It’s a competitive world out there. New clients are very thin on the ground and holding on to existing clients is a big challenge with other advisers and banks nipping at your heels. So how do you stay one step ahead of the competition?
Well obviously your client proposition has to be very strong, this is a given. Today, not only to remain compliant but also to remain competitive, the quality of your advice has to be first-rate. You have to fully understand your clients’ needs and recommend the right solutions for them. This is critical, but to my mind not the complete answer, as there are many other excellent independent advisers who can also do this.
In a previous lifetime, the way to gain access to clients was to beg, bug or buy your way in, to constantly hit people over the head with sales messages. However people today are becoming immune to these messages, they expect more from businesses than just being sold to all of the time. They expect more than a simple, transactional relationship with you and they expect you to add more value to them. How do you do this? It’s not easy for financial advisers to stand out, but one way you can significantly add additional value to your audience is through engaging them with your views and useful observations in all matters relating to financial services. The opportunity is there to successfully position yourself as a thought leader in the eyes of your clients, both prospective and existing and to create influence among your audience.
The plus side of this is that the days of having a limited set of tools available to you and having to spend vast sums of money through expensive advertising or direct mail campaigns to get in front of clients are over. However on the flip side of the coin, while potentially not costing a red cent, this engagement of your customers will eat into an entirely different scarce resource; your time. Know this before you start down the road of creating influence or you will almost definitely fail and as a result, you may even damage yourself in the eyes of your clients.
So what are the keys to building a successful engagement campaign with your prospective and existing clients by sharing your views and observations with them?
First of all, develop a structured content schedule. Avoid the headache of every month trying to dream up content ideas by instead investing some time up front in developing out a list of potential topics. I promise you that once you develop an initial schedule of content, your schedule will constantly grow and the days of last minute brain freezes will be over!
Then think about where you’re going to host your content. Are you going to post the content to your website each time? Or are you going to complete a blog or email newsletter? Maybe you’re going to post your content in a few places? Develop your strategy and then put time in your diary each month to both write and post the content.
I’m often asked how long a blog post or newsletter article should be. The optimal length is probably between 750 and 1,000 words, so it’s not particularly taxing.
The next area is to identify your channels through which you are going to actively share your content. It’s not enough to just post content to your website and hope that your audience will pay a visit to read it… Are you going to email your content too? Are you using social media? As some of you will have picked up from previous articles, I’m a big fan of the power of LinkedIn (in particular) and Twitter for financial advisers. They offer great opportunities to engage a wide network of both potential and existing clients.
When you then start to share your content, it’s really important to measure the success or otherwise of it. The beauty of online communication is that unlike the “snail mail” communications of old, there are so many metrics available to you. Spend some time thinking about the most relevant measures for you and then set some targets for yourself. Will you measure website hits, newsletter open / click rates, new subscribers to your content or the amount of “likes” and “shares” that your content attracts?
Finally, be committed to your engagement efforts. You won’t see immediate benefits, but if you stick with it and really try hard to produce content that’s interesting to your audience, your efforts will be rewarded.
What will the benefits be? Well first of all, influence helps you to build credibility among your audience. It also helps you to build trust through the constancy of your presence in front of your audience. Your audience want to have favoured leaders – this is your chance to become one of them! If done well, you can also expect that this engagement with clients will reawaken some relationships that may have been dormant. The end game is that your audience will start to seek out your views, not only in relation to general financial services topics, but also in relation hopefully to the advice that you can offer them in relation to their own financial affairs.
What are the biggest challenges for you in creating influence? Is it knowing what to write about or finding the time? All comments are welcome!