The Enemy of High Performing Advisors: Product, Price, and Performance

I’d like to share a story and a lesson that was the result of a recent conversation with an advisor who has just joined our firm. Our conversations about transitioning to USA Financial started about 5 months prior to his official decision to make the move. To say that he did his due diligence on us is an understatement.

The motivation for him to start the hunt for a new firm was because the RIA he was affiliated with was experiencing a prolonged stretch of poor performance. The irony was that the week he was planning to officially transition, the RIA he was affiliated with announced a merger with another RIA. He felt this was the final sign he needed to feel that he was making the right decision.

The primary driver for this advisor to explore a move was performance. There were other factors involved of course, but the first was performance. As he began his due diligence on our firm, he put his focus on three things: products, pricing, and performance. After all, these were his biggest pain points with his current affiliation.

What I’m about to share with you is an example of practicing what we preach. We weren’t afraid to share information with him. In fact, our firm (USA Financial) has an extremely compelling offering that addresses those three things (the products, pricing, and performance). However, we couldn’t let this be the basis for forming a relationship with this client (in our case, advisors are the client).

So, how do we circumvent this without giving the appearance of evading the questions related to his main concern?

Process Matters

The answer is simple… we don’t veer from our process. We took him through our Discovery Experience like we do every other advisor considering a relationship with us. Our process (the Discovery Experience) involves some intense fact finding (we do this through a gap analysis), followed up with individualized time with different people at our firm who have specific specialties in different areas of an advisor’s practice. From marketing (that’s me) to compliance and operations, and everything in between. This even includes getting into the weeds on products, pricing, and performance. But the product, price, and performance are not the first things that are discussed. There’s a simple reason for that…

Value Must be Understood First

Nearly two decades ago (right before entering the financial services business), I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the auto industry. I worked for a large car dealership in Arizona in sales and then financial and insurance. During the first week of training, it was stressed to me that you MUST take the customer for a test drive before discussing numbers. At first, this seemed strange to me. I couldn’t understand why we needed to always do this, especially if the customer came in and was clearly ready to buy.

To prove the point and emphasize the importance of the test drive, my manager allowed me to conduct an experiment. For one month, he let me take deals with or without a test drive, but he made me document whether or not the customer did, in fact, test drive the car. At the end of that month, we reviewed the financials, which revealed that those who went on a test drive ended up paying nearly 20% more for each vehicle. I was convinced. And the reason was that value cannot be realized until it has truly been experienced.

In the case of the advisor we transitioned to our firm, this became very evident after the time I spent with him. At the onset of his search, he had convinced himself that marketing services weren’t important to him in his evaluation of a new firm. That quickly changed once he saw that we could bring value to his practice through some of our services.

Choice is Important… Too Much Choice is Paralyzing

The benefit to being an independent advisor is obvious to most professionals. You get to decide how your practice is constructed and what offerings you will utilize within the financial plans of your clients. This is the area that can get a little fuzzy for some advisors. My advice here is simple: you want to align yourself with a firm that provides enough choice and flexibility to serve your clients effectively, but too much choice can wreak havoc and lead you down a difficult path.

Consumers inherently want to feel like they have a choice. Auto manufacturers have figured this out, which is why most of them bundle some of their most popular options into packages or different trims. If every bell and whistle were entirely optional, they’d put their dealers in a terrible position trying to find a unicorn car for every customer. Your practice is no different. Don’t make life more difficult on yourself and your clients by creating a false sense of need for too much choice.

You Live and Die by the Rules You Set

Think about the relationships you have with your clients. Are they overly focused on product, price, and performance? Or have you set the rules of engagement to be focused on process, value, and choice? Do you “wing it” with each new client or does everybody follow the same process? Are you clearly articulating your value before getting into the costs of doing business with you or is price a central focus in the early going? Lastly, are you inviting analysis to paralysis with too much choice? Or are you positioning yourself as the trusted professional that makes the recommendations based upon a thorough review process of their situation? It’s your practice. You make the rules. As a result, you’ll live and die by the rules you set.

Join Me on an Upcoming Webinar

I’d love to have you join me at an upcoming webinar. I have a number of them that I’ll be hosting with my colleague, Kevin Roskam. The upcoming webinars are taking a closer look at our Turnkey Asset Management Platform: USA Financial Exchange. You can register using the link below.

Webinar: Advisory Platform Introduction – USA Financial Exchange

Matt Halloran: On Financial Advisor Podcasting

In this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, Mark Mersman interviews Matt Halloran, Partner and Podcasting Expert with Top Advisor Marketing.

This episode is all about podcasting for financial advisors. Matt shares tips, tricks, and best practices to consider if you’re a financial professional who is looking to add podcasting to your marketing mix.


Ep. 22 – Matt Halloran: On Financial Advisor Podcasting

Coach Micheal Burt on Follow Up, Structure, and Activation of Prey Drive

In this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, Mark Mersman interviews Micheal Burt, aka Coach Burt, Founder of Micheal Burt Enterprises, a coaching and consulting business that teaches sales professionals, business owners, and those interested in rapid growth the five areas to get significant life in their business. Tune in on your favorite podcast app or check it out HERE.

Learn Social Media from Bob Ross

If you’re not familiar with the name Bob Ross, he is most famous for his PBS show The Joy of Painting where he dawned his trademark permed hairstyle and could always be heard uttering the phrase “happy little trees.”  While he didn’t live in the time of social media as it sits today, his tactics are the perfect roadmap to developing your social media accounts into client acquisition vehicles, let me explain.

You may not know this, but Bob never earned money from recording his T.V. show. He also donated his paintings to PBS and was only interested in educating his audience.  He strictly used his show to educate the masses about “the joy of painting,” and it paid off in a big way when he worked with Annette Kowalski to create Bob Ross Inc., a 15-million-dollar revenue company today.  Bob built a trustworthy brand through a three-step process – Educate, Engage, Ask.


We live in the age of information.  There is nothing you can’t find online with the click of a mouse.  If you break it down, consumers are only getting online for two reasons, education or escapism/entertainment.  If you want to be successful in social media, you have to take one of these roads before attempting to sell your audience.  The general public may not be looking for advice when they come across your video, but if it provides value without them having to commit to anything, odds are much stronger that they will tune in again.


Once you have your target audience’s attention, you need to engage them on the platforms you are using.  Bob would have crushed social media as he received over 200 letters a day!  He wrote back to his audience daily, and there are even occasions where he called them to make sure they were okay when he hadn’t heard from them!  Any long-term relationship, no matter the communication medium, requires both parties to engage reciprocally.


Asking is the part that comes last.  If you reverse these steps, it has the opposite effect on someone coming across your social media post.  If you skip right to the ask, you drive more people away then attract them.  Do you enjoy seeing ads online?  So why would a potential client? Think about an initial client meeting.  Do you immediately go in for the sell?  So why would your online strategy be any different than a face to face meeting?

Online client acquisition is a slow process that starts with creating a trusted brand; there are no shortcuts.  If you want to up your online presence this year, consider using the tactics above.

For more tips and tricks on enhancing your social media presence, we suggest downloading our Facebook Cheat Sheet and LinkedIn Tips for Financial Advisors.

New Podcast Episode – Jonathan Arnold: On Partnering with the Mortgage Industry to Grow Your Practice

Join me on the latest episode of 16 Ways from Sunday for my interview with Jonathan Arnold, branch manager with Inlanta Mortgage. Jonathan discusses the importance of strategic partnerships and how the right mortgage professional relationship can be mutually beneficial to wealth management and financial planning professionals.

Tune in on your favorite podcast app or check it out HERE.

Seminars: The Best Presentation Advice One Can Receive

The majority of the financial presentations delivered in our industry are not actually created by the person giving the presentation. This isn’t highly unusual and is only a real problem when “Awkward memorization” presents itself. That’s a term used by one of my favorite marketers, Seth Godin. In fact, he  penned a blog a while back that I thought would be worth sharing with my audience…

Awkward memorization

The spread of TED talks means that more and more people are being put on stage and told to memorize their talk.

This almost always leads to failure.

It’s not because people memorize too much, it’s because they don’t memorize enough.

Watch a great performance and you’ll see no artifacts of memorization. Instead, you will see someone speaking from the heart.

This is what it means to know something by heart.

Memorizing the words is half of it.

And woefully insuffiicient.

My suggestion: Don’t memorize your talk. Memorize your stories. Ten stories make a talk. Write yourself a simple cue card to remember each story’s name. Then tell us ten stories.

Be you.

We didn’t come to hear your words. If that’s all we wanted, we could have read the memo and saved a ton of time.

Bring your heart.

Image result for heart

So to summarize…

  1. Know the material (regardless of whether you created it or not)
  2. Tell stories. (Real ones work best.)
  3. Be authentic (this is one of the most important components to building a community… check this out if you want more on it.
  4. Bring your heart (be passionate… the audience can tell)


Brand Essentials Needed Before Building the Sales & Marketing Funnel

Ready, Fire, Aim. It’s the approach many small businesses take with their marketing. Financial advisors are no exception. While this approach certainly beats an approach that never executes on the “fire” step, the aim step is too important to skip over.

Image result for ready fire aim

When it comes to financial advisor marketing, the “aim” step has to do with the building of your brand collateral. Have you taken the right amount of time to develop your brand collateral? Have you gone through a brand audit? If not, I’d encourage you to do so before constructing your sales and marketing funnel.

A comprehensive brand audit will look at things like:
Strategy & Story Development – this includes research and insights, your communication strategy, defining your brand, and of course the messaging and story associated with your brand.

Identity – this includes the nomenclature used within your firm to define certain things. It includes your brand marks and visual style.

Experience – This aspect of your brand covers everything from your business papers/documents to digital communications and social networks.  Furthermore, it starts to call into question the process for new client acquisition and presentation materials.

Is your brand represented consistently across all mediums or is it a bit of a hodge-podge production? Let’s face it – professionalism is a big deal when it comes to people and their decision to invest with you. The small step of a brand audit can go a long way in your quest to create professional contrast; it is a step that is best taken before you begin plowing time, money, and energy into marketing campaigns.

Looking for a sample brand audit worksheet? Check that out HERE.


Sara Grillo: On the Two Sentence Rule and Elevator Pitches

Join me on a new episode of 16 Ways from Sunday where I interview Sara Grillo, financial author, podcast host, marketing consultant, and keynote speaker.  We’ll dive into conversation on elevator speeches, the two sentence rule, and the effectiveness of social media as it relates to financial advisor marketing.


Ep. 19 Sara Grillo: On the Two Sentence Rule and Elevator Pitches


Sad news for the USA Financial advisor family and financial planning industry

While the news cycles of the week have been focused on the shocking and tragic death of legendary basketball star Kobe Bryant, the family at USA Financial mourns the recent loss of two individuals who made a profound impact on us directly.

Over the past month, the USA Financial family lost two long-time friends and advisors. For those of you that have been connected to USA Financial for some time, it’s likely you may have had interaction at some point with Ray Lussier and James Twigg. I’m saddened to share that both have passed away within the past month or so.

These two men had such uniquely different personalities, but they both had their own special way of impacting the lives they touched. I’m no exception. Ray and James were fiercely loyal individuals and passionate about making the lives of others better, especially their clients.

USA Financial was privileged to have been referred to Ray in 2009. From the moment we met Ray, we knew we wanted to have him as a part of our advisor family. A former green beret, Ray was a no-nonsense straight shooter. His word was his bond and you never needed to question whether he would follow-through on what he said he was planning to do. If we ever hit bumps in the road throughout our professional relationship, Ray handled himself professionally and always trusted that we would navigate the challenges together. He was a mentor to other advisors, frequently setting them straight about what in life was truly worth stressing about. Ray wasn’t one to talk much about his time in Vietnam, but anybody who knew him well could recognize that his time in the military taught him a lot.  As many of our service men and women did, he saw things during that period of his life that would shape him into the level-headed man he was. In fact, he was quick to share that his pursuit of an education in psychology after his time in the service was largely driven by the desire to fix himself.

Ray was somebody you just loved talking with, and not just because of his wonderful Boston accent. You always felt you were going to learn something when you chatted with Ray. I always gained a better perspective on my own life after a conversation with Ray. It wasn’t long ago that Ray was fortunate enough to retire from the financial planning business. Sadly, shortly after selling his practice, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Ray passed away on December 19, 2019. He was 72 years old.

It was less than a month later, on January 18, 2020, that James Twigg passed away unexpectedly as the result of a motor vehicle accident near Phoenix, AZ. James joined USA Financial near the end of 2003. He was one of the very first advisors I recall having a conversation with as a new employee of USA Financial. I remember thinking to myself “if every advisor is as kind and appreciative as this guy, this is going to be the best place in the world to work.” There are so many kind words I could say about James, but the one thing that comes to mind immediately is how thankful and appreciative he was. James made it a point to let you know that he was thankful for anything you did to help him. You couldn’t have a conversation with James without hearing the words “thank you” come out of his mouth.

James had an amazing laugh. Even during times of frustration, he would find ways to laugh and smile. I’ll never forget the day he shared the story of him making squirrel gravy. While I found the idea of squirrel gravy so bizarre, James somehow made me come to the conclusion that it would be worth trying some time. I still owe this to him.

The financial planning world and the USA Financial family lost two good men recently. I’ll always remember how James lit up when I shared the news of my first daughter being born, stressing that there is nothing quite like the father-daughter relationship. I saw the same thing with Ray, as I was fortunate enough to witness his love for his daughter Emily, who worked alongside him in their financial practice.  There is nothing quite like that relationship, and the loss of these two men has reminded me to squeeze each of my three daughters a little tighter…

To James and Ray… THANK YOU for sharing all that you did with me. You left a legacy here at USA Financial and a permanent imprint on my heart.






This picture of Ray captures his classic smirk.


I think these two photos of James illustrate two things – his wonderful skill and compassion as a listener, and of course his unforgettable laugh.



Episode 18 – Dennis Moseley-Williams: On the Experience Economy and Serious Shift

In this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, Dennis Moseley-Williams is interviewed. He is the founder of DMW Strategic Consulting, a practice management company that helps organizations secure and build sustainable relationships by creating experience-driven solutions that deliver results, increase revenues, and build enthusiastic referral-generating communities.

This episode is all about building the experience within your practice. Are you ready to shift from service to experience? If so, this is the episode for you.


Ep. 18 – Dennis Moseley-Williams: On the Experience Economy and Serious Shift

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