The protection of knowledge was once how centers of influence were established. Then, with the advent of the printing press, the dissemination of information grew from a small handful of people to a much larger group. Society became more informed. Culture progressed. It was a good thing all around.
A lot of financial advisors are operating in the old world, trying to establish themselves as centers of influence by keeping a closed fist around all their knowledge and experience. They seem to want to force people to come to them, pay for their expertise, and keep it hidden behind closed doors and exclusive email lists.
I’m here to tell you that’s not the best way to go. Right now, the best way for your company to grow is to be open-handed with your expertise.
But being an open, transparent company means putting in the time to put your thoughts together and send them out to the world. If you want people to know about you, who you are, and what you stand for, you have to get the word out. And that takes work.
So why would you want to be a transparent company? Why give away all your secrets? Surely if you give away your knowledge for free, no one will need to hire you anymore, right?
Actually, the numbers say that’s not true anymore (if it ever was). When companies encourage transparency, they often see a better bottom line.
But how do you achieve transparency?
Here’s five steps to becoming a transparent company.
1. Share Your Knowledge
Here’s my number one, sure fire, starting tip for sharing your knowledge: blog more.
OK, OK, maybe we’ve covered the idea that you need to consistently blog before, but hang with me. There are few easier venues to post relevant, thoughtful discourse from your company and have it be found easily.
Being an open-handed company means you’re giving away your expert knowledge as a way to prove to prospects that you are who you say you are.
A prospect wants to know you’re an expert before they work with you, and you can help them understand your value by creating meaningful information they can easily access.
It’s easy to get a little off-track when you’re creating something you ultimately want to use to bring leads to your firm. But when you’re creating something you want to use as a lead magnet, just keep it simple: Focus on the value you can offer, and give true knowledge, not some pithy sayings that prospects could find anywhere.
If what you create offers true knowledge, it will interest those who want to work with you.
Here are just a few different ways you can share your knowledge:
- Fact sheets
- Your website
- Publish your quarterly newsletters
- Publish presentations you give at industry events
2. Show your fees
This suggestion might not be popular, but it’s right in the core of transparency. It is exceedingly rare for financial advisors to state their advisory fees on their website. Why? If it looks like you’re hiding something, people are going to think you are hiding something.
Tell clients what you’re going to give them, how you’re going to give it to them, and then go out and deliver. If you follow through on your promises, you don’t have to worry about competitors seeing your fee structure and using it against you. The word that you provide the best work will trump someone trying to compete with you on price. (Just consider how robo-advisors, despite their lower fees, haven’t destroyed the advisory industry, by any stretch.)
I recently talked to one advisor who displays the lifetime advisory fees a client has paid to his firm on their quarterly statement. Lifetime fees. That can be a huge amount when a client has been with a firm for decades, but it’s a number they deserve to know.
I’m not suggesting you have to copy that level of transparency and show a client the total fees they’ve paid over a lifetime, even though I personally think it’s one of the most impressive disclosures a financial advisor has told me about how they do business.
The takeaway is this: Transparency leads to trust, and trust leads to strong relationships.
3. Own your
failures learning, not just your wins
We’ve been focused on the outside of your company thus far, but transparency goes beyond sales. It’s about the day-in, day-out interactions between your staff and clients.
I can boil down transparency with your clients to a single mission statement: If you make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t say “it looks like we missed that email…” when what you really mean is “we read your email and forgot about it. We failed. Here is what we will do better next time to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” And then it’s on you to follow through.
I’ve been on both sides of that conversation, and I can say from personal experience that taking complete ownership of a mistake and providing actual ways the problem will be fixed or avoided the next time has done more to strengthen my business relationships than any dodge I’ve ever tried.
If you’re not open inside your company with those closest to you—your current clients—then opening up your sales and marketing to create a transparent inbound strategy is going to be difficult.
In fact, having two competing sides of your business like that will only harm your company, not enhance it.
Opening up with your current clients also leads to another type of internal transparency…
4. Open up inside your company
Being more transparent inside your company will create a culture that is open-handed externally, too.
Some companies, like social scheduling app Buffer, have taken this transparency to what some might consider an extreme: everyone at the company knows the salary everyone else is making. In fact, everyone in the world can see the salaries of their entire team.
But Buffer doesn’t stop there. They also publish their revenue, fundraising, and equity breakdown. As a financial advisory firm, you might not want to publicly release this information, but what’s keeping you from informing your team of what’s happening inside the company that they invest so much of their lives into?
Many companies try to hide everything from their employees—even revenue numbers—but sharing this information and including team members in the strategic vision and success of the company can help create greater employee loyalty and buy-in.
5. Be who you are
When you’re working through the process of becoming an open-handed company, it’s important to keep something in focus: yourself.
When we talk about marketing with our clients, we don’t try to fit them into any strategy they aren’t comfortable with inhabiting. And while the benefits of being a transparent company are clear, you don’t have to adapt every suggestion out there to find yourself running a successful, healthy company.
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