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Building Your Ark– How To Ensure Your Strategic Planning Meeting Stays Afloat

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While we know that Noah’s Ark wasn’t built in day, we are told Noah had 120 years to plan and strategize before the “flood” to construct an ark. It would be nice to have 120 years to build our strategic plan and to know what obstacles and challenges we will face, but we know the reality of the ever evolving financial world.

I know many financial advisors hold bi-annual or annual strategic planning sessions and year after year follow the same boring format without a true understanding of what strategic planning should be.

As many of you are reviewing year end reports and developing strategies for the new year, implement effective strategic planning sessions throughout the year to achieve the goals you envision for years ahead.

While I believe it is a healthy practice to schedule group strategic sessions, I do believe that firms are failing to carry out the strategies and tactical implementation processes discussed during these meetings. Strategic planning should be evaluated throughout the year by measuring results to identify successes, uncovering gaps in a plan and hunting for improvement opportunities on a regular schedule.

What Is Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning should strive to answer fundamental questions:

  • Where do we want to be one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?
  • Who is our ideal client?
  • What are our major goals?
  • What is our vision?
  • What is our mission?

Your strategic planning meeting will entail forward thinking to visualize where you see your firm in the future. Review and create modifications to your vision statement in alignment with the goals of your firm five or ten years from today.

Creativity and brainstorming are essential to the quality and outcome of your meeting. Each team member should feel free to share new ideas without criticism but through inspiration. A true leader will inspire and enlighten team members to engage in discussion while feeling a sense of contribution to the overall success of the firm. When your team truly believes in the vision of the firm and contributes valuable ideas that are recognized, you will increase employee engagement, productivity and cultivate a positive culture in your firm.

Incorporate Tactical Plans Into Daily Operations

Once the strategic planning session has ended, dissect your plan by incorporating sub-headings or smaller tactical plans into your daily operations by:

  • Assign specific actions to team members
  • Create or update SOPs
  • Design a time-line or flow-chart for each strategy including specific tactical steps to ensure the goal is measurable and attainable
  • Schedule mini-meetings to measure results of a specific task
  • Share progress and results with the entire team through weekly meetings or by creating a visual blueprint in your conference room

Reviewing Your Strategic Plan

By incorporating your strategic plan into your daily operations, you will have accomplished a major milestone that many firms fall short. However, to be effective and achieve results, your strategic plan needs a time-line or flow-chart of its own. Group collaboration will be effective once or twice a year, but only if the strategic plan is tested and measured year round. Review key fundamentals in your strategic plan by:

  • Assign team members to each key issue in your strategy plan
  • Create time-lines and flow-charts for each fundamental, including review, research and testing times, success measurement and gap identification
  • Apply problem-solving techniques and offer pliable solutions
  • Identify new trends
  • Prepare detailed reports reflecting your findings

When team members become involved in the fundamental goals of the firm, productivity, engagement, employee retention, accountability and professionalism increase. Often, the team is excluded from strategic planning year round, leaving them with an overwhelmed and confused feeling after a long strategic session. Team involvement to reach vital goals year round will result in highly efficient and successful strategic planning sessions.

Following the guidelines above will ensure your “ark” is able to withstand the flood rather than sink.

Read more about Staff Meetings:

Just Another Meeting or A Meeting Of The Minds?

When Was The Last Time You Attended A Productive Meeting?

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

Share your strategic planning session successes or disasters!

 

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

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6 Ways To Expose Your Differences Through A Capabilities Proposal

Dare_to_be_different_by_digitalgod1

Are you using your capabilities presentation to its full capability?

Providing solutions and differentiation to clients and prospects are vital components of your firm’s capabilities presentation and should be a fundamental element in your business development strategy for 2013.

Your capabilities proposal should target your niche markets concentrating on challenges and obstacles they are facing in today’s economy and the solutions you offer. You will also want to include the benefits of working with your firm along with a call to action.

In our blog, A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include, we reviewed how to create your story and what to include in your presentation. Now that you have created your story, is it in alignment with your firm goals and strategically placed to educate existing clients and attract new ones? Advisors should focus on the following 6 ways to expose differentiation from competitors and to increase client acquisition.

Implement your capabilities presentation through:

• Print marketing materials
• Networking and one-on-one interaction
• Build a strategic alliance program
• Increase online and social media presence
• Develop connections through media
• Provide education to organizations and businesses

Your goal is to spawn new connections, referrals, introductions and contacts by earning trust and sharing your expertise consistently through all marketing and new business development opportunities.

Print marketing materials
Include your capabilities proposal in your core marketing pieces. This may include a marketing brochure given to prospective clients, a 1st appointment brochure or a single brochure dedicated to your firm’s capabilities proposal. Fact sheets are another resource to include in your marketing strategy. Typically a fact sheet is one piece of paper, highlighting services your firm offers or your investment strategy.

Networking and one-on-one interaction
Get out of the office and play a bit. Become involved in community events to interact with COIs, community officers and key board members. When networking and interacting one-on-one, YOU are your capabilities presentation. Before anyone becomes a client, trust needs to be earned. Make certain you don’t become impatient waiting for relationships to evolve. Trust and the relationship sell, not the service or products.

Build a strategic alliance program
Work closely with a select group of partners such as CPAs, Attorney’s and Estate Planners. Lay the foundation by identifying specific goals. Educate your alliances about your firm and provide them with resources and small displays including firm brochures, white paper studies, articles and links to your online presence making it simple to refer clients to you.

Increase online and social media presence
Most firms fall short in recognizing the potential of expanding their capabilities presentation to an online presence. Be certain to include your story on your website along with PDF files that can be downloaded of your firm brochures including links to blogs, market research or other feature articles important to your target market. Statistics provided by HubSpot, reveal that 78% of Internet users conduct product research online. That means your website stands a good chance of being a prospect’s “first impression”. That also means your new business card isn’t a business card—it’s Google.

Develop connections through media
Build a list of local media connections and identify which reporters and editors specialize in industry news. Establish yourself as a local expert by providing proactive information through articles, reports, press releases and interviews with an emphasis on solutions you provide to the needs of your market.
Provide education to organizations and businesses
Offer workshops, seminars or panel discussions to charitable organizations and businesses within your target. Groups are always looking for industry experts to provide interesting and pertinent information.

Strengthen your presence through these initiatives by providing strategic financial information as a solution to your target market needs. Providing consistency throughout each interface will reinforce your capabilities proposal and put your firm in position for growth.

Read more about Capabilities Presentations:

Mistakes In Your Capabilities Presentation-Avoid These
A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance
Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started!

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

How do you promote your capabilities presentation? Share your ideas!

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


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Does Your Niche Notice You?

Answering the question, “Does Your Niche Notice You?” may give you true insight to the effectiveness and impact of your marketing strategy.

Being all things to all people is impossible in personal lives and in your business life.   I suggest relying on the old 80/20 rule. The message of the 80/20 rule is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. 80% of your potential target market probably won’t buy from you.  Choosing a target or niche market is tough, but identifying the 20% who are most likely to become clients will give your firm a laser-like focus.  Without that focus, you expose yourself to presenting a message that is full of fluff to 80% of your market.

 Identifying Your Niche

Start identifying your niche with a narrow focus, but remain flexible to expand as new business is generated.  Define a high degree of specialization in order to differentiate your practice.   Avoid placing limitations on your firm and turning away business by defining your market too rigidly.

Choosing to specialize in a niche will allow you to:

  • Use your time more effectively
  • Provide better service to existing clients
  • Differentiate your firm

Navigating Your Niche

By placing focus on the niches you have identified, your ability to hone in on select groups and provide specialized service will open the door to more referrals. Existing clients and your strategic alliances will be more inclined to refer new clients in your direction.  Remind them of the ideal clients you are looking for.  Providing specific descriptions, such as “retirees between the ages of 55 and 70”, will make it easier for others to identify connections they have in a specific group.  When you simply ask for a referral without providing a descriptive landscape, it is hard for others to refer the ideal and compatible potential client. They may refer their next door neighbor who is in their mid 20’s, just starting a family…. It is your responsibility to steer your clients, alliances and COIs in the proper direction with a clear and concise description of the type of client you are looking for.

Get Your Niche To Notice You

Avoid aiming for an undecided percentage or portion of the already saturated broad market.  This will place your firm with every other financial advisor in your area and provide no means of differentiation.

By identifying a market position or niche, you will be on the path of instilling operational effectiveness, success and a clear vision for you and your firm. Your service and product offerings will be aligned with your niche, thus providing a solution to client’s unique needs.

When you identify and market to a niche, your firm is:

More likely to have an impact – strong positions in a target market provide your business with identity.

Able to stand apart from competitors – your firm is positioned to connect and engage in meaningful solutions to specific needs.

Positioned to grow organically – by providing laser-focus service, your clients will be marketing your firm for you.

There are a plethora of niches you can choose from.  Choose niches that you have a genuine passion for and reap the benefits of being viewed as an expert in your field. You need to work with clients you are comfortable with.

 “Please all and you please none.”   -Aesop, Greek Author

We are curious! Who are your niche markets? How is your firm benefiting from niche marketing? 

 Learn more about how Ironstone can impact the operational effectiveness of your firm!  Read more at www.ironstonehq.com

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

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

Coming up next, Operational Effectiveness & Your Client Database

 

 

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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Defining Client Value Beyond $ Signs

Segmentation is the first critical step toward greater efficiency and ultimately improved profitability. In our blog, “Take the First Step Towards Greater Efficiency With Client Segmentation,”  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/take-the-first-step-towards-greater-efficiency-with-client-segmentation/ we provided you with basic steps and resources to segment your client database.

Start your segmentation process by defining client value.  Viewing each group with different needs and priorities will present you with the ability to serve each segment based upon their needs, not the firm’s profits.

Client segmentation is about improving customer service for all of your clients.  Use it to deliver solutions more effectively by streamlining and automating the services you offer.  Aligning the right level of advisor support to the client’s specific needs results in increased client satisfaction and in turn may even result in more client referrals.

Advancing Your Client Segmentation Plan

Client segmentation needs to be taken to a deeper lever in order to gain the full benefit.  Once your initial segmentation process is complete, you are ready to segment your client database further by distinguishing clients based on characteristics beyond the dollars.

Many advisors have not segmented their client database in a meaningful way beyond assets under management.  Assets under management will be your constant starting point for segmentation and predicting client needs.   Understanding that clients within the same segmentation class still have extraordinary needs and expectations will allow you to provide matched solutions with your product and service offerings.

Trying to provide the same high level of service to everyone can make it difficult to focus on the more complex clients and on the inevitable changes that come with growth and business development.  Ironstone can assist you in all phases of client segmentation and ultimately design a comprehensive client segmentation plan that will allow you the opportunity to hone in on specific and unique needs of clients within each segment.

Ironstone recommends  you place some of the following attributes in your segmentation plan beyond assets under management:

  • Revenue produced for the firm
  • Quality of your relationship with the client
  • Earnings potential
  • Client lifestyles & life events
  • Client demographics
  • Risk analysis/Behavioral attributes

Applying the above listed characteristics will provide another layer to your segmentation plan and aide in shaping optimal service for your clients.  You may not want to engage in each market base, but you can start with the characteristics that employ the biggest role in improving your firms’ bottom line.   By marketing to each subcategory you will accomplish more targeted messages and information that will resonate with your clients, resulting in engaged clients and prospects, higher response rates and a shorter conversion cycle.

Use this model to segment your clients by determining their level of revenue and the value of the business relationship.08.06.12 Segmentation Guide

Readers, we are curious!!  How do you approach segmentation in your firm?

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-Job Descriptions

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


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Ready To Jump On The Social Media Bandwagon?

As social media has taken a front seat for many advisors, there is still a high percentage  not taking advantage of this prospecting tool.  Many advisors simply don’t have the time, knowledge or staffing to implement a social media platform.  The benefits of having a social media presence will out-weigh the efforts you invest  developing your prospecting strategy.

The fundamental element needed to implement a successful prospecting plan at your firm is to systematically position your practice to attract new clients.  Choose activities that will put you at your best in order to invoke natural enthusiasm with the purpose of cultivating trusting relationships.  Within  your marketing plan, you will need to develop a comprehensive prospecting strategy appealing to new clients.  Begin with the 7 strategies  Ironstone recommends as your foundation.  If you missed our blog, “How to Write a Prospecting Plan for Your Firm,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/learn-how-to-write-a-prospecting-plan-for-your-firm/you can read it here.

Top financial advisors have one common denominator:

  • A marketing plan and a follow-up strategy

 The biggest difference in this  common denominator is what is within the marketing plan and how committed each firm is to their follow-up strategy.

Adding Social Media to Your Prospecting Platform

Ironstone suggests starting small and simple.  Establish  your social media goal.  Don’t feel you need to take on the world.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging are all easily managed social media channels  you should be using; START TODAY!   By using social media, you will gain:

  • Name recognition
  • Establish credibility
  • Client acquisition and retention
  • Deepen existing relationships

 Follow Ironstone’s simple guidelines to get started with your social media presence.  By following these basic steps, your social media goals will be easier to reach and more rewarding.

Create Basic Profiles on the Social Media Channels You Wish to EngageYou must realize  social media is an active exchange of information.  In order to establish relationships, you must engage in and actively participate in discussions.

Add Your PhotoUse a professional photo.  If you don’t have a professional photo, make the investment to have one taken.

Be YourselfEngage in social interaction.  Relationships are developed when you allow others to get to know you.  Talk about your family, your interests and things that will interest them. Consider scheduling random posts or blogs about health and wellness or other generalized topics that pique interest levels.

Target MarketPick a small niche.  Remember, you don’t need to take on the world.  Find out where your target/niche market hangs out online.  You might find your COI’s on Linked In while retirees are making posts on Face Book.  Connect with your clients in these various social media channels.

Provide ValueBeing the solution to a prospect is the key to landing new business.  Provide information that will genuinely help others.  Review profiles;  find out the interests of your clients and prospects.  Gather relevant content  you can post and distribute on your social media channels that are devoted to your target market.

Provide A Capture FunnelAdd a form that is short and simple to capture information from readers and those who are downloading your content.  Do not simply ask readers to call you;  they are online and that is where they want to stay for now.  An Ironstone best practice tip is to provide a capture form that leads readers to valuable and relevant information; example:  “The Top 5 Ways To …………..”

Manage TimeDefine your own unique publishing schedule and pick a specific time to post and read updates from those in your network.  Make adjustments as needed,  test different times and days.    If you find  you get more interaction on certain days and times, stick with it.  Maintain a continued presence online, but be cautious of overdoing it!

Follow-Up – It is imperative and courteous that you follow up with those who have accessed your information.  Be ready to provide them with additional information that will be useful to them and offer a solution to their needs.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a social media plan for your firm.  Let us know how you are using social media in your firm!

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


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Reducing Operational Costs Without Sacrificing Client Service

Living in today’s unpredictable business environment, one of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “How can we cut our operating costs?” 

Streamlining business operations, while containing overhead costs, is the real secret to profitable growth.  Without coming to grips with reality, your firm will face the risk of severe loss.

Steps that you can take, starting today, to ameliorate issues and make your office more effective and efficient:

  • Establish a Budget –  Before you decide where you can afford to cut costs you must have control over your costs. A budget helps you both analyze expenses and income, as well as allows you to forecast financial variances.
  • Develop and implement systems for everything you do in your firm Implementing workflow processes increase efficiency which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. Many firms tend to overlook their operational systems and workflows especially during a good economy.  Review your firm’s operational systems regularly recognize the static processes because “that is the way it’s always been done”, and be flexible to change.  This is imperative to reducing your operational costs and remaining viable amid the rising costs of operation.
  • Align the responsibilities of your staff members to their specific needs Review workflow for areas that need improvement or display a lack of clarity.  Making revisions in a workflow and ensuring that there are no duplicate efforts or wasted energy will prevent you from superfluous costs.  Besides cost savings, you benefit from significant increases in productivity.
  • Invest in more training –  It may sound ironic to invest more money while trying to reduce costs,  however, investing more in your employees shows them that they are valued.  There is an endless source of training models available online, which in-turn will also reduce your travel expenses.   Employees who feel valued, are more engaged and more productive at work.
  •  Build Strategic Alliances – In our blog “Strategic Alliances Build A Strong Foundation For Long Term Success”     https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/strategic-alliances-build-a-foundation-for-long-term-success/   we talked about how building strategic alliances positions your firm to stand apart from the competition.  Share expenses with your alliances by implementing joint advertising/media promotions, shared mailing lists and shared educational workshop expenses.  You will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line by meeting client needs.
  • Outsource  Review the organizational structure of your firm.   Pinpoint which roles could be outsourced, such as payroll or mailings.  Also consider contract employees.  Hire contract employees for special projects or ongoing tasks.  Outsourcing and utilizing contract employees will give you more time to focus on building your business.
  •  Reduce office expenses –  Consider converting to an electronic paperless system when possible and order supplies in bulk.  Shop around for lower prices and negotiate a better price if you agree to purchase all of your supplies from one vendor.  Reduce utility bills as much as possible, but not at the detriment of team effectiveness.

Reducing your operating costs without sacrificing the team’s operational effectiveness, the quality of service, and the value that you provide to your clients, will go a long way towards improving your bottom line.

Keep these principles in mind and implement them.  You’ll find that your reduced operating costs will lead you down the path to substantial growth before you realize it.

Ironstone can assist you in developing the strategies needed to reduce your operating costs while strengthening your relationships with existing and potential clients.  By being held accountable and responsible for the cost cutting steps above, you will gain control of your expenses and move towards a better bottom line.

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-The Performance Evaluation


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Is Your Firm’s Brand Recognizable?

Financial Advisors are more aggressive than ever in pursuing high-net-worth clients.   In order for you to join the elite pack and remain competitive you need to establish and demonstrate what makes your firm unique and how your firm is the solution to meeting client needs by creating a strong personal brand.

Your brand message should embody core principles of your practice. These principles should act as drivers and filters when you make business decisions. They should be easy to remember and summarize what makes you unique in serving your clients.

Keep in mind that your brand is also determined by your reputation among clients, prospects and centers of influence.  Maintaining a great brand will require that you make promises and set expectations, that you must meet each and every day.  Demonstrating to clients that you consistently follow through on what you say you will do builds trust and a strong foundation for your firm.

Advisors with strong brands do things that are meaningful to clients on an ongoing basis.

 

Building Your Brand

 1.   How Is Your Firm Unique?

In what way is your firm different from your competitors?  Evaluate your skills and expertise.  Consider the following and expound on how you effectively perform each component:

Communication with clients –  introducing new concepts, ideas, products, and portfolio performance, as well as maintaining contact with clients and prospects through educational seminars. Advisors typically try to differentiate themselves by focusing on a fee-only business model.  While this is a key characteristic, it will not truly set your firm apart from your competition and build a brand that speaks to your target market.

Set yourself apart from your competition by effectively communicating your expertise and knowledge and providing pro-active solutions to clients.

2.      Determining Your Relevance Starts with Determining Your Ideal Target Client

Choosing your ideal target clients takes more work than simply making a selection of retirees, pre-retirees, affluent professionals, etc.   Focus on small target groups with similar needs and determine how you can provide them with significant value.  Get to know your clients and target markets by delving beyond their financial needs.  Find out what their values, concerns, and fears are, and what is important to them in daily life.

Design your services as a gift that you give to your clients and prospects

that truly offers and delivers what they want most.

3.      Be Consistent

Consistent brands get noticed.  They achieve strong recognition through trust and engagement, which drives loyalty from existing clients and brings prospects to your firm. To ensure that your brand is recognized and understood it is vital to be consistent through all communication channels.

Review your brand periodically to ensure it remains true.  Research how your brand is perceived by interviewing clients which will give you a better understanding of how they interpret your brand.

Think of any strong brand and you are likely able to list its colors and the products it sells.  The appearance of your brand should always be clear across the foundation that you have set, including your fonts, logos, colors, images and the presentation of your firm name and services.

Your audience should know what to expect from your brand.  Avoid changing your media spokesperson or sending messages that don’t tie-in with what you stand for.  This only causes confusion.  If your target market recognizes a piece of communication they are more likely to engage with it.

4.       In Conclusion

Brand recognition is much more than a nice logo and a bit of advertising –it is the outline of everything you stand for, everything you believe in, and everything you do. It is how you look, how you talk, and how you act.

Ask several clients how they would describe you to their best friends. Their responses are an excellent way to periodically test whether you are living your brand.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a brand that is reflective of your firm.  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.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your firm’s brand.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here!  How do you demonstrate your brand?  What challenges do you have in presenting your brand?   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-Reports & Tracking