Financial advisors wear a number of hats. Their main focus is helping their clients achieve financial goals. They help clients do this via advice on any number of financial planning related issues and with managing their investment portfolios.
On the other hand, being a financial advisor is a business. And like any business most need to bring on new clients in order to grow revenues and profits. It can be tough to manage both the delivery of advice and the need to market services. Firms looking to grow their business need to develop strategies to win business and grow bottom lines for 2015 and beyond. (For more, see: Management Tips from Top Financial Advisors.)
Focus on a Niche
Many advisors are finding that focusing on serving a particular client niche for all or part of their practices can prove to be a profitable choice. Niches can be defined broadly or more narrowly. A broad niche might be clients within 10-15 years of retirement. A more narrow niche might be working with recently single (via the death of a spouse or divorce) female clients who are age 50 or over. (For more, see: Financial Planners: Specialize in Seniors.)
The benefits of focusing on a niche is that advisors can become a recognized expert and potentially attract clients via word of mouth, referrals from other professionals as well as writing and speaking on topics relevant to this niche. Another benefit is the ability to replicate their knowledge and approach with many clients. This isn’t to say that clients should be treated in a cookie cutter fashion. Many of the issues clients within a given niche will face are similar and an advisor can develop their systems and processes accordingly. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Fill the Talent Gap.)
Selectively Add Clients
This might seem counterintuitive but adding clients who are not a good fit can really erode the profitability of a financial advisory firm. Focus on finding clients for whom you can provide the advice that they need and with whom you feel a connection. This doesn’t mean that you need to become their best friend but you also don’t want to get a sick feeling before every meeting with them either.
Charge What You're Worth
Clients should never be confused by how much and how they are paying their financial advisor. Fees buried inside of load mutual funds or products like annuities need to be fully disclosed. At the same time the advice and guidance provided by financial advisors has enormous value to their clients. You should charge a fair and fully transparent fee that reflects that value. Reducing fees may bring in some business initially but too much of this will put a crimp in your firm’s profits and may even lead to you feeling resentment towards clients who are not paying a fair price for your services. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Fight Shrinking Management Fees.)
Create a Game Plan
Just as financial advisors provide financial planning services to their clients to help them achieve their financial goals, they need a plan for their own business. A key element of this plan should include strategies for business development and overall growth. Whether the firm consists of a solo practitioner or a large group of advisors it is still a business and needs a growth plan. (For more, see: Growth Strategies for Financial Advisors.)
Cultivate an Online Presence
Many advisors have a solid online presence and are finding this is a help in landing new clients. Blogging and/or writing for the media are great ways for advisors to both establish an online presence and to position themselves as an authority in their field. Writing about topics such as investing, retirement planning, estate planning and others is a great way to showcase your knowledge.
Various studies have shown that many folks looking for a financial advisor do their research online. LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) is a social networking site designed primarily for business people. Having an up to date profile on this site allows perspective clients to find you and check you out as well. Flipping that around LinkedIn is a great place to gain some insight into prospects who have contacted you as well. Twitter Inc. (TWTR) is a great place to share information and to be found by folks interested in topics like investing and retirement planning. The task of managing these and other social media sites is manageable but can also be outsourced or delegated. Just make sure the voice is actually yours as potential clients will see through this if that is not the case. (For more, see: How Financial Advisors Are Leveraging Social Media.)
Networking and Referrals
Networking with other professionals such as an estate planning attorney and a tax professional is a great way to build a practice. Finding trusted professionals allows advisors to provide their clients with referrals to trusted colleagues when they have needs outside of the advisor’s areas of expertise. Ideally building a network of other like-minded professionals will result in referrals back to the advisor as well. A referral is a “warm” lead and can often lead to landing a new client.
Referrals from clients are always valuable in building your business. One way for advisors to make themselves referable is to provide their clients with outstanding service that they will want to tell their friends and business colleagues about. (For more, see: How to Be a Top Financial Advisor.)
It is also important to let your clients know that you appreciate their referrals and that this helps you to grow your business without spending excessive time on marketing. Stress that you would rather spend your time providing them and your other clients with advice and also increasing your professional knowledge via courses, attending seminars and the like.
The financial advisory business thrives on technology such as financial planning software, investment research tools and customer relationship management (CRM) systems to manage client relationships. All of these can make you more efficient and free up time for activities like growing your firm.
Technology also offers many tools to keep in front of your clients and your prospects. Email newsletters have been around for a while but still offer a great way to stay in touch. Contact management systems can be set to appropriate parameters to manage your contacts with existing clients, prospects and centers of influence. (For more, see: How Technology Helps Financial Advisors.)
The Bottom Line
Financial advisors who are looking to grow their businesses in 2015 and beyond need focus on marketing and business development and make it a priority. Some tools like social media and blogging are relatively new. Others like networking and becoming referable by providing existing clients with outstanding service are time tested. (For more, see: Tips for Advisors Who Want to Grow Their Practice.)