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Practice Makeover: Season 2

Episode 2: Building a foundation for future success

May 28, 2014 @ 12:00 am

Runtime: 7:51

In Practice Makeover's second episode, adviser coaches April Rudin and Matt Halloran brainstorm around the most critical changes needed to turn Ken Podell's practice around.

The Renovation Room

Industry experts and executives offer strategies, tips and ideas on how practices can improve their business.

Paul West

Paul West

Managing Director, Peak Advisor Alliance

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. Mr. Podell has done a good job of growing a referral-based business and now needs to decide between being a) a glide-path or growth-path adviser; and b) how many hybrid services he wants to provide. I agree with April that he first and foremost needs to establish a plan. He also needs fewer connections, which will allow him to build out his ideal client. The thought of 3,500 prospects without a clearly-defined marketing plan and ideal client is like screaming from a megaphone to the masses. You can scream as loud as you want, but not necessarily in the direction or tone that is most effective. Sifting through his database would be a waste of time right now. Mr. Podell needs to define 1) where he wants to go; 2) how he wants to get there; and 3) who his ideal clients are who will get him there. Then he can build his successful implementation plan.

Frank Maselli

Frank Maselli

Founder of The Financial Lifeguard Academy and The Maselli Group

First, not every advisor needs a “business.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with building a very successful and enjoyable “practice” under the umbrella of a quality parent company that takes care of the minutia of daily living. Many thousands of agents and advisers have done this for over a hundred years, so we know the model works.

Ken seems very comfortable in this environment. He’s great at working with people, building trust and helping them meet their lives’ challenges. Forcing him to start focusing on all the business things he’s not good at is a mistake and could wreck him.

In the simplest terms, Ken, like almost every adviser on Earth, needs two essential things. The first is a clear and compelling story to tell. April is 100% right about creating a brand, a message, his “elevator pitch,” his website and the other elements that make him appear interesting and valuable to potential clients. She seems able to help him in this area.

The second thing is a list of people to tell his story to. This is where Matt’s help in organizing and culling Ken’s extensive database would be invaluable. How many of those 3,500 names are viable prospects? The only way to find out is to clean up the list and start communicating with them over time to see who responds.

I would develop a one-year drip campaign starting with this list and try various approaches. Maybe invite them to a series of workshops. Or offer a white paper or a podcast or a free copy of a book that Ken likes. Let’s start to develop a segmented list of true prospects and then communicate with them.

The message comes first, but these two jobs can start simultaneously. They shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to complete. This isn’t rocket science.
But there is a third element that I’d like to explore further, and it came from Ken’s comments in the first episode. He said he has a particular focus on and success with attorneys and business owners. These are two very strong niches and sources of potential referrals. With almost three decades of experience, it makes sense that Ken’s main marketing modality should be referrals-based in some form. So, in addition to his core branding identity, I’d like to see Ken develop a target market strategy to increase his exposure with these two groups.

There are many ways to penetrate a niche market and the specific method will depend largely on Ken’s present strength and depth of penetration in each group. I would need to know more before I could recommend a specific course of action, but these are definitely worth examining in greater detail.

Kelly LaPalio

Kelly LaPalio

Vice President of National Accounts, FocusPoint Solutions

Ken is not alone. Often hybrid advisers in a similar situation get used to heading into an office associated with a large firm every day, without realizing all the new and exciting opportunities which now exist for them.

I fully agree with what the consultants mentioned here regarding the great need for improving upon both client branding and technology (or lack thereof) within Ken’s practice.

In today’s advisory world, the harsh reality is that Ken’s stuffed file cabinets and paper folders are a sign that his practice is operating in a relatively obsolete manner. First and foremost, he needs to delegate this tedious scanning project to someone who can sort these papers and scan them into a secure vault system for his firm. Another big job is to sift through, organize, update and input all of his contacts into a CRM system.

Being able to see the end result—all relevant contact data in one place from a big-picture perspective—should assist Ken in creating a compelling client message and brand. Additionally, he can easily generate the reports he needs to conduct the narrowly-focused marketing campaigns he mentioned in Episode 1. Completing both these projects will create immediate results, enabling him to provide a higher level of client service and begin designing the processes he now lacks.

Like many other seasoned advisers, he needs to adapt to the technology which is considered standard in today’s marketplace. Once he is open to it—and from the first episode, it sounds like he is—utilizing the right technology to meet his needs will create significant time and cost savings, plus much more efficient, automated processes throughout his practice. Ken should also employ some sort of marketing firm to help him with his branding, message and online presence. A website is an absolute must, especially considering the target clients he initially discussed: 45 - 65-year-old business owners, as well as attorneys.

The possibilities for improvement here are huge. I’m looking forward to seeing Ken implement the solid plan which the consultants here are beginning to put together.

Vanessa Oligino

Vanessa Oligino

Director, Business Performance Solutions, TD Ameritrade Institutional

There is so much opportunity with Ken, the question is: Where to start? While Ken may be tempted to begin with unlocking the potential in his contact database of 3,000+ names, I would suggest a research project is in order to first identify the type of investor he is best suited to work with.

Ken will need to take a detailed look at his current clients, specifically those he has more of a holistic relationship with, beyond just insurance. This exercise will help him gain a better understanding of who they are, the clients he most enjoys working with, and the value they feel he brings to their relationship. These important insights will provide the beginnings of identifying his target market, potential niches, and the profile of his ideal client.

Having defined his ideal client profile, he can then turn to developing an engaging brand designed to speak to them, whether for existing or new relationships. One of the common pitfalls advisers fall into during the brand-defining phase is not placing enough importance on the choosing of a name, and the look and feel of their brand.

A brand needs to be attractive to their ideal client, with clear messaging that speaks to their specific needs regardless of the delivery channel (i.e. face to face, social media, traditional marketing collateral, etc.)

A second pitfall I see when working with advisers is that while they go through the time and expense to create a viable brand, they fail to manage it and be true to it over time. A conscious effort has to be made to ensure that all marketing activities are aligned with and reflective of the brand. Given Ken’s passion for working directly with the clients, he may consider working with a virtual marketing assistant. Or, he might consider hiring someone to assist with the maintenance of his brand and the execution of his marketing plan over time.

Once these two fundamental elements have been defined, Ken will be ready to begin working on a tactical plan for reaching out and engaging with prospects who meet his ideal client profile, as well as building even deeper relationships with existing clients.


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