(Orion CEO Eric Clarke wrote this a year ago. Still true.)
By this point in our remote-service reality, we should know which parts of our businesses are thriving, and which need help. Advisors who have recovered from the considerable shock of the past few months have devoted a lot of sweat equity to the problem areas of their practices. It’s a good start, but it is still only a start.
When someone adopts new technology, our advice has always been to go beyond replicating old workflows. New tools are a chance to look at the big picture and push natural limits. It’s time for advisors to be just as intentional about their businesses as a whole. How do your tools and resources come together to meet your business goals and give your clients the best possible service? It’s a hard question to ask in a volatile time when resources might be a little more scarce. But in my experience, the proven process of the advisor-client relationship makes a great blueprint to help any advisor optimize their work.
The advisor-client relationship isn’t just the core of what you do, it is a clear pattern that can be iterated on and improved. First, advisors look for prospects who need their help, people who will help their business grow in return. Then they work with those potential clients to build financial plans tailored to their financial goals. They execute on investment strategies in alignment with their financial plan in an effort to put them on the right path. Then they share their results, check to see if their clients’ needs have changed, and search for new opportunities. We have distilled the process into four broad stages: Prospect, Plan, Invest, and Achieve.
Each of these categories invites advisors to look at how their resources and priorities stack up to what their clients demand: a tech-enabled fiduciary process to strengthen client relationships and future proof their businesses.
Prospect: Many of our clients admit they struggle to promote their work as financial advisors. They became advisors to help people, not to be marketers. A lack of resources and experience only adds to the challenge of attracting prospects. Without a dedicated marketing team, third-party help, or purpose-built technology, you’re probably left cobbling together a marketing strategy between client appointments. In a remote-work world, that’s not enough. What can you do to connect your prospecting efforts directly to your planning capabilities? Do your campaigns spur prospects to act immediately, and can you capture and measure those first steps in a seamless client experience?
Plan: Here’s something we don’t talk about enough: is your planning process engaging? Not just effective, but actually enjoyable for your client? Too many of us want to be exhaustive in our planning approach, and just end up exhausting our clients instead. Your goal should be to have a plan for everyone you work with, to earn more wallet share and help your clients strive for financial independence. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see them logging more time in their planning tools than checking their balances and fretting over returns. But it’s a tall order if your planning does not speak to the reasons why your prospects came to you in the first place.
Invest: Effective investment management means more than walking clients through a questionnaire to establish risk tolerance. Do you find yourself having to justify to clients why their assets aren’t beating benchmarks and indices? Or have you built a rapport that lets you connect their investments to their specific goals and planning needs? You can’t get there without an arsenal of technology solutions that are not only accurate and efficient, but also connect the entire advisor-client relationship in an intuitive way.
Achieve: When I say “Achieve,” I mean bringing the entire process together and showing the results to your clients. Our industry does a poor job of telling clients exactly how we’ve helped them. To bridge this gap, advisors need to tie their reporting back to achieving a client’s planning goals. Business intelligence and analytics tied to the proven process of the advisor-client relationship allow you to follow through on the promises you made while prospecting. When these tools work in lockstep with the other three pillars, you’ll know… because you’ll be sharing the kind of success stories with clients that excite them enough to refer you to their friends.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. None of us are perfect, and none of us have operated under ideal conditions for the last few months. But the headwinds of this year challenged us like never before to invest wisely in our businesses. If advisors can find a way to seamlessly attract new clients; connect goals more meaningfully to investment strategies and outcomes; and ultimately track progress towards each investor’s unique definition of financial success, they’ll be in a great position to strengthen their client relationships, gain a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace, and build strong, profitable businesses.