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How to Optimize Your Area of Specialization (And Why This Matters!)

Once you’ve determined the makeup of your ideal client and began planning how to market to them, your next step is to decide what services you need to offer to be attractive. People in different industries, life stages, and regions will have different expectations and needs, so you need to consider exactly what offerings will make you the most attractive to your future potential clients.

What Is an Area of Specialization?
Though the specifics will vary depending on the industry, an area of specialization is essential for almost all service providers, from plumbers to physicians to veterinarians. Having a specialty on top of more generalized work helps you to become a leader in that narrow field, while still gaining more general work as people search for your expertise.  For example, many financial advisors offer comprehensive financial planning services while focusing on their favorite specific vertical, such as wealth management, 401k rollovers, retirement planning, or investments. They may offer every service under the sun, but much of their marketing will be focused on their area of specialization.

Ask Yourself: What Do You Love to Do?
Before you even get into the client-centric breakdown of your business plan, it can be helpful to consider what you love most. After all, people will be able to immediately sense your passion as you talk about something that’s important to you, and having a primary vertical that you enjoy will make it much easier to go to work in the morning. Consider the ideal breakdown of your workday and come up with a plan that can help you bring this ratio into reality!

What Is Your Experience?
Another thing that will help sell your expertise to your ideal client is highlighting your personal and professional expertise. Have you always been passionate about this line of work? Did your parents raise you a certain way that led you to pursue this career path? Or did you have an “ah-ha” moment while driving to class one day that started you off on your journey? Speaking to this expertise personalizes you, establishes trust, and helps your ideal client decide to make that initial connection.

Stand Out from the Crowd!
Let’s face it, the business world is crowded. Looking up financial advisors in my immediate area turned up hundreds of results, each with similar generic statements about how they help their clients. To stand out from the crowd, evaluate whether there are other less popular—but still essential—services that you can provide, especially if you’re keen to work with a specialized industry or client. Ultimately, even if you’re offering a service that everyone around you offers also, the easiest way to get business will be to put a unique spin on it. Why do you offer this service? Why is it important to you?

Conclusion
Once you’ve built out your ideal client profile, your next step will be determining your area of specialization and optimizing your marketing strategy with this vertical in mind. By taking the time to consider the best fits for your expertise, your ideal client, and how you can stand out from the crowd, you’ll be able to clearly define your area of specialization in a way that draws in potential clients.

How Defining Your Ideal Client Will Help Define Your Business

Whether your business is well-established or in its founding stages, taking the time to define your ideal client is essential to your success. Without taking the time to outline exactly who your ideal client is, you’ll waste time on your messaging, prospecting the wrong people, and lacking a clear idea of exactly what you bring to the table. It would be as if you are casting your fishing line randomly into the middle of the ocean versus into a well-stocked fishing hole. Taking the time to plan out your ideal client will improve your prospect-to-client conversions, and ultimately, your revenue.

The First Steps

If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at your current clients and the skillsets you use most. While you don’t necessarily have to follow the mold you’ve already created, it’s a good start to examine the most valuable things you have to offer. What feedback has your first client given about your services? Would your tenth say the same? It’s important to consider any potential changes as your business scales, and take the time to consider whether you should expand or rezone your offerings.

Creating an Ideal Client Profile

The first step in defining your ideal client will be to develop your ideal client profile. The metrics that matter most will depend on your industry and services, but here are some typical things to keep in mind as you create this profile. What is their age? Where do they live? What is their occupation? What is their income? What is the size of their portfolio? What prompted them to reach out to you at this time?  What are they looking for specifically? Is there something beyond this list that makes them ideal for you that is notable to track?

By evaluating your perfect match for each of these questions, you’ll know where and how to focus your marketing efforts. For each of these qualifications, there should be an adjustment to your marketing strategy, specifically when, where, and how you advertise your business.

Outline Your Marketing Goals

Once you have your ideal client, sit down and determine your next steps. Given the age and income of your ideal client, where should you market? Is Facebook your best bet, or perhaps LinkedIn? The platform you use will ultimately change your marketing strategy, so research each demographic before you start considering your first marketing campaign.

Once you have your strategy outlined on paper, your next step will be to consider your budget and goals. If you’ve never marketed before, you’ll want to start with a small budget and pay close attention to the results. Conduct A/B testing to see what messaging and images work best, and don’t be afraid to start from scratch if you aren’t seeing optimal results.

Conclusion

Many businesses are so excited to start marketing that they leave out the most important step: Knowing who to reach out to. By building out your ideal client profile, you’re ensuring the success of your marketing efforts and preventing wasted time and energy. If you have any questions as you build out your ideal client profile, please reach out to me!

How to End Your 2019 On a High Note

As the end of the year approaches, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your wins, successes, and areas for improvement.  Taking a comprehensive look at 2019 will prepare you for re-organizing your business strategy for 2020.

Evaluate Your Yearly Goals

The first step of your planning should be to look at the goals you set for January of 2019. Break these goals down into three categories: Accomplished, In Progress, and Needs Work. For each item, be honest with yourself about what made it a success, or what pushed it to the back burner. It’s important to be completely open about things that went wrong to perfect your process in the year to come.

When looking at the Accomplished and In Progress goals, take time to evaluate whether you should stay on the same course. If so, you may want to pick a numerical goal (like a 25% increase in ideal prospects or 20% increase in ideal clients) to help keep yourself on track. This can support your motivation and focus throughout the year.

Book out Your Calendar

The best way to keep yourself from stressing at the end of the year is to book out time to address your goals. This should be done at quarterly intervals at minimum, but it’s even better to book out monthly opportunities to assess what’s working and where you need to make changes to your strategy. Set specific goals for each session and add them to your appointment notes so you can quickly jump into the task and get the ball rolling.

While your schedule will fill up throughout the year, it’s essential to keep these appointments. If you have to move it to a different time slot in the same week, you can do so, but be careful about perpetually kicking the can down the road.

What Support Do You Need?

The end of the year is the perfect time to evaluate what’s working—and what isn’t—for your business. Take a look at the resources that you used throughout 2019, and if there are any gaps that could help you alleviate stress. Did you end up delaying your work due to lack of time or technical expertise? If so, it may be best to bring on a coach to help you fill in the gaps in your business. By gifting yourself support where you need it, you can focus your efforts on what you do best, helping to make 2020 your best year yet.

Consider Upgrading Your Technology

As you look back at your progress over the past year, think back on whether you have any major gaps in your technology. Is there any software that would be helpful in organizing and running your business? Some examples could be an email marketing service, scheduling software, or billing and accounting software. Start looking at these solutions now so you can implement in early 2020, getting ahead of the game for the year to come!

As you come to the end of a successful 2019, take a look back to see what could make 2020 even better! By taking a comprehensive and honest look at how your business is run, you can set yourself up for a more streamlined experience in 2020.

How to Delegate Like a Pro!

As your business grows, it is essential to begin handing off your tasks to employees who are competent and eager. Having a properly trained team will allow you to focus your efforts on the high-level tasks that really matter, and it will also help combat burnout and ensure you get the work/life balance everyone desperately needs. Since delegating is such a key part of any management role, here are some tips to manage the process like a pro!

Hire with Future Development in Mind

This is one of the most challenging steps for a business to take, as it requires taking the time to hypothesize what future obstacles may arise. Before you hire additional staff members, sit down and brainstorm the future of your company and what new challenges you may face. How will you grow your business? What industry changes may be on the horizon? What is the best way to find new clients? Keeping these thoughts in mind will help you hire employees with skillsets that will be aligned with your needs.

Craft Client Introductions from the Start

Even if you’re not immediately requiring client interactions, you can start curating relationships between your new employees and existing clients. Facilitate brief in-person introductions when the timing is right and create organic conversations, so your clients are familiar with the names and faces of your office staff. This will make it easier to shift responsibilities when the time comes and ensure everyone gets along well ahead of large transitions!

Set Up Accountability Structures

When the you are ready to start delegating your responsibilities, you want to make it is easy to find a bird’s eye view of your team’s progress. An easy way to do this is to create shared documents (for example, a spreadsheet on Google Drive) that all team members can use to log their notes and client interactions. This will allow you to monitor new developments while still giving your team opportunities to test their new skills and interpersonal relationships.

Be Willing to Invest in Additional Training

Even if you hire the best and the brightest, they may need introductions or refreshers to certain skillsets. If you notice that they could use additional training, politely offer additional training on that skill. One way to approach this is to forward them a link to an online class or seminar and simply say “This looks interesting! Would you like to attend? The company can cover your tuition.” This is a non-judgmental way to help improve confidence and give your employees the tools they need to flourish in your absence.

Delegating is an essential part of business growth, so be sure to take the time to properly train your employees to take on more responsibility. By hiring for potential, cultivating client relationships early, and providing support and training, you can ensure your team is ready to handle even more responsibility as your company develops.

Essential Strategies for Succession Planning: Navigating the Transition

As the moment you’ve been planning for approaches, it’s natural to feel anxiety and trepidation, but having a comprehensive plan in place will keep you organized and motivated throughout the business transition. Here are some of the steps you should take during the transition to keep your company on track!

Check in With Your Attorney

While you should talk to your attorney throughout the process, this is where their expertise is vital to ensure a smooth handoff. Have them draft a contract that outlines your responsibilities throughout the transition, and when tasks should be passed off to the new owners.

Meet with New Employees to Communicate Your Brand

To ensure that everyone is onboarded efficiently and will maintain the standards of your brand, schedule a meeting or two to educate your team about the branding and company values. Setting these expectations early will emphasize the tone of the company and prevent any future inconsistencies, so don’t skip out on this vital step!

Communicate Clearly with Existing Clients

While you may have already discussed the transition with your existing clients, reach out to them again to confirm that the transition is underway and outline the timeline. Give them plenty of time to discuss potential changes and express any concerns they may have. I recommend that you send official notifications via snail mail and email.  You may want to also schedule a conference call with your top clients to give personalized attention, introduce them to the new team to further support a successful transition.

Establish a Consulting Timeline

If you plan on staying on to assist after the transition, work with the new owners to outline your responsibilities and time commitment. Having these parameters in place will help you manage expectations while still guiding your team towards success. In your agreement, outline the number of hours you’d prefer to work each week, the days you will typically be available for consultation, and whether you want a trusted team member to monitor your emails to bring urgent items to everyone’s attention. Reviewing your personal preferences ensures everyone is on the same page moving forward!

As you complete the succession planning transition for your company, it is essential to outline your next steps and set expectations for the future. Creating this roadmap and including the new owners in on your game plan ensures a smooth transition for all parties involved, including your valued clients!

Essential Strategies for Succession Planning: Training Your Team for Success

In order to provide your team with the skills they need to steer your company through a transition, you should begin training them as soon as possible. The need for everyone to be on the same page means that you should take your training slowly and ramp up responsibilities over time, keeping in mind the delicate and nuanced situations that your employees may someday face. Here are 4 training strategies that you can use to guide your team towards a successful transition!

Maintain a Focus on Your Core Values

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture throughout the minutia of a business transition but driving home the focus on your core values will help your team remember what matters most. Ultimately, despite the changes in your management structure, your company’s goal should remain the same throughout the process. Remembering your core values, your brand promise and revisiting them at team meetings will help you remain client-centric, and therefore avoid the churn of clients that can sometimes occur during business handoffs. Keep your team conscientious of their brand and ensure that they communicate it effectively during both face-to-face and digital communication with your clients.

Slowly Ramp Up Responsibilities

If you have an employee or two in mind for future leadership roles, this is the perfect time to slowly delegate essential tasks. Communicate that you are there to support them and keep an eye on the overall project, but allow your employees the chance to complete these tasks on their own. This will help build both their skillset and your confidence in their abilities to guide the company through the transition.

Don’t Skimp Out on Meetings

One of the most frustrating challenges of a business transition is the lack of communication. Most employees hate being left in the dark, and the lack of news can spark harmful rumors. Include key employees in your business development meetings and hold company-wide updates to curb the spread of misinformation. Creating a united and involved workspace can help reduce employee turnover during potentially stressful periods of time, so don’t try to create sweeping changes in the background without consulting with your team. This is an essential time to keep an open-door policy and be transparent about upcoming changes, so give your team the time and space to address their concerns and ask for clarification.

Clearly Expound Upon New Roles

Another avenue of keeping employee satisfaction high during a business transition is to properly outline their opportunities for growth and development in their new roles. By giving them opportunities to add leadership development and new skillsets to their resumes, you can help build their investment in the new company. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to provide additional incentives like company events and bonuses to keep your team happy and productive!

Giving your team essential benefits and support will guide your company through the transition and keep your existing clients happy! If you need help designing a personalized succession plan, reach out to me to schedule a consultation. I can evaluate the current branding of your company and the planned changes to help craft a new marketing plan for the transition!

Essential Strategies for Succession Planning: So What About Branding?

As you continue your succession planning, one inevitable question will arise: What about my branding? Should the new company keep our existing logo,
tagline, and colors, or is it time for a fresh start? What is the best way to conduct these changes? There are no universal answers to these questions, but the nature of your business and your preexisting strategy can help inform your decision and help your company move forward throughout the acquisition process.

How Effective Is Your Existing Brand?

This is an excellent place to start your exploration, and you need to be completely honest and objective as you look at your company’s success. Take a look at the current business landscape and evaluate whether your branding sets you apart from the competition. Are you developing brand recognition and building a following in your community? Is your name unique enough that people will pick it out from the crowd? How does your logo, tagline, and company colors compare to others in the industry? If your existing brand is truly an asset to your team, it may be best to keep it throughout the transition. If you find ways to improve, you can seamlessly update your brand throughout the succession planning process.

Meet with An Expert

Given how essential branding is to your overall success, this is the perfect time to bring in experts on branding and design. Getting sound advice can prevent major stumbling blocks and ensure that you’re putting the best foot forward with your overhauled look, so connect with industry leaders now and set yourself up to win.

Need a Fresh Start?

A business transition is the perfect time to reframe yourselves in the business landscape, so embrace the refresh if it’s time to move forward. Sit down with your team, including any new partners or investors, and determine what aspects of your branding need a makeover. The key things to discuss in your meeting are your target market, your area of expertise, how to communicate your brand and how you want your brand to be perceived. By taking a bird’s eye view of your branding, you can craft a new look that establishes trust and authority.

The Sooner, The Better

If you decide to update your look, start immediately. Your first step should be to email your current clients and inform them of the coming changes to your name and look. Be sure to drive home your commitment to their needs.  Ask your ideal clients for their honest opinion about your new brand. Get input to ensure you’re putting the best foot forward across the board. After sending the initial email, you can slowly start making changes to your website, but be sure to include language such as “formerly known as” to smooth the transition. You may also want to place your new logo side-by-side with the old one for a month or two, in case older users are confused when navigating to your site.

Your brand is invaluable to the success of your business, and it should be an essential part of your succession planning. Take the time to meet with your team and decide whether it’s time for a refresh, integrating this change throughout your transition. As always, if you have questions about your branded system, please reach out to me!

Essential Strategies for Succession Planning: Initial Questions and Preparations

According to a recent survey by FMG Suite, a startling 73% of advisors do not have a written succession plan, but 60% of those same advisors are planning to
retire within five years. While building a comprehensive plan can be a time-consuming process, it ensures that your life’s work will continue after you’ve ridden off into the sunset to enjoy the next phase of your life. In order to provide your team with the best chance of success, you should start considering your succession plan as soon as possible and make adjustments along the way to support the sustainability of your firm.

When Should you Start Considering Your Succession Planning?

Ideally, you should begin evaluating possible transitions as soon as your business is viable. Once you feel that you have mastered the tools of the trade and feel confident in your advisory skillset, it is time to consider possible next steps for business development. This can include onboarding a team to expand your reach, or simply acquiring a book of business to expand your current client list and AUM.  Regardless of which path you take, you should start considering your options, grooming a second in command, and deliberating possible next steps for your firm.

Under What Conditions Would a Transition Take Place?

Having a firm plan of the conditions you’d need to transition will help you immediately consider or reject any incoming terms, as well as providing a logical framework for an otherwise sentimental decision. Write down the answers to these questions and use it as a personal reference as you start considering your options:

  1. In an ideal world, how long would you like to keep working at your firm?
  2. If something minor goes wrong with your health or personal life, how might it shorten this timeframe?
  3. If something major goes wrong with your health or personal life, how might it shorten this timeframe?
  4. Who would handle your current accounts if you had to take short-term leave?
  5. Who would handle your current accounts if you had to take long-term or permanent leave?
  6. What is the minimum amount you would be willing to sell your stake in the firm for?
  7. What would you ideally like to sell your stake in the firm for?
  8. Are there any personal or financial roadblocks preventing you from retiring or selling your business?

Once you have written out the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of your position that will help you make the right decisions with your upcoming strategies.

Is Your Team Ready to Make Changes?

As you begin your succession planning strategy, it’s essential to take an honest look at your team. Consider their personalities and capabilities both as a close colleague, and from a client perspective. Is your team capable of running your firm with minimal input from you? Is there a natural leader who would be able to take the helm if you decide to leave? How would the other team members react to having this person manage the business? If you see a natural choice for a successor, it might be right timing for a conversation with them to determine if they are interested in being a part of your succession plan.  If you are aligned that the fit is a good one, you can also start allocating more responsibilities and grooming them for the promotion. If there isn’t an obvious choice, it may be time to bring in a fresh perspective with new hire(s.)

Succession planning is an essential part of growing your business, and it’s important to ask these questions as early as possible. Once you have evaluated your position from both a logical and emotional standpoint, you will know how to prepare for your next steps

How to Attract Millennial Clients

As Millennials begin to establish careers and take over the consumer market, businesses have been struggling to adapt to their preferences and needs. Words like
“lazy,” “entitled,” and “sensitive” dominate the headlines and create a bias against this generation that can dissuade businesses from focusing on the next generation of clients. However, as Baby Boomers begin to retire and make up less of the consumer market, businesses need to adapt and redesign their marketing strategy. Here are some tips to help make Millennials feel supported and included in your business plan.

Be Direct

Perhaps more than any previous generation, Millennials want to get straight to the point. When designing your website and marketing materials, use direct language about what your company offers and the values you embody. Headlines and bullet points are particularly effective for this demographic, especially when citing hard numbers and statistics. While marketing to previous generations relied mostly on emotional appeals, Millennials are more likely to immediately search for the facts about what you deliver, so be sure you’re being direct and straightforward with your marketing message.

Monitor Third Party Reviews

Constant access to the internet allows the younger generations to be more thorough in their research, whether they’re buying a single product or signing up for a service. Ensure your company stands out by monitoring third party reviews and opinions about your business and addressing any complaints that arise immediately. Asking loyal clients to leave reviews on Google Places for Business, Yelp, or the BBB can help kickstart your online reputation and appeal to those who do their research!

Get Involved in Your Community

If you’ve been watching marketing trends over the past year, you’ve likely seen a trend of “woke” marketing designed to appeal to Millennials. Corporations now take political stances to drum up an audience and create buzz surrounding the causes they support. While your business might not want to take this to the extreme, you can still mention charities you support and what values matter most to you in the about page on your website. Posting photos from charity events and fundraisers that you attend is another way to emphasize the good you’re doing in the world, which is essential to catching the eye of Millennial activists.

Try Organic Marketing Channels

The biggest difference between Millennials and the previous generations are how they respond to marketing in general. Growing up in an environment inundated with ads has made them more critical—and even cynical—about the blatant consumerism that surrounds them. That’s why companies targeting Millennials have turned towards more organic means, using word of mouth and influencers to expose people to their brand. Though you may not have the funds to pay $250,000 for an Instagram post by Kylie Jenner, you can still integrate this strategy into your marketing. Encourage your current clients to spread the word by sharing your posts or talking about your brand on social media, and perhaps enter them into a raffle for their influence. An positive review from a passionate client is worth its weight in gold when working with a media-savvy audience like Millennials.

While some businesses still resist marketing to Millennials, it’s essential to integrate them into your marketing as demographics shift. They are poised to dominate the consumer market in the next few years and learning how to appeal to their open and direct approach to life will help your brand succeed in the changing market.

How to Demonstrate Your Commitment Even When Delegating

As you focus on your business development, you will likely reach a point where you can no longer manage every aspect of your business. This is an exciting step in the growth of your company, and it allows you to devote your energy to your own strengths and passions while letting the rest of your staff handle those items that they are well qualified to handle. However, the act of delegating responsibilities can worry anxious clients, so here are 4 tips to communicate your dedication even as you allow your team to step up to the plate with client relationships.

Step 1:  Create a Personalized Introduction

It’s natural for your clients to feel disappointed when they’re passed along to an unknown associate but crafting a personalized introduction can help ease their anxiety. Take copious notes on the likes, dislikes, and personalities of each client and include them in the account information when onboarding new team members in the lead role of account manager. Ideally, you want to invite your clients to the office for face-to-face introductions to facilitate all parties getting to know each other. Finding shared connections like sports teams, hometowns, or hobbies can create instant rapport at the initial meeting. Brainstorm these connections in advance to support rapport building while creating the space for a smooth transition.

Step 2:  Focus on the Positives

When you inform your clients of the change in responsibilities, it’s important to frame the transition in a positive light. The best way to do this is to highlight that the reallocation of responsibility will better allow you to prioritize your own skills, while delegating the other details to your associates who are well qualified to handle all that they will be responsible for. Emphasize your team capabilities and reinforce the point that they will continue to be well taken care of while you will still be providing clarity of direction and monitoring the results for each account. You will remain in close communication with your team members to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Step 3:  Emphasize Accountability

One of the simplest ways to set your clients at ease during a transition is to outline the leadership structure that they will experience. Make it clear which team member will manage each task and set up regular meetings to review the status of each account. Emphasizing that the supervision of each account will be a team effort will increase client confidence during a transition, particularly if they have multiple people that they can contact when concerns arise. Ensure that your team responds quickly to client needs during the transition and afterwards. Add a message at the bottom of the email that recommends the correct contact for that task in the future and cc that colleague directly on the email. This provides the level of support that clients expect while still allowing them to note the right person to reach out to in the future.

Step 4:  Stay in Close Contact

As you transition accounts, reach out to them and confirm that they are happy with the new experience. In addition to monitoring client satisfaction, this also reminds them that you are involved in the process and still care about their wellbeing. If concerns arise, quickly address them with your team so they can adjust their strategies in support of the client.

It can be challenging to adjust your role with clients although the key to a smooth transition is strategic planning in advance with your team on client relationships and approaching the changes consciously in support of a positive transition for both your clients and colleagues. Follow these steps to ensure that your clients are cared for and content!

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