A growing number of businesses have discovered that mind mapping software is an awesome tool for managing back-office tasks like project planning, conducting research and writing reports. But how many actually use mind maps with their customers to add value to those critical relationships?
One small Chicago area company has found a way that has literally transformed its business. Gary Klaben, president of Protinus in Glenview, IL, is using mind maps in some very smart ways to add value to client relationships and generate additional revenue in the very tough, competitive independent financial services market.
One of the biggest challenges that independent financial advisors face today is getting paid for what he calls “shadow work” – the behind the scenes research and strategizing that creates the greatest value for its high net worth clients, but which is very hard to charge them for. Essentially, if clients can’t see the value, they won’t pay for it. At the same time, financial advisors are faced with increasing commoditization of the financial instruments they have to sell their clients. That means it’s getting harder for advisors to differentiate their offerings. That’s where mind maps made a tremendous difference in his business.
Klaben and his staff started using mind mapping software several years ago to create simple, at-a-glance visual summaries of their clients’ estates. The “wow factor” was unmistakable, he recalls. “If you look at the way most financial information is presented to clients, it’s very tabular and hard for the average person to understand. In contrast, the mind map shows them all of the key information about their assets and investments in a well-organized visual format, and how their various investments are related to each other,” he explains.
Klaben emphasizes that high net worth individuals are usually very pragmatic and left-brain oriented. So he and his staff wisely resisted the temptation to embellish their mind maps with colored branches and icons, which would probably overwhelm its clients – the dreaded phenomenon of “map shock.” His staff produces bare-bones, black and white mind maps are just right for the needs of their clients. Each map contains only the essential amount of information the client needs to see the current status of their estate.
“What we found is that people don’t have all of this information in one place. They may not even know all of their account numbers for their investments, 401K, and so forth. They forget the details. So when we put it all in a single view for them, they’re really impressed by that,” he said. More importantly, they get the unmistakable impression that Klaben’s firm takes a unique and valuable approach to their needs – which clearly differentiates them in the client’s mind versus competing advisors, who by and large are still offering the same old services. “Our clients can see the thinking that went into these maps, and therefore they are more willing to pay for the ‘shadow work’ that’s behind them.”
These visual reports also create a more constructive environment for discussion of future opportunities that Klaben’s staff has uncovered, which are also presented in visual form, and are invaluable in moving from a one-time transaction to more of an ongoing, consultative relationship. Ultimately, this visually-focused philosophy of partnering with its clients has paid off handsomely in generating additional revenues for his firm.
Klaben shared another example that many readers of this blog can undoubtedly relate to: Selling a house, which usually involves a mountain of paperwork. A single mind map contained branches for the property being purchased, loan details, collateral, information on the person’s old house, and other loan-related data. Relevant documents were attached to these branches as needed. Such a mind map helped one of Klaben’s clients to close on a home worth several million dollars in record time. With all of the key documents organized in one place, the closing process was quite streamlined compared to the usual back-and-forth process with agents, appraisers, banks and other parties that selling a house requires.
Mind maps have become so effective in Klaben’s business that he recently launched webinars and workshops to teach his successful techniques to other independent financial advisors. He showed me the workbook for his workshop, and it’s obvious that he has put a lot of thought into helping these independent businesspeople to manage the change that mind mapping initially requires.
“Remember, these are financial experts, who are accustomed to working with numbers. They’re very left-brained people. They’re more likely to be at home with bookkeeping and accounting services for small businesses than with mind mapping. In other words, mind mapping is very foreign to them at first.” So Klaben eases them into the practice of it, starting with worksheets where workshop participants first identify their biggest clients and the challenges they face, then place this information into a blank, printed mind map template. “They need something they can take back to the office on Monday and begin using in their businesses. We give them the hands on training and reference materials they can use to effectively integrate mind maps into what they’re doing,” he adds.
What about you? What are you doing to integrate mind maps into your customer-facing business processes? Where can you add value to your customer relationships by clarifying complex bodies of information or data with simple mind maps?
For more information on Klaben’s upcoming workshops and webinars, please visit the Protinus website.