Segment your clients and increase your impact

From time to time, we all get newsletters or emails from companies that appear totally irrelevant to us and not related in any way to our businesses and challenges – I hope you don’t include this particular newsletter among them! These communications simply make you wonder why you are “on the list” and the end result is that they usually just annoy you.

How do your clients feel when they get general correspondence from you, where it’s not about their specific financial plans or policies? Do they find them relevant to them and their challenges or instead do they end up feeling that they are simply on a list that a communication has been sent to without any thoughts as to relevancy? Are you actually annoying them and potentially damaging your client relationship.

However it’s not just about marketing messages. The days of “one size fits all” are over in all aspects of your relationships with your clients. You need to send interesting and engaging communications that are relevant to them, and also deliver services that your customers actually want and are willing to pay for. Different clients have different needs so you need to be able to adapt your services to meet these different requirements. You also need to be able to manage your own scarce resources; primarily your time and money, by allocating them to maximum effect across your clients. This is where segmentation comes in.

So first of all, what is segmentation? One definition of it is, “a strategy that involves dividing a broad target market into subsets of consumers who have common needs, and then designing and implementing strategies to target their needs and desires. In short it is tailoring your marketing and service propositions to meet the needs of your different customer groups.

Segmentation for Financial Advisers
So you want to start segmenting your clients. The first step is to decide the factors that you are going to use. Well-developed segmentation models will use a number of these to drill down to smaller sub-groups of customers. Some factors used by financial advice firms are;

  • Revenue from customer – maybe averaging any initial commissions over a number of years before adding to renewal commission.
  • Premium levels
  • Assets under management
  • Potential for future business
  • Customer profile
  • Income levels
  • Age
  • Geography


Tailor your services

Most financial advice firms that operate segmented models use profitability and potential as the key differentiating factors. They aim to provide a better service to those clients who deliver greater value to the firm.  However I have also spoken to a number of advisers who claim that they sub-consciously do this segmentation – that their best clients get their best service. However when you dig below the surface, it usually emerges that it is the clients they know best that get the best service, not necessarily the clients who require or deserve the best service.

Some advisers argue that they operate a gold plated service for all clients, irrespective of their value to the business. Is this right? Well yes, your less valuable clients will be delighted with this as they receive a premium service for effectively low cost to them. However how do your better clients feel?  They are delivering a lot of value to you but not getting any additional value in return… So you are pleasing your less valuable clients, at the expense of your best clients!

Once you have completed your segmentation exercise, you then need to tailor your propositions specifically for each group. Multiple propositions are probably the route to go; however they should be built on an incremental basis, defined by customer value. Your least valuable clients get a basic service. Your next tier of clients get a better service – more frequent meetings, reviews, communications, access to people etc. and your best clients only get your gold plated service – all of the above with extra trimmings on top!

You may also find as a result of your segmentation that you have been very successful in attracting business from one particular segment – a specific occupation, a geographical area, businesses in a certain sector etc. Can you corner this niche? Make yourself the resident expert and go-to guy in this population?

By analysing your client base, the exercise helps you to identify those target groups that you are actually most successful with. Lots of advisers say to me that they want to work with high net worth individuals. Segmentation will help identify how successful you are currently at achieving this; do these HNW individuals make up a big share of your client base? If not, segmentation can help to get you away from wishful thinking, and while here is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to work with different groups, maybe you need to reinvent your service propositions to attract these people and make your aspirations a reality.
Your marketing approach
To also briefly illustrate the importance of segmentation from a marketing point of view, consider an advice firm that has a number of group pension schemes and also a lot of individual clients too. These separate groups need tailored communications – your HR Director / CFO clients don’t want to be hearing all of the time about personal finance issues. Likewise your individual customers have no great interest usually in challenges to DB schemes etc. So segmentation from a marketing viewpoint is very important too.

 

In summary, is segmentation worth the trouble? Well yes it is as segmentation leads to better service outcomes for clients, and makes your business more efficient and ultimately more profitable.

Are there advisers out there who approach segmentation differently? If so, I’d welcome your comments!

5 zero cost marketing activities to complete this summer

With the explosive growth of digital marketing in the last decade, one important dynamic has changed. Marketing has shifted from being a bottomless pit in relation to your financial resources to offering many low cost or even zero cost opportunities. However the flip side of this coin is that marketing now draws on another scarce resource…your time.

With business possibly being a bit quieter over the summer months, you now should have a bit of time to dedicate to some marketing activities that will set you in good stead for a strong finish to the year. So here are 5 marketing tasks to complete over the next 5 weeks that won’t actually cost you a cent.

Update your Website

As part of my work with financial advisers across the country, I too often see great work going into the development of new and exciting marketing activities while ignoring one of the business’s main marketing assets, the company website. Yes I know that updating your website is certainly not the most exciting work that you can be doing, but it is very important. Perceptions of your business will be built, based on your website and there is nothing worse than out of date and poorly written content. So go through your website page by page, make sure there is no out of date content and look for opportunities to make the content more engaging for the reader. This is your key online shop window.

 

Review your LinkedIn presence

In a similar vein to the above, your LinkedIn profile is your most important personal digital asset from a business perspective. To my mind, a presence on LinkedIn is not optional for financial advisers any more, it is too important a marketing opportunity to miss. And it doesn’t cost a red cent.

Starting in next month’s newsletter, I’m going to do a series of 3 in-depth articles in relation to LinkedIn, covering the following;

  • Building a winning profile on LinkedIn
  • Using LinkedIn to build a valuable network
  • Using LinkedIn to add value and build your business.

So for now, get to work on improving your LinkedIn presence and then hopefully over the rest of the year, you’ll pick up a few more tips from the 3 in-depth articles.

 

Tidy up your data

There are 2 specific areas in relation to data that can add significantly to your marketing efforts. The first is to simply (but religiously) record where every lead comes from, is it from a referral, from a specific marketing activity or from whatever source. The importance of this is that when you look back a year later at where your leads came from, this data can hugely influence where you put your marketing euros and hours in the future.

The second area is in relation to email addresses. Spend some time over the summer ringing clients to ensure you have their current email address. Email is still an extremely powerful marketing tool, but can’t be carried out without email addresses. Lack of this valuable data is the single biggest blockage I come across, preventing advisers from carrying out effective email campaigns. I might be stretching it a bit but the cost of these calls is covered under your phone package!

 

Develop an introducer’s presentation

So many advisers recognise the enormous opportunity that strong links with potential introducers such as accountants or tax advisers can offer them. However many don’t give themselves the best chance of building strong relationships with these introducers.

This starts at the very first meeting with the potential partner. This should never just be a chat. This is one of your most important business meetings, where you are trying to convince the potential partner to entrust you with their most valuable asset, their clients. At the end of the day, the main reason many accountants don’t enter into partnerships with financial advisers is because they are afraid that as a result of having recommended you to their clients, that this will reflect back badly on them if something goes wrong between you and the client.

So you must be able to clearly articulate why you are the only adviser that they should consider working with and how you are going to actually enhance the partner’s relationship with their client, rather than potentially damaging it. The starting point for this is a professional, engaging presentation that clearly articulates your value proposition to both the introducer and to their clients. Work on this over the summer.

 

Hone your referral approach

Referrals sit at the heart of many advisers’ client acquisition strategies. Many “just do it”, without any thought to method or process. While this is fine if it works, there are ways to support your natural talent to improve your success rate. One way is to use the likes of LinkedIn to research your client’s network. Now rather than asking your client to refer “someone” to you, and pushing the work on to them to think of who and how you might help, instead you can suggest actual contacts that you would like to meet. This keeps you in the driving seat.

Also develop a series of case studies of innovative solutions you have designed for clients, portraying your value. Make your clients aware of these, with the aim of helping to trigger in their mind some contacts that your solutions / approaches might suit.

 

And one more…

Finally, if you want help with these or any other activities, I’d be delighted to talk through your challenges with you. And I’ll buy the coffee!

 

I hope these ideas help. Put a bit of time into your marketing activities over the summer, and reap the rewards over the remainder of the year.

Is email finished as a marketing tool for financial advisers?

When working with financial advice firms on their marketing plans, the value of email marketing always raises its head. Is it effective? Is it being replaced by social media? Is email passé?

I firmly believe that email marketing is a really important element of the overall marketing mix for financial advisers. It can be extremely effective if done well and can offer you a very targeted approach to reach your clients. It’s not a case of either / or in relation to social media, it’s a case of both! And it’s certainly not passé, it’s still probably the most essential communications tool for businesses today. Finally, if you go down the road of email newsletters, they offer you unparalleled feedback in relation to the engagement of your audiences.

 

You reach the inbox

While people sometimes (not that often in truth) complain about email overload, the key feature of email marketing is that you do actually land in the inboxes of your database. And generally as a result, at a minimum your subject line will be read. Even better, if your audience saw value in your previous content, the chances are that they will actually open and read your message. This is a big difference between it and social media, which is undoubtedly also an extremely valuable medium, but one where a lot of your messages can be missed due to the constant stream of messages being delivered.

You have an existing relationship

If you (legitimately) have the email addresses for your database, you already have a relationship at some level with the recipients. Therefore your messages won’t be viewed like a cold call approach; instead they will be seen as coming from a trusted source. However this proximity of your relationship brings an added challenge. If you consistently issue poor quality content, your email recipients will no longer want to receive your emails. This obviously may actually damage your overall relationship.

So a key point is that you don’t start spamming your database with irrelevant messages, as this practise will really undermine your relationship.

It’s another audience to reach

You want your marketing messages to reach as many people as possible. You deliver the messages verbally in person, potentially display them in and around your office, post them on your website to display to people who land on your site and share them out to your social media connections. Your email database is another audience, yes there is overlap with some of the other groups mentioned above, but this is another really important audience for you.

It’s low / no cost

While email newsletters delivered through your normal email platform are free, email newsletters delivered through reputable platforms (such as this one) do incur charges. However the charges are low when you consider all the benefits, particularly the feedback available, which is covered below.

You get unparalleled feedback

Email newsletters offer amazing feedback on the success or otherwise of your marketing campaigns. With advertising, direct mail and PR activities, it is notoriously difficult to measure your success at all. With online advertising, search and links to your website via social media, you get better information. With these media, you can see at least if your activities are driving people to your website.

However email newsletters deliver incredibly revealing feedback. Listed below are some of the metrics you can receive and how these are of use to you. One critical point to note is that these metrics can be tracked for your email list as a whole, but more importantly, you can look at these measures for each individual recipient too.

  • Delivery rates: You can see how many of your emails actually landed in the intended inboxes, revealing among other things the quality of your data.
  • Open rates: You can track how many people actually opened your email. This gives you a sense of whether recipients view your content as worthwhile / important to open.
  • Click Rates: You can then track how many people actually clicked on one or more articles. This reveals whether recipients were interested enough to actually read your content.
  • Individual article performance: You can see the open & click performance for each individual article. This gives you information on the type of content that resonates best with your audience.
  • Time spent: You can also see how long people are reading your content. Are they just scanning it or really spending time over your content?
  • Social interaction: You can see comments that people leave, if they “liked” your content and indeed if they shared any of your content.

This is extremely revealing information, particularly when examined at an individual subscriber level.

One adviser I’m working with had a protection client who opened 3 separate articles on investment topics a total of 14 times over the space of a few months. The adviser as a result focused his next review meeting on his investment expertise… and ended up securing a significant investment mandate with this client. Without the insights gained from his email newsletters, the adviser would not have known that this was an opportune button to press.

Also, as you review the statistics over time, the trends tell a very interesting story too – is your audience becoming more or less engaged, what sort of content should you focus on etc.?

 

Email marketing is still a really valuable and effective tool. It provides a level of certainty of the messages reaching the target market and exceptional feedback. Do you use email marketing? If so, what are your experiences? Please feel free to leave any comments below.