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What do you Measure in your Financial Advice Business?

At the end of the day for most advisers, there’s one measure that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance – profitability.

Until recently, many firms actually didn’t view profitability as their key metric; their main focus was on income. This was usually backwards looking, i.e. examining income in the last 12 months, or sometimes also looking out at the next 12 months. Many firms have now switched this focus to looking further forwards – based on their increasing trail commission and fee incomes, what is income forecasted to be next year / in 5 years time / in 10 years time? This now gives a real sense of the future health of the business.

While income is a very important metric, profitability tells a truer story of the health of the firm as it takes account of the expenses of the firm, and helps to better determine the future value of the business. Now this is what you (or other shareholders) are really interested in!

However there are so many factors that can impact your profitability, most firms will look to dig a little deeper to examine some of those factors that are impacting their profitability. Set out below are just some of the metrics used currently by different advice firms, that help them to determine the performance of key inputs to their profitability. Which ones might it make sense for you to start tracking?

 

Client metrics

There is a range of metrics that can be used to measure the success of your client activities. These include;

  • Number of clients: this can be measured at an overall level and also within segments of your target client groups.
  • Average revenue per client: this will give you a sense of whether you are building greater value into your propositions and whether you are reaching your ideal clients. Again this may be carried out at a segment level.
  • Average recurring revenue per client: this will give you a good sense of the future health of your business.
  • Number of new clients: always a good measure of whether you are growing as a business or not!
  • Client satisfaction: this will give you a sense of your likelihood to hang onto your clients into the future. Again this can be carried out at a segment level. The Net Promoter Score is a very simple but useful measure of client satisfaction.
  • Risk register: Are there problem cases that need to be monitored? If so, a firm oversight needs to be maintained, both in relation to the number of cases and progress of these cases towards a solution.

 

Staff measures

Again, there is a range of measures that you can use to ensure your staff are performing to their maximum potential;

  • Sales Performance: This may be based on volume, margin or other relevant measures.
  • Activity: This may be the number of new clients secured, first meetings secured, financial plans completed etc. It is always useful to get a good sense of the activity levels of each of your sales team.
  • Staff satisfaction: Similar to client satisfaction, this is important too! Are your staff happy and committed to the long term health of your business or are they just waiting for an opportunity to jump ship? Staff satisfaction measures can help you uncover these insights.

 

Marketing Metrics

Yes, most marketing activities can actually be measured! Here are a few that will help inform your marketing activities;

  • Contact data quality: This might be as simple initially as tracking the number of client email addresses you have secured. Email offers you a no cost method of getting marketing messages out to your clients.
  • Numbers and source of leads: Tracking the numbers and source of new lead is one of the best inputs into decision making around future marketing activities. If it worked before, it might be worth repeating!
  • Website analytics: Google analytics will give you a wealth of data in relation to your online marketing activities. For more detailed information in relation to how Google Analytics can help financial advisers, check out our previous article here. Google analytics can tell you;
    • The number of people finding your website
    • Where website visitors came from – Search terms, social media, directly accessing your website.
    • The content that attracts people to your site…. and also drives them away.
  • Social media interactions: Likes, +1’s, comments, Retweets! These terms are “Double Dutch” to some people, highly valued endorsements of your content to others!

There are of course many other measures available to be used within your business, these are just a few that are available to you. However the list is also potentially endless! For most advisers, the starting point is to identify a few metrics that you feel will make a real difference to your business, and then track them diligently.

There are many metrics that people use that are not listed above. Which ones do you find particularly useful? All your comments are welcome below.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/glitch_nitch/

How does a Financial Broker rank higher on Google searches?

Many financial brokers see an effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy as the Holy Grail. Consumers search for a financial broker. You appear at the top of the Google search results. The consumer clicks on your website, likes what they see and picks up the phone to you. Oh, if life was only that simple!

The first point you need to realise with SEO is that you are actually pitching the quality of your website to Google rather than the consumers. At the end of the day, Google’s success as a search engine is dependent on them delivering the best results for the search term that is input. If you search for a product or service and the results don’t deliver what you’re looking for, eventually you’ll start to use a different search engine. So Google constantly move the goalposts, by developing new algorithms to ensure the most relevant results are delivered.

Long gone are the days where you simply loaded your pages with the keywords that you wanted to be associated with (pensions, investments, protection etc.). In fact in the early days of search your content didn’t need to make any sense, it just needed to feature the keywords lots of times. These day are thankfully long gone!

So how do you climb the Google rankings today?

 

Set your pages up correctly

This is not the be all and end all any more, but still important. You need to ensure that as pages are added to your website, that they are structured properly. This is usually made easy now by in-built SEO packages but some of the main features to ensure are

  • Your URLs (web page addresses) must be relevant
  • You must use the correct Headings structure
  • You need to give the page a relevant title and description for search results

 

It’s all about content

Content is the juice behind an effective SEO strategy. Original, relevant, fresh content regularly published through a blog / news section on your website is central to successful SEO. Remember that Google want to point searchers to the most relevant websites. Relevancy is achieved by demonstrating expertise and authority in the keyword area, on an ongoing basis through the production of a consistent stream of quality content. Establish yourself as a voice to be listened to and a thought leader in the keyword area, and Google will reward you by lifting you up the search rankings!

 

Social media activity is key

Once you produce great content, the next step is to get it out in front of as many eyes as possible. So lead people to your content, using all the routes available to you. These are primarily via email marketing and also via your social media channels.

Google reward you for this when your network then endorse your content by “liking” it, commenting or better still, by sharing the content with their own network. Google are paying increasing heed to content being shared by 3rd parties, as they view this as an endorsement of the quality and authority of the content.

 

Don’t ignore Google+

Most people don’t want to hear this as the last thing they want is yet another social media channel to manage. However Google+ is not going away, it is slowly but surely gaining in relevance as a channel. One of the main reasons for this is the weight that Google gives to activity on Google+. Sharing content on Google+ and gaining endorsement from a wide number of followers will really help your performance in search results.

 

Establish your Google+ Authorship

Google have introduced a new feature on Google+ called Authorship. It enables you to establish yourself as the confirmed author of your content. To do this, I reckon the best way for most financial advisers is to talk to their web developer who will be able to set this up for you.

The benefits of actually doing it are twofold. First of all, it helps your performance in search results as it is another positive indicator of your credibility as a relevant voice and secondly, it improves how your search results are displayed. Rather than a simple results line, it will display your photo and name too. This in turn may well help your chances of your link being clicked – compare the difference in the 2 links below.

Search results

 

So, as you can see, improving your ranking in search results is no longer simply about stuffing your content with keywords. Google is full of smart people and we also need to be smart to gain their approval!

I hope some of these points help you in improving your search results. If you’ve any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below.

Beat your competition all ends up!

You’ve been approached to pitch for the opportunity to advise a really great prospective client, maybe a wealthy individual with a lot of assets to manage or a pension scheme for a local company. However you also know that another adviser has been given the same opportunity….

So what do you do? One route obviously is to go in “as cheap as chips”, provide your advice for free and cut your transaction price to a level that just about makes it worth your while. Yes, you’ll win some clients this way, but not the ones you really want. Because every future conversation will result in a haggle over your price – no surprise really as you started it!

The alternative is to beat the socks off your competitors and demonstrate to the prospective client that you’re the only game in town for them to consider. Your challenge is to have demonstrated this by the end of your first meeting (your pitch) with them. Here are 5 ways you might achieve this;

 

Know the customer better than your competitor

Today there are so many ways to learn lots of really valuable information about your prospect before you meet them. This can give you a real edge, enabling you to anticipate questions or issues and to chat knowledgeably about areas of interest to them. At the very least, it shows your interest in them and their business.

Starting with their company website, you can learn about their business, getting a sense of their markets, their size and what is important to them. The prospect that you’re about to meet might feature in the “About Us” section so check this out too.

Check out their social media profiles. In particular LinkedIn may give you very rich information about the person. You can learn a lot about the person professionally, as well as their interests etc. You can also see if you have connections in common – this can be useful for the social chitchat at the start of the meeting.

 

Focus on their objectives and outcomes, not yours!

At the meeting, your initial goal needs to be to connect with the person and build trust before you can get into problem solving. To do this, you need to find out what their problem or challenge is and fully understand what their actual objectives and goals are. What will success look like for them? What will they consider a good result?

Your questioning style is very important here. The key is to use lots of Open questions; “what is your biggest challenge”, “why is that challenge so significant for you”, “how have you addressed this so far”, “when are you expecting a result” etc. Questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no!

This initial stage is all about getting the client talking. Once they are talking, their issues will become clear and then you can start to think about demonstrating how you can address the actual challenges that they are facing!

Hopefully at the same time, your competitor will dive in and start setting out their credentials and their approach to solving the client’s problem – quite probably not the right problem at all!

 

Then demonstrate your credentials

Once the client’s problem is clear to you, now is the time to set out why you are the answer to their prayers! This is a critical step – after this the client will decide who he is appointing to look after his affairs!

First of all, you can demonstrate your professional approach easily and effectively by walking your client through your planning and advice approach. This will give the client comfort that you are a professional with a robust approach, helping to build that all-important trust. I believe that this is best delivered using a short presentation on an iPad or similar device.

Case studies (anonymous) are another effective way to demonstrate your credentials. They allow you to showcase innovative approaches that you might have used in the past. They also demonstrate your experience in dealing with challenges similar to that posed by the prospective client.

Finally testimonials are a great endorsement of your capabilities. I always encourage financial advisers to seek permission to use the full name of the person giving the testimonial, as it gives it credibility – does “John T, Dublin 6” really exist?

Hopefully your competitor has just been having a chat with the prospect, saying how good they are but not really backing it up at all…

 

Practice – it’s not easy!

These last two areas of questioning the prospect effectively and then demonstrating your credentials are not easy. Road test them on your staff, friends and family. Get people to critically appraise your approach. Like all similar tasks, it’s going to take a few goes before you get it spot on. The last thing you want is to be trying it out for the first time on the best prospect you’ve had in a long time!

 

Start delivering value long before your pitch

This point should probably have been made at the start but I kept it to the end as not all advisers are in a position to deliver it at the moment. Providing ongoing content to clients is so important, deepening the relationship, demonstrating expertise and adding value. This might be in the form of an email newsletter or other such communication. If you do this, add your prospect to the list as soon as the first contact is made (get any necessary permission to do) and start sharing your content with them straightaway.

This will immediately set you apart from your competitor, giving the prospect a taste of what they can expect from you – a valuable, professional, robust approach to all that you do!

At this stage, hopefully you see the other guy’s white flag!

4 Apps to help Financial Advisers deliver Great Content

Financial Advisers often ask about the challenge of coming up with a constant stream of content for blogs, newsletters and other online activities. They often ask me about how to come up with topics to write about, to find good content on the web to share and then how to manage all this content effectively.

So to help you with this challenge, here are just 4 apps that I use, that help me hugely in developing a constant stream of content for my own activities. At the end of the day, I think that being organised is such a huge element of successfully addressing this challenge. The other good thing about these Apps is that they are available online, as an App on your PC or Mac, on your tablet and on your phone. As a result they are always with you and they stay synced across all of your platforms, so as you update a note in your phone for instance, it then carries across automatically to every device.

In terms of coming up with topics of original content to write, you need to keep your eyes and ears wide open, all of the time. As you have conversations, attend presentations, read material etc., you need to constantly be thinking, “Is there anything in this that I can write an interesting short article about?” or “Is there anything in this topic that I can write an alternative angle / opinion about?” And once there is, this is where the first App comes in.

 

Evernote

This is a great app for capturing ideas, thoughts, notes etc. You can type notes into Evernote, copy in web addresses, copy webpages, attach documents & presentations and even record audio files. This is particularly useful if you have a load of thoughts in your head and just want to capture them – record them as an audio file and tidy it all up later…

I use Evernote all the time for a whole range of reasons now, apart from this content challenge. You can set up different notebooks within it for personal use as well as business use and you can attach tags to every note to keep any related articles together. The days of forgetting great ideas are behind you if you get into the habit of using Evernote.

 

Slideshare

This is a great source of ideas and of little pieces of “colour” for articles. It is basically an online presentation forum, where users upload copies of their presentations. There are now over 10 million presentations uploaded on Slideshare so there is no lack of ideas there… So if you have the germ of an idea, it is a great place to get some different thoughts about a topic for you to develop out some alternative perspectives in your article.

Also, the content is free to use. The content is shared on Slideshare for the use of everyone, so help yourself if you want to reuse or remix some of the slides on it.

The next 2 apps are the two that I use to sift through a potentially vast amount of content, in order to find articles that I think are relevant and interesting to my target audience (in my case financial advisers). The aim here is to become a trusted source of useful content, helping my audience with sales, marketing and strategy challenges by sharing good articles, and saving them the bother of having to go searching for these articles themselves.

 

Feedly

Have you seen the little orange buttons on web pages with 3 little 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 a reader, which gathers all of these articles in one place. Think of a reader as an enormous in-tray or magazine rack for online articles, waiting for you to go through them. Sounds a bit daunting I know…

Except when using a reader (my favourite is Feedly) you can flick down through hundreds of articles in minutes, reading only the headlines if you want, dipping into an introduction if your interest is piqued or indeed the full article if you think it is actually worth reading. And you can mark them all as “Read” very easily as you go along, ensuring those particular articles don’t appear again. You can categorise the different feeds into groups, which can further help you speed up the process too. The benefit of Feedly is the time it saves you in getting through huge numbers of articles.

 

Pocket

If Feedly is your magazine rack, Pocket is your scrap book of articles that you have “cut out”. As you quickly scan through all of your articles in Feedly, some will catch your attention for you to read later when you’ve a bit more time on your hands. So with 2 clicks, you put them in your Pocket! Again you can tag articles for different purposes – it might be to share out later, to rewrite with your own perspectives, to help you develop a new angle for your proposition etc.

You can then go back into Pocket when you want to carry out an activity (for example share some content through LinkedIn), and simply click on the article that you’ve saved for that very purpose.

These 4 Apps are simply invaluable to me. Without them, I’d struggle for a constant stream of content, would forget ideas I have and would never find again great content that I’ve found on the web to share or write about.

With the help of these Apps, my challenge is having a few too many ideas and being in the fortunate position of trying to decide the better ones to use. This is a result of organisation, not creativity!

Are there other good apps out there that you are using to address your content challenge?

Are you planning to increase your sales in 2013?

Are you planning to increase your sales in 2013? The 2 key words here being “planning” and “increase”.

Do many advice firms just continue on in a never-ending sales cycle without proper planning? Well of course some do. However these businesses are really missing the opportunity to reinvigorate their sales effort every year. Carrying out structured planning gives you valuable focus on your customers, your market and your own internal capabilities. It gives you a structure to work to and a basis on which you can track progress. It also helps you identify dependencies your sales team have on other areas of your business to help them achieve their numbers.

Sales planning needs to happen at every level of your organisation. There needs to be an overall sales plan for the business as a whole. However this then needs to be translated into a relevant sales plan by every region, team or indeed every individual sales member. Yes, each individual sales person needs their own sales plan to ensure they maximise their own opportunities. A sales plan gives the individual sales person the focus and structure needed to achieve their goals. It also gives them a mechanism to report fully on progress and indeed to highlight supports they need from other areas of the business.

So what should you expect to see in a well thought out sales plan for a financial advice firm or sales person? Here are a few thoughts of what might be included.

Know your numbers

It might seem obvious but it is really important to be crystal clear on your sales numbers, whatever the most relevant numbers are. What level of income do you need, what level of assets do you need to secure, how many new customers do you need? You’ve got to be clear exactly what is needed to ensure you can achieve and indeed exceed expectations.

Consider external impacts

There are lots of factors at play in the market over which you’ve no control that will impact your sales effort – some positive, others negative. Identifying these at the outset is really important. How will you leverage these positive impacts (maybe the opportunities offered by technology for example) or deal with the negative factors (what if tax relief is reduced on pensions in the Budget this week – your income needs won’t reduce with this!).

What makes you different

What are the unique strengths and opportunities that will help you stand apart from your competitors? What areas of your proposition, your skill set or your relationships can you leverage to your benefit? On the other hand, what weaknesses do you have, gaps that you need to close or particular threats that you need to prepare to deal with? Now is the time to be thinking about all of these.

Plan to beat your competitors

Who are your competitors, what are their particular strengths and weaknesses and what strategies have you considered to win against each of them? What do you need to do to get yourself fit to face your competitors down?

Capture your target market groups

You obviously need to know who you hope to sell to. You need to articulate these groups and write them down. Further on in the planning process, you will need to tailor your sales activities depending on the profile of each group. Your approach for example to prospective business owner clients will be very different to how you drive sales from within your existing personal lines clients.

Know your sales objectives

At this stage, you’ve actually broken the back of the planning process as based on all your earlier work, your sales objectives will start to become clear. Typical sales objectives could include the likes of,

  • 10 new SME business owner clients secured during 2013
  • Carry out financial reviews, identify additional needs and cross sell an additional financial product to 20 existing clients who currently have a single policy with you.
  • Secure 3 new clients from introducer relationships.

With each of your sales objectives, you then need to put a measure against them. These measures in turn should add up to 100% of your sales target identified at the outset.

Identify the activities to achieve the objectives

For each of your objectives, what activities will be needed to achieve the goal? These might include making a set number of phone calls to prospects each week, securing planning meetings, presentations, seminars, entertaining etc.

Then it is a case of using your CRM system (or mapping out on a spreadsheet) the sales activities needed to be carried out with the actual target customers. This then becomes a dynamic business process that is updated every day. As you target a new customer, they are added. As you carry out an activity, that customer record gets updated. This will quickly demonstrate to you gaps or areas of particular activity needing more focus in your sales effort.

Make the activities happen!

Your next step is to make sure the activities actually happen. For “big” activities such as seminars, these should be planned out for the year and the customers to be targeted identified at the outset. Yes, this picture will change as the year progresses.

For the more “day to day” activities, it is important to set aside time (and allow your sales people time) to  plan your activities for the upcoming week. This then should enable you to also have identifiable periods during the week that are solely for time out in front of customers.

Review Relentlessly

If your sales people are planning at the outset, keeping the plan updated and producing realistic sales forecasts, it makes your conversations with them more meaningful and gives you the opportunity to help them. If they plan effectively, it also ups the ante on you as any reasons for sales under-performance that are outside of the salesperson’s control become more apparent. These are your challenges to address!

These are just a few thoughts in relation to sales planning. Yes it takes time, particularly so at the outset and it takes ongoing commitment to continue planning and monitoring throughout the year. However the focus and structure that you gain will result in the rewards outweighing these costs through increased sales!

What tips do you have for sales planning? All comments are very welcome.

5 Tips to Optimising your LinkedIn Presence

A lot of financial advisers now realise that LinkedIn has emerged as the premier medium for building and retaining a network of business contacts. However many don’t realise the full potential that LinkedIn offers them. In this article, I offer 5 tips that will help advisers to maximise the benefits that they can get from LinkedIn.

1. Build up your Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your own professional shop window to the world. Most financial advisers now have a website that is their online shop window and sets out the types of services offered by your business. LinkedIn complements this by enabling you to communicate important information about yourself, helping to convince people that you are a business contact worth having! In a business such as ours where your reputation and business profile are critical assets, this is a very useful personal shop window.

So make sure your profile is clear, accurate and sets out why you are someone people should connect to. Put effort into completing every section as this information could help a prospective client to decide whether to deal with you or not. You should aim to be a sought after connection!

2. Build up your Connections

LinkedIn helps you to build up your network of connections. First of all, you can easily check which of your email contacts are on LinkedIn and then connect with them. You can then easily identify past and former colleagues and former school and university classmates and then connect with them too. Finally LinkedIn will suggest people for you to connect with based on your current LinkedIn network connections.

An extra tip. Personalise every invitation. Even if it’s just “Hi Eamonn, I’d like to add you to……” everyone loves that little bit of extra, personal effort!

A word of warning…… Don’t start firing off invitations to connect to people that you don’t know, no matter how much you might like to know them! You run the risk of being seen as “spam” and LinkedIn can then restrict you in the future to only sending invitations to people where you have their email address.

3. Use LinkedIn for Research

Before you go to meet a prospective client, check them out on LinkedIn. You might uncover a nugget that will help your meeting. Maybe you went to the same school, have an interest in common or have some mutual connections. Even if none of these, knowing a little bit about them will show them your interest in them and what they do.

When you come back from the meeting, invite them to connect, thanking them for the meeting. Now you’ve the opportunity to stay on their radar into the future!

4. Join and Participate in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are a great place for like-minded people to share ideas, seek help, discuss issues and solve problems. One of the best examples of this is the Qualified Financial Advisors of Ireland group which now has over700 members! These QFAs have a very active forum in which they seek help from each other in relation to products and technical challenges, and also discuss industry related issues. Sometimes in a very robust fashion too!! I know a good number of QFAs really value the interaction within this group.

There are many other groups you can join too that can help you in a variety of areas relating to your business. These groups are only as good as the participation in them so join the conversation!

5. Add Value to your Connections

LinkedIn is not just a fancy “little black book” where the aim is to have as many connections as possible. It is an interactive tool that allows you to provide great content to your connections; whether this is content you developed yourself or indeed useful content you found on the web. The key question is, will it add value to your connections? As a financial adviser, there are many opportunities for you to provide useful financial content, helping you establish a thought leadership position among your contacts. Your aim is that your connections really welcome and value your updates.

So develop a plan to deliver content. Start adding value and as a result, build stronger relationships.

I hope you found this useful. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking on the button at the top of the page! If you ask me in the invitation, I’ll happily give you some quick feedback on your own current profile!