Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, May 9, 2018
I recently completed an extensive speaking tour across the U.S., Canada and Australia. I presented to hundreds of advisors and met personally with many of them.
I also gained insight into latest trends and concerns in the advisory business as a result of talking with many firms that contacted our digital advisory company.
Here are five takeaways from those experiences:
1. “Caring” is not a slogan
Without exception, the advisors I met cared deeply about their clients. They want to do right by them. Being a “fiduciary” is not a vague, legal term to them. They put the interests of their clients first. While their investment philosophies vary, they all focus on asset allocation, low fees and costs, as well as deferring, reducing and avoiding taxes.
2. The bar is high
As a group, the bar to advance their knowledge is high. These advisors have stellar qualifications. They have mastered their craft and were eager to learn more. Since my focus was on “soft” skills, I was impressed by how open-minded they were about trying the Solin Process℠, even though it’s counter-intuitive and often the opposite of their current approach to converting prospects into clients. They were a particularly sensitive and thoughtful group.
3. Fees, fees, fees!
Whenever someone writes about fee pressure, the comment board on forums such as APViewpoint lights up with advisors saying we’re wrong. They report no fee pressure at all. Some even claim they are raising fees.
My experience is the opposite. I do a survey before every talk and ask participants to list the issues prospects raise that cause them the most difficulty. Fee pressure is at the top of every list, whether the participants are from Seattle or Sydney.
A surprising number of clients from my digital marketing firm are differentiating themselves by abandoning an AUM–based fee and going to a retainer model.
4. Niche marketing
The trend is towards niche marketing. Michael Kitces has written some excellent blog posts on this subject.
His message that it is easier to market yourself as a specialist to a well-defineed demographic than to try to appeal to everyone, is clearly resonating.
5. Referrals are declining
In this blog post, Kitces noted that referrals are no longer the primary driver of AUM growth. My experience validated his observations. Advisors are taking a hard look at their websites, which are becoming a major source of lead generation. When they ask us to review them, it’s clear that there’s room for improvement.
Many websites are cold and impersonal, filled with generic templates and an overwhelming amount of content. What’s missing is the human element. Who are you? Why should I trust you with my life savings?
There’s often nothing on these websites that is relatable or that projects “likability.”
Advisors are recognizing these limitations and rethinking both the design and content of their websites.