurance agents, and private bankers. These professionals have trusted relationships with their clients, and their referral to an advisor carries a lot of weight.
The key to receiving referrals from your COIs is to be referable and memorable. The best way to accomplish this is to regularly interact with each COI to learn about their changing business needs and those of their clients—enabling you to match your skills with gaps in their services. To remain top of mind, schedule an annual virtual meet-up, send a quarterly email, or comment on social channels. Also, if you distribute a newsletter, ask your COI if they’d like to be included.
6) Identify Additional Assets
Generally, clients won’t just give you more money to invest; you have to ask for the business. You can’t just pull a Jerry McGuire and scream “show me the money,” but you can make sure you’re listening carefully and paying attention to the inflection points in clients’ lives. It helps to understand where additional assets might come from, so you are prepared to raise the topic at your next client meeting.
Special circumstances: An inheritance or the sale of a business or real estate
Money in motion: CDs, rollovers, and insurance proceeds
Life events: A marriage, divorce, retirement, or the birth of a child
Career events: Taking a new job or promotion or exercising stock options
7) Communicate More
Google “why clients leave their advisors” and the search results are likely to say something about a lack of regular communication.
But how often should you communicate with clients to both maintain and grow your advisory business? Research indicates that the optimal number of client touches is around 28 non-investment-related communications per year; routine business matters don’t count. If you send an economic update, that’s great, but that alone is not going to help you develop a strong relationship. What matters to clients are the personal touches—the prompt return of their phone calls, birthday and holiday greetings, and notes of congratulation when a child graduates from high school or college.
Most advisors don’t come anywhere near 28 touches, so start out simply aiming to do more. If you do 5 or 6, try to get to 10 or 12.
8) Leverage (Virtual) Events
Done right, time spent with clients and prospects helps create loyalty and goodwill and spurs introductions and referrals. In fact, the Oechsli Institute indicates that 85 percent of affluent investors are willing to introduce a friend to their advisor at a social function. So, it makes sense to get social with clients by hosting your own events and inviting clients and their friends. Of course, in-person events have been curtailed to a large degree by the ongoing pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get together—you just need to do so virtually.
For example, you might hold an exclusive cooking class or wine tasting via Zoom for some of your A clients and their friends. When you ship the ingredients or wine ahead of time to each participant, you’ll create an opportunity for conversation.
In addition to allowing clients to invite friends or colleagues, you’ll also want to make sure your event does one or more of the following:
Fosters meaningful relationships
Flows easily, including smooth transitions between speakers
Feels inviting (e.g., personalized welcomes and inclusion throughout the event)
Finally, make your event memorable so clients will post about it on their social channels, increasing your firm’s exposure as well as the likelihood that they will invite more friends to join them at the next one!
9) Rethink Your Website
If you’re like most people, before trying a new restaurant or making plans to see a movie, you turn to Google to learn more. Your prospects are likely doing the same—checking out your website and social media channels to learn more before contacting you, even if someone referred them to you.
To increase qualified leads, view your website from the perspective of the clients you want to attract. Start by addressing these key questions:
Who are the people you help? Be specific (e.g., newly divorced women or benefits managers).
What problems do you solve?
What should a prospect do? When a prospect enters your website, each page should have a clear call to action.
What is your niche expertise? It’s no longer enough to say you’re a financial advisor. Instead, identify the area you excel at, such as tax or education planning—making it obvious to a prospect needing a specific service that you’re the one to help them.
How would working with you help the prospect? Your ideal prospect wants to know how they benefit from doing business with you. If you don’t answer, they’ll likely keep searching for someone who does.
Your website should also be mobile friendly, including the ability to load quickly and be viewable on multiple devices. Finally, be sure to maintain a secure website by using the https standard, which helps minimize security breaches.
10) Enhance Your Marketing Efforts
Of course, your marketing efforts are interwoven with many of the items in this list—such as your branding, client events, and communications. When done effectively, marketing can help build your presence, highlight your capabilities and value, and keep you top of mind when prospects realize they need an advisor. What initiatives make sense for your firm, given your goals, size, staffing, and budget?
Take the First Step
It takes time and patience to generate meaningful growth, but by focusing on one or two ideas at a time, you can get the ball rolling in the right direction and build your organic growth strategy from there. All you need to do is take the first step. What are you waiting for?
What to read next:
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2019, but we’ve updated it to bring you more relevant and timely information.