Is the key to growing your business narrowing your niche?
I know that sounds contradictory. And I know many advisors worry about the “Million-Dollar Prospect” who swipes past your firm because she's a pediatrician and you specialize in orthodontists.
But if you're one of 10 advisors in town that offer the same services, you have a 10% chance of winning a prospect. If your specialization, your marketing, and your values set you apart, then prospects who are drawn to your firm have a binary choice: you versus everyone else. Your 10% chance just skyrocketed to 50%!
My guest today, Samuel Deane, started with a pretty narrow niche: comprehensive planning for millennials working in tech. Then, Samuel zeroed in on a niche within his niche where Deane Financial Partners could establish a real competitive advantage and make a positive impact on communities across the country.
Due to advances in technology and the rise of centralized systems that limit privacy, the very nature of how we think about money and the government’s role in it is evolving.
The clearest manifestation of this is the rise of cryptocurrencies, of which bitcoin is the most prominent.
In today's conversation, we go back 5,000 years to explore the beginning of money and then trace how the way we think about money and how we distribute money has evolved over time. Along the way, we touch on gold, central banking, Modern Monetary Theory and yes, bitcoin. It’s a wild ride!
My objective in this episode is to give you some historical context that has led to the development of bitcoin and how it is being used today so you can speak more confidently to your clients when they ask about it.
My guest to discuss all this is Michael Casey. Michael is a true pathfinder. He spent over three decades in journalism including 18 years with Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. He's been in business and academia, and he has a real grasp on the big technological, geopolitical, economic, and social trends that impact businesses, communities and individuals.
Currently, he’s the chief content officer at CoinDesk.
In addition, he's the author of five highly acclaimed books including:
In a Nutshell: To stand out from all the fake news and clickbait cluttering your audience's inboxes, you have to produce content that's authentic, entertaining, interesting, and above all, human.
Guest: Brooke Southall, the founder of RIABiz. Back in 2009, Brooke built his online-only news publication on traditional journalistic values like using multiple sources and editorial analysis. Brooke and his team captured the rise of new models for providing client-first financial advice against the backdrop of Wall Street's decline during the Great Recession. Today, RIABiz is one of the go-to sources for deep, sophisticated analysis of the most important issues affecting the RIA business.
My Key Takeaways: To create engaging, authentic content:
Building one advisory firm with billions in AUM is hard enough. Joe Duran has done it twice, most recently selling United Capital to Goldman Sachs and becoming Head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management.
We had an insightful conversation about how he did it and what he sees for the future of financial advisors and for the advice they deliver.
In March 2020, Covid-19 lockdowns were starting, businesses were scrambling, and the markets were in a state of shock.
Despite all that, Creative Planning, Inc. had one of its best months ever.
According to President and CEO Peter Mallouk, his firm brought in $500 million in net new assets. Instead of panicking and trying to get their money out of the markets, Peter says many of his clients were giving him more money to manage – and sending more referrals as well.
The seeds that Peter’s firm planted many years ago led to his clients turning to the firm during a moment of unprecedented uncertainty. While great marketing will get you noticed, it’s the total client experience package that will get and keep clients as Peter’s firm has amply demonstrated.
Some advisors lament the chaos caused by Covid-19, but others realize there’s a tremendous opportunity to go on offense and see this as a time to reach out to people who need you now more than ever.
Covid-19 is teaching investors that there’s a big difference between auto depositing into a robo account and working with a professional who is sensitive to your unique life needs.
And, increasingly, people are willing to pay for that difference, if you can deliver it.
On a recent virtual event, Peter and I talked about how advisors at any level can develop the kind of five-star experience that underscores your value to existing clients, drives referrals, and protects your business from fee compression.
9 months of job interviews. 27 “No’s” from top advisory firms. 33,000 cold calls.
That’s all it took for Erin Scannell to open up his independent office and land his first client back in 1999.
Few people would have powered through that long, but as Erin Scannell explains on today’s podcast, he learned some hard lessons in perseverance and resilience growing up that continue to motivate him to this day.
Erin is the founder and CEO of Heritage Wealth Advisors in the Seattle area, where he directs 50 team members, 18 advisors, and about $2 billion in assets under management. Erin is also a regular on Barron’s list of the top advisors and an inspiration to anyone who thinks the next hurdle in your business’ growth is insurmountable – even if that hurdle is a global pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced financial advisors to shift the way you market your services. In person marketing and networking is severely restricted for the near future and if you want to succeed in this new world, you have to adapt to the new virtual reality.
Even before the pandemic, our industry was already making a shift towards digital marketing combined with digital events. Things like pay-per-click advertising, newsletters, podcasts, video, and virtual events like webinars, panels, and summits have been gaining steam for years. But now, the pandemic has accelerated that trend to light speed.
The most successful firms have jumped all over the virtual marketing trend and are crushing those firms who haven’t.
To help you succeed in virtual marketing, I hosted a virtual panel with two experts. Bill Keen is the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, which is an RIA in the greater Kansas City area with half a billion dollars in assets under management. Lisa Salvi is Vice President, Business Consulting and Field Experience at Charles Schwab, where she oversees the advisor consulting group and produces the industry’s gold standard annual benchmarking report.
In a Nutshell: There's no "silver bullet" marketing strategy that's going to turn your blogs and tweets into clients. But if you identify a niche and develop a consistent media presence that's appealing and engaging, you can reach your ideal clients where they're more likely to see and hear you.
Guest: Wes Moss, the chief investment strategist of Capital Investment Advisors, which is a multibillion-dollar RIA in Atlanta. Wes has been ranked as a top 100 independent advisor by Barron's. He's also the host of Money Matters, which is Atlanta's longest running live call-in radio show on investment and personal finance, a regular contributor to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the author of three books.
My Key Takeaway: To build your media presence:
In a Nutshell: It's human nature to want to be part of a community. Hosting and participating in live events is essential to maintaining a connection with your client and prospect base and to furthering your own personal development -- even during quarantine.
Guest: Alison Rooney, Global Managing Director, Wealth Management, Barron's Group. Alison's team oversees the underwriting, membership, and content development for all of Barron's live events, including over 20 conferences geared towards elite practitioners.
My Key Takeaway: To create memorable events that will benefit and grow your community:
In a Nutshell: Growing your business -- especially during a crisis -- depends less on your ability to manage money that it does on your ability to become an important part of your client's story.
Guests: Arthur Ambarik CFP® is the CEO of Perigon Wealth Management, which currently has $1.8 billion in AUM. Rachel Elson has recently transitioned from a career as a personal finance journalist to working as a Financial Planning Associate at Perigon.
My Key Takeaway: In order to make you and your services major players in your client's financial narrative:
1. Why Arthur and Rachel replaced traditional discovery summary letters with personalized financial narratives.
2. How your quality of service trumps your asset management when it comes to getting referrals and winning new business.
3. What Arthur has learned about balancing CEO-level responsibilities with client service responsibilities.
Recently I was a guest on the Better Conversations, Better Outcomes podcast presented by BMO Global Asset Management. Host Ben Jones and I discussed my 5-point framework for effective communication with clients during a crisis. I developed this framework based on the mistakes I saw some advisors make back in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). These advisors got hit with a double whammy of market declines and lost clients as they failed to effectively communicate with their clients as the GFC unfolded.
In a Nutshell: Silicon Valley unicorns make the billion-dollar headlines, but the true measure of an entrepreneur's success is how you align your business with your goals, your lifestyle, your values, and the impact you make in people's lives.
Guest: Author, journalist, and speaker David Sax. His new book, The Soul of an Entrepreneur: Work and Life Beyond the Startup Myth, approaches entrepreneurship from a broader, more personal, and more realistic perspective.
My Key Takeaway: To define success for yourself as an entrepreneur:
Seth Streeter is the CEO and founder of Mission Wealth, a leading wealth management company with more than $2.5 billion in assets under management. Seth was an early proponent of our industry's shift into Life-Centered Planning, and I could listen to him talk all day about how advisors can help folks redefine what wealth and happiness really mean.
Recently I heard an episode of the Wellness Revolutionaries podcast in which Mindbody co-founder Blake Beltram talked with Seth about this concept of redefining wealth. Their discussion was so insightful that I reached out to Blake, and he's been kind enough to let me share this episode here.
Some of the topics Blake and Seth cover include:
Thank you Blake and Seth for letting me post this episode.
In a Nutshell: Hard work, a deep love for his clients, and a niche working with retirees of a particular company led this advisor to the pinnacle of the profession.
Guest: Barron’s Hall of Famer Scott Tiras, President of Tiras Wealth Management, which is a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services. Scott has more than 30 years of experience as an advisor. Currently he manages around 700 family relationships and more than $1.5 billion in assets.
My Key Takeaway: To create an experience that makes clients feel like they’re your only client:
1. How Scott targets a local company niche with on-site workshops that demonstrate his expertise and lay the foundations for strong relationships.
2. How Scott leverages his team of 16 to support him and personalize the relationship building touches that keep his clients connected to the business.
3. What Scott does to build his brand and play an active role in his community so that he has a noticeable, positive presence.
In a Nutshell: A "wow" customer service experience meets clients needs, engages customers on terms that gel with their lifestyle, and creates genuine human connection. Hitting those check marks is what separates Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, Zappos, and the best financial advisory firms from the rest of the pack.
Guest: Joseph Michelli, a bestselling author, an international speaker, an organizational consultant, and one of the world's leading authorities on how to develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the customer experience.
My Key Takeaway: To give your clients a "Ritz-Carlton" advisory experience they'll be sure to tell their friends about:
1. Don't strive for excellent customer service. Seek perfection. The companies that try to deliver better service tomorrow than they did today are the ones that build the priceless brand loyalty that sets them apart from their competition.
2. Focus your client experience around addressing "peaks and pains." Find small ways to celebrate big wins with clients that your planning helped them achieve. Use your financial expertise and your human empathy to mitigate painful moments -- like, say, a sudden market downturn after a global virus outbreak.
3. Make the most out of every face-to-face interaction you have with a client. Your most effective marketing doesn't happen in Facebook ads or on a billboard. It happens when a client is in your office getting five-star treatment from the moment they walk in the door. You won't have to ask your clients for referrals -- you'll be earning them.
1. Why you wouldn't take a first date to McDonald's and what that says about good service vs. great hospitality.
2. How to integrate your tech stack with your advisory team to create elevated customer experiences on a consistent basis.
3. What Joseph Michelli learned about world-class customer service and team leadership from Howard Schultz, Airbnb, and Mercedes-Benz.
On this special bonus podcast episode, I'm doing something I've never done before: republishing someone else's podcast. I think you're really going to enjoy this episode of the Top Advisor Marketing Podcast, hosted by Matt Halloran and featuring guest Mitch Anthony.
This was a really fun listen for me because I go back a long way with both of these guys. Matt was one of the best coaches we had when I was running Peak Advisor Alliance. And Mitch is my business partner in ROL Advisor, our online platform that's helping advisors refocus the planning conversation on people's lives, not just their money. And that idea is at the heart of Mitch's conversation with Matt. They do a real deep dive into how advisors can use the discovery process to reveal the client's story and understand how significant life experiences have shaped the client's relationship to money.
In addition to discussing how ROL Advisor builds out that initial storytelling into an engaging client experience, Mitch and Matt also talk about:
A big thanks to Matt Halloran and the team at Top Advisor Marketing for letting me share this insightful conversation.
Where does the drive come from for top achievers who keep knocking it out of the park long past the point that many of us would have kicked up our feet and called it a career?
That question has fascinated me for decades and today's podcast guest, Laila Pence, CFP®, shared with me one of the most compelling stories I've ever heard about overcoming early life challenges to become one of the country's most successful and respected financial advisors.
As we talked at the Barron’s Teams Summit in Las Vegas, Laila also explained how her approach to overcoming some incredible personal hardships informed how she built her billion-dollar advisory firm with an intense focus on creating true, lasting relationships with her clients.
Laila Pence is the President of Pence Wealth Management, one of the nation’s leading private wealth management firms with over $1.0 billion in AUM. She’s currently ranked in the top 1% of female financial advisors nationwide and, in 2019, she was named among the top 6 female financial advisors in the country by Forbes, and the #38 top independent financial advisor nationally by Barron’s Magazine. Forbes also ranked Laila #1 on their Best-in-State Wealth Advisors List for Southern California in 2019.
In a Nutshell: All financial advisors deliver services and advice. The ones who are growing their businesses find creative ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace and attract a niche of clients they can offer the most value to.
Guest: Steve Wershing. Steve is the President of The Client Driven Practice and the author of Stop Asking for Referrals. He's also the cohost of a great podcast called Becoming Referable.
My Key Takeaway: To differentiate both your firm and your prospective client base:
1. Discover, design, develop, and declare your niche.
2. Craft a unique client experience that will cater to your ideal client.
3. Remember: a niche is a need that sets your clients apart, and a need that you are able to service in a unique way.
1. Why separating "target" from "niche" is essential to transforming your business.
2. How simple tweaks to things like your meeting calendar can have a big impact on your niche client experience and drive up your value to clients.
3. What kinds of dialogues you can have with clients that will lead to referrals ... without you having to ask for them.
In a Nutshell: Delivering great service is table stakes. Drive toward extraordinary by creating a unique, emotionally engaging experience for each individual client.
Guest: Julie Littlechild. Julie is a leading expert on the drivers of client engagement. She's also the cohost of the Becoming Referable podcast and the author of the book The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement.
My Key Takeaway: To create an engaging client experience that becomes a magnet for new ideal clients:
Be intentional about designing a discovery and planning process that engages your clients emotions and makes them feel more connected to you.
Focus less on a prospect's assets and more on how they view themselves, then deliver an experience that is tailor made for who they are.
Draw a distinction between service and hospitality ... and excel at both.
1. Why creating a client journey map should be an essential early step in thinking about your systems and services.
2. How to put your firm and its ideal clients to an "Authenticity Test" that will make you think about what you're really trying to accomplish as an advisor and as a business owner.
3. What it means for advisors and their clients to "co-create" a financial planning experience together.
In a Nutshell: In 2020, the most successful advisors have moved past worrying about "competing" with technology. Instead, they're finding ways to automate the 30 - 40% of the mundane tasks that are necessary for relationships but don't enhance them, so that they can focus on the human conversations that create real lasting value -- and more business.
Guest: Matt Reiner, CFP® CFA®, the cofounder and CEO of Benjamin, "the world’s first A.I. assistant created for advisors by advisors."
My Key Takeaway: Used properly, AI can do things human advisors don't need to be doing so that we can focus on things AI can't do, like:
Build better relationships with our clients.
Coach our clients on financial matters so that they make better decisions and feel more in control of their futures.
Help clients clarify what their money is for and live their best life possible today, not just in retirement.
1. Why you need to start thinking about technology -- and AI in particular -- as your partner, not your enemy.
2. How an AI platform can help keep your margins and expenses under control during a burst of high growth.
3. What nuts and bolts integration and training looks like when you decide to add an AI component to your tech stack.
A single word or a short phrase could permanently change your life.
When you were young, a teacher may have said something to you that forever altered how you viewed yourself—good or bad. Maybe a parent said something that still sticks with you today. Or perhaps a former boss made a comment that drives you nuts to this day—I’m in that boat!
In a similar way, this “My 3 Words” exercise I learned from Chris Brogan is designed to empower you with 3 words that drive your actions and keep you on track to make this your best year ever.
This is the sixth year now where I’ve begun the year by identifying 3 words that will set the course, give me direction, and totally excite me as I move through the year. I write these words at the top of my Daily Outcomes sheet and look at them daily throughout the year.
The premise is simple. Pick 3 words that motivate you, remind you, and guide you on your road to making 2020 your best year ever.
I encourage all my clients to do this and I encourage you to do this same exercise as it will help you stay focused on the most important outcomes for the year.
In a Nutshell: The largest financial advisory firms have developed consistent marketing programs that deliver a predictable stream of ideal clients...and there's just a handful of different ways to do it.
Guest: Brad Johnson. Brad is the Vice President of Advisor Development for Advisors Excel. He's also the host of a great podcast for financial advisors called The Elite Advisor Blueprint.
My Key Takeaway: To get your marketing machine humming:
- Understand that marketing is NOT optional. Referral marketing is not enough. Choose from a list of five broad marketing buckets (with an infinite number of tactical ways to execute), and implement aggressively and consistently.
- Marketing is math. Don't let your emotions distract you from the key numbers that will determine how and when a particular marketing initiative will pay off.
- Make practicing a practice. Once you identify the most effective marketing strategy for your ideal client pool, practice and pursue mastery of it.
1. Why strong marketing that keeps your business growing double digits each year is one of the most effective ways of retaining top talent.
2. How one well-produced piece of content (like a book) can be repurposed, sliced and diced, and become an evergreen source of more content (like blog posts, short videos, and social media posts).
3. What sets apart a valuable proprietary process from a generic commodity that prospects can get from any advisor.
In a Nutshell: Shifting from being a financial advisor to being a financial coach could be the next evolution of how financial guidance is delivered and enable independent human advisors to remain profitable and relevant.
Guest: Todd Tresidder. Todd is a former hedge fund manager who transitioned into a successful financial coaching career. Recently, he has adapted his coaching into a series of premium online courses on wealth building at Financial Mentor.
My Key Takeaway: In order to keep adding to your value proposition:
- Spend more time empowering clients and less on enabling them.
- Help your clients find the path to the next step, help them always be taking that next step, and help them avoid the missteps that are in their path.
- Consider getting formal training in how to coach people, from organizations like Coaches Training Institute.
1. How the act of gaining financial freedom doubles as a path to personal growth.
2. How a financial coach's services differ from a traditional financial advisor's.
3. What separates most people from setting their wealth goals and actually achieving them.
In a Nutshell: Clear career paths and offering a path to partnership and equity ownership are key ways to attract and retain next generation advisors and advisory firm leaders.
Guests: Lisa Salvi is Vice President of Advisor Services at Charles Schwab, where she oversees business consulting and education offerings, including their one-on-one consulting engagements, the annual RIA Benchmarking Study, and other programs that support the development of advisor talent.
Yonhee Gordon is a principal and Chief Operating Officer of JMG Financial Group just outside of Chicago, which has more than $3.0 billion in assets under management.
In a Nutshell: Whether you're writing website copy, sending email newsletters, social media posts, physical mailers, or a combination, you have to master the psychology of engagement to turn your prospects into clients and keep your business growing.
Guest: Adam Bensman. Adam is one of the top direct response copywriters and consultants in the country, and he has a particular expertise in helping financial advisors improve their marketing.
My Key Takeaway: If you want win more business from your copywriting, you need to craft a compelling offer that:
1. Why you should delete your glossy headshot from the top of your emails, open with an ellipsis (...), and always end with a PS.
2. How to address your prospect's pain by appealing to the "search trigger" that brought them to you in the first place.
3. What 4 quadrants Adam says your marketing needs to hit in order to set yourself apart and demonstrate your value to your audience.