The Elements Ironstone Blog

Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Do You Have A Bucket List For Your Firm?

Most of us have a bucket list created for our personal lives living in our thoughts or being utilized as a functional document.  A bucket list is the thoughts, dreams and goals that we want to achieve in our lifetime.  It serves as a roadmap to guide and lead us to reach each of those goals.

A bucket list outlines:

  • A list of your life goals
  • A reminder to focus and live by your personal values
  • How you will find joy by fulfilling your goals

Your business plan should serve as the bucket list for your firm.

Developing your initial business plan is essential in achieving the goals you have realized in your mind and will provide you with a written plan to follow, evaluate and revise.   Just as you achieve and make changes to your personal bucket list, you will do the same with your business plan.

A bucket list can change your life.  A business plan will improve results.

Ironstone’s research shows us that approximately 40% of financial advisors actually have a written business plan and even fewer have a marketing plan.  Those firms that implemented a completed business plan have 50% more profits and revenue than firms without a plan.

Your business plan will:

  • Provide you with a complete view of your firm and allow you to examine its viability
  • Show you potential areas for growth and success
  • Ensure that your entire team is committed to each goal
  • Communicate your vision and mission
  • Help you gain an understanding of opportunities and challenges facing your firm
  • Outline areas to create strategies and tactics to reach each goal

In our blog, “Creating A Roadmap For The Success Of Your Firm”  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/business-plans-creating-a-roadmap-for-the-success-of-your-firm/ we provided 13 focus areas to include in your business plan.  Refer to the focus areas when developing or updating your business plan by incorporating each to gain optimal benefits.

A well thought out “bucket list” or business plan will lay a comprehensive strategy and timeline, both personally and firm wise, for achievement and promising stages of growth.  Download our Business Overview Snapshot to get started on creating your firm’s business plan.   Business Overview Snapshot

Have a Plan B

Be sure to create back-up plans.  We all know there is one constant in life, change.  Examine the challenges you might face and determine how you will overcome them by redefining your existing strategies.

Once you have developed your business plan, don’t file it away until the end of the year.  Use your business plan as a GPS guidance system for running your practice.  Update it often; real-time changes are ideal.  Doing so will ensure  you are following your plan, creating actions to meet your objectives and allow you to hone in on areas that need re-crafted strategies.

Communicate your business plan to your team in order to effectively bring it to life and track milestones to enhance your overall business focus.

As you begin to develop or review your business bucket list, contact Ironstone for templates, tips and best practices that will assist you in taking your firm to the next level.  We have numerous tools and aides available for you and insight that will help you reach the goals you have set for yourself and your firm.  Consider a team development workshop on creating bucket lists – we can help!

Last but not least, enjoy the journey!

We are curious!!  Share your bucket list with us!  What do you want to accomplish in life?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about business development and your referral network!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:

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Getting To The Core Of Your Marketing Plan

With so many means to market your firm, it is easy to get off track by wanting to do it all.  Developing a marketing plan, reviewing it, and making changes are vital to the success of your firm.

Advisors have more marketing strategies to use and take advantage of than ever before, but lack of time and knowledge to hone in on every opportunity.  Hiring a marketing consultant, a marketing manager or outsourcing marketing will have a fundamental impact on the bottom line of your firm.

Always start with the end in mind by defining what you want to accomplish.  This declaration can be applied to almost everything you do in life and is most definitely applicable to your marketing plan.    Once you have determined your desired outcome, focus on the core of your marketing plan and what tactics you will use to reach your goals.

Today’s elite advisors know that introductions, strategic networking, referrals, and intimate client events typically produce the best results in bringing new business to a firm.  These marketing tactics should be at the core of your plan.   Structuring your marketing plan around these tactics and developing strategies to reach your goals will provide you with a solid foundation.    Decide how you will carry out each of the above core marketing tactics and include a process to define strategies for each.

  • Introductions– Ask your clients for introductions to their friends that can benefit from your services. If you haven’t started using social media in your firm, this is a great starting point.  Use LinkedIn and other social media channels to see who your existing clients know and who you would like to meet.
  • Strategic Networking– Develop a networking plan by writing a process that you will follow.  Research potential alliances to ensure that you are networking with the appropriate partners and continue to review and broaden your opportunities.
  • Referrals– Have a formal referral plan in place and focus on providing first class service to your clients that establishes trust and loyalty. By doing so, your clients will refer you to their family, friends and co-workers automatically.
  • Intimate Client Events– Plan several events throughout the year and encourage your clients to invite friends.  Keep the event fun and personal.

Build your marketing plan around your core elements.  From there, you can branch out into other marketing avenues to test the water or begin a pilot program.   Trial and error will allow you to perfect your plan, therefore it is imperative that you implement changes as often as needed.    Evaluate your existing plan and track the results to be certain that your focus is placed in the core marketing areas that will generate the best results.

Optimize your efforts within each avenue and lead your firm down the path of obtaining your goals.

Ironstone can assist you in developing core marketing tactics for your firm and the strategies to carry out and seize each opportunity.  We will collaborate with you to gain a comprehensive understanding of your goals and review or design a marketing plan that is tailored to your firm.

Contact Ironstone for more information and additional strategies that will assist you in starting and improving your Marketing Plan.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best marketing ideas with us!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Operational Effectiveness-Staff Meetings

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Put Time On Your Side, Not Your Back!

Time management has become a topic of concern for many of the advisory firms that Ironstone works with. How do we control the amount of time we spend each day on needed and unneeded tasks while the world around us continually adds new means of technology, greater resources for us to utilize, and an endless supply of emails, tweets, blogs and messages?

In our last Time Management Blog, “ Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management,”      https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/learn-common-mistakes-you-your-team-may-be-making-in-time-management-7/ we touched on the wasted efforts of multi-tasking. It still holds true today, that we must redirect our focus into single-tasking. If you are a multi-tasker, you will need to develop your own personal plan to switch from doing useless tasks (often involved in multi-tasking) to executing a strategy that ensures you remain single focused.

Ways You Can Change Improve Your Time Management Skills
List Three Top Priorities: Review your task list for the week. Choose three top priority tasks for each workday. This will allow you to hone in on the tasks that are priority items rather than randomly performing secondary tasks.

Scheduling: Block out fifteen minutes each day for planning. During this time, choose your top three priority items so that you can focus on those items at the beginning of each day. Schedule certain times every day for things like emails, phone calls, meetings, etc. Do not allow a fluctuation in this designated time.

Identify your time-wasters: Track what you do on a daily basis for several days. This will allow you to find where you are losing time. Time is valuable, we just need to know how to control and separate what is important at any given moment. By identifying your time-wasters, you can get rid of them.

Change your habits: Make a dedicated promise to yourself to change those things that are your biggest time-wasters. Write out your plan and follow it. Review it briefly each day to see how you did and what areas you can improve on.
Have good reasons to save time and reward yourself: If you make changes to improve your time management, reward yourself. Your reward will motivate you to make changes.

Get Rid Of Interruptions: If interruptions are a big waste of time in your day, find ways to get rid of them. Turn electronics off, disconnect from the internet or try closing your email. (*Tip: add a disclosure on your email indicating how often you check and respond to email.) You will be surprised at how quickly others respect your response. You can live without these interruptions and will be amazed at how much more efficient and productive you become.

Know your key times: Identify specific times of the day when you have the most energy. Align your priority tasks with those times.

Batch Your “To Do List”: We love this idea at Ironstone! Maintaining your to-do list and scheduling specific, allotted time during the day, will help you keep the list manageable and reduce stress. During the allotted time, complete as many of those tasks as possible.

Technology can be used to your advantage in saving time, but make an effort to beat technology time-wasters. If a lot of your time is spent online, surfing websites for the latest content and news, take advantage of having that information pushed directly to you by using RSS or “Really Simple Syndication.”

  • RSS is a great tool that you can use to aggregate news into one convenient location. Ironstone recommends setting up your own personalized page on My MSN, My Yahoo, Google or any of your other favorites.  On a regular basis, your RSS reader will automatically check your selected websites and will deliver the content to you in one convenient display. Watch the RSS video at http://www.efficient-advisor.com/tools-tips to learn how to set up an RSS reader.

Relocate: If you are receiving walk-in interruptions, phone calls, instant messages or even need to rejuvenate your energy levels, consider relocating to a place that will lift your mood and where you can be completely free of interruptions. A conference room, a library, a home office, etc., can aide you in completing tasks on-time in a fresh environment.

Taking Time To Make Time

Take control of your time management – the advantages will drastically improve the quality of your everyday life. When you feel that everything has to be done at once, levels of frustration increase. Don’t forget to celebrate! Time management is not an easy task. If it were, there would not be a significant amount of self help, customized training, checklists, and performance reviews regarding the subject. You owe it to yourself to pat yourself on the back if no one else does. Consider your new management skills a victory and own them! After all, you succeeded!

Take time and reap the benefits of time management.

Ironstone can assist you in improving the time management skills of you and your team.  Check out our Time Management Tool!– (TimeManagementTool)  We specialize in identifying problem areas and then implementing the strategies needed to align with the goals of your firm. Firms with time management programs in place have lower stress levels, peace of mind, a higher sense of achievement, increased energy and productivity and a healthy cultural work environment.

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: The Human Element-Culture
Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Follow us on twitter @ https://twitter.com/#!/AndreaSchlapia
• Join us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IronstoneCommunications
• Connect with us on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=29647364&trk=tab_pro


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Position Your Firm For Referrals

So while I do believe that “Cold Calling Builds Character”,   only a fool ignores an easy sell.   ~Geoffrey James~

The opportunity for firms to grow business is reaching record highs.   Clients and prospective clients are confused with the many financial advisor options at their disposal. With market volatility and media hype prospective clients don’t know who to trust. Positioning your firm by showing how you are different  from your competition will give you a leading edge!                                                                                             

Referrals are one of the best ways to grow your business. Knowing how to obtain a good referral is the trick. Clients will provide referrals to you when:
They have placed trust in you
• They are satisfied
• They have become loyal to you

Contrary to popular belief, your clients actually like giving referrals. Identify your best referral targets whether by survey or gut instinct. It gives them an opportunity to network with their friends and become a solution to a need. Avoid asking clients for referrals merely to grow your business.

A client referral should be all about the client, not you and your firm. Be prepared to explain how your client will benefit and that you are interested in taking care of the needs of their friends and family the way you do for them. Tell them how you will monitor their accounts and what type of communication they can expect from your firm. When a new client signs the dotted line, you still have to prove to the client that you can deliver what you have promised and earn their trust.

Craft your strategy and approach to position your firm for referrals.
Client referrals start with the quality and depth of your client relationships. As a financial advisor you have helped many people. Create your unique story and include your process. Think of examples that you can share about how you helped a certain client achieve a goal or overcome a problem.   Specific examples will give your clients something to connect to and aide them in sharing your story with others.

Also include why you became a financial advisor and what you like most about your profession.   Embed the type of client you’re looking for in your process.   If not, you will end up with names and phone numbers, not quality referrals.

Areas to consider in your referral process:
1.  Your process should precisely identify your investment approach so that existing and potential clients can resonate with the story. For example, you might highlight the research that your firm has done during the difficult investment climate
2.  Center’s Of Influence: keep in mind that relationships take time to build, let them develop over time otherwise you come off as “needy.”
3.  Keep your Center Of Influence List available, but make your universe small. When working with someone, let them know that they are “1 in 3.” (that is a compliment to them)
4.  Don’t forget the power of social media and networking.   LinkedIn is a powerful business building tool.
5.  Use client meetings as an opportunity to update them on the services that you offer. A client can only provide you with referrals if they have a clear understanding of the services that you provide.
6. Become friends with your clients by meeting them socially at business networking events and other non-sales related events.
7.  Provide incredible service so that your client feels that there is little risk in recommending your firm to a peer.
8.  Be proactive about your clients needs by anticipating what they are likely to want.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a Referral Process and Program. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel to achieving the results you desire. We will help you create a strategy and tactical approach.

Contact us for assistance, sharing your best ideas and your unique services. We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Operational Effectiveness-New Client Workflow

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Follow us on twitter @ https://twitter.com/#!/AndreaSchlapia
• Join us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IronstoneCommunications
• Connect with us on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=29647364&trk=tab_pro


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Understanding Purposeful Meaning In Your Client Service Matrix

A service matrix is an established unique resource in the financial industry. It provides you with a comparative analysis of your service offerings and differentiates you from your competitors.

Creating a service matrix will help you identify the level of service your clients will receive when they work with your firm. By clearly defining and evaluating your services, you will have the ability to provide value to your clients and the level of service they desire. Build your service matrix to gain strategic insight into the unique needs of each of your client groups and continuously modify it as a part of your firms client engagement strategy.

A client service matrix serves several purposes:
• Encourages clients & prospects to use your firm for all of their financial planning needs
• Clarifies what service levels each client can expect
• Aligns advisor time and resources
• Provides a way to thank your most loyal clients

When creating or evaluating your client service matrix consider surveying your current clients to determine what services they would like. High net worth clients will be attracted to your firm as you provide more personal attention. Create a list of the services you currently provide and a separate list of the services that you would like to provide. Determine which clients will receive each of your services.

Two levers that you can control in your service matrix are service level and sales effort.
Service Level: determine the appropriate level of service to provide to the different levels in your client segmentation plan. (read our blog on Client Segmentation-insert link here)
Sales Effort: control the level of effort that you will put towards client retention, gaining referrals, adding new services and promoting new products by pursuing the right opportunities with aligned client segments. This will provide increased revenue for your firm.

In order to maximize on your services, focus on what you do best. Providing high-quality personal service to your clients and prospects is more important than providing many mediocre services.

As you create and evaluate your service matrix, assess each process in relation to attractiveness (is it what clients want?) and is it providing your client with value. Evaluate processes that can be eliminated and identify which processes align with your mission statement. Your services should have few competitive alternatives and your firm’s offerings should be very strong.

Your client service matrix will allow you to hone in on the unique needs of each of your clients. Understanding that each of your clients has unique needs will ensure efficient client service delivery.

“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold Geneen

Ironstone can assist you in developing a client/prospect service matrix. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results your desire.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your Service Matrix. We want to hear from you! Share your best ideas here! What services do you provide that are unique from your competitors? We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: The Human Element-Hiring & Onboarding
• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Follow us on twitter @ https://twitter.com/#!/AndreaSchlapia
• Join us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IronstoneCommunications
• Connect with us on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=29647364&trk=tab_pro