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End the Year with a Plan for the Next Decade

The year's almost over, but don't slow down now.

Helen Modly, 10/15/2009

September's statements have just hit the mailboxes. For the first time in many, many months your clients have quit holding their breath. It would be natural for advisors to ease off and take a well deserved break from the stress, but don't. You have less than three months to prepare for next year.

Many of us are happy to be back to the asset levels we had last January, but that means we have essentially seen a full year of no growth. Preserving our current client relationships has been such an energy drain that many advisors haven't looked at their marketing plans since early this year. Amid the throes of this year's meltdown and partial recovery, where are you in terms of marketing initiatives for 2010 and beyond?

It Has Already Started Raining, Where is Your Bucket?
Those investors who fled earlier this year are already tip-toeing back into equities. Some have completely rebuilt their portfolios, while others might still be on the sidelines. The news headlines are becoming sprinkled with more and more positive economic news. The sense of paralysis seems to be lifting. Investors may not want as high of an equity exposure as they once had, but they are beginning to realize that hiding in cash in not a long-term alternative.

Couple this nascent optimism with the number of advisors changing firms, exiting the business altogether, or just proving themselves unworthy and it is a good guess that a lot of money will soon be in motion. If the market dips in the next few weeks, those who feel they've already missed out will be tempted to buy in on a dip. If it continues to go up, those too fearful to get in yet, will begin to be fearful of staying out. In either case, investors are looking for a new home. Your challenge is two-fold. Make sure none of your clients feel the need to leave, and help those that are looking to find you.

Back to the Basics
Spend the next few weeks reconnecting with those clients who have referred you new business in the past. Even clients who have seen their balances drop significantly are feeling a bit more positive. Now is the time to reinforce your value and offer to help their friends and family. Hopefully, you have always been tracking those other professionals that refer clients to you. Be sure you take time to thank them and ask the new clients to take a moment and express their gratitude to the referrer.

While you are thanking these kind folks, it is an easy jump to suggest a name for an introduction. If you are prepared, you will have already come up with someone they are likely to know. If not, you can always suggest a name from the marquee board in the office lobby.
An easy way to accomplish these introductions is ask the referrer to e-mail you and the prospect and suggest that the two of you get to know each other. The very best way to get other professionals comfortable with virtual introductions is to send a few their way. Whenever I can, I try to connect people in my networks together. I send them an e-mail with "virtual introduction" as the subject, and it looks something like this:

Dear (Name of estate planning attorney):
This is a virtual introduction to a very bright, very accomplished trust officer at ABC bank. Her Name is located in Your Town and was bemoaning the absence of any really good estate planning attorneys in town. Naturally, I told her about you. She is only a couple of blocks away and the two of you really should get to know each other.

Weaving Networks on the Web
Speaking of virtual, are you really using the Internet to promote your business? Have you entered the foreign world of social networking? Facebook is not just for your kids. In the six months from July 2008 to January 2009, Facebook users in the 34-55 age group went from 1.8 million to just more than 7 million. Linkedin is quickly becoming THE professional networking site. I prefer LinkedIn to Facebook since it is much more professional-oriented. I invite my clients to join my networks. Do you realize that most people on LinkedIn allow you to see their contacts? Some of our more progressive colleagues have 500 or more contacts on their page. If that doesn't provide some ideas for potential referrals, you are missing the boat.

Attorneys and accountants are even finding their way onto LinkedIn. If they can market on the Web, surely you can. There are compliance issues, but they are not insurmountable. The most important is not to let any testimonials creep onto your page. Oh, did I mention that having a Linkedin page almost guarantees you'll have first-page search results on Google?

And then there is Twitter. Essentially, tweets are short, 140-character text messages you post on your Twitter page. Anyone searching for a keyword, name or subject matter can find your message. If they like it, they may check a box to "follow" you. As you post updated content, such as a new blog post on your Web site, or a speaking engagement, etc., they'll get your tweet.

Of all the exposure you can get on the web, a well placed, well written, continuously updated blog is probably the most valuable. You can easily add a blog column to your Web site. Post educational content that prospective clients or their advisors will find useful. Keep it relevant and keep it updated. If you don't think that our industry is blogging, just check out a few of your competitor's Web sites. You can also get blogs pieces posted on a variety of other sites.

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