Innovation requires vision and energy but do Australian advisers have what it takes? Jon Shaw writes.
Where there’s inefficiency, there are opportunities to innovate.
But the thought of innovating is daunting to many people. It’s hard to know where and how to begin.
At the practice level, the key is to tackle inefficiencies one at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed and leverage existing technological solutions to get the job done.
For advisers, the main areas where a little bit of innovation could make an enormous difference are back office administration and client acquisition.
In the back office, innovation can wipe out inefficiencies, such as the manual collection and entry of client information and data, which is time consuming and susceptible to human error.
When it comes to client acquisition, advisers can use technology to cheaply and proactively reach new advice audiences. They don’t need huge advertising budgets nor do they need to sit back and wait for a referral.
There’s an array of low cost, user-friendly digital solutions designed to help small businesses, including financial planning and accounting practices, effectively market to consumers.
People commonly think of innovation as a radical brand new idea or invention which can be commercialised and monetised.
The good news is that everyone can innovate.
For the majority of advisers, innovation may simply be about finding a better (but not necessarily new) way to do business in order to avoid repetitious, low value work; reduce human error; and lower the cost of delivering advice to the client. By becoming more efficient, practices can increase productivity and profitability.
A simple way advisers can eliminate inefficiency is to automate tedious, time consuming tasks like manual data collection and entry.
Advisers don’t have to develop the technology to automatically gather a client’s personal details, bank account and transaction records, and superannuation fund information because it already exists.
Innovation may take the form of incorporating off-the-shelf software into their practice to automate parts of the advice process which they’d otherwise have to pay someone to do or do themselves. It may simply be adopting a cloud-based CRM system which regularly reminds, and enables, clients to update their personal details online. This increases the probability of advisers having correct, up-to-date information but it’s also less intrusive.
Innovation can also be a revenue generating exercise.
In the area of client acquisition, advisers can utilise digital channels like their own website to engage with clients. They can use tools such as email or newsletters, social media or Google Adwords to drive traffic to their site, where they can promote themselves further and encourage more interaction.
Advisers can even automate a lot of the early engagement through the clever use if things like pop ups. That might include an invitation to register for a newsletter, watch a video, or attend a seminar or live webinar, in conjunction with a standard CRM system.
In exchange for their email address, which is valuable information that advisers can use to keep in touch and continue promoting their services, the visitor may automatically receive regular educational or informational articles. This can be easily achieved using standard CRM automation tools.
Traditionally, adviser or staff interaction, which is a significant contributor to the cost of client acquisition, happened straight away. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A lot can now be scheduled to occur only after a person has expressed genuine interest or requested a call.
A highly automated client acquisition strategy can be an efficient way to reach many people, give them important information, let them do their own investigation and move at their own pace. Visitors can watch a video as many times as they like, attend as many webinars as they want, download an eBook multiple times and read articles over and over, and the cost is the same to the advice practice.
Tracking this activity with a CRM allows advisers to easily identify and qualify potential clients, and spend the majority of their time with the best prospects.
Risk and reward pay-off
To maximise the chances of a new solution or process succeeding, advisers need to be clear about the problems they want to solve and the goals they want to achieve, before looking at the technology solutions in the market that will help achieve those objectives.
They should put together a strong business case for adopting new technology, factoring in the possibility that it may take time to see results.
Advisers need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages, and trade-offs of the various options because they will all have a different cost base and features.
Once a technology solution has been selected, businesses should develop a strategy and processes around implementing and incorporating the solution into their practices.
When it comes to innovation, there is an element of risk because there’s always the possibility of failure.
Advisers have to be prepared to fail but the trick is to do it quickly and at the lowest possible cost. That’s why it’s important to set a limit on the time and cost involved from the outset and be disciplined enough to stick to it.
Advisers also have to be prepared to try again.
Fortunately, with digital technology, the cost of innovation is relatively cheap and if something’s not working, it becomes obvious pretty quickly.
Jon Shaw is Head of Operations and Technology at Moneysoft.
This article was also published in Professional Planner in June 2016 under the title "Innovate or die. But innovation is not the enemy."