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Quote of the week

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller (from the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

How to make the critical 20% work for your business

The Pareto Principle, that 80% of the wealth of any country is enjoyed by just 20% of the population, is a widely used business yardstick and with good reason. In our dealings with advisory business, we see so many examples of the 80/20 rule in evidence. Most common of those is that 80% of a typical advisers revenues come from just 20% of their clients.

Even if you use a different measure such as profitability, expected lifetime value, or even how fulfilling they are to deal with, the same principle tends to apply.

Often when we help clients to segment their client list, the first light bulb that goes on is the fact that they aren’t spending 80% of their time with the 20% of clients who are generating 80% of their revenue. This in itself then opens up the wider debate about how they spend their time each day. Is it spent on the crucial 20% of the activities that generate 80% of their results, or on the 80% “low value/return” activities that generate the square root of diddly squat!

Have you ever done that analysis?

In a small business, I accept that many of the low value/return activities need to be done just to keep the business going, but my argument is that they shouldn’t be done by you. I’d suggest you have 4 options for dealing with these low value activities;

  1. Just stop doing them (if they aren’t critical)
  2. Defer them till later (and maybe then you’ll see just how unimportant they are)
  3. Delegate them to someone else in the business (even if that means hiring additional people)
  4. Outsource them

Using the time freed up to focus on the critical 20% high value activities has the potential to transform your results. And it is a choice. You can take control of the success of your business by being ruthless about managing the low value activities such as

  • managing your emails (particularly dealing with spam/irrelevant emails)
  • writing standard letters and reports
  • signing for deliveries
  • ordering stationery
  • answering the phone (without it being screened first)
  • seeing provider representatives!
  • uploading/entering data onto back office or cash-flow modelling software

and spending the time freed up to focus on the critical 20% activities such as

  • client meetings and contact
  • seeking more client referrals from delighted top end clients
  • marketing your business more effectively
  • networking with other professionals and centres of influence
  • turning client complaints into an opportunity to delight them
  • strategic planning
  • improving operational performance (such as client on-boarding and regular reviews)

Take a long hard look at the way you spend your time and try to identify the low value activities that you need to avoid/defer/delegate and refocus that time on the critical 20% activities. Then watch your results take off.


Quote of the week

People begin to become successful the minute they decide to be.

Harvey Mackay

4 guaranteed ways to lose clients

Whilst many advisory firms benefit from very low levels of client attrition, others would acknowledge that hanging on to high value, profitable clients has, in these volatile market conditions, been more challenging than it should be, so I thought it might be useful to look at the key reasons clients leave. Research consistently suggests that the two principle causes of client dissatisfaction (and hence defection) are poor service and poor communication. Whilst losing certain clients (overly demanding, unprofitable, unappreciative, “difficult”) might be seen as a bit of a result, on the whole, client retention is a key driver of profitability.

So, what are the 4 most effective ways to lose clients;

Ignore them.

Whether that’s in person, by email or over the phone, if you don’t constantly and consistently acknowledge that they exist, they’ll walk… eventually. I read the other day that some retailers impose a “10 Foot Rule” that requires customers to be acknowledged by staff if they are within 10 feet. Find ways to keep in touch and make sure your phones are answered quickly and enthusiastically.

Make it difficult to do business with you.

Being difficult to get hold of, being unresponsive or taking too much time to get back to clients are guaranteed to undermine their trust in you. Such behaviour suggests (even if it’s not true) that you just don’t care. Particularly in todays culture of “immediate expectation”. Don’t make clients have to work hard when they interact with you. I recently tried to move a reasonable amount of cash to a new bank. Having completed the application, I had a couple of questions. Finding someone who could answer them was incredibly difficult and when I did they asked me to keep a note of the date I posted the application “in case it went astray!” The completed application went in the bin, not the post!

Break your promises.

Be reliable. Being reliable is the quickest way to build trust, so if you say you’ll do something, do it. And do it in the agreed timescale. All the time, every time, no excuses.

Don’t listen to them.

It’s commercial suicide not to listen to what your customers are telling you. Whether that’s listening to what they say they want/need, listening to what they have to say about your service or your business. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Be proactive. Find ways to engage with clients formally and informally and ask them for their feedback and ideas. They’ll be delighted you asked. Make sure however that you respond to what they say. Use the feedback to make changes to your proposition or the way you deliver your service.

What are your tips for avoiding client defections?

Quote of the week

Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that, whatever you do doesn’t matter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

7 steps to a successful marketing plan

Marketing is the process of deliberately creating and maintaining relationships with clients and prospects. It’s about creating awareness that you exist, generating interest in what you have to offer – your proposition, creating demand for your proposition and encouraging prospective clients to take action – that is, purchase from you. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Why then do so many businesses fail to reach their full potential?

Many adviser businesses we come across are massively busy running flat out with an endless list of tasks from trying to keep on top of servicing clients to making fund recommendations, from managing their accounts to managing and developing staff, not to mention trying to grow their business and income – primarily by attracting new clients. Many though have no clear marketing strategy or plan. Much of their marketing activity is sporadic, ill thought through and poorly targeted. Marketing is very often an afterthought which is only given real focus when there is a need to generate revenue quickly.

Many advisers start “marketing” and don’t sustain the activity, either because other priorities come along or they feel their marketing isn’t working. Marketing is an ongoing methodical process and it takes time – you can’t expect instant results. It’s a bit like farming…you need to understand what fields will grow what crops, you need to then plough, sow and tend the fields before you can harvest the crops. Marketing isn’t a sporadic activity; marketing is core pillar of successful business – just like HR, finance and operations.

Marketing your business effectively can be the difference between success and failure. Looking at successful businesses across all industries marketing done well can separate the winners from the losers: those that survive over those that fail; businesses that are highly profitable from ones that are marginal. Marketing is about developing your business in a sustained and orderly fashion. It’s about having a vision for your business with clear objectives of what you would like to achieve and by when.

To successfully achieve your business vision you must follow the marketing planning process. The marketing plan helps overcome major stumbling blocks and forces the business to think about how and where it adds value.

There are a few keys to building and executing a successful marketing plan:

  1. Set your business vision – be clear on your objectives and when you want to deliver. Without a clear business vision and objectives you will meander aimlessly, achieving nothing outstanding and certainly punching below your weight.
  2. You need to be clear of what it is you have to offer – your proposition; recognising that your business exists solely for the purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of your clients, not just to make money for you.
  3. A core part of any marketing plan is defining and understanding your target audience – your clients or prospective clients. In our last article we covered niche marketing: one size doesn’t fit all and with the best will in the world you will never be able to service all clients profitably. As you are aiming to run a profitable business you must segment your clients and deliver an outstanding, valuable proposition to the profitable niche that you’re targeting.
  4. You must communicate your proposition – what is the positive difference you will make to clients lives? Communicate in a clear and compelling way. Develop key messages that can be consistently woven through all your communications – or marketing – that builds a picture in clients’ minds of what value you can add to them and their families.
  5. Build a runway of activity. Remember, inconsistent effort doesn’t usually deliver anything like the rewards of consistent effort. Think about what you are going to say – your content – and when you will deliver that content. Your marketing efforts need to be drip fed out consistently and in a timely way to keep you at the front of your clients’ (or potential client’s) minds.
  6. Execute your plan with precision. You must think about the marketing channels you will use to take your message to market. Whatever they are, your marketing must be well presented, relevant and interesting to your audience – otherwise you’ll lose them, you’ll waste time and money and leave clients’ less than impressed.
  7. Measure. Understand what works and doesn’t work. Learn all the time and refine your marketing next time round. Nothing is ever perfect; there is always room to be better. Only through measurement will you know what you could change to improve next time.

Above all, once you have clients in front of you deliver what you have promised to deliver. You don’t need the utopia proposition but you must meet and exceed client expectations at every stage of their journey with you.

Quote of the week

I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result.

Michael Jordan

Top 4 brand building strategies

An effective brand building strategy will help you improve your reputation, increase your “relevance” and increase your visibility to your target clients.

Here are the top five strategies for effectively increasing the strength of your brand.

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing involves providing a steady stream of useful information to potential clients or influencers. Think educational rather than promotional. It addresses relevance, reputation and visibility.

2. Build your profile as an expert

Many firms have experts, but few of them go on to become well known and influential among their target client group. By deliberately developing one or more high-profile experts, a firm can dramatically increase the power of its brand.

3. Cultivate prestigious partners

Partnering with prominent organizations to take on important projects is another proven strategy for building your brand.

By partnering, we are not talking about sponsoring events. While sponsorships are frequently thought of as a brand building strategy, they can be more costly and less effective than a project partnership.

4. Seek high profile clients and case studies

For example, some advisory firms have developed an enviable reputation with sports personalities, actors or celebrity clients. But if you systematically seek out high profile clients and invest in producing dramatic results that can be widely shared, that’s a great brand building strategy.

Of course, everyone wants prestigious clients and great results. But surprisingly few firms do the planning and investment to turn that desire into reality.

Build your brand and you will build your business. But remember, no strategy is effective unless it’s implemented.

Quote of the week

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, “Always do what you are afraid to do”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

5 Keys to a successful brand

A successful brand will deliver the kind of results you would expect from a market leader, such as…

  • High frequency of referred clients
  • High level of self-initiated contacts from potential clients
  • A high closing percentage
  • Few competitive bid situations
  • Premium fees

There are, of course, other ways a strong brand impacts an advisory firm. For example, recruiting new employees is easier, publicity comes readily and third-party recommendations are plentiful.

All of these factors make it more likely that firms with strong brands will succeed and prosper. Let’s now turn to what drives that brand success.

What Makes a Brand Successful?
There are five key factors that drive brand success.

1. A well-defined target audience
While it’s tempting to think of your firm’s visibility as universally important, it’s not the primary factor. It’s far more important to have a clearly defined and well-understood target market. To be meaningful, a brand must be “for someone.” No brand can try to be everything for everyone and hope to be successful.

2. An excellent reputation
A lot of firms have very good reputations. That’s a great starting place. But to be a really successful brand, the reputation must not be simply good, it must be great. Everyone must view the firm in a favorable light.

3. Relevance to the success of the target audience
Your firm must also be seen as being relevant to the success of your client. It’s not enough to be nice people or even knowledgeable and helpful. Those fall into the “nice-to-have” category. The real driver of a successful brand is your ability to make your clients successful. You aren’t just a bystander; you are a contributor to your clients’ success.

4. High visibility
Are you widely known to your target audience? Are they aware that you not only exist but that you are also relevant to your clients’ success? Are they also aware of your reputation?
This is particularly a problem when you have too many target audiences. It’s hard to reach everyone in multiple target audiences at the same time — and with sufficient visibility to make you successful.

5. A premium position
You can have all of the criteria mentioned above and still fall short of your potential. To be truly successful, a brand must have something of a premium position. Without a premium brand perception, your firm will not be in a position to command premium fees. While you can achieve a lot of success as an average priced firm, there are limits. If you don’t charge a premium, people may start asking questions. What’s wrong with your firm? If you really are that good, you should command a premium. After all, that’s what the most successful brands do.

How successful is your brand?

How does your firm stack up against these 5 keys to success?