The future of advice models

Last night I read an interesting post on Linked in by Sean Graham (executive director at Millennium3) regarding future advice models and the way in which clients and advisers will interact.

Sean’s role at Millennium3 includes heading up the compliance team, and I must say it’s great to hear someone from compliance not only acknowledging the role of technology but actually promoting it.  I hope that the heads of compliance at other dealer groups can start to take a similar view in the near future.

Is Max Headroom the very modern model of the future financial adviser?

Most financial planners are wedded to the traditional, face-to-face storefront publisher model of financial advice but while this may have worked in the past, technological changes and consumer preferences suggest that wired/virtual/on line relationship (the Max Headroom model) might be the best model for the future.

Neuropsychological and consumer research shows peoples’ reducing need for complexity, strong preferences for on-line relationships and swift response and a distrust of “holistic” solutions? If this is the future what are we doing to prepare? (or are Ys, Zs and their successors of no interest to us?).

In my view, the future is wired client relationships, wiki advice models and lego-inspired strategies but I’m interested in understanding your view of the future and what are you doing (or what have you done) in your business to address the future of advice?

And here was my contribution to the discussion:

For risk insurance, online is clearly the way forward.  For many people, getting insurance cover online is not only a convenient option, but also a preferred option.  There are so many benefits such as the choice to deal with who you want when you want, no pushy salespeople trying to get you to sign up, and the feeling of empowerment that one gets by looking after their needs themselves.

On top of that, there will always be a perception (rightly or wrongly) that you can save money by getting your insurance online rather than dealing face-to-face with an adviser.

When I started as an adviser I was told that getting leads was going to be the most challenging aspect of going it alone.  I was also told that websites “don’t work for advisers”.  Well, my website brings me so many qualified leads that I’ve been selling the surplus leads to other advisers, so if anyone still thinks that online doesn’t work, they’re wrong.

Another benefit of building an online customer base is location diversity.  I am located in Brisbane, however the majority of my clients are located outside of Brisbane, and around half of them are located interstate.  This helps to give you exposure to booming areas outside of your own, and also provides protection if your own geographic area is experiencing a decline in activity.

When it comes to the investment side of things, particularly full financial planning, I think there will always be people who want to sit face to face with their adviser.  Increasingly though, there will be people who are happy to speak with an adviser remotely, and those who wish to bypass the adviser completely and handle their own affairs using online services.

Ultimately, the right model probably comes down to your target client and how they want (or don’t want) to deal with you.

If you’re not moving your business online and embracing technology, you will eventually be left behind.

Escape the office

I know a lot of advisers who make a lot of money.  If you’re not one of them, then I’m sure you know of one, and certainly plan to become one!

But despite the healthy incomes, I find that most advisers struggle to get away from the office for the weekend, let alone for a couple of weeks holiday.

Technology has tied us even closer to our work.  5pm on a Friday afternoon doesn’t have as much meaning today, since we spend all weekend on our smart phones checking email and catching up on work.

But it is the same technology that ties us to our work that can also free us from our offices.

I am writing today’s blog on the balcony of my holiday apartment, overlooking the beautiful pacific ocean.  Of course today isn’t like my usual Thursday in the office, but I’ve still been able to do pretty much everything that I would normally do.

Here’s a snapshot of the technology I’ve used today, and how it has allowed me to escape the office whilst remaining in complete control of my business:

  • Laptop:  Obviously required when not in the office
  • Mobile broadband:  Allows me to connect to the internet from virtually anywhere
  • iPhone:  Took the photo in this blog as well as uploading it.  Also handy for making phone calls…
  • WordPress:  The software my website uses, which allows me to post updates from anywhere
  • Paperless office:  Means my client files are stored electronically rather than stuck in my office
  • Dropbox:  Allows me to access my client files and documents from anywhere

Thanks to all of this great technology I’ve been able to speak with a few clients, setup two new policies, line up a meeting for next week, agreed to another joint venture and of course write and upload this latest blog.

If you’ve become trapped inside your office (including your home office) and feel like it’s impossible to escape for a few days, then you need to start embracing the technology that can set you free.

As always, I can help you with all of the issues I’ve spoken about above.  If you want to start integrating this technology into your business, simply contact me for a confidential and obligation free chat.

Lead generating websites

You probably don’t know it, but there is a huge subculture in Australia – and around the world – that revolves around internet domain names.

Some of the people are involved are just ‘cybersquaters’ who register trademark domains and misspellings, but there are many legitimate ‘domainers’ out there who register generic finance related terms and build lead generating websites.

It’s a system that works pretty well.  The domainers (effectively publishers) create content and attract visitors to their website.  Then they legitimately collect the client’s information, usually via a secure online enquiry or quote request form, and then they sell the lead to someone just like you.

They publisher gets money for their efforts, and you get a targeted warm lead without having to do much other than paying around $50 a pop.

But here’s my problem with this system – as an adviser you may be getting all of the golden eggs, but you’ll never get the goose.  Of course the goose is the lead generating website.

So how do you get your own lead generating website?  Many so-called online gurus will just tell you to build a better corporate website, but I disagree.  Yes of course a better corporate website won’t hurt, but you’ll never compete with the lead generating masters.

Why not you ask?  Well let’s start with your domain name.  If you were to search Google for “financial advice Brisbane”, which of the following two results would you be more likely to click on:

  1. www.equita.com.au
  2. www.financialadvicebrisbane.com.au

I know which one I’d be clicking on, because I’d know just from looking at the domain that it’s probably what I’m looking for.

Furthermore, Google will also treat the second domain much more favourably as it contains the specific words the user was searching for.  This means result number 2 will come up much higher and therefore be more likely to be clicked on.

Now you might be thinking that option 2 (financialadvicebrisbane.com.au) doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue too well, nor is it particularly good for memorable branding.

But that’s the trick – you wouldn’t use financialadvicebrisbane.com.au as your corporate website, it would simply be a doorway for people to find your business more easily.  You could either have an enquiry form on the website, or could just direct visitors from this feeder site to your main corporate site.

I used this exact strategy with great success in my own advice business, and was able to gain so many extra leads that I had to sell them to other advisers myself!

So yes, get yourself a great corporate site to impress your existing and prospective clients, but to really drive the lead generation side you need to get some generic feeder websites in place.

Of course I can help you with all aspects of this process, so if you’d like more information please contact me.

Defining Your Perfect Client

Defining your perfect client should be easy.  He or she would will have lots of money to invest and a burning desire to insure themselves against every risk possible!

Unfortunately these types of clients are few and far between.

Rather than defining your perfect client, we should really focus on your ideal client.  Your ideal client should be someone who meets the following criteria:

Accessible

Unless you have great contacts, there is no point nominating movie stars as your ideal client.  You should look for clients who know are accessible to you.

Connection

Some of the best clients are those that you can really connect with.  This may be through joint interests, similar age group, social and/or financial standing, ethnic background or perhaps experience in the same industry.  A good example of this is the ex-carpenter who now deals exclusively with trades clients.

Interest and or Experience

This one is a little similar to the connection point listed above.  If you have an interest or experience in a certain niche, this will give you a great advantage over others advisers who don’t share the same passion for the niche.

Comfort

There is no point trying to attract company directors and CEOs as clients if you don’t feel comfortable with them.  Your ideal client should be someone that you feel totally comfortable dealing with, as there is a good chance that they will also feel comfortable with you.

Above all, your ideal client should just ‘feel right’.

If you would like assistance with determining your ideal client please contact me for an obligation free chat.

Niche Marketing for Financial Advisers and Planners

When I first started my financial planning business I had a dream of being all things to all people.

I thought I’d be helping a carpenter on Monday with his income protection and a doctor on Tuesday with his investment portfolio.

I set up a fantastic website which contained loads of articles and plenty of information on how we could help people.

But pretty soon reality set in – it just wasn’t happening!

So I quickly identified that I needed to target individual niches at a micro level.  To do this I set up a number of websites targeting specific occupational areas such as doctors, tradies, lawyers etc with specific information relating to those people and their individual problems that needed solving.

The result?  After a few weeks I started to get some traffic trickling though.  Then after a month or two I started to get an enquiry or two each week, and within a year I was getting so many qualified leads that I had to start selling them to other advisers!

What I discovered is that trying to be everything to all people is fine if you have a huge existing client base, but if you’re trying to establish yourself from a small base you simply have to specialise in order to give yourself a point of difference.

How do you do this?  Well first you need determine your ideal target customer, which I’ll talk about in my next post.

Your email address should not end with Hotmail or Bigpond!

I am amazed how many financial advisers still have email addresses like johnsmith1979@hotmail.com for their business.

I realise it does not impact on an adviser’s ability to provide good advice, but it just looks so unprofessional!

Come on, we are trying to portray ourselves as serious professionals, not backyard operators.  Having an email address that ends with hotmail or bigpond or whatever just screams amateurism, as any idiot can anonymously register with these email services.

Having a more professional email address such as john@smithfinancial.com.au not only makes you and your business look more professional, but it also reinforces your brand every time you send an email.  It also adds trust to your messages, as people can see that it has come from a real business rather than a scammer in Nigeria.

Even if you’re not interested in setting up a website (although you definitely should be!) I still recommend registering your domain name so you can have a professionally branded email address for yourself and your staff.

And here’s another very good reason:  What if Hotmail or Yahoo or whoever suddenly go broke or decide to change their name?  I know it’s very unlikely, but if that happens you will have to change all of your business cards and stationary, not to mention updating all your various contacts and logins that use your email address.

When you have an email address which uses your own domain name (i.e. smithfinancial.com.au) you are in control at all times.  If your email provider goes bust it doesn’t matter, as you own your name and can move it wherever you want.

The best part?  Setting up professional email is very easy and seriously cheap.

Financial Adviser Websites

It amazes me how many financial advisers and planners don’t have a website.  Even some of those that do have one may as well not have bothered since they are so bad!

The internet has allowed many small businesses and sole traders to look much bigger and more professional than they perhaps may be.  You may run your small practice from the spare bedroom of your house, but to a perspective client looking at your website you could be located in a big city skyscraper with a team of 100 staff!

Now I’m certainly not saying that you should be misleading people on your website.  What I am saying is that first impressions count, and with more people using the internet to research goods and services you may find that the first impression you give is not when you call them or phone them, but when they Google you and look at your website.

And that’s the thing.  Even if a client has been referred to you via another client, there is still a very good chance that they will Google you before the first appointment.  If they find no website or a bad website, you could find yourself on the back foot before you’ve even started!

There are two different types of websites that will suit advisers, and most businesses for that matter:

1.       A basic site for existing and prospective clients to find out about you

2.       A more complex site designed to attract new clients

It’s my opinion that all advisers should have a website that not only provides basic information for existing clients, but also works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week attracting new clients and leads.

But even if you’re not ready for a full website, I implore you to at the very least get SOMETHING online!  Even if it’s just a single page website showing your logo and some contact details, at least it’s something that people can find when they Google you.