Episode 10: Building the right client base [FPA Podcast]

14 June 2022

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

In this episode of the FPA Podcast, Sue Viskovic of Elixir Consulting joins Ben Marshan, Head of Policy, Innovation & Strategy, FPA to discuss how financial planning practices can effectively execute a strategy that targets the right type of client for their business.

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Transcript

Interviewer: Ben Marshan

Interviewee: Sue Viskovic

Ben Marsham

Hi, FPA members, welcome to the FPA podcast. One of the key drivers of successful financial planners is having clarity and being selective about the type of clients that you want to engage with. Research has confirmed that there’s a direct link between being selective about a client base and the ability for practitioners to charge significantly higher advice fees, and enhance profitability for their businesses.

This podcast explores how a business can effectively execute a strategy that targets the right types of clients for their business, including; choosing the right types of clients, what business models to have, how you separate different clients out, how you yield referral services and many more topics.

Today, we welcome Sue Viskovic, from Elixir Consulting to join us, to have a conversation about selecting the right clients, hi Sue.

Welcome to the podcast, Sue. How are things going for you?

Sue Viskovic

Hi Ben, thank you. Yeah, they’re great.

Ben Marshan

So Elixir, tell us a little bit about Elixir Consulting and what you guys focus on.

Sue Viskovic

Yeah sure, so we are a business consulting, business coaching firm, and we specialize in working specifically with financial advice businesses.

So, we help firms with everything to do with running a better business, so we do a lot of strategic planning, a lot of leadership work, succession, we’re specialists in helping firms get their pricing model right.

That extends to staffing and cultural work with firms, that extends to financials, building out value propositions, and what we’re talking about today is something very close to my heart, is being very clear about client avatars and target markets.

Ben Marshan

You took the words out of my mouth, Sue, sounds perfect to have a conversation about how to pick the right client base, how to work with the right clients, and how to be really clear about those things.

So why is it important for financial advice businesses to be specializing in particular clients, or focusing on particular types of clients?

Sue Viskovic

It’s a critical factor of any business, it’s something that we’ve spoken about for many years. In fact, we’ve been running for almost 15 years, and it’s always been something we’ve spoken of, and it’s even more relevant now than it has been in the past, because there’s so many limitations to how you can deliver advice, so many more regulations to work within, but I think also consumers are either more savvy, or more conscious about what they want from a service provider.

So, the term financial planning, when you think about how that applies to a 25 year old, as opposed to somebody going into retirement, as opposed to a business owner, as opposed to somebody that works for local government, the needs of clients are so different, and the breadth and depth of services that you might be providing to different clients vary so much that, if you’re trying to be all things to all people, you’re going to really struggle to run a successful business.

Ben Marshan

Yeah, absolutely, and thinking back to when I was planning, when you had the same clients with the same… In our case, it was Superannuation funds, it was really easy to develop a process and tools and resources, where the client goes, “How does this work?”

You had something handy that you didn’t have to go and create, or you didn’t have to go and find, you just had it because you had that target, and therefore creating… Collecting information was really smooth.

Documenting the client’s information was really smooth because you knew where everything went, creating the advice was really smooth because you had that flow going, and so it was much quicker and more efficient to provide advice, and therefore there was more value.

But I think the other thing is, you think about the FASEA code, and one of those core principles is making sure that the advice you’re providing is valuable to the client, and how does that play out, trying to be all things to everyone, versus being really specific about who you are providing advice to?

Sue Viskovic

Yeah, well it’s just not possible to do it effectively, and it’s funny because I’m often asked by people, “oh, if you had one tip, just one tip as a business coach to help people run a better business?”

It would absolutely be this one; Be very clear on the people that you are creating your offering for. We use this term client value proposition, right? Around what is it that clients are paying you for?

What do you do for them? And we look at it in two elements; One is how you articulate it, it’s almost that marketing speak, the 30 second elevator pitch, how do you explain to clients what you do for them, but perhaps more importantly, it’s the skillset, it’s the product suite, it’s the stuff that you actually do.

So, for example, if my client avatar was medical professionals who had come out of their residency and they were running their specialist firm, well, the types of advice that I would typically be giving would be more likely to include companies and trust and self-managed Superfund.

So, from a technical level of expertise, there’re certain areas there that I need to be all over, and I might not need those same skills if I’m dealing with people that work for local government or salary and wage earners who are in the 30 to 40 age brackets, and they’ve still got kids at home.

So there’s the technical competence, and I think people underestimate this quite often, but it’s also knowing what contacts and service providers that you have in your circle of trust that you refer people to, whether that be accountants, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, company advisors, or whether it be investment providers and platforms, whether it be technical service providers, there are certain things that different client groups are going to need your expertise on.

And as a business owner and as an advisor, it’s really important that you know who is good at supporting you in order to service your clients really well. So I think, knowing where you work really well is important, and maybe it’s worth drilling down a little bit into defining what we are talking about here in how specific should you get about your types of clients, Ben, because I think people have varying levels of understanding of this when we talk about it.

So firstly, I know when you are starting a business, generally, you just want to fill your book, you want to fill your time, you want to work with clients. It doesn’t matter if they’re not profitable, you want to find a new client, so you’re more likely to take on anybody that asks you for it.

And I would actually argue that is the time… A lot of people will say, “Oh look, it’s okay, because you’re still building a business.”

But I’d actually say, no, be really disciplined about it at that point in time, because when you get good at defining who you are looking for, it’s actually so much easier to find people that fit that type of client avatar.

Ben Marshan

That medical example was a good one, if you say I’m just going to focus on specialist doctors, that becomes really clear… But you also have this issue that you’ve built relationships and trust with clients that no longer fit your business model, and then you’ve got the awkward conversations and the difficulty of trying to say, “Oh, glad I could help you, but you need to go see somebody else now.”

That becomes really awkward and difficult.

Sue Viskovic

It does, although I’d actually say at the moment, we’re hearing more and more of those conversations than we ever have done, because a lot of advisors are now looking at client bases and going, “Geez, I need to sign people into an annual service agreement, my minimum fee, they now realize, is quite often a lot higher than what they’re charged in the past.”

And so there are loads of those conversations happening right now, they’re not so much, “Oh look, I don’t want to deal with you anymore because you’re not my kind of client.”

But they’re typically more, “Look, we’ve got you well set up now, I don’t feel that you need to have us on a retainer on a regular basis, I don’t think we can add value for the minimum fees we need to charge, in which case, we suggest that we turn off the retainer, but know that we are here for you If you ever need advice in the future, we think you’re going to be set for two or three years now, we’ve got your portfolio with automatic rebalancing.”

Or whatever else the case may be, and that’s okay.

But the aspect of not taking on those clients in the first place, when you’re starting a business, it does mean that your… It’s almost the opportunity cost, so yes, you might have nothing else to do with your time, and so therefore it doesn’t matter if you take half as long again to service that client because you’re researching stuff that you haven’t had to look into before… You might think it doesn’t really matter, but if you could take that time and spend it in sourcing the type of client that you really do want to build a future with, you’re going to get such a better return on investment, on your time and energy.

And so, I’ve used the term a couple of times now, client avatar, it’s something that we work with firms, and it is just a bit of a jargon thing, it’s your avatar, what does your perfect client look like?

And we actually taken them through a process to get clarity on that, so we will a look at their demographics, so that’s things like; is there a particular age group you want to work within? Is there a particular lifestyle or a time of life? It might not be, 30, 35 year olds, but it might be five years out from retirement, or it might be five years after they’ve got out of university, and they’re going to be university graduates, they’re in professional services. It could be also location, which is probably less important now that people are so used to using Zoom, but there’s a whole range of different demographic factors that you can look at.

And then we like to look at the psychographic factors as well. So what are the types of, not necessarily personalities, I know some people go as far saying, “Are they introverts or extroverts, and who do you connect with really well?”

But I think it’s more around what relationship are they wanting? Are they delegators, versus people that really want to do a lot of it themselves, and they just want to bounce ideas off somebody. What length of service are they looking for? What issues do they want your help with?

And then once you’re really clear on that, it’s very easy to get clarity on what are the types of problems these people have, what keeps them up at night? What do they need help with? How do they generally tend to deal with these issues if they weren’t coming to see you, and then what services are you going to need?

Like I say, in that medical professional example, they’re likely to have a need for self-managed Super funds, they’re likely to require some tax planning, and so going through that process helps a firm really build out clarity on who they’re looking for, identifying if there’re any gaps in their skillset or their staffing or their product suite, and then really reframe it, and sometimes you might have multiple avatars.

Ben Marshan

And do you find that most planners that you are working with are able to easily identify these are the types of clients that I’m passionate about working with?

Or are they just used to that scatter gun approach and will just be everything to everyone, that it becomes really difficult for them to sit down and go, “That’s the type of advice I like to give, and therefore that’s the type of client that I need to build relationships with.”

Sue Viskovic

Yeah, it’s not usually difficult to identify. We’ve been doing this for so long now, we’ve got a really great process that we walk them through, and so it’s a thought process, it’s some pre-work, it’s an analysis of their current client base.

But when you really get clear about it, advisors typically know instinctively, who they love working with best, and often we’ll get them to start referring to their existing client base, because there will be a sweet spot in there, right? Of the type of clients they just connect with really well, they’re enjoyable to deal with, they know that they make a massive difference to them, and they very rarely have fee conversations where the client’s objecting to anything.

So once they start that thought process, it’s actually quite easy to do, albeit, most of them aren’t used to actually getting really clear on defining those elements.

What they find most difficult is then actually being disciplined around implementing that. So, yes, they might have defined, “Well, this is the type of person that we want to deal with.”

And the next minute they get a phone call from someone that says, “Oh, my mom just needs a bit of X, Y, Z.”

And usually the thought process is, “Oh, but if I were to say no… That’s one of my favorite clients, that’s their mom, they really need some help and I should help them.”

But if their mom needs help with aged care and they’ve never done aged care before, and they don’t even know where to find the resources, suddenly, they’re spending three times as long as they should be on a client that may not be able to pay the fee that they need to pay if they were to cover all their costs.

So, we get them to flip their thinking, that in actual fact they’re doing them a disservice, if they’re starting to work with people that aren’t really in their specific area of expertise, they’re far better off to ensure that they know other people, or they have a solution that they can refer them to.

So, it doesn’t mean they say, “No.” It doesn’t mean, “Oh, I don’t care about your mom, that’s your problem, go and find somebody else.”

Generally, most advisors are pretty well connected, so they can find somebody else that they can refer the person onto, so I often say, “look, don’t let your ego get in the way, you’re thinking that you are the only person that can help this person just because they’ve asked you, that’s actually not the case, there’s probably other people that are better suited to do that.”

And often what happens, if you are dealing with evolved business owners that are in your network, other advisors that have worked all of this out, it means that if you are referring some clients to them… Because the fear is always, “Oh, but then what if they take all of my clients, or what if I don’t get any other clients to replace them?”

What usually happens is your type of client is not the type of client that they want to deal with, so you’ll probably end up getting reciprocal referrals from them anyway.

Ben Marshan

No, absolutely, and I must say I find that quite challenging, probably unsurprising working for the Financial Planning Association, anybody you can think of goes, “Oh, I need a financial planner, who should I see?”

And you go, “Well, okay, do you want to see somebody in person or do you want to see them remotely? Do you want somebody who’s older and a CFP and has a lot of experience, or do you want somebody who might be younger and full of new ideas and more energetic? Do you want somebody who specializes on insurance? Do you want somebody who specialize in Super?”

There are so many different questions that you have to ask somebody to say, these are the five planners…. And then you get to, “These are the five planners that might work for you, but then you’ve got to go and go and build trust with them.”

But to that point, once you’ve identified, “These are the types of clients that I’m going to focus and specialize on.” What are the kinds of tools and things that members should be thinking about in terms of how do I tell people that this is who I’m specializing in?

How do I attract these types of clients? What are some of the really good ways you’re seeing that good financial planning practices are doing that?

Sue Viskovic

That’s such a great segue, because it’s funny, when you were saying that about people are asking for a planner… Perfect example, I just had a couple of weeks ago, one of our very best friends… We were at a dinner party and they said, “Look, it’s about time. We probably need to go and have a chat with someone.”

Because they’ve just paid their mortgage off, and they’re like, “What do we do with our money now, we really want to retire.”

Okay, well talk me through what you’re looking for?

Oh, well he’s got his Super all sorted, his company’s really great, they’ve been really active around that, so it’s not about that, but it’s around saying, well, where do they direct their funds? Do they borrow to…

Their cashflow management, and they have different ideas about how they’re supposed to be spending now because the husband’s always been conscious about debt, but the wife’s saying, “Hey, we should be able to enjoy life.”

So that really helped me to say, it’s critically important that I put them onto an advisor who’s very good at mapping out cashflow planning and decision making, and theirs was really around values based discussions, because they didn’t need help with putting an investment portfolio together.

They needed help with the conversations they were having as a couple, and the way that they were making decisions, so that made it really easy because I know a fantastic firm that has this brilliant delivery method, where they do go quite deep into clients’ values, they do map out future cashflow planning, they do scenario modeling where they can say, “Well, if you buy the caravan now, but you don’t buy it till later.”

And that was perfect for them… At that same conversation over dinner, another friend that was sitting there said, “Oh we should too, because business isn’t going so well.”

So a couple were both there, they’re both really good friends of ours, he used to be in the merchant Navy but they run a business over here and it hasn’t been doing so well through COVID and they’ve got multiple investment properties, and in actual fact, I knew another advisor who does a similar proposition, to go, “Well let’s look at everything in your scenario, and we’ll be able to map out some different options for you.”

But they’ve got expertise in UK pensions, and so they were the right firm for me to send these guys to, and all of them have had brilliant experiences because we were really clear on what they were doing, so your question around how does the firm find the right type of people?

Ben Marshan

Well, yes, ultimately find the right kinds of people, but what should they be focusing on to say, “Okay, these are the types of clients that I’m focusing on.”

How do they get their name out there, that they’re focusing on that? How are they marketing themselves, that, “I’m a specialist in this.”

Sue Viskovic

Yeah, so the first thing I would say is don’t be afraid of saying that you’re a specialist in something, because like you were saying, if you’re trying to find someone, for someone who just generally says, “I need financial advice.”

If there’s an advisor saying, “Oh, I look after everybody, and I give financial advice.”

And that could be cash flow planning, or it could be retirement… It does actually make it much more difficult for people to go, “Oh, that person! That’s the one that you need to service you.”

So it’s not being afraid to be clear about it, it’s having the language on your website, not necessarily saying, “do you look like Mary, who is my avatar?”

But once you’re really clear on the problems and the challenges that your types of clients have, then that’s the language that you use on your website.

You talk to those issues, you create the language and the proposition in a way that is perfectly suited to them. And you can actually be saying in general, the clients that we work best with are in this stage of life, they’re in these careers and so forth.

Now it depends on how niched you’ve gone with defining your avatar.

Often you can then look at the typical types of environments that they play in. Are there particular industries, are there particular, actual work environments? Are there associations they deal with? Are there particular conferences or events they go to?

Are there particular publications they read or Facebook groups they’re part of, or Instagram people they would typically tend to follow?

And so then you start playing in that space, and you may create content, you may write articles about the particular issues that those clients are having.

So, for example, if you’re working in the space of business owners and they tend to use LinkedIn a lot, then you could be writing LinkedIn Pulse articles specifically to do with the challenges that your clients have.

And so if you think through the lines of… If you were that client, you’d be reading this article going, “Oh my God, it’s talking about me, that’s exactly my problems, they must know what they’re talking about. I’m going to reach out to them to get some help.”

If you do specific tailored marketing as in social media campaigns and Google ads and so forth, where you are having a marketing spend, then you can get really tailored with the audience that your ads are going to appear in front of, but you’re going to be wasting your money on that if you haven’t done the work in the first place, to target your audience and understand who you’re trying to get your messaging in front of.

But in all honesty, Ben, at the moment, there are very few advisors that I speak to, and you are probably seeing this too, I’ve not spoken with anybody in the last month six months that have said that they’ve had trouble finding clients.

Ben Marshan

Everybody’s turning away clients because they’re, they’re so busy, but I think that’s even more the opportunity, right now-

Sue Viskovic

Yes.

Ben Marshan

And particularly when we’re in an environment where we’ve gotten… We’re speaking in late April 2022, so we’ve got an election coming up, and so government’s not doing anything. Regulators are all in, caretaker mode, we’ve got the quality of advice review on, we’ve got the ALRC review on…

We’re not going to have regulatory change, really serious regulatory change for 12, 18 plus months, in financial advice, so you’ve actually now got an opportunity to work on your businesses, and you’ve got an opportunity to try and define your ideal clients.

Sue Viskovic

Yes.

Ben Marshan

And then the service models that come off that, because we don’t have to put in a new bridge reporting process, or a complaint reporting process or a fee collection process right now, because it’s not going to happen.

So, once you’ve defined your clients, you’ve started to market out to them… You’re probably okay with the types of services and advice you are doing, what do people need to be thinking about in terms of charging that client, that they have identified?

Sue Viskovic

Well, the funny thing is that once you’ve got clear on your client, it’s actually easier to price for them, right?

Because it’ll also enable you to understand better how they like to engage with you and how you can deliver to their preferences around… There might be some clients that be far are better off doing their reviews by Zoom meetings or Teams calls, rather than coming into your office, and you can streamline the way that you communicate with them between meetings… Even things as functionally as DocuSign, and online signatures and identification, if you’re dealing with clients that do use computers, then they’re not going to have any issues with that.

And it may even be that you’re dealing with professional people where husband and wife are never going to be able to get away together at the same time, so you Zoom them in from their respective offices and happy days. That then allows you to really build out your client engagement processes.

Now, I use this term for existing and new clients, so this is really… And it’s something that we are doing so much work on now, and a lot of firms, if they’ve not put their tools down and worked on their business for a long time, they’ve fallen into habits of being, “Well, this is just the way that I do it.”

Or, “I’m just going to figure it out.”

“Oh, this client likes me to do this, so I’m going to do it this way, this time.”

And you can’t afford to do that anymore, you have a requirement now to have annual agreements, you’ve got enhanced FDS, you’ve got hard due dates that can’t be played with.

It doesn’t matter if the client doesn’t want to get back to you or is a bit busy, your fees are going to turn off if you don’t do this well, so systemizing it really well is critically important, and systemizing it through the lens of the client experience once you know who you want to deal with, you know how they will appreciate different elements of your proposition…

So, I know this question is about pricing, I am getting there, trust me. The first step is knowing how you want to service them, refine the way that you deliver your proposition, refine your process… So it might be that for new clients you rebuild the stepping stones, and the flow chart of the way that you engage with them in the different conversations you have at different times, and the way that you collect data from them and the way that you do your product research for them, get really good at that and nail it down, and you can even do things like creating some standard videos that automatically get emailed out to clients, to prepare them for the next phase of the process.

Again, when you’re clear about the topic, when you work with the language and the tone that you use for those videos, it will really connect with them, because they’re similar kind of people, and you can get some efficiencies around that.

And then the beauty of doing that is you’ve got very clear on the different steps, so you can then price appropriately. You want to do the work to determine your charge out rate, and generally speaking, we find that you’d have a different charge out rate for an advisor, potentially a different one for a senior advisor versus an associate. You’d have a charge out rate for paraplanning, and you’d have a charge out rate for admin support in the business.

And all of the different steps in your processes are done by different levels of team members, you apply those charge out rates to come to your minimum fee structure, and we do it that way… We don’t think you should charge by the hour, but we find that having done this for 15 years, when people don’t have that structure to follow, they just… Advisors guess, right?

And usually, they guess wrong… And we love value based pricing, but usually without some level of structure underneath it, the guesses are totally incorrect, so determining that from a time and a workflow perspective is really critical first, ensuring that you include your profit margin in those charge out rates, because that’s pretty important, very important.

And then that gives you your minimum pricing structure.

And then what our clients do is we build pricing calculators for them that they use behind the scenes, to determine the actual cost for each client.

So it’s not a segmented thing, or I have gold and silver clients. It’s more… There’s a minimum amount that you need to charge to be profitable for any client, to meet your minimum requirements, right?

And then some clients might have self-managed funds, some might not, some might have some companies in trust, some might not. There’s still going to be variants, even when you’re clear about your target market and your clientele, there’s still going to be variables that some clients will have and others don’t. And so you can create… You add to the base fee to suit that.

There may be a component there around the amount of money that you manage, or the amount of money that the client has that may play into it as well, and then you arrive at your number, and what’s beautiful about doing this all well, it’s all interconnected, right?

Today, we’re talking about being clear on your client, but it’s interconnected with every other element of your business.

You then stress test that back and you go, “Okay, well, the clients that I’m dealing with, my avatar, do they have capacity to pay those fees that I need to charge to be a profitable business?”

“Are they going to get value from the outcomes that I’m delivering for them?”

Because if they’re not, then you need to go back to square one.

Or you do a completely different service proposition for them. The one thing that I keep hearing all the time… I know the cost of advice is going through the roof, and I know that’s bad and we’re doing everything we can to try and reduce some of the red tape to bring that cost down, but by the same token, you can’t use the same processes for really in depth engagements with clients, for people that don’t have in depth needs.

So, if you want to serve people in their twenties, for example, don’t lament the fact that, “Oh, the poor moms and dads can’t afford advice anymore.”

If you want to service those people, and there are firms that want to service those… Even not people in their twenties, but even moms and dads that are just on your typical average salaries, and they don’t have a lot of spare cash… Design an engagement framework, and a way to serve those clients, that you can still do on a profitable basis, but you’re charging a fee that they can afford, and they have capacity to pay for.

Ben Marshan

So, the two things I just wanted to come back to… On that typical gold, silver, bronze pricing structure is probably designed for that everyone type model, where you’re not being specific on the type of client.

But the other thing, we’ve done a lot of work on technology, and you really can’t find efficiencies in your business if you don’t actually know how long it takes for each person in the business to do a particular task, and how much it costs and whether or not it’s worth investing in efficiencies and technology to do that, which is critically important.

So I just want to give a plug out to the FinTech tools that we’ve got on the website-

That you can do it, there’s a lot out there, but we’ve got some for you.

Sue Viskovic

Sorry, I’d say on that note, Ben, I’ve seen so many people read some of the materials and start going down that path and then get frightened and think, “Well, I’m not a tech person, I don’t know what I’m looking at… There might be something better coming out around the corner, I’m just going to hold out.”

There’s nothing that’s perfect, you’re not going to get perfect, there will always be evolution in FinTech. You’re far better off… Yeah, identifying the areas that you’ve got road blocks and where you can streamline the business or add better value or deliver a better client experience, and start using it.

Ben Marshan

Yeah, absolutely, and I think even if you’re not looking at technology, you should always be looking at your process and looking for ways to make it more efficient and more effective because ultimately that’s going to make you more profitable, which brings me to my next question, Sue.

Sue Viskovic

Yeah?

Ben Marshan

What kind of profitability increases, and benefits have you seen in business who have gotten really specific around their clients, compared to the scatter gun approach?

Sue Viskovic

Well, a perfect example; I had a meeting with a client this week that we’ve worked with for two years, when we started working with them, their EBIT was negative 1%, literally, they were losing money.

Ben Marshan

That’s not good.

Sue Viskovic

No, that’s very bad, and this is a business that had been around for a really long time, so they did have a massive legacy client base… Two years on, they will hit for the financial year, 22%, and they’re very much on their way to hitting their target of 30% EBIT.

Now they have done an awful lot of work, they have switched off a lot of clients and they’ve found that they’ve replaced those, so a perfect example; One of the advisors was saying in the last month, they’ve switched off three clients, which were about $5,000 a year worth of revenue, and they’ve already replaced them with one client paying them $6,500, so for them it’s more now, “Oh, I actually feel this $6,500 dollar client loves what we do, we’ve made such a massive difference to them. The people that were paying smaller amounts, we did make a difference back to them before, but we’re not actually making that much difference to them now, and it’s three different client groups that I have to work with as opposed to the one.”

So it doesn’t actually work out to be three times the work because the $6,500 has got a little bit more complexity in what they do, but they’re just loving the fact that they’ve freed up so much more time and head space in their diary to be working with clients that actually get significant value.

So, it’s possible to turn it around, it is absolutely, people can reinvent their businesses and have a massive impact on their profitability, and it doesn’t mean… A lot of it is psychological, Ben, to be honest, it doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly ripping clients off because you’re charging more for them.

It doesn’t mean that the people that you’re not working with it anymore, you’re doing a disservice too, and you are moving on from them and that’s really offensive to them. It actually means that you’re doing more meaningful work with people that really need you. And, and you get better and better at doing it because you’re not trying that scatter gun approach, you really find your lane and you become the expert, and those people hang out with more of those people. Once people know what you do really well, they will find people that you can serve, and you will find them a lot easier.

Ben Marshan

Yeah, absolutely, and ultimately value’s in the eye of the beholder and we shouldn’t be scared anymore of the fact that we’re professionals, and we are a profession and we can charge amounts to clients that are reflective of the fact that we’re professionals.

We do need as a profession, to find ways to provide services to more Australians-

Sue Viskovic

We do.

Ben Marshan

And find cost efficiencies in the way we serve, but that shouldn’t stop you yourself as a planner saying, “This is my value, this is the benefit I provide to my clients.” And charging appropriately.

Sue Viskovic

Yeah, and on that, in terms of the more advice to more Australians, there are some models being developed, which are very digitized, they’re very low touch… they serve people in a way that they can get value from.

But it’s funny around the numbers of clients that advisors are dealing with, so it used to be quite often, that advisors would have, 500 clients per advisor… They weren’t clients, they were customers, they might have been policy holders, they were getting a bit of a trail.

At the moment, a lot of firms are thinking they can only deal with 80 to 120 clients based on the service proposition now, some of the firms we’re working with are more like 150 to 200 clients, because they’ve gotten really streamlined, and what I think advisors are doing now, it’s almost like we’ve come this full circle, is saying, well we are going to get less advisors in the future because of the education requirements.

We know we are not getting enough advisors to replace the ones that are leaving the industry, so we have to get smarter about how we’re servicing people. We have to build a team serviced approach where we don’t just have qualified advisors able to engage with clients. Yes, they have to sign off on the advice, but there are ways to build your service proposition around that, so that every qualified advisor you have in your business can be serving larger numbers of clients.

And that’s a slightly different way of thinking in the past, because it might mean that you do have more cost because you’ve got other staff around them to support that service delivery, but the advisors can be serving 150, 200… I haven’t seen anyone yet effectively get to 250, but I know some firms that are aiming at it, and they’re putting some really great systems in place, so I think that’s a challenge too.

Ben Marshan

Is there anything else on this topic, on choosing the right client base?

Sue Viskovic

Oh, look, I could talk about this all day long-

But I think we’ve covered most of the key elements, I just think, for anybody that’s really struggling with this, you can’t afford not to get clear on this. You can’t be all things to all people anymore, don’t be fearful of staking your claim and saying, “Right, from now on, these are the people I deal with.”

Because once you get there, and you start saying no to people that don’t fit that, or you refer them elsewhere, it’s almost like the blinkers come off and suddenly you start seeing the impact and you go, “Oh, why didn’t I do this years ago?”

Ben Marshan

Yeah, and I, I’ve played around with it a few times, building customer avatars is really fun.

And there are so many tools out there that can help you think about the right questions, apart from using your services too, obviously, but there are so many tools and it’s really fun to try and think about.

Sue Viskovic

Yes we do it with our coaching clients and we guide them, we’ve also got our Evolve Alliance portal, which is a subscription model, and there’s some brilliant worksheets and workshop agendas in there that firms can just pick up, once they’re a member, they get access to all that stuff, and it can just step them through it, step by step, get the whole team together, and you’re right, it is fun!

Ben Marshan

Thank you very much for joining us today, Sue, I hope-

Sue Viskovic

My pleasure.

Ben Marshan

Members, you have gotten something out of this. It’s about building the right client base, you need to identify who you have a passion for providing advice to, and you will, as Sue mentioned in one of the case studies there, it leads to a better business. It leads to a more efficient business. It leads to better clients, it ultimately leads to better profitability, which is what makes businesses sustainable and what we’re all here for, so thank you very much, Sue, thank you for joining us, everyone, and have a great day!

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