Advisors: Who is your GPS?

It’s family vacation time for the Anderson family. Every year my wife, two sons (ages 4 and 7) and I head off to Maine for a week. If it were up to me, we would find the nearest airport, pack some iPods or a portable DVD player, and the whole family could zone out in peace during the quiet flight north. Alas, for us, it means loading up the “family truckster” and driving 10 to12 hours, which includes multiple traffic jams, inconvenient bathroom stops and a lot of whining (mostly by me).

As we are preparing for the trip, it got me to thinking about one of the greatest inventions in our lifetime: the GPS.

Take a minute to think about what the GPS does for you. You program in a destination, it coordinates where you are and then maps out how to get there. What I really love is that even if you make a wrong turn, it recalculates and keeps you heading forward. It always has its sights on the end destination; in other words, getting you to your goal is always its mission. I think the analogy is perfect for an advisors growth objectives and his or her marketing plan.

Focus on the end goal

If you are like most advisors, you have a strong desire to grow your practice. Many of you have a specific AUM number in mind. You start out each year knowing that you will lose some assets due to RMDs or clients needing to spend some of their assets. But you also know that most years, the market will appreciate, thus raising your assets under management. Unfortunately, unless the market is very generous or you take on more new clients (or assets) than withdrawals, in today’s climate you are most likely not hitting the number you wanted. That’s why you need a plan.

I know, most advisors say they have a plan, but what they don’t have is a GPS. A GPS is the unyielding voice that keeps the end goal in mind. The GPS tells us to correct when we make a wrong turn or bad decision. Most marketing plans remain in the mind of the advisor, not written down or shared with the staff or external partners. If the advisor makes a wrong turn, who is going to help course-correct? Who is going to know if the firm does not get to its goal?

Being accountable

An advisor I know in Florida has set up his office so that everyone is fully aware of the number of new families and assets required to achieve the firm’s annual goals. He invites his regional marketing director and key strategic partners into the quarterly marketing meetings so they have outside input as to what is working – and what is not – with other firms. They test multiple forms of client acquisition strategies and report back the successes and failures. They clearly define roles and responsibilities for their entire marketing calendar. Everyone at the table knows the goal, has a role to play and is accountable. Just like the GPS, they have a clear destination in mind and a map to get there.

For those of you who don’t have a formal marketing calendar, I would be happy to send you a template that we use with our advisors. For those of you who do have a formal plan, who is your GPS? I would love to hear from you, email me.

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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