The Difference That Makes a Strategic Plan

We presented a firm’s strategic plan for the coming year to their client advisory board. The board comprised many business owners and they offered a lot of good suggestions and feedback. The most significant question of the discussion was “I see that you are projecting a 10% increase in total revenues. That lines up with the trend over the past three years. Why aren’t you projecting above what’s likely to happen anyway, and how are you planning to make it happen?”


This is the time of year when we, like many of you, take a look back over the prior year and start developing our business plans for the next 12 months. Some, like the firm above, will project revenue and expenses for next year. I encourage you to go one step further and write a strategic plan. Nothing long or complicated, just one that addresses how your future will rise above the trend line. Our focus is on marketing and referrals but you can apply these ideas to all the areas of your business.


Strategy is the set of principles governing what you do (your brand promise) and how you do it (the client experience). Strategic planning describes how you will create the differences between who you are as a firm today and who you will be at some point in the future. How will your firm be different a year from now? Five years from now? Here are a few questions you can consider that may help in your planning process.


What will change about your client outcomes or experience? What new needs might you address? You might decide to provide guidance in new areas or take on a new expertise. How will it be different to work with your firm in the future? Will you incorporate more technology to do remote meetings or to schedule appointments with you? Will you delegate more of the information gathering to other people on your staff?


What will you systematize? This is one version of the question Keller asks in The One Thing: what’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? One place to start may be implementing a referral marketing system. If you don’t currently track everyone who is introduced to your firm and have a process for orienting the prospect and thanking the referral source, that could be a great place to begin.


What will you stop doing? The answer to this question is more important than the answers to the previous question because it is their prequel. Most of us will not have the time to make changes until we drop something that takes up space in our calendar. What do you do that your clients do not value? Are there areas in your business where your tasks control you rather than the other way around? Famous entrepreneur Derek Sivers said in an interview anyone who responds to the question “how’s business?” with “I am really busy” is someone whose life is out of control.


What clients will you terminate? You have clients outside your target market or who do not fully appreciate your service model. Who can you refer them to whose services better match their needs? What other, probably younger, advisor would like to buy your book of “C” clients?


What marketing will you start doing? As Megan Carpenter discussed in our recent podcast episode, most independent financial advisory firms do not do any meaningful marketing. What better way to advance your strategy than to budget a portion of your revenue to promote it?


What new conversations will you have with clients? If you talk about the same things with clients and centers of influence as you have the past few years, you will get the same results. What new needs can you uncover? How can you talk about your business in a way that provides them better insights into who you can help? How can you incorporate referrals into your interactions (without asking for them)?


There are many other issues you might consider in developing your strategic plan. I hope these provoke a few ideas to make your plan and effective one.


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