How many times has someone told you that social media, referral alliances with CPAs and attorneys, client events, or some other strategy is “the silver bullet” to transforming your practice? Don’t buy into the hype! There is no silver bullet to achieving success in our business; despite what some people would like you to believe.
Case in point: social media. Recently, there has been a number of vocal “experts” who insist social media is the key to success for advisors. Unfortunately, many firms who are trying to capitalize on this resource have been disappointed with their results. Does this mean social media is worthless? Certainly not. Leveraged properly, it can be an effective platform for engaging clients and prospects. Social media is a wonderful tool in the right context, but by itself, can also be a huge waste of time.
Compounding the problem, many advisors have a tendency to get caught on what I refer to as “the marketing roller coaster” – When business gets slow, they step up their marketing efforts in one area (i.e. hold a seminar). Then, as a result of this added effort, their prospect pipeline fills up. Once their pipeline is full, they no longer perceive an urgent need to market until the pipeline dries up again. Then it’s on to the next marketing idea. This cycle causes many advisors to miss out on the opportunity to generate consistent, predictable revenue because they are only engaging in revenue-generating activities part of the time.
So if there is no silver bullet, what actions should be taken by an advisor who wants to grow his or her business? Put simply, give clients what they need, and they will give you what you need.
Imagine for a moment that you have some important legal business you need an attorney to care for, and there are two lawyers you are evaluating. Attorney one works out of his car, sports a golf shirt and khakis, and doesn’t have a company brochure or website. Attorney two has an attractive office, a professional assistant, wears a tie to work, and has professional collaterals. Strictly based on appearance, whom would you choose?
This aptly illustrates the position investors find themselves in when they are looking for a new financial advisor. One of the best ways to stand out from your competition is to ensure everything about the way your practice operates exudes success and professionalism.
Talk to Them
Investors have faced many challenges during the last decade. The severe ups and downs of the market have left them needing reassurance. Clients expect their advisors to keep them informed about any events that have the potential to impact their financial affairs. They expect frequent and meaningful communication. When they don’t receive it, studies show they move their money to other advisors.
At a minimum, you should include weekly e-mails, monthly letters, occasional research papers, and educational videos as part of your communication plan. When clients think about you more, they will talk about you more; when they talk about you more, they will refer more people to you. This is also why utilizing a CRM tool to automate contact is essential. Left to chance, your communication strategy will be sporadic at best.
When was the last time a business made you feel special? I remember the last time it happened to me, and I won’t soon forget it. We are wired to notice when people acknowledge us. We like receiving gifts and special privileges. We enjoy the sound of people using our name. When you assure clients and prospects they are important to you, they will be more loyal and faster to refer you.
The only way to accomplish this is to implement written service standards and systems. It is impossible to deliver a high quality experience one hundred percent of the time without having the right procedures in place.
Within this framework, nearly any financial planning practice will grow and thrive. Furthermore, it is from these three areas that most practice management and marketing strategies are born. But, and this is a big but: none of these things are a silver bullet – all of them must work together at the same time.
Just as a balanced investment portfolio should include a variety of investments, a balanced practice-management strategy needs to include multiple ways to engage clients and prospects. Different clients will respond to different actions. Reviews. Phone calls. Educational events. Social events. E-mail marketing. Social media. Acts of kindness. All of these efforts need to be consistent – organized into reliable, predictable systems.
The members in our program, for example, send weekly e-mail updates, place quarterly client phone calls, review client accounts twice per year, host four social events and two educational events annually, and surprise their clients with kind acts. This doesn’t cover everything they do, but this short list provides 65 points of contact per client, per year!
So rather than looking for the silver bullet, here’s what we encourage you to do: Start improving your image, increasing your contact strategy, and wowing your clients. There may not be one single silver bullet, but the sum of these activities is certain to provide your business with growth.