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Your DIY Business Plan

Sales & Marketing

These four simple steps can make your practice more effective and profitable.

Are you looking for ways to make your retirement plan business more effective and profitable? If so, you’re in luck—following are some prompts that can transform your business. So find a comfortable place, get a beverage, put your phone away and pick up a pen. We’re going on a journey to map out your best business ideas and goals and then create a plan to achieve your vision. These simple steps will help make your business more effective and more profitable in no time.

Goal Casting

Casting a vision for your business is an important first step in achieving success. By taking the time to imagine what you want your 401(k) practice to look like in the future, you can begin to create a plan to make it happen.

First things first: What does your business look like in 3 years? Sit back and close your eyes. Take 5 minutes to envision all of it. Then write it down (yes, this is an important part) to get your goals out of your head and on paper.

Can you see it? Do you feel it? Are you willing to work to attain it?

Goal to Strategy

Your future business needs a game plan. Whether it’s growth, awareness, fame, profitability, client retention, servicing, team building, culture, mission and/or sustainability, each hallmark achievement requires specific attention. The good news is that you have already done the hard work: naming your aspirations. Now it’s time to align your goals with a strategy:

• If your goal is growth, then create more awareness.

• If your goal is profitability, then look at client retention, servicing and sustainability.

• If your goal is team building, then focus on culture and mission.

Growth is fueled by awareness

To grow your business over the next 3 years, you will need the right decision-makers to know who you are, what you do and the value you deliver. So, who are they?

• My ideal clients are _____________________.

• My referrals partners are important to my ideal clients because ________________________.

Next, to create more business development activities, you need to educate and inform your relationships about who you are, what you do and the value you can deliver. To accomplish this, it is best to communicate with your ideal plan sponsor audience through social media, email campaigns and face-to-face (or zoom-to-zoom).

• Today, I have _____ LinkedIn connections. In 3 years, I will have _____ connections.

• Today, I email my contact list ___ times per month. In 3 years, I will communicate ___ times per month.

• Today, I speak with ___ people per week. In 3 years, I will meet with ___ per week.

Profitability focuses on retention, servicing and sustainability

A healthy balance sheet will give you peace of mind. To increase profitability, start by evaluating these yes/no questions:

___ Yes ___ No | Our client retention rate is above 95%.

___ Yes ___ No | We have a written service calendar that is shared with our clients.

___ Yes ___ No | We know cost per client because we track hours per plan. (If no, January 1 is a great time to start.)

By knowing profitability per plan, you can reduce the burden of running your business because you can make informed business decisions based on facts, which may include knowing when to raise your fees, adding more services and/or hiring a new team member.

Team building requires culture and mission

Close your eyes again. Take a deep breath. To make your vision a reality, you need a team— a group of outstanding people who will get the work done. Who are they? What unique skills will they bring to the enterprise? Take a few minutes and describe your culture and mission, and then identify your team’s strengths.

• Three words that describe our culture are ________ , ________ and __________.

• Our mission is to ______________________________________________________________.

• My team is capable of __________________________________________________________.

Take your thinking a step further and consider what it will take to realize your aspirations:

• To realize my vision appropriately, I will need ___ team members.

• My budget for their compensation, training and benefits is ________.

• To empower the team to achieve our mission, they will need access to these tools and resources: ______________________________________.

All-star teams add energy to the business; they keep it organized and hyper-efficient. As you think through your business plan, remember that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together.

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here.

Strategy to Implementation

With your plan in hand, the next step is to put it into motion. Start by writing out some quick wins. Think about what tasks you can easily check off.

• Today, I will __________.

Then look at the larger projects that will take more time, talent and resources. What are the to-dos? Write them down and then estimate how long it will take to complete them. For example, refreshing your website. Generally speaking, that is a 3-month collaborative project. Put the wheels in motion by contacting your website team, scheduling recurring meetings and setting a deadline.

• In Q1, my goal is to __________.

• Before June 30, I will complete ________.

Keep working forward in quarterly timeframes. You have 12 quarters (3 years) to space out your tasks, bring in partners, hire and complete the vision. If you’re a growing firm, this is where a COO and/or a project manager can wave their taskmaster wand and keep everything on schedule.

Reflect and Execute

You just created a customized business plan that is ready to execute. But are you sure this is what you want? Yes?

Good. Now take some time to smooth out any hesitations. Where do you see challenges? Where do you see opportunities? Write them down. What partnerships will you need to establish? The more you can put to paper and have clarity, the easier it will be to implement your vision.

Recognizing your goals is the first step toward victory. Your words will help you approach your business development targets strategically and support achieving your vision.

Thanks for reading and happy marketing!

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing, which she founded to assist qualified experts operate a professional business with professional marketing materials and ongoing awareness campaigns. This column first appeared in the Winter issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.