Q4 tends to be an incredibly busy time for all business owners, but financial advisors feel the stress in an even bigger way. With year-end tax strategies, portfolio adjustments, and client meetings, your schedule is likely packed – and that’s just looking at your client service calendar. You still have your own end-of-year life and business planning to do, and that can be just as time-consuming (if not more so).
However, despite having a busier-than-average schedule, it is critical to carve out some time to do an end-of-year review of your business. Take time to work on your business, and not in your business! The good news is that it doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated. By looking at a few key metrics, you’re able to answer the two most important questions of your year-end business review: What’s working? and What’s not?
In total, this review shouldn’t take you longer than a day – or even an afternoon. Look out at the rest of the year on your calendar right now and block off at least half of one day to do your end-of-year review. All of the “stuff” will be there when you get back.
Your metrics to measure success will be different from many of your colleagues’ because your practice is unique. However, there are a few baseline metrics that are a good place to start:
- Financial statements
- Email list growth
- Google analytics
- New leads (or prospect calls booked)
- Client retention
- Financial Statements
For the sake of simplicity, let’s break your financial statements into four key areas for analysis:
1: Gross Revenue
Did your gross revenue increase over last year? What were sales like? Where did you add new revenue to the business? Take a deeper dive to understand how much business came from existing clients and how much came from new clients. If you are an AUM understand how much of your revenue growth was a result of market growth versus new assets in the door.
2: Expenses and investing in your practice
Where did you spend the bulk of your revenue this year? Of course you need to pay for the essentials, but if you are a forward thinking advisory firm, many of the expenses you incur are actually investments in your practice. These “investments” can include hiring additional staff, hiring a coach, attending conferences, training programs, and of course technology. Understanding whether or not your tech stack is serving you (and your clients), and whether you’re getting the most bang for your buck is critical. This is an opportunity to reevaluate how you are investing back into your business, even if it seems like everything is “fine.”
What tools are out there that can enhance your service offerings, increase your total profitability, or streamline processes to free up your time. Year-end is a great time to go through this evaluation to determine what expenses need to stay in the budget next year and what investments you can make to enhance your practice.
What’s your practice’s current profit margin? Is it increasing year-over-year? Is it too high? Yes, you heard that correct. Not investing into your practice can have long term negative effects, particularly on business valuation.
You can also take this time to evaluate what your total profit per client is. Determining which clients are profitable can help you in determining minimums, and your ideal client profile.
Did you meet your financial goals for the year? If not, what prevented you from reaching those goals? Being able to project future roadblocks can help you strategize for increased revenue and profitability in the future.
Email List Growth
When it comes to marketing your firm, your email list should be one of your #1 priorities. Generating leads through a lead magnet and nurture funnel helps to produce a prospective client pool that’s already been primed to work with you through your content and communication. People today are busier than ever and we are bombarded with tweets, grams, and a million other things. Fighting through the clutter is difficult, but one thing that has not changed is the power of the inbox! Timing is everything with prospects. People don’t just wake up one morning and decide to call a financial planner. Typically there is some kind of triggering event that prompts them to seek out some advice. An inheritance, a job change, a divorce, etc. A newsletter is a great way to stay top of mind and be a resource so that when the time is right and they have that triggering event they reach out to you.
The truth is that, while followers on social media are good, you don’t necessarily own that traffic – the social media platform does. Subscribers on your email list are an audience you actually “own” and can nurture over the long-term.
Looking at annual analytics can provide insight into how your site is performing, where your traffic is coming from, and what pages or blog posts are performing best. This helps to inform your content and marketing calendar for the next year, and can even drive client conversations if you notice recurring topics that are getting high page-views.
You can also implement small lead-generation and client service strategies based on what you find. For example, if you notice one blog post on restricted stock units (RSU’s) consistently ranks above your others, you might pull together a lead magnet on a related topic and have a pop-up occur on that specific post to grow your email list. Alternatively, if you find that your college-planning focused content has high traffic, you might look at incorporating streamlined college planning into your service model. Just sayin!
The easiest way to track new leads is by immediately entering prospective client calls in your CRM. Don’t have that process ironed out yet? Go back and look at the reports from your scheduling software and figure out how you can automate and systematize the handling of new leads. How many prospective client calls did you book? Where did those leads come from? Knowing where your leads are finding you can help you to focus on specific referral sources, social media channels, or networking events.
How many total new leads was your team able to convert this year? Knowing your conversion rates can help you to better understand why you were profitable (or why you weren’t). Ultimately, even if you have an airtight marketing strategy and have leads rolling in, your business growth will suffer if you don’t have a value proposition and a sales skillset to convert those individuals. If you’re feeling shaky about your conversion rate, consider looking into sales-specific training, or partnering with a coach to identify the weak points in your strategy.
Did you experience any client churn this year? If so, what caused your clients to leave? Predicting future churn, and finding ways to breathe new life into your practice, can help you build a more profitable and scalable practice.
What’s Working and What’s Not?
Once you’ve evaluated your metrics, you have raw numbers to answer the questions:
Having the facts to back up your answers helps you to remove any emotion or pride from the equation, and get an honest take on your business at year-end. Remember: these metrics are just a snapshot of your business. You may have additional metrics or considerations you want to take into account, and that’s okay, too. The important thing is to have some kind of a baseline to determine the success of different initiatives you’ve tried.
From here, you can go on to have exceptional employee year-end reviews, and perform planning and goal-setting tasks for the next year from a more confident place.