The practice of the future

What a difference a few months can make! In March, we seemed deep in bear territory, and COVID-19 appeared to be sweeping across the country unchecked. As I write this in June, the market has come back strong, and, while we are keeping an eye on localized outbreaks, states are cautiously reopening businesses, restaurants, stores, and services.

That’s not to say that things are back to “normal,” and I don’t think we will get back to that phase any time soon. Now might be a good time, though, to hit the pause button and think about the past months: What have you heard and learned from clients? How has your business adapted and evolved? Are you considering implementing changes to your strategy, no matter what the new normal brings?

Many of the tools forced upon advisers during the pandemic will have deep, long-lasting implications. At Commonwealth, we’ve noticed advisers and clients are embracing technology in a way we’ve never seen — and one we believe will continue.

Once you readjust your mindset from “the way it has always been done,” things get pretty exciting. But what does that look like? And where are the opportunities for change?

MY, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

Before the pandemic, you might have received a referral from a current client to a prospect. The prospect would (possibly) look at your website to ensure that you were a legitimate business and more than likely make an appointment with your staff to come in for a meeting. At the meeting, you would jot down how this prospective client likes her coffee (for future visits) and introduce her to your staff. You might also hand the prospect paperwork to complete and mail back, or invite her to attend your upcoming wine night.

How does any of that, or all of that, translate to a more virtual world? Things have changed. With COVID-19 fears, social distancing guidelines and the success of Zoom meetings, there’s a very real possibility you might add clients to your practice whom you’ve never met in person. This isn’t a bad thing — it’s a new opportunity!

But what does that mean for your business? Try looking at your new account opening procedures, onboarding system, service model and standards, and especially marketing and branding, through a digital lens as well as a virtual one. In the practice of the future, how will you convey your value proposition remotely? You will have to get much better at letting people know the problems you solve and the people you help.

If a prospect doesn’t meet you in person, your nice office and comfortable seats don’t matter, but the impression he or she gains from spending time on your website might make all the difference when choosing an adviser. It will be imperative to get your firm’s branding and positioning right, and a great website will be a true differentiator for many firms.

[More: The online evolution of retirement plan practices]

YOUR VIRTUAL PRESENCE

In the practice of the future, there will still be referrals. But prospects might be in a different county or state, where your local reputation won’t be known. Prospects will likely need more than a friend’s recommendation and will look for evidence that you can help. Your website can be a tangible marketing tool for attracting people to your practice.

And what about your social media? Are you active on Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook? Do you have an email marketing strategy? Making the following changes can help your business keep up with prospective clients’ evolving digital needs:

  • Consider adding case studies that give prospects concrete examples of how you work.
  • Rather than expecting staff to book appointments, add Calendly, TimeTrade or another time-saving tool to a page on your site and to your email signature, so that prospects can go in and schedule their own appointments.
  • Revamp your social media marketing strategy. The more active you are on social media, the more trustworthy prospects — particularly millennials — will find you.
  • A virtual client may never meet staff in person, so think about adding a video that shows the heart and humanity of the office to your Home or About Us page. Share it on your social media as well.
  • File all documents online — a paperless office gives you and your clients ease and efficiency across a wide spectrum.
GO FORTH AND …

How do you see your practice thriving in the future? These ideas aren’t things to think about down the road; they’re strategies and tactics to use now to start positioning your practice for success. Because the practice of the future is here.

[More: Prospecting in volatile times]

Kristine McManus is vice president and chief business development officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.

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