How to Build an Unstoppable Financial Planning Practice – Client Value Optimization

Client Value Optimization: How to Build An Unstoppable Practice

You’ve finally found it…

This resource is designed for those unfamiliar with the CWA Network (CWA for short) — and for those CWA veterans that don’t know where to find all our content. It’s also a blueprint of sorts.

You see — all advisors and planners are at various levels of STUCK.  There’s just so much to learn. From first year to seasoned pro — we are all looking to get better at what we do — always looking for an edge. It’s our defining characteristic.

This page is here to help you locate the resources you need to master all of the intricacies of running a successful practice.

And by intricacies we mean…

The Marketing System

It’s the same system Apple and McDonald’s have used to dominate the phone/tablet and hamburger markets.  It’s the same system Google uses to dominate the web.  It’s how IBM, Guthy-Renker (selling products like Proactiv Solution) and BMW have become household names.

This system works for small and enterprise level businesses.  It works for mom-and-pop shops and billion dollar retailers.  It works whether you sell physical products, digital products or services.

This system works because it exploits each and every aspect of the irrefutable law of business growth put forth by legendary marketer Jay Abraham:

There are only three ways to grow a business,

  • Increase the number of customers
  • Increase the average transaction value per customer
  • Increase the number of transactions per customer

We call it The Client Value Optimization BlueprintThis is the stuff they don’t teach when you join the “firm”.

Learn the Steps to the Client Value Optimization Blueprint

The following flowchart outlines the CVO Blueprint.

Download a PDF version here

Print this PDF version and tack it to the wall next to your desk.  If you plan to execute this plan, you’ll need to reference it often.

When you’re learning new technologies like EMoney, Redtail or Riskalyze you’ll need to constantly remind yourself of the CVOB process.  Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money.

This is a warning:  There is little profit in understanding, for example, Non-Qualified Deferred Comp (NQDC), pension maximization or captive insurance in and of itself.  There is enormous profit in understanding how to apply these technical strategies using the Client Value Optimization Blueprint.

Here is a flowchart of the Client Value Optimization Blueprint …

CVO Blueprint CWA Network

Here are the steps:

  • Determine Your Niche Market
  • Know Your Niche Market Inside and Out
  • Choose A Source To Fill Your Prospect Pool
  • Offer a Low Cost, High Value Item or Service
  • Offer to Conduct an Initial Meeting
  • Offer a Feasibility Study
  • Offer a Comprehensive Financial Plan
  • Offer to act as the Client’s Buyers Agent
  • Create the Return Path for Prospects and Clients

Some of these resources are freely available on the blog or even someone else’s site, if we believe it’s valuable.  Other resources available for you to invest in come in the form of training courses by CWA or other industry leaders or are available in our comprehensive, full access, flagship system The Practice Management Blueprint (also known as CWA University).

Yep… we sell stuff.  A lot of stuff actually.  All of the things that we built to run our practices are available for you to invest in and speed up the implementation process for your practice.

We’re about to reveal the exact practice management, financial planning process and unique way we recommend financial services products in our own practices and  in multiple niche markets and mainstream verticals.

Let’s begin with…

Step 1 – Determine Your Financial Advisor Niche

There may be nothing more important than choosing the correct financial advisor niche market, simply because every other part of the process is dependent upon having a group of willing and able buyers.

No amount of work or luck will help if you don’t have a willing and able market.

Maybe you’ve been told that you can build a profitable practice around any group you are passionate about.

Wrong.

If there is not a sustainable market for your planning and products, all the time you invest in building your practice is a complete waste of time…

…you’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, so to speak.

To confidently build a practice around a niche you must determine whether,

  • The niche is big enough
  • The niche is monetizable

To determine if the market is large enough look for,

  • 30,000+ Google searches per month on your top 3 keywords
  • Active Blogs/Forums
  • Active Facebook Page
  • Active Industry Magazines
  • Active Email Newsletters
  • Active Associations

To determine if the market is monetizable look for,

  • Direct competition (They are doing exactly what you want to do.  This is a good thing.)
  • Indirect competition (They are selling to the same market, but don’t sell what you do)
  • Advertisers (Where there are well-known advertisers, there is money)
  • Gurus (Look for very influential people associated with your market)
  • eCommerce Sites (Find sites that are selling products to this market)

These are all rules of thumb, of course.  If, for example, you don’t find an active forum or your keywords don’t add up to exactly 30,000+ you may still have a viable market.

That said, the more of the above criteria your market meets — the more likely you are to succeed.

Once you have chosen a profitable niche market it’s time to study, prepare and separate yourself from the herd.

  • What are the unique issues and concerns of the niche – interview members, read the industry magazines and attend events.
  • Focus your learning – Narrowly within the niche and deep.  Become a specialist on taxes, estate and trusts, buy-sell agreements for this niche.
  • Speak their language – As an advisor you understand IRA, RMD, NQDC and AUM.  What is the unique language of your niche market?  Insiders know the language, outsiders do not.
  • Many advisors today are great when it comes to investment and retirement planning.  After several years of coaching advisors we have come to realize that there seems to be a lack of focus on the ability to debrief wills and trusts, tax returns and buy-sell agreements…yet alone, the advanced technical skills that are required to play in many of the “richest” niches.  These skills are a necessity today…without these basic technical skills an advisor is susceptible to being replaced by a robo-advisor.

Financial Advisor Niche Market Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • The One About Niche Marketing – this blog post links to several other great articles.
  • Why we love working with business owners.
  • Top 25 niche markets and how to penetrate them

From the CWA Back Office:

  • How to define and profit from a Niche Market
  • Step by Step Niche Marketing Kit
  • Naming your Process to Match your Niche

Training Courses:

In the next step, we’ll dispel the myth behind prospect generation…

Step 2 – Choose a Source(s) to Fill the Prospect Pool

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 1

This might shock you but you DO NOT have a prospect problem.

You might have a practice/business model problem, a planning process problem, a client onboarding problem or a measurement problem.

But you DO NOT have a prospect problem.

Here’s why…

According to the numbers released by Phoenix Marketing International, there are…”About 6.15 million millionaire households are spread across the U.S., according to the report. That means 1 in every 20 households in the U.S. has more than $1 million in investable assets. Those figures don’t include the value of real estate.”  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 there were 223,400 personal financial advisors.   I believe that would mean 27.5 million dollar or more households per advisor.  That does not include households with investable assets between $500,000 and $1,000,000.   Add to that, the median income of personal financial advisors in 2012 was only $67,520 that would mean there was no way 50% of advisors were each serving 27.5, million dollar households.  So, now it’s at least 55, million dollar households per advisor.  How many million dollar in investable households are you currently serving?

It’s not a prospect problem, there are plenty of them.  It is a prospecting problem.

Here’s a litmus test for you…we call it The Client Trust Factor.  How many referrals did you get last month?  Last quarter?  Last year?  If you aren’t averaging 2-4 qualified referrals per month then you probably have a planning process model.  That means you’re investment and retirement information is great but you aren’t turning the planning process into a unique client experience that is worthy of sharing with others.

If you are getting 2-4 qualified referrals but not converting at least half then you have a client onboarding problem.

Finally, if you’re getting 2-4 referrals and you’re closing 90-100% then it’s probably time for you to raise your planning fees and/or go up market.

Having said all of that, we still need to deal with the prospecting problem that many advisors have today. In a survey we conducted, over 60% of advisors responded that “More Quality Prospects” was their number one issue.

Here’s two questions you need to ask yourself, “How much can you afford to spend to acquire a new client?”  And, “What are you doing to create a unique client experience?”  The answer is simple, it depends on how much a new client is worth to you.  Let’s assume the average new client is worth $5,000 in year one and $2,500 every year afterwards…could you spend $1,000 to acquire a new client?

Heck yes you could.  You could pay up to $1,000 to get a new client and still break even.  In fact, you’ll be able to pay more than $1,000 to get a new client when you truly understand the whole of Client Value Optimization Blueprint.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, once said (in a tongue-and-cheek warning to his competitors)…

“Your margin is my opportunity.”

Walt Disney, once said…

“It’s no secret that we were sticking just about every nickel we had on the chance that people would really be interested in something totally new and unique in the field of entertainment.”

The lesson we’ve learned is that once you understand CVOB, you become unstoppable.  Amazon.com sells on the thinnest of margins knowing that acquiring new customers, selling them more and selling to them more frequently is how you become unstoppable.  While Walt Disney believed that creating a unique experience for his guests, regardless of the cost, would pay off in the end.

In real terms, prospects are not a problem.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, just to point out today’s obvious, are lining up to sell you qualified prospects.  Your clients wants to send you more qualified prospects too.  Is your process unique enough to create an experience for new prospects?

You simply need to understand,

  1. How to measure what a new client is worth
  2. How to provide maximum value to that client
  3. How to help enough other people obtain their goals and dreams, that you’ll obtain yours

Sales tactics are worthless if you don’t understand the CVO Blueprint process.

This is why you are frustrated.  You have no context.  You have no system.  ANd you know what system stand for, right?

Save YourSelf Time Energy and Money

We can teach you to drive prospects through tactics like direct mail, seminars, or personal introductions but first you need to understand that you must have a financial planning process that creates a unique experience for your clients and prospects…you need a system.

The goal, no matter which source you choose to fill your prospect pool, is to drive prospects into the CVO Blueprint.

Become a master of a single, steady prospect source.  Stay focused on that prospect source and, once mastered, add a second and third prospect source.

These prospect sources include…

  • Referral marketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Seminar Marketing
  • Personal Introductions
  • Centers of Influence
  • Social Media, Website and Blogging
  • Teaching Clients to Share the Experience

Traffic Resources

Because there are so many sources of prospects — we’ve created numerous resources for you including…

From the CWA blog:

  • Financial Advisor Social Media
  • Top Financial Advisor Secrets
  • Built to Last – 3 Steps to a Top Financial Advisor Business Plan
  • The Financial Advisor Prospecting/Product Marketing Conspiracy
  • How to Choose The Right Traffic Source For Your Niche
  • The 7-Point Blog Post Accelerator
  • The Client Trust Factor
  • Still Trying to Brand Your Firm? STOP! Until you read this…

From the CWA Back Office:

  • Introduction to Share the Experience – Audio Training
  • The Advisor’s Social Media Shortcut
  • Financial Advisor’s Website SEO Guide
  • The Financial Advisor Perpetual Seminar

Training Courses:

Your prospecting begins and ends with driving prospects into the CVO Blueprint.

The CVO Blueprint begins with offering a low cost/high value item or service…

Step 3 – Offer a Low Cost, High Value Item or Service

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 2

 

The next three sections (Offer a Low Cost-High Value Item or Service,  Offer an Initial Meeting and Offer a Feasibility Study) show you how  to grow your business/practice through the first of Jay Abraham’s methods, increase the number of customers (clients in our world).

The low cost-high value item or service is an irresistible offer that gives a specific chunk of value to a client in exchange for their contact information.

Make no mistake, although little or no money changes hands, this is a transaction.  And, it is often the first transaction you will have with a prospect.

You will need to provide tremendous value with the Low Cost, High Value Offer.

The Low Cost High Value item or service is usually offered on a web page called a landing or squeeze page that is optimized to convert even cold traffic into prospects.

The landing page doesn’t need to be fancy.  Here’s a Low Cost-High Value Offer landing page from a financial advisor in the UK that has done a very nice job.

 

LM Example

The High Value-Low Cost (HV-LC offer)  offer exists to increase prospects.  Because the HV-LC offer is the very top of the CVO Blueprint, increasing opt-ins here will pay dividends throughout the rest of the system.

What irresistible item or service could you offer in exchange for a prospect’s contact information?

High Value-Low Cost Offer Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • 9 High Value-Low Cost Items and Service Examples
  • [Checklist] 5 Copywriting Elements of a Great Case Study
  • How to Create Your First High Value-Low Cost Offer
  • How to Build and Write Your First Prospect Landing Page
  • Magic of the Video Sales Letter

From the CWA Back Office:

  • The Video Presentation Formula
  • 20-Point High Value-Low Cost Offer Optimization Checklist
  • 18-Point Prospect Landing Page Plan

From our Training Courses:

The more leads you generate through the High Value-Low Cost offer, the more Initial Meetings you’ll make.

Step 4 and 5 Go Together…They are like a Combination Punch”. 

“You could use one without the other but they are much more effective together”

Step 4 – Offer Initial Meeting

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 3

 

If you understand and execute the next two steps, you’ll be far ahead of most other advisors.

Remember, our first goal is to increase the number of prospects.  So far, we have only generated leads through the Low Cost-High Value offer. We still haven’t generated new clients.

The initial meeting is made to those that have displayed interest through the Low Cost-High Value offer.  The Initial Meeting is typically a no cost offer.  The goal of the Initial Meeting is to fundamentally change the relationship from the prospect interviewing the advisor; to the advisor interviewing the prospect.  The conversion of a prospect to a client, begins in the Initial Meeting, and it is as much art as it is science.

There are four keys to moving from the initial meeting to the feasibility study:

  1. Make the intangible concept of planning tangible by use of a well branded, professional brochure that visually defines the planning process
  2. Clearly identify the prospects goals and objectives, assess satisfaction in their financial life and identify potential obstacles and opportunities – Listen carefully BUT do not share your observations at this point
  3. Clarify and document how you would work together and how you each would measure success
  4. Explain the benefits of the feasibility study.  Teach them how it acts as a blueprint for their financial plan and the depth of the observations that will be made in the areas that are the most important to them, as well as, areas in which other advisors typically are not looking at like the wills and trusts, tax returns and buy sell or operating agreement (if they own a business).

Step 5 – Offer Feasibility Study

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 4

The most common way to make the feasibility study irresistible is by offering it at a very low cost and, in some cases, at no cost.  We do not currently charge for the Initial Meeting or the Feasibility Study, although some advisors do charge for these meetings.  There is also strong evidence that a nominal cost of $100 – $500 for an advisor to complete the feasibility study would enhance the planning process and strengthen the relationship with your prospect because they are now a customer…not a prospect.  Remember, you are not trying to make a living from doing Initial Meetings and Feasibility Studies.  You are trying to move them from prospects to clients because there is nothing more valuable than a growing list of clients.

We look at it as relationships under management.

When you understand the rest of the Customer Value Optimization process you will understand how the feasibility study is the single most powerful addition you can make to your practice — even though you make no direct profit from it.  It is the classic, try it…before you buy it.

A classic example of a try it, before you buy it comes from Columbia Records,

 

Columbia House Try it before you buy it

Columbia House took over the music market by making an absolutely irresistible offer (13 records or tapes for $1) because they understood that once a person took out their credit card once…they had a much higher conversion for the next sale at full price.

Feasibility studies or try it before you buy it offers are all around us.

It’s the test drive of the car, it’s the “free” three night stay at the time share.  It’s the rock-bottom price of the Amazon Kindle.  It’s the $20 for $50 worth of Food Groupon offer.

The strategy of feasibility study offers is quite simple, convert the maximum number of low cost/high value leads into clients, even at the expense of chipping away at your profit margin, with the understanding that acquiring a lifetime client will deliver profit through the next three steps(for years):

  • The Financial Plan
  • Financial Products and Services as a “buyers agent”
  • The Annual Review process

Initial Meeting and Feasibility Study Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • How to Calculate Average Client Value (ACV) and Why It Matters
  • Transition to a Fee-Based or Fee-Only Practice
  • How to Optimize the Most Important Parts of Your Marketing Funnel
  • How to Read A Prospects Mind so They Want to Work With You
  • What Should be in Your Initial Prospect Meeting Folder

From the CWA Back Office:

  • 10-Point Prospect Conversion Checklist
  • Four Tools That Make Client Onboarding Easier
  • Transitioning to fee-based or fee-only practice

From our Training Courses:

Step 6 – Offer a Financial Plan

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 5

 

This is where we  we shine…

[Or if you are like I was…you may find that you’re missing the systems and processes needed to create a unique client experience each and every time without having to recreate the wheel.  We cover all of that in detail inside The Practice Management Blueprint.]

After all, you’ve already had two successful face-to-face meetings with this prospect, and now they are a client.

Which is why it’s critical to over deliver with the Initial Meeting and The Feasibility Study.

In some cases, revenues from financial planning fees will make you profitable.  But it doesn’t have to.  If you follow through on the CVO Blueprint, you could take everything you make from financial planning fees and reinvest them to acquire more clients.  Then, once you have built a solid practice and can afford a slower flow of new clients, the revenues from planning fees could be used to cover your practices operating costs.

Again, this is how you become unstoppable.  You build a system in which you can spend more to acquire clients than your competitors.

Here’s the secret sauce to truly great planning and creating a unique client experience:

  1. Help the client identify their goals for each planning area…they need to be crystal clear in what they want.  We suggest creating tools designed to help clients think about the different areas of planning and to help them get clear on their goals.
  2. Show the clients what their current situation looks like in comparison to their desired outcome for each planning area.  Clients should effectively be able to self-identify the gaps in their current situation in comparison to their goals.  They may need help identifying the gaps but the more they can see for themselves, the more they are creating their own plan.  Obviously, there are opportunities that will help them to more quickly achieve their goals…you’ll want to educate them about those opportunities…don’t “sell” anything, educate.  It’s their plan, help them create it.
  3. Finally, make plan recommendations in relation to the clients goals and share the pros and cons to each recommendation.

While your competitors are creating financial plans, banking the revenues and selling their recommendations.  You don’t have to make e a dime from your financial planning fees because clients have self identified their shortfalls and will want your help in the next phase of the process.  Your implementation rate should far exceed 90% versus other advisors that may struggle to get a 50% implementation rate because they are selling.

Remember, as Jeff Bezos says, your competitor’s margin is an opportunity.  It is your opportunity to, for example, spend more on client acquisition, client conversion and increase the value of your planning.

It might surprise you to find out that many of the most successful advisors in the world make no profit until they reach the next two stages, Acting as the Clients Buyers Agent and the Annual Renewal Process.

Financial Plan Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • Estate Planning Checklist For Financial Advisors
  • How To Start A Financial Advisor Apprentice Program
  • Estate and Income Tax Tips
  • Powerful Words
  • Tax Returns

From the CWA Back Office:

  • Buy Sell Agreement Debrief Checklist
  • Tax Return Debrief Checklist
  • Will and Trust Debrief Checklist

From our Training Courses:

Here’s where things get very interesting…and profitable

Step 7 – Offer to Act as a Buyers Agent

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 6

 

Jay Abraham’s second business growth method is to increase the average transaction value per customer.  Acting as the Client’s Buyers Agent does just that.

Most advisors will offer an Initial Meeting but they don’t always become the client’s buyers agent.  They don’t build huge value early on or they rush to sell financial products and take over the client’s investments instead of educating the client and allowing them to self identify their own needs.

This is why they struggle and you won’t.

Would it shock you to find out that Amazon makes no money on the Kindle?  The Kindle is the equivalent to our Initial Meeting and Feasibility Study, but it’s the eBooks and additional purchases that power Amazon’s profits.

Financial planning fees are the equivalent to Kindle’s advertising profits…the profits here are reinvested to attract more Kindle customers, just as the financial planning fees should be reinvested to attract new prospects.

Take  look at this chart from research done by Morgan Stanley…the Kindle devices themselves lose money (~$600 million) but Amazon makes a small profit with advertisers, music, apps and movies (~$400 Million) and their main profit  coming from the sale of ebooks ($1.6 Billion).

 

Amazon Kindle Advertising Profit

How many times would you deposit $6 in an ATM, if it paid out $20? That’s how we look at our practices, and you should too.

McDonald’s doesn’t make much, if any, money on the hamburger sale but there is huge profits with the fries and Coke that are sold with the burger. Would you like to super-size your order?

For financial advisors it’s AUM fees and insurance sales where our main profits are derived.  We are in business to make a profit and one of the best methods of doing that is to provide a superior experience.  What do you need to do to ensure you are hired as the buyer’s agent:

  • Earn the right to act as the client’s buying agent
  • Be certain that any and all financial service products recommended are in the client’s best interest
  • Do the research to find the best product at the best price given the buyer’s unique goals and objectives
  • Stay committed to constant improvement and education
  • Disclose conflicts of interest

Buyer’s Agent Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • How to be the Client’s Purchasing Agent, not their Sales Rep
  • How to Calculate Average Client Value (ACV) and Why It Matters
  • How to Implement 100% of the Client’s Financial Plan

From the CWA Back Office:

  • The Buyer’s Agent: 12-Point Life Insurance Checklist
  • How to Design a Term Life Ladder

From our Training Courses:

Become a buyer’s agent and you begin to become unstoppable.

But there is one more way to grow…

Step 8 – Create the Return Path for Prospects and Annual Review for Clients

CVO Blueprint CWA Network 7

 

The last way to grow a business is to increase the number of transactions per customer.

Enter the Return Path and the Annual Review Meeting.

The goal of the Annual Review Meeting is to have frequent, meaningful communication with your clients that cause them to want to meet at least annually.  Clients want to know that their financial plan is on track and that they are making progress towards their goal.  Your job is to visually show them their progress against the financial plans projections.  As life events change, a process oriented annual review that is focused on the client’s goals will inevitably return the client through the Practice Management Blueprint, identifying the need for new financial services products.

The goal of the Return Path is to have strategic and frequent communication with your prospects that cause them to re engage with your firm.

Because you have their contact information you can offer new low cost-high value items and services, initial meetings and feasibility studies because you have permission to market to them.

Email marketing, content marketing, organic social media, referrals, and case studies are tactics used to maintain communications with prospects.

How are you ensuring that you reach your prospects again and again?  When was the last time you contacted a client with something other than an product offer?

Return Path and Annual Review Resources

From the CWA blog:

  • Email Marketing Follow-up
  • Annual Client Reviews – Key Performance Indicators
  • Creating the Perfect Annual Review Process

From the CWA Back Office:

  • Annual Review Checklist
  • Protect Your Practice
  • 5 Step Account Summary System

From our Training Courses:

Increase the value you bring to prospects in the early meetings, educate clients through the planning process and act as the clients buyers agent for financial services products. This is the formula to maximize profits in your financial planning firm.

Do the math

The Client Value Optimization (CVO) Blueprint is about building an unstoppable practice by increasing the value of your client.

The numbers don’t lie,

  • You currently make $250,000 per year (50 clients with $500K investment account)
  • You add 10 new clients per year (Adding Financial Planning Fees, reinvesting them and adding Initial Meeting + Feasibility Study)
  • You make 2X more profit with the new clients (Acting as the Buyer’s Agent for financial services products)
  • You now make $350,000/yr and growing
  • You make 1.5X more profit with current clients (financial planning and acting as buyer’s agent)
  • You now make 475K/yr
  • In 6 years you break 7 Figures annually

If you’re starting point is $100K then either grow by 15 new clients per year, add higher net worth clients or give yourself 8 years to crack 7 figures.

This is the exact system my partner, John Enright, used and now he works 4 days/week.  This is the system I use and the same system we coach our licensees to put in place.

I know why you’re frustrated.  You’re frustrated because you don’t know WHY you you keep reinventing the wheel.  You don’t know WHY you aren’t getting enough qualified prospects.  You don’t know WHY you aren’t growing your practice as fast as you like.

Every one of these tactics is useless without a system.

I’ve held nothing back.  It’s all here for you.  Application of even one of the steps in this system will grow your practice.

Applying them all will make you unstoppable.

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