Attendees at the Fidelity Investments' Inside Track conference in Boston this week got a morning long session on how they can grow their advisory firms.

Ross Ozer, a vice president for Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, opened the first session saying, "Instead of being reactive we can be proactive."  Too often he sees advisors come to his group with the hot marketing topic and want to move forward with it, but they do not see how that market piece fits into the larger puzzle.

Where Advisors Are Falling Short

Ozer quoted former President Lyndon B. Johnson, stating, "Doing what's right isn't the problem. It is knowing what's right.'  He questioned the crowd, "What is going to be right for your firm?"

That question goes to the heart of Fidelity's new approach to have advisors assess their own firm and to use a methodology to move forward. Ozer explained that almost all advisors have a methodology when it comes to investment management and they see the clear benefit in having one.  However, when it comes to growing their firm, they too often lack a logical step-by-step approach.

What Advisors Should Do
Ozer urged the attendees, "Determine a plan and then determine the tools and the tactics." This will help advisors start to institute a business development culture.  Two of the obvious focus areas were around clients and center of influence (COI) referrals.  But as obvious as they are, only about one out of five of the attendees thought they were doing a good job in the COI area and many thought they could do a better job with client referrals.

Have A Strong Message

Ozer talked about the importance of having a firm story when trying to grow through referrals. He said advisors should focus on answering these questions:
    Are you differentiated -- are you standing out from your competitors?
    Does everyone in your firm know your story and can they repeat it?
    Can your centers of influence and clients tell your story?
    Is it pulled through in all your marketing materials?

Ozer emphasized the importance of relationship quality, saying, "Strong relationships lead to leverage points."  He added that it is also very important to have a communication program that should be rated on depth and quality.

Ozer thinks it makes sense to have a new-client plan, and when it comes to the overall plan, he asked, "Are you measuring and monitoring it?"

Starting A Growth Effort

The first step in formulating a growth plan, Ozer said, is to "Understand your environment. Know the competitive landscape. How are you different from your competitors?"  

Ozer also feels it is important to have an ideal client profile. "You want to get into defining who these people are," he said. "Whom do you work the best with?"  Fidelity recommends doing profiles around financials, family, life stage, product and services needed, and possibly around career, industry and affiliations.

"The third piece of the puzzle is the problems that you solve," he added, and stressed the importance of being able to articulate these benefits to clients and centers of influence.

He went on to say, "What is the client experience that is created when a client comes in your office?"  He stressed that everyone within a firm should be consistent with their message.

Gain More Knowledge About Your Referral Sources
Beverly Flaxington, co-founder of The Collaborative, joined Ozer to talk about the importance of quality relationships. To foster these with clients, she recommended monitoring satisfaction. A show of hands proved that many advisors are not conducting client satisfaction surveys, but the ones that did so thought it was well worth the investment of time and dollars.  

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