Your first year as a financial adviser: what you need to know

By Helen Fisher on October 22, 2018

The first 12 months in any new career can be a challenge, and for some people, it can even be a make-or-break experience. Starting out as a financial adviser is no different and, in fact, it can bring extra challenges.

As well as getting on with the actual day-to-day duties of giving advice and managing other people’s money, the task of finding investor leads can also take up a great deal of time and effort.

Of course, anyone just starting out in the sector will also be asking themselves what it takes to become successful in their new field. One of the easiest ways to find answers is to ask established industry experts, because no matter how successful they are now, they all went through the same early stages that you now find yourself in.

Hire other professionals

April Rudin is the founder of The Rudin Group and she specialises in working exclusively in financial services. The business was founded in 2008 and throughout its existence has worked with other firms both big and small. Her advice to anyone starting out in the sector is: “Hire a professional marketing firm. Don’t be a ‘do it yourself’ marketer. Advisers resent ‘do it themselves’ investors but frequently don’t use professional advice themselves.”

This advice is based on logic and can be a good line to follow if you have the budget. However, for many people starting out, their first year financial adviser goals might well include building up a big enough war chest to hire marketers and the like. In the meantime, a little hard work doing your own PR and publicity should really be expected as part of the job.

Dedicate time to sales and marketing

The founder of Blue Ocean Principles, Kacee Johnson, agrees with this DIY idea in principle. As a regular speaker and commentator at various high-level conferences, she focuses on subjects such as business development and marketing. Johnson is recognised as one of the most important young professionals who has a vision of how businesses will work in the future. Her awards, including CPA Practice Advisor magazine’s “40 Under 40” Award in 2012, 2013 and 2015, certainly back up this claim.

In your first year, the job of finding qualified leads for financial advisers will be an important one to manage. Obviously, if you can get third-party help, then it will be a bonus, but Johnson thinks that the answer lies in your own time management skills. “The first year in financial services is critical for a growing firm; my top recommendation would be that you carve out 20 per cent of your time each week to dedicate to sales and marketing,” she says.

“All too often we see the firm so focused on servicing the client and not driving their own business. This results in flat-line growth and bottlenecks that deplete the organisation of any scaling power. Dedicating a specific time frame to the business development of your own practice will keep the sales pipeline full and set the firm up for growth,” Johnson explains.

Outsourcing your lead generation is also hugely beneficial in the early days. This is what Lead Tech specialises in, and can help you achieve your goals and grow your financial advice business.

Online presence

Kelly Edwards is the co-founder and CEO of Lawton Marketing Group, which has clients in 45 states across the US. She graduated with a degree in advertising and had a background working in corporate marketing for a decade before starting her own company. Edwards knows the value and importance of getting your message across online.

“First and foremost, a new agent should make sure they have a great website that clearly articulates who they are and what they do. Everything else they will ever do in marketing links back to it, and it’s the one place that tells their whole story (as opposed to ads and such that just give a snippet of information),” she explains.

“It doesn’t have to be super expensive or fancy, but it does have to be good because people will look at it. That’s modern consumer behaviour – people research everything online before making a decision,” Edwards adds.

Building up a reputation

One of the measurable professional goals for financial advisers has to be building a reputation within the industry and beyond. Flynn Zaiger helps financial advisers become successful as the CEO of Online Optimism, which is a marketing agency based out of New Orleans in the US. He believes that the best sales and marketing advice for a start-up looking for financial adviser leads is to make sure that your name is your calling card.

“When starting out, there’s nothing more crucial than building up a solid reputation. Good word of mouth year one pays off for decades to come,” Zaiger says.

“To ensure that everyone you interact with feels positive about the experience (whether they become a client or not), make sure to have customer care as a top priority from the start. This can mean anything from hand-written thank-you cards after meetings, to Holiday gifts, to offering an abundance of free work. It might be a bit difficult to do at the start with all your other responsibilities, but it’s honestly the smartest thing you can do to stay in business (and potentially grow it too),” he continues.

Your business, your way

While the general consensus among the experts might be that marketing yourself and your business is key to success, as the above comments show, there are differences of opinion about the best way to go. That’s why in business there can never be a “one size fits all” solution. Everything will depend on your own circumstances, your own abilities, ambitions and unique selling points.

Knowing how to use your USPs is something that only you can really ever learn, and that’s why when it’s your business, you need to do things your way. Whether that means using some seed money to hire a marketer, or managing your time to the best use, or simply getting out there in both the physical and virtual worlds looking for a finance lead, what you really need to know is that it really is all down to how you want to run your own business.

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