My 5 most important apps

In my annual look at the Apps that I get most value from in my business, I’m mainly going back to some old favourites, while also mentioning some apps that I’ve started to find irreplaceable over the last 12 months.

Here are the five most important apps that I use in my business today – I use these every single day and across a range of devices – my phone, laptop and desktop.

 

1. Xero

I was introduced to Xero, an online accounting system a couple of years ago. It has had a transformative on the financial management side of my business. I now have real-time profit & loss statements, balance sheet and a host of other useful reports that are available at the press of a button. All my invoicing and bank reconciliations are done through Xero, as is management of expenses. My accountant and I can both view the up to the minute real time information about my business, I’m saving hours every month with this software and have much better information available to me.

Specifically with the app, I now simply photograph my receipts and they are automatically added to my accounting records.  I’ve full view of my outstanding invoices in the App and other important information. I now have all the information I need, and the time spent on “the books” is now a fraction of what it once was!

 

2. Feedly

Feedly is an app that I use all of the time in seeking out useful content from the web to share, and indeed for content ideas to write about. It uses the little orange buttons that you see on many websites with 3 white lines in them. These are RSS (Really Simple Syndication) buttons, which enable you to have content sent to you as it is uploaded on the web – this might be from a blog, a news feed etc. However (thankfully) you’re not sent an email every time something is uploaded. Instead it is sent to Feedly, which gathers all of these articles in one place. It is like a magazine rack for online articles, waiting for me to go through them.

I can then flick down through hundreds of articles in minutes, reading only the headlines, dipping into an introduction or indeed the full article if I think it is actually worth reading. And I can mark them all as “Read” very easily as I go along, ensuring those particular articles don’t appear again. I’ve categorised the different feeds into groups, which can further speed up the process too. The benefit of Feedly is the time it saves me in getting through huge numbers of articles.

 

3. Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which is my scrapbook of articles that I’ve “cut out” and saved for later. As I see articles of interest on the web or that come through to Feedly, some catch my attention to be read later when I’ve a bit more time on my hands. With 2 clicks, I put them in my Pocket and can also tag the articles for different purposes – it might be to share out later, to rewrite with my perspective, maybe to help me develop a new angle for my proposition etc.

I can then go back into Pocket when I want to carry out an activity and simply click on the article that I’ve saved for that very purpose. It’s all very easy and it means you don’t lose great articles that you’ve read.

 

4. Hubspot Sales

Hubspot are one of the leaders in marketing automation systems, which help you to better manage your sales and digital marketing activities. They offer a range of different priced packages. My introduction to Hubspot was through a product called Sidekick, which is now part of a wider Hubspot Sales package. The purpose of this (desktop) app is to alert me when someone opens an email that I’ve sent. It is fantastic in helping me to time when to follow up an email that I’ve sent. For example, I might have sent a proposal 3 or 4 weeks ago and suddenly see the recipient opening the email again. Might be worth a follow-up call while I know the recipient is considering the proposal again.

The broader Hubspot Sales package now includes a range of useful services – integration with a CRM package, you can save email templates, you can set up automated email follow-ups, allow clients to book available meeting slots and a range of other services.

 

5. Unroll.me

This is a great free app. I’ve ended up subscribed to lots of blogs, email newsletters and other regular communications from businesses and clubs etc. With all of these sources now sending out more and more emails, I was losing a lot of time through being distracted by these emails, which were pinging in throughout the day. Unroll.me has been a great solution to this problem. First of all by using your email address, Unroll.me identifies and lists all of the frequent communications you are subscribed to. It then gives you 3 options;

  1. To keep receiving the emails as before into your inbox
  2. To unsubscribe from individual communications – you’ll be amazed how many you’re happy to get rid of. Hopefully not this one though!
  3. To add the communications to a “rolled up” email. This takes all of the emails that you request to be rolled up, and presents them to you in a single email at a time of your choosing each day. If an individual email catches your attention, you can then just click through to the original. So now rather than getting maybe 30-40 emails each day, now I read one email while having my morning coffee

And there are others… I think Apple Pay is fantastic – it just doesn’t make the cut as it’s not a business app. But it’s great now to pay for items with my phone, rather than go digging for cards or cash. This also works really well with Apple Wallet, which is a great store for tickets of all sorts.

Are there any others that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear about them.

How can you secure your ongoing future income stream

Many of the advisers that I talk to regularly speak of the dual challenges of earning enough revenue today from new business to pay the bills (while hopefully having a bit left over), and also moving their business model towards building up a growing, recurring revenue stream. Most are somewhere along the journey of shifting to a model where clients are paying for the advice they receive, rather than the products sold. So what are the key factors to consider in building your income stream?


The products sold still play a role for most advisers

Product sales still play a role for many advisers. First of all, when it comes to protection products, the providers have helped advisers in this regard by introducing commission models in recent years that offer attractive spread commission options without the dreaded commission claw back in the event of policy lapses. This allows advisers to build up their ongoing revenue stream. Once the client continues to require (and can afford) the cover, and the adviser ensures that the cover in place continues to be the best available, the adviser stands every chance of this revenue continuing.

The situation in relation to pensions and investment is a bit more complex. Most advisers have moved away from large upfront commission payments on both regular and single premium business, towards lower upfront payments (by commission or fee) and a share of the ongoing annual management charge (AMC) by a trail commission.

While building up revenue through trail is challenging in the early years while asset amounts are lower, this basis is obviously more attractive in the long run as the adviser’s funds under management grow. Trail also removes the dependence on future premiums for future remuneration. Trail is also easy to explain to a client.

Of course many of you also charge fees for your advice, so fees and commission make up your ongoing income. But how do you justify this ongoing income?

 

The brightest future is in lifetime financial planning

The future is in financial planning, because this is where you can add the most value. Helping your client to understand their lifestyle objectives and to set financial goals, examining their current situation, and then devising and implementing a plan to close that gap. And then by working with that client year in and year out towards the achievement of their goals, you can build and easily justify your ongoing income.


You need a clear ongoing advice proposition

To show your ongoing value to clients, you need to have a clear ongoing value proposition for your clients. Ongoing work needs to be a core part of your proposition, not a “by the way” 10-second conversation at the end of the initial product implementation. Clients do not want to feel “sold to”. This is exactly how they will feel if you don’t have a strong ongoing advice proposition to offer them. Delivering this is a natural move for those advisers who are shifting their focus from a product sale approach to an advice based offering.

Apart from obviously reviewing a client’s financial plan and product portfolio to ensure they are still on track to achieve their objectives, a structured and well thought out review approach offers you a great opportunity to remind your clients where you’ve added value to them over the year. This is where you can remind them of the growth they’ve achieved in their investment portfolio that you put together for them, the tax they saved as a result of the retirement plan you designed for them, the money they saved by you restructuring their protection portfolio and health insurance etc. Indeed one of the great benefits for those advisers who provide future cash flow modelling for their clients is it creates a natural and very valuable engagement with the client every year.


The benefits for you are huge

You as an adviser also benefit, as a structured and well thought out review will surface any cross-selling opportunities that may exist. However the critical benefit to you is the strengthening of your relationship with your client, increasing your chances of retaining the client as their assets under management, and in turn your trail commission, increase. Surely this is a better approach than just hoping the client won’t be tempted away by another adviser who simply undercuts your trail commission amount?

And of course one of the main aims of many advisers is to build up value in your business. This is best achieved by being able to demonstrate a strong, stable revenue stream. Now is the time to develop your ongoing advice proposition to help you build up this valuable revenue stream.

What do you believe are the critical factors to help you build up your ongoing revenue stream? All your comments are very welcome below.