In the information age, the technologies we use on a daily basis are the fuel to grow our businesses. A Federal Reserve Paper found that technology use can drive business growth by 3-5% per year. Technology can be overwhelming to evaluate, but has the power to make your days either easy and efficient or difficult and maddening. Use these steps to evaluate how you can grow your business using technology.
I always ask which of the following technologies Advisors are using:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) system for managing clients and prospects. Your command center for staying organized and keeping client information at your fingertips.
- Website and marketing tools to manage your website, blog, email newsletter, social media, and other marketing communications.
- Financial planning software for preparing client reports, creating financial plans, and collaborating with clients on their accounts.
- Financial research tool to access data on funds, companies, and markets.
If you ask ten different advisors which of these technologies they use, you’ll get 5-7 different answers. I know from my experience working with my Dad’s firm that mistakes in choosing technologies can waste hours of productivity each week and cause incredible headwinds to growth. At worst, they could disrupt your client experience and cause confusion for your clients.
But choosing new technologies for your firm doesn’t have to be risky. Take your time in selecting new tools so that you can be confident in your decision, fully invest in learning how to use them, and have to change systems less frequently.
Succeed with technology by following these steps:
Ask advisors with similar business models.
Some advisors query which systems the top producing advisors are using, which may or may not apply to the size and complexity of their own firm. Top advisors may use technologies that are more complex and expensive than an advisor with fewer clients needs. Seek out a few firms that you admire who are the same size or slightly larger than your firm. Chances are, technologies those firms recommend will be a smart fit for you.
Consult your Home Office (but take their suggestions with a grain of salt).
It’s important to ask your home office folks which technologies they recommend because they are aware of negotiated price discounts and integrations that may make your life easier. But be wary if they suggest in-house technology providers, as broker-dealers have built some of the most poorly constructed technologies out there.
Use a LinkedIn Group to get recommendations.
I love to pose technology questions within groups because members are quick to give their experience, and you can get a consensus quickly. Most broker-dealers have LinkedIn groups for their advisors where you can browse discussions and ask questions.
Make a short list, then do a demo.
Get together a list of 3-5 highly recommended providers for the system you are looking for, then do a one-on-one demo if possible to ask questions and see the tools in action. Take notes of anything you think is lacking or a deal breaker. Compare your notes on your short list and you should have a clear winner.
Call customer service before you purchase.
I see advisors leave technology providers most often because of service related problems. Call the customer service department before you purchase to check the wait time as well as their friendliness & capability. Ask a few questions to kick the tires.
Check out the available ongoing education.
Make sure the technical support and resources fit your needs. If you are the type of person who prefers to watch how-to videos, make sure the technology provider you select offers a video library. If you need to pick up the phone and speak with a person, be sure that option is available.
Think of the future.
We all plan to grow our businesses in the future. But if you’re serious about growing in the double digits each year, make sure your technology can scale with your firm. Be sure to evaluate pricing that will serve your needs now and at double the size to be sure the price increases won’t be prohibitive in the future.
Manage your risk.
All technologies will fail from time to time. If your tablet breaks down before a lunch meeting, your business will survive. But if your clients can’t access their accounts for a week, it’s a catastrophe. Think through the risk involved if the technology fails and formulate an emergency backup plan if necessary.
Take advantage of the free trial.
I’m always amazed that it’s commonplace to purchase a home to live in for years without having ever spent a night inside. Doing a test drive is the surest way to find out if you love or hate a particular technology. If a free trial is offered, take advantage and see how you feel when using the tool. See if you are excited to use the technology, impressed by the features, and it seems fun to use then you have a winner. However, if it’s overwhelming, complex, or frustrating, you may want to keep evaluating.
Immerse yourself in learning the new technology upfront.
Learning a technology well from the start is a lot like investing for retirement early, in that it will continue to reap rewards over the long term. Putting time and energy towards learning the basics will make you more powerful and efficient each day you use the new system. You will take advantage of more features, waste less time, and enjoy the process more.
Spending time upfront to carefully evaluate new technologies is like carefully constructing a portfolio that gives a tailwind over time. Be patient, try to develop a curiosity in your hunt for the best tool, and enlist experts to help.
What is the best technology your firm has adopted? Have you made any big mistakes? Share your thoughts and stay tuned for my upcoming posts on recommendations for CRMs and financial planning software!
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