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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

Senior Program Manager, Practice Management, 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.


Video Transcript

[MUSIC] [MUSIC]. Last time on Practice Makeover we met Ken Podell. An advisor in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. He's having a hard time making his practice into a business. I wanna build a more focused practice. A more efficient practice. Instead of having a gazillion names rattling around my head of people that are in my database. We've assembled a team to help fix all that. Matt Howler and his president and founder of Top Advisor Coaching, and April Rudent, is a marketing consultant with the Rudent Group. The three of us are gonna sit down right now, come to the plan, and help Ken really succeed. [MUSIC]. So I met a great advisor, Ken Podell in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. He's been in practice about 28 years, and he works for an insurance company, Mass Mutual. The big issue he's dealing with is, is practically he really never transitioned, into, a, modern business. He's got a practice and not a business. He does not have technology, does not have a brand. He has no on boarding process. But he does have a big list of, a big database of about 3,500 names but only, you know, 100 or so of them are clients. So when you think about him, you know, he looks like he doesn't really know what his optimal client is. Just kinda has this big pie-in-the-sky vision. You know? 52-years-old. And he's looking at the last ten years of his career and he wants to be doing a better job. Ken's practice is a lot like al of the other practices I work with. On the surface, there are some issues. They're issues that most advisors face. But if we dig down, if we really look at what he's built over the last 20-plus years, I think we're going to find that diamond in the rough. What it takes to build a great practice is knowing what it is that you do best and aiming and targeting that certain client. The discovery process for me includes coming up with their value props and helping them uncover. What it is that they do best and what's unique about their practice. Let's talk about some solutions. What can you do to fix this practice? Well, I would say, I mean Matt, not unlike most of these advisors that I speak with, those are very similar problems. So not having a foundation they will, their business really grown from the ground up. And they haven't had time to go back and create processes and procedures for things that most people, when they start a business, might do. So, as an advisor working under the umbrella of a larger firm, it's easy for them to sometimes ignore some of those foundational pieces, like a website, like messaging, like branding. I absolutely agree with everything April is saying here. I think that he needs all of the messaging all of the branding, have him really come out from underneath the mass mutual umbrella, right? But I also think that there's a lot of stuff that he's done very, very well to get where he's at now. So I would like to try meet him where he's at, and let's dive into some of the things like you said, the database. So there could be a, a wealth of business opportunities there. In the database itself, that if we could try to uncover some of that stuff, we might be able to get him to provide better service to those people after we figure out what the message is gonna be. Then we can, we can really go back to a lot of those people and really start seeing what he has now and really go from there. So advisers like Ken, who have been in business this long, have a very robust database. So there are two things that you can do to really filter it to make it so that you can really uncover what's in that book of business. Number one, you filter it by production. What are you earning off of each of these people? And then number two, look at that list and see who you really like to work with. From those two points, you can really find out what you have in your book and then what you can do with it. Once you've filtered your database, what you're gonna find is the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle applies. That 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Then we're gonna look at those 20%. We're gonna start finding out what you might have in common with them, cuz there's some great marketing opportunities that we can have there, to deepen the relationship with those 20%. Crm's everyday unruly right? It's have way too much stuff in there. Exactly so because advisers are quance, they come to me and brag about how many numbers and how many contacts they have and connections when the truth is, they should have fewer connections, fewer contacts, fewer prospects but more targeted. So, where as he talks about his file cabinet, brimming over with leads, I don't think he's even sold into the client base to that he has now. Who your optimal client is shouldn't be an accident. In Ken's case, he's grown his business for 28 years, but he has no idea who his clients are made up of. Many times I see advisors when they come to me and they, start on boarding people simply because they think they're a high network client, or someone that I'd like to do business with, and it turns out they're the wrong kind of client for them. They spend lots of time and lots of energy trying to please someone who's not ideal for their practice. He is an information hoarder who has all this data and he doesn't know what to do with it, so how do we take advantage of that and really leverage his, what he has done well, and really help him build a new foundation for future success? That's ultimately, you know, the question here. I mean, you said you get this all the time. How do you deal with an advisor who doesn't have a website, doesn't have a web presence? How do you deal with that? What's, what's the solution here? One of the things he really needs, is, a plan. Right. So what I noticed about most planners, the planners have no plan. [LAUGH] They might have an investment plan. They might have an investment strategy, but they have no marketing plan. So straight out, I'd like to work with Ken and help him get a plan. So he's built a business without a business plan, and now he's gotta go back to the beginning. So he's swam out to the middle of this lake, and he's gotta figure out, now what do I do but-. Swims and so we need to remember that he does swim [CROSSTALK] he really needs to go through and do some database clean up. Now that might sound like a terribly overwhelming thing, but it really isn't. You know he can export that stuff that an easy Excel spreadsheet and he can go ahead and start filtering and organizing. I want him to really find out who are the clients that he has the greatest revenue from. Who are those profitable clients? And then I want, really wanna see out of those people, well, who does he actually like to work with? But if we can get him to do two things at once, I, I, I would like this to be as productive as possible. And I think we've got the perfect team here in place. Could be doing two things at once here. April, while you're building, you know, working on that foundation, branding and website, also you may wanna start to think about who his client is here a little bit, too. Yeah. I think that's important. And Matt, you're gonna wanna focus on the other side of this. What's his database look like, how can we start to break this down a little bit. But also, his on-boarding process is gonna need your help too. Well, I think we have a nice plan here in place where a little divide and conquer. And we're gonna help Ken build a better business. What do you say. Absolutely, let's go. Matt and April are gonna divide and conquer a little bit here. First, April is gonna help Ken identify his ideal client. Then, she's gonna help build a new foundation for his business complete with new messaging, a new website, a new branding. Then, Matt is gonna help Ken prune down that unruly database. Once that's done, he can start to mine it for some cross-selling opportunities. Plus, Matt and Ken are gonna work together to develop a new on-boarding process. It sounds like a lot, but working together as a team, I think we can get this all accomplished for Ken. [MUSIC]


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