Every business wants to grow. A growing business is typically a healthy business. With growth comes increased resources and opportunity, which then leads to more growth. The cycle goes on and on. The same is true for stagnation. Stagnation tends to create hurdles that can threaten your business, such as limited cashflows.
But we know that growth in our business doesn’t come easy.
Advisory businesses tend to look a lot alike. Between similar product offerings and our regulatory environment, which limits marketing strategy, it’s easy to feel like differentiation is only attainable by the firms with deep pockets – those that can afford state-of-the-art technologies (i.e. slick client portals, automated marketing programs, and even more robust website experiences).
Well I’ve got good news. You can differentiate with the resources available to you, today.
How do I know? Because my firm did it. We have more than $1 billion is assets under management and advisement – with a total of seven employees, and I think it’s fair to say, not the most robust technology environment in the market (we JUST modernized our website, in 2021).
Rather, we have focused on making ourselves available anytime of the day. I have mentioned and encouraged advisors for years to pick up the phone to call me on my direct dial phone line. Many times, advisors tell me that they are surprised that I do answer that phone line personally. I have always felt that it is important for advisors to get their questions answer quickly, so in turn you can get back with your clients with fresh and current information. How often can you call the President of an advisory firm and actually reach him?
And that’s exactly what we attribute our success to: a cultural focus on better client experiences.
To create a cultural focus on better client experiences, we follow these three key strategies. It’s worked for us as a hybrid boutique advisory/strategist firm, and it can work for your firm as well.
Strategy 1 - Forget About Growth
You read that right… forget about growth. Growth is a biproduct of a solid service and client experience.
And that’s the first key. To maximize your firm growth I think it’s extremely important to put your focus on your product, which is a service experience (and to some degree, portfolio performance). Performance can be solved by partnering with reputable investment strategists. The accessibility and mass adoption of outsourced investment management have made that part of the equation more straightforward.
The more difficult task is crafting a truly great client experience. Differentiation comes from looking different. Think about the advisor down the street. Does the client experience you provide really look different?
Putting most of your time and energy into creating a truly great client experience does a few things. First, it changes the culture of your firm. When the leader of the firm is laser focused on clients, the associates within that business tend to follow suit. This only enhances the client experience further.
The second thing this does is solve the referral conundrum advisors face today. We know that referral business is probably the most efficient growth strategy available to us. But getting referrals is really difficult. That’s because there’s no shortcut. Like growth, referrals are a byproduct of value delivered to your clients.
Think about the last truly excellent product or service you received? Did you tell someone about it? I know I did.
What about the last mediocre product? Odds are you didn’t spread the word. The same applies to our business. Asking for referrals is great, but that marketing effort won’t pan out unless it’s preceded by remarkable value.
In our market, I see technology being used more and more as a differentiator. I think technology can help. Your ability to engage with clients and prospects, deliver intuitive experiences, and create conveniences in their investment journey is beneficial. But that’s all secondary to the core experience.
Start with the experience, and then build on it with the bells and whistles.
Strategy 2 - Make Yourself Accessible
An extension of the first strategy, accessibility has proved essential to our firm’s success. But accessibility is easier said than done.
A lot goes into managing and growing an advisory business. You’ve undoubtedly found yourself juggling things like:
- Prospecting for new clients
- Meeting with current clients
- Managing client accounts
- Reading (and reading and reading) on industry trends and developments
- Directing your team
- Staying on top of your business’s finances
The list could go on, but the gist is advisors are busy. We don’t clock in to do a single job. We manage a host of challenges for our business, our clients, and our teams. But within that, it’s imperative to find the time to make ourselves accessible to client—particularly if you are the face of your business.
Investing is inherently scary for most clients. They aren’t financial experts, and the money in their portfolios is invaluable to their long-term financial success. That marriage of uncertainty and significance can yield fear and anxiety. And that’s what causes client turnover—when client emotions go unchecked and they feel uncared for.
Here are a few strategies to consider to increase your accessibility, and in turn, client comfort and loyalty.
1) Find efficiencies that don’t reduce your core value (guidance) – We are of course biased, but outsourced investment management can be greatly beneficial to your daily workload. Using strategically selected strategist partners to fulfill your daily investment management function delivers greater focus within your portfolio, while freeing you to pursue other business-building activities, like meeting with clients. And an additional, oft-overlooked benefit is the support and knowledge available through your investment partners (click here to read more about how to use strategist partners to improve client experiences). Your strategist partners can support your portfolio design process, client meetings, and even prospecting efforts.
2) Build a team that enables you to focus on clients – This will look different for a lot of firms, but the general idea is that you need to be responsive to client inquiries. Where do you get bogged down? Portfolio oversight? Prospecting? Back office work? Identify your roadblocks and consider expanding your team to solve for them.
3) Block off time to return calls, and more importantly, proactively reach out to clients – It’s no secret that managing clients takes time. Finding the time to do this, especially proactively, can be difficult. That’s why I think it’s important to build this time into your daily calendar. Making proactive client outreach a formal priority is a great way to ensure client challenges don’t fall through the cracks. Start with an hour per day, and evaluate the impact on your business. Increase or decrease the time block as necessary.
Strategy 3 – Be
Our industry loves talking about the importance of transparency. Whether in our fees, our performance, or our service offering—it’s important to be transparent.
I think we can take that a step further. Don’t seek to be transparent. Rather, seek to be human. That sounds silly and even feels silly to type, but when we it comes to work, I think it’s easy to over-formalize things. We feel everything has to be perfect, from our portfolio performance to our market commentaries and investing insights. I think we set an expectation for ourselves that can’t be met, and inadvertently create barriers that can hurt our client experience.
Transparency is a component of this strategy, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. Absolutely be upfront about your fee structure. Absolutely be upfront about your performance. But also, but upfront about who you are, why you’re in the business, and how you can help clients. And don’t shy away from honest discussions about what you can and can’t do for clients. They say honesty is the best policy. I think it’s the best business strategy as well.
When clients experience a service where everyone is honest, accountable, and upfront, I think comfortability and loyalty come natural.
The fact of the matter is we do live in a digital age. Technology is of course important to advisory businesses today. But I think it should be a complementary focus, one that supports your core value proposition.
A growing business is a healthy businesses. That saying works in reverse as well. Make your business healthy by creating an awesome client experience. Growth will follow!
Advanced Asset Management Advisors (AAMA) is an independent, fee-based investment strategist with a simple mission of creating a better client investing experience. Interested in learning more about our portfolios, and how we might be able to collaborate in pursuit of a stronger client experience? Contact us today. We’d love to speak with you.
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