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 what you’re truly capable of.
2) Track Activity
You’re busy. Which is why it’s important to keep track of the activities that get you in front of clients and prospects on a regular basis. At Commonwealth, we recommend that 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 are learning about you from your website, community activities, client events, and social media. If you haven’t consciously thought about your brand and how you convey it, now is the time to make it a priority.
4) Work on Introductions and Referrals
Introductions and referrals are the number-one source of new clients for advisors, so you must become skilled in this area. Add a bullet point about referrals to client meeting agendas, and be sure you approach the topic from a position of strength. Isn’t someone better off working with you than with a wirehouse advisor locked into proprietary funds?
5) Establish COI Relationships
According to research from HS Grove, clients find their primary advisor through a center of influence (COI) 64 percent of the time. CPAs are the most frequently cited source of referrals, followed by attorneys, insurance agents, and private bankers. These professionals tend to have trusted relationships with their clients, and their referral to an advisor carries a lot of weight.
What pain points do your COIs experience? If you can identify where they need help, you will be better able to position your services. For example, few CPAs and attorneys offer retirement income planning services to their clients or run social security or college cost analyses. Remember the value you bring, and don’t be shy about discussing how you can be a great resource.
6) Ask for 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 are 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. Think about:
- Special circumstances, such as an inheritance or the sale of a business or real estate
- Ongoing money in motion, such as CDs, rollovers, and insurance proceeds
- Life events, such as a marriage, divorce, retirement, or the birth of a child
- Career events, such as taking a new job or promotion or exercising stock options
7) Communicate More
According to a post from Riskalyze citing research from Financial Advisor magazine, four out of the top five reasons clients leave their advisor are communication related. Conversely, research from Vanguard and Spectrem Group suggests that four of the top five reasons clients stay with their advisor are communication related.
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 per year. But here’s the catch—they need to be in addition to regular marketing communications. 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.
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 Events
Done right, social time spent with clients and prospects helps to create client loyalty and goodwill and spurs introductions and referrals. In fact, the Oechsli Institute indicates that affluent investors would introduce a friend to their advisor 84 percent of the time at a social function. So it makes sense to get social with clients out of the office.
What makes for a great client event? It should be something special that:
- Gets people talking about you and your firm
- Allows you to have at least 6 to 10 high-quality interactions with clients or prospects
- Fits in with your brand
- Is memorable (i.e., clients will post about it on Facebook!)
Ideally, it’s also an event that people want to bring friends or colleagues to. If you’re looking for ideas, check out this extensive list.
9) Rethink Your Website
If you’re like most people, before you try a new restaurant or make plans to see a movie, you turn to Google to learn more about it. You should assume prospects are doing the same—checking out your website or social media pages to learn more before contacting you, even if someone has referred them to you.
Try to look at your website from the perspective of the potential clients you want to attract. Does your site inspire prospects to reach out to you, or does it make them pause?
Your website is a critical component of your marketing and branding strategy, and it is well worth your time and energy to ensure that you have a great one. If you haven’t reviewed your website or updated it in the past two years, do it now.
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?
Taking 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 other strategies have helped you grow your firm? Have you focused on staffing or having a more active social media presence? Tell us what’s working for you!