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goal-setting framework for your advisory team

Defining Success: A Goal-Setting Framework for Your Advisory Team

What does success look like for you in 2021? That’s the question you want to answer for yourself when you embark on year-end planning.

It always starts in November. Advisors frantically work to finish the year strong, while planning for the coming months. And, of course, the analysis starts. As numbers people by nature, you’re comfortable with this exercise: crunching the data, calculating revenue, tallying up the number of new clients you onboarded over the course of the year, assessing client attrition rates, reviewing profitability margins… 

These are all good numbers to know — but the analysis process shouldn’t end there.

At Beyond AUM, we look at everything outside that AUM number (hence, our name) and teach our clients how to measure success in other ways — all of which ultimately contribute to the rise or fall of AUM in the long run.

So, where does goal-setting beyond the numbers begin? First, pause and think about your clients: Do you understand what motivates them? Do you know their peer group? Who are their influencers? Do you truly know what they’re investing for? What changed this year, if anything? The answers to these questions will guide your actions in 2021, dictating how you spend your business development time and serve your clients.

Let’s look at an example:

Imagine an advisor with a full book of business, mostly clients in their 70s and 80s. The advisor is looking to shore up the future of her business with the next generation of investors, but she is struggling to determine how and where she should spend her time going into 2021. She knows that she must continue to bring value into the lives of her longstanding clients. But she also knows it’s important to grow her book of business through new demographics to ensure the viability of her practice for years to come.

How can she reconcile these competing goals and priorities?

It starts with finding common ground.

In this example, the advisor’s current clients (again, who are in their 70s and 80s) have children and grandchildren — these family members, who fall into the Gen-X and -Y age ranges, will be the ultimate recipients of the family legacy. The younger generation is building and securing their wealth, and they like the stable record of the advisor’s firm but want the conveniences of today’s lifestyle. 

Of course, this is the ultimate example of serving clients across decades and generations. The advisor’s foot is in the door, and she needs trust in both of these scenarios. But how can she build on that trust while also serving the clients based on their experience preferences, which are vastly different?

The reality is that both client demographics have more in common than you may think — and they can act as a springboard for our hypothetical advisor’s business development and marketing efforts. And whether your own goals mirror this advisor’s — breaking into new demographics or seizing new lines of business from existing ones — or you’re looking to embark on something new, the following template can guide you down the right path. It’s built to help you find common ground and new avenues for success that may be right in front of your eyes. And best of all, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Start with three top-level goals. In our example scenario, the advisor’s list may look like this:

-Increase the value I bring to my current client relationships.

-Build the next generation of investors into the practice.

-Enhance efficiencies through streamlined workflows and technology.

Simple enough, right? Using the same example, let’s break down the three top-level goals into actionable steps. These need to be realistic, attainable, and non-complex:

1. Increase the value I bring to my current client relationships

-Develop a next-generation content strategy that focuses on helping my clients build their legacy and solves the challenges they face.

-Utilize online and in-person events and meetings to communicate and provide education.

-Host value-add client meetings over the course of the year — introduce an all-family-members meeting toward the end of 2020 (including current clients and next-gen family members), and set expectations at the beginning of 2021.

-Create and implement a legacy plan that takes the guesswork out of how things are handled for the next generation.

2. Build the next generation of investors into the practice

-Establish relationships and thought leadership in communities where the Gen-X and -Y demographics thrive.

-Audit and update digital and physical marketing materials that speak to the benefits and values of this audience.

-Launch a digital advertising campaign that targets these demographics in the online spaces they frequent most and connect it to value-add education.

3. Enhance efficiencies through streamlined workflows and technology

-Create workflows that are fueled by tools and technology, and integrate systems wherever possible to improve processes.

-Enhance the onboarding experience, create new avenues for sharing information, and introduce more efficient reporting for new clients that emphasizes convenience and value; develop a promotion that allows current clients to opt into the new processes.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff — and stuff is good. But whether or not that stuff works is what makes or breaks your strategic plan. Let’s get back to defining success: What might success look like for this advisor? How will she know that all of her efforts are working for her clients and practice as a whole? 

It only matters if you measure it…

This is the trap we all fall into. We spend so much time dreaming up big goals and plans for the coming year, only to come up short when we’re asked to prove how it all works. This is what a data-driven goals strategy looks like, using the same example (fill in the “X” placeholders yourself): 

1. Increase the value I bring to my current client relationships

End result — New client relationships and attrition certainty:

-X% of clients between the ages of 70-80 will be opted into a legacy-planning process. 

-X% of the next-generation family members who participate in this process will engage me as an advisor (this likely will be a lower number than above).

End result — Marketing activities will increase client engagement:

-X% of the clients who participate in the legacy-planning process will include their children in our family meetings and invite them to attend at least two family-legacy-focused events.

-Open rates for educational and marketing emails will increase by X% and click-through rates will increase by X%.

-The number of current clients who are subscribed to our communications will increase by X, growing by X% year over year.

2. Build the next generation of investors into the practice

-X% of my new clients will fall into the Gen-X and Gen-Y categories with minimum investable assets of $1 million; of these clients, X% will be referred by COIs and existing clients.

3. Enhance efficiencies through streamlined workflows and technology

-Increase profitability by X%.

-Decrease meeting prep and onboarding time by X%.

-Onboard at least X% of new and existing clients onto technology platforms and tools.

Of course, this is a purely hypothetical example — but you can probably see parallels to your own business goals in various different parts of the list.

Your goals and strategic plan will look different based on your firm’s unique needs, opportunities, and challenges. But one thing is certain: In order for the exercise to be effective for your firm, your three top-level goals should inform everything you do in your business — every investment, every decision, every action. 

That means the next time your team comes up with a new, great idea (and they will), pause and ask yourself how that great idea will move you closer to your top-level goals. Is the idea aligned with your definition of success? Is the idea distracting you from what is really important? If you can’t make a direct correlation between the next great idea and the goals that are driving your practice forward, then skip it. 

When it comes to advising your clients and their investment decisions, many of you have probably said the line, “Stay focused on your strategy.” Like investing, focus is the single-most important thing you can do for your business. Focus is what makes or breaks your firm’s success. Focus will help you build long-term growth beyond the AUM number (pun intended).

Are you interested in applying the exercise above to your own strategic plan? Contact us today!