How do you connect with today’s prospects?

Prospects will approach you with a wide variety of requirements in mind. This applies both to the type of advice or potential products they are seeking, and also at various stages of their “buying cycle.

We’ve previously covered the buying cycle of clients in more detail in a previous article here, however as a very brief reminder we set out the concept of AIDA. This is an acronym that is usually used in relation to advertising to describe a buying cycle, but can also be applied to the services offered by a financial planner or broker.

AIDA in this context stands for

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Each of these steps is part of the mental journey that a client will embark upon, before he or she decides to use the services of a financial planner. However when they come to you initially, they can pretty much be at any of the four stages – they may have moved through some of them before contacting you. It is important for you to remain alert and capable of delivering on each of the steps, to meet the needs of each specific prospect.

Our previous article covered the key steps that you need to take with prospects at each of the four stages of their buying journey. The focus of this piece is on some of the conditions you need to consider to connect with a modern consumer throughout the buying cycle.

 

The importance of relationships

Of course building strong, trusted relationships sits at the core of the proposition of virtually every single financial planner. However not all planners seek for this relationship to extend to the partner of the prospect that reached out to you. Some financial planners still happily meet clients, without seeking the prospect’s spouse or partner to also attend.

Decisions about household finances are often not made on the spot by clients, instead they are made back in the comfort of their homes with the input of their life partner. Not having attended the meeting with you can result in the partner missing some of the nuances behind your advice, and also results in the partner not having the opportunity to ask questions that are bothering them. And the outcome is that action can stall… or issues can arise down the road. Where possible, always meet the client and their partner.

 

Research sources are far more accessible for prospects today

Prospects approach you far more loaded (with information) than before. Often when they speak to you for the first time, they know a lot about you, in fact significantly more at this stage than you know about them! If they have initiated the contact, this probably means that they were sufficiently impressed with what they read / saw / heard to still press ahead and make contact.

But are there prospects out there who hear about you, carry out some research and then not make contact? It’s critically important that you can tick the following boxes to connect with today’s consumer.

  • Your website must look very professional, be very engaging and must demonstrate your particular proposition and points of difference.
  • Today more than 60% of Google searches are carried out on mobile devices. Having a website that is not responsive to mobile devices is simply a business death wish.
  • Your social media presence is so important too. Just Google your own name and see how prominent your LinkedIn profile is in the search results. Your LinkedIn profile must impress.
  • All of the above require a constant, consistent stream of fresh content. Digital assets that are clearly not maintained say a lot of (not good) things to consumers…

 

Your “seller journey” must lead to a face-to-face meeting

Advisers today all have a common goal – to get the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with prospects who they have qualified as suitable clients going forwards. Then you get the opportunity to properly set out your proposition and how you can positively influence their lives. To achieve this, it is so important that wherever the prospect is on their own buyer journey, they must be gently encouraged towards this goal of meeting you. The benefit and value for them of actually sitting down with you must be positioned carefully within your messaging at every opportunity, so that the client also shares that goal of actually meeting you.

Simply asking to meet the client with no context or positioning can feel like a sales push to the client. Your chances of building a lasting relationship are far higher where you have carefully set out the value for them of meeting you.

Good financial planners today can transform the lives of their clients by bringing strategy, structure and sense to their financial affairs. However prospects need help to discover this value that you add. Help them do it!

Pleased to meet you…

Networking is a very traditional, but still a very effective and important marketing activity. It’s also one that fills a lot of people with dread… They think of standing around in crowded rooms with no one to talk to, or being pinned in the corner making small talk with someone who they frankly have little interest in meeting. And so while most people recognise the importance of networking, very few people do enough of it. In fact, I find it’s the one activity that causes the most discomfort when it ends up on the marketing plan for a financial adviser!

So what can you do to make it easier and more effective? After all, if it actually works and helps you generate new clients, you are much more likely to continue to do it.

 

Recognise that it isn’t easy

Networking isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally to lots of people… but it isn’t easy for anyone. So while you might think that it’s so easy for certain people, that tends to be because they’ve worked really hard at becoming good at networking.  However, while some people might appear to find it easier than others, everyone at least has a common purpose  – they are there to build connections. So approach it from the point of view that at least everyone has the same goal and are open to talking to you.

 

You must have a strategy

At the end of the day, you’ve got to be standing in the traffic if you want to get knocked down! But it’s not enough to wander blindly into a networking event without a clue of how you’re about to approach it. This starts before the event where you try and get a handle on who is likely to be there. Are there lists of attendees available in advance? Can you check out who members of the business group / conference attendees are? Once you’ve an idea of who will be there, you can start thinking about who your preferred “targets” are. And then you can start doing some quick research on them through their website and LinkedIn profile. And this research will hopefully come in very handy later…

 

Be a first mover

Don’t just head for your pals and spend your day in deep conversation with them! By all means, if they are in a group of people that you want to meet, take the opportunity to get introduced into the group. But be active and make the first move to start conversations. Others will thank you for this and it also gives you the opportunity to guide the conversation.

 

Be interested

And this is where your research comes in really useful! If you can show a level of interest in the people you meet – some knowledge of their business, some connections you have in common, it might even be that you know about some quirky interest of theirs, this will ease them into the conversation as you are opening the door for them to talk about themselves. And then be interested because your interest in them will come back in spades. Remember you’ve two ears and one mouth for a reason! People will naturally want to reciprocate and turn the conversation towards you, which of course is then your opening…

 

Hone your own pitch

When you get over the initial chit-chat and move on to talking about your reason for being at the event and what you have to offer, this simply must be interesting and must grab their attention. At the end of the day, they will be talking to many people that day so you must be in some way memorable. If you are pitching your wares, paint pictures of solutions, not saying why you’re such a great financial planner. Let people see how you can solve problems for them and enrich their lives in some way.

 

Follow up brilliantly!

Then when all the hard work is done, make sure you take the final step. Contact people after the event saying how it was great to meet them and thanking them for their time. Connect with them on LinkedIn and if you send out a company newsletter, suggest that they be added to the circulation list. Send them information if this makes sense. If there’s a favour you can do for them, maybe there’s someone else you can introduce them to – well then this is even better.

 

So yes, networking is not easy. But hopefully these few thoughts might make the task a little less daunting for you!

Have you some spare time over the summer?

It’s that time of year again… The weather will (hopefully) be great and everyone is trying to spend a bit more time outdoors. The downside is that business may be getting just a little quieter for the next month or two.

So here lies the opportunity! It’s possible that you’ll have a bit more spare time on your hands over the next while and rather than sitting there thinking about the beach, how will you use this time? It can be hard to keep your focus when there’s not the pressure of constant phone calls and emails and achieving deadlines to meet client expectations. I suggest you either go to the beach (rather than think about it), or put the time into driving your business forwards.

If you want to put the time into your business, it’s easier to keep focused when you have a plan. So what sort of things might be in that plan for the summer months? Here are a few ideas;

 

Arrange to meet your key clients

This is a great time of year for catching up with key clients, outside of your advice process. This is not a business meeting; it’s a game of golf, a coffee, an early pint – whatever works best for them and you! This is an opportunity to show your interest in their business and lives without looking for anything back in return. The cost is small for both of you as you probably both have the time to meet. However there is real benefit in it for you, as the client will appreciate your interest without it being an “advice” or “sales” meeting.

 

Revisit your LinkedIn presence

I rate LinkedIn as a very important tool for financial planners and brokers. When prospective clients are researching you, they’ll check your company website and your LinkedIn profile. It’s really important that you’re putting your best foot forward through both of these.

In relation to LinkedIn, there are 2 areas to concentrate on over the summer.

The first is your profile. Go through your profile section by section. Are there areas that you can expand the information a little to make it more engaging? Are there new areas that you can add to your profile? Are there clients that you could seek recommendations from? All of these will provide prospective clients with richer information about you, hopefully making them more inclined to actually do business with you.

The second area is expanding your network of connections. There are 3 ways of doing this;

  1. Check the “People you may know” section to identify people suggested by LinkedIn.
  2. Check the connections belonging to your existing connections. Are there people here that you should seek an introduction to?
  3. Search for people using the search bar at the top. There are new people joining LinkedIn all the time. They just might not have found their way onto your LinkedIn radar as yet.

And then when you find people that you want to connect with, remember to personalise every invitation. Don’t just use the default LinkedIn invitation.

 

Update your CRM system

Rather than wasting an hour or two mindlessly surfing the web, set yourself a target to review the records of a set number of clients every day within your CRM system. While you may have all the data in the system to meet your compliance requirements, now is the time to populate some of the softer information that can help you build really rich relationships with your clients. Information such as;

  • Their stated life aspirations
  • Their financial goals and objectives
  • Their communication preferences
  • Their interests and hobbies
  • Wider information in relation to their families

 

Develop a plan of attack for the rest of the year

Plot out how you’re going to approach the second half of the year. Who are the prospects / clients that you need to contact in the next few months? What will this contact consist of? How are you going to get these prospects to engage with you?

While you have a bit of time, put a structured plan in place with clear actions and dates to make sure these contacts then happen.

 

Take a holiday & recharge your batteries!

The most important one of the lot! Nothing helps you get your focus and your energy back better than a well earned break. I hope you and your family have a great holiday and enjoy the summer!

Annual Meetings are your most important client interactions

Annual Review meetings are so important in the eyes of many clients. And if they are not, they should be. And it’s your job to convince clients of the importance of these meetings. This is particularly important as we see the news of Vanguard offering fund admin services in the UK for 0.15% and fund fees from as low as 0.07%! In the US, they offer financial advice (delivered by CFPs) for an additional 0.30%. So they will offer an “all-in” fee for advice and investment management for a little over 0.5%.

If this arrived on our shores, how would you compete and how would you justify your ongoing remuneration, on top of the investment management fees?

I shudder when I talk to some financial advisers and hear the haphazard approach that is taken to review meetings. They see it as a win when the client says they are happy not to meet! Could you compete with Vanguard on this basis?

The importance of developing an engaging Client Value Proposition has been picked up and acted upon by many Financial Brokers in the Irish market over the last year or so. A lot of time and effort has gone into identifying where clients are experiencing value, the advice process that is being used, the client services that are provided and indeed how all of this should be paid for by clients.

I can tell you as the client of a financial planner that I can’t at this stage really remember our initial interaction. But I remember clearly our last review meeting, and I’m also very clear about what we will discuss at our next meeting. And that’s the way it should be. The initial advice stage set me off on the right path; the review meetings keep me on it.

With some advisers, the focus is almost exclusively on attracting new clients, at the expense of minding the existing ones.  However having a brilliant review meeting is the means by which you’ll lock in those clients year after year, and as a result enjoy an ongoing income stream from the clients.

As a core part of your initial engagement with a new client, it makes sense to explain to them in detail what will happen every year into the future. It’s not enough for review meetings to be positioned as a “by the way” 10-second conversation at the end of the initial product implementation.

And what should a review meeting include? Well of course there is the standard (and necessary) tasks of reviewing a client’s portfolio, getting up to date values and potentially even writing a short review report. And of course you want to explore further protection needs based on changing circumstances etc.

However the real opportunity to demonstrate your value on an ongoing basis to clients rests outside of the traditional review meeting agenda. Why not take a little extra time and set out for your clients some financial benefits that you’ve delivered to them such as;

  • The growth in actual euros of their investment portfolio
  • The tax saved as a result of their pension plan and any other tax efficient policies in actual euros.
  • The actual money saved in euros as a result of a protection review you carried out previously.

Now your ongoing fee / trail commission starts to look very small! However there’s still a lot more you can do at these review meetings to demonstrate further value to you clients.

  • Help your clients with their household budgeting. This is an area that many clients continue to struggle with. By getting clients on the right path here and reviewing it with them, you can add enormous value to them.
  • Obviously if you carry out future cashflow planning using Voyant with your clients, this is an exceptionally valuable exercise every year. This can completely change the conversation, enable you to look at “what if” scenarios and approach the client’s financial affairs in a very engaging and collaborative way.
  • Talk to them about their broader financial needs where you don’t provide the solutions. You can add value by tapping them into your network of solicitors (for their will or enduring power of attorney), tax advisers (tax advice) or accountants. Now you’re the person centred right at the hub of their financial affairs.

Review meetings are also the opportunity to remind your clients of the work and interactions you’ve had with them throughout the year – the rebalancing of their portfolio that you carried out, the interim meetings you had, seminars you invited them to, the content you sent them etc. How can a client question your ongoing fees when they realise that you are actually providing value to them right throughout the year?

So place review meetings at the heart of your proposition. Make them memorable and ensure your clients come back to you year after year.

Is your website punching its weight?

Financial brokers today recognise the importance of having a really effective website. After all, it’s the first touch point that many consumers have with your business. If you’ve a fairly basic website or one that hasn’t been revisited in a while, here are some tips that can double or more the effectiveness of your website!

 

Make it Easy to Navigate

Don’t make the user have to “work out” where to find the information they are seeking. Make the navigation so simple that a complete technophobe will find their way around it! The main navigation bar, which to my mind should always be at the top of the page and not down the side, is really critical. It is through this that most users will enter the site from the homepage, so think this through very carefully. Think very carefully of what to include on this, as it typically will only cover 6/7 site areas. And then consider very carefully what you are going to call each section. Use standard terminology that makes sense to people, such as About / Our Services / Contact Us / News or Blog.

 

Focus on Financial Planning

I look at a lot of financial brokers’ websites. Probably the biggest bugbear that I have is the lack of focus on financial planning. This is the extremely valuable skill that you bring to your clients, helping them identify their financial objectives and then finding and implementing the best solutions to help them achieve those objectives.

However many websites talk only about financial products. This makes you appear as a hard-edged salesman, selling the latest and greatest products, not doing justice to your skill at all. I strongly suggest that you develop a very prominent, specific section in your website about financial planning and explain the value that you will bring to clients.

 

Reduce the Amount of Content

Yes, this is not a typo! Obviously this may not apply to every website, but in the main, too many of them are packed out with superfluous content. While it might please you seeing lots and lots of pages with long explanations and technical details about every product available, frankly the user will just get bored. And boredom is fatal on the web as the user just leaves your site.

Use your Google Analytics to identify your poorly performing pages from where people are leaving the site. You will often see that these are long technical pages. Either shorten them or get rid of them!

 

Update your News Section / Blog regularly

This is one of the most valuable areas of the site for a number of reasons. I’m not talking about taking a newsfeed from some online source or sending links to other people’s content. This section is for regular and relevant blog entries that educate users and demonstrate your expertise and these play a number of valuable roles. First of all, they draw people to your site after you share a link to a useful article you’ve written. This of course in turn opens up the possibility of the user finding out more about you and the services you offer.

Google loves fresh, original content. In fact new, authentic content that engages users and in turn is endorsed by them through sharing it, liking it or commenting is one of the most important drivers of bumping you up the search results. This is of course on top of the value that clients and prospective clients will get from knowing that you are a Financial Broker with a finger on the pulse and demonstrating your expertise and ability to solve their problems.

 

Have Clear Calls to Action

Users will come to your site for a range of different reasons. Some may be simply browsing around, others may be looking for specific information, some may want to buy and may be looking for your phone number. Try and appeal to all of them by having a range of Calls to Action. The last group are easiest – make sure they can easily see your phone number without having to go looking for it! For the others, have Calls to Action that will enable them to stay in touch with your business, even after they leave the site. Do you make it easy for people to connect with you on LinkedIn from your site? Make it easy for them to subscribe to your newsletter. Maybe offer an online Chat facility to answer their questions there and then.

 

Mobile is Key

More than one third of searches happen now on mobile devices. Your site simply must be responsive, ensuring that it is easy to read on a phone or other device. People today have lost patience with having to “pinch” the screen to go looking for the information that they want – this results in a terrible viewing experience. Responsive sites alter the screen layout to suit the device on which it is being viewed – a “must have” today.

Also in relation to mobile, if someone is looking at your site while out and about, very often they are simply looking for contact details. So again make sure your phone number is very visible.

For some Financial Brokers, these changes will mean a few hours work. For others they might mean a new site. For everyone though they are worth it. Research of financial brokers is happening more and more online so you want to make sure you are demonstrating why you are the best choice for prospective customers!

Image courtesy of angus campbell king

I’m changing my mind (a bit) about social media for financial advisers

Most Financial Brokers today are using social media to some extent. Some are using it very effectively and view it as a core part of their marketing mix, others see it as a bit of a necessary evil and grudgingly engage with it to a much lesser degree.

Over the last number of years, I’ve been a real advocate for the opportunities enabled by social media. I still am a big fan, but my views are changing in relation to some aspects of using social media.

So first of all and very briefly, my views have not changed about the following,

 

  • A social media presence is so important to enable you to be found online, for people to engage with you and for you to connect with people and demonstrate expertise.
  • LinkedIn is still the most powerful platform for Financial Brokers, particularly if your target market includes professionals and business owners.
  • Email marketing is the most under-utilised tool in online marketing. How can you ignore a tool where you end up in the inboxes of your target market, a place they visit every day?
  • Generating a constant and consistent stream of content remains the biggest challenge, bar none. Everybody can produce a on-off piece, the challenge is consistency.
  • I’m still not a fan of using Facebook pages to engage with friends and followers (sorry!). I still can’t find examples of advisers doing this well, and who are not interrupting their friends and followers who are on Facebook for other reasons (sharing photos, looking for a laugh, sharing gossip etc.).

 

So what has changed?

 

I’m really struggling with Twitter

I’ve been a fan of Twitter, admittedly as a distant second in importance for financial advisers behind LinkedIn. However now I find I’m not really using Twitter at all. Yes, I still share my content on it and continue to build up followers as a result, but I find it’s now just information overload. I’ve loads of followers I know nothing about and have followed back a lot of these people. I’ve no interest in what a lot of them say.  It’s just not the same as LinkedIn or Facebook, where it takes both parties to build a connection.

The proof for me that I’m not alone in this is when I go through my Twitter feed. Apart from a few celebrity / high profile people’s updates, there is very little interaction with most of the content that people are sharing. It’s just disappearing off into the ether…

 

Facebook has a place (for advertisers)

As I said earlier, I’m not a fan of Facebook pages being used by Financial Brokers to interact with friends and followers. But it does have opportunities for advertisers in some situations, as a result of the capability to target specific groups of people by age, gender, location, interests etc.

But be careful, these ads need to be really carefully created in order to cut through your target audience’s browsing on Facebook. Remember that these people are generally on Facebook for social interactions, even a bit of escapism! Do they want to see financial services ads?

 

Sharing lots of links is not enough

Some people spend their time finding links to good articles and sharing these. Yes, this is valuable, but on its own is simply not enough. Your connections want to hear your views. So at a minimum, add your take on the article in the introduction to the article before you share it. But better still, write your own content and share that. Then your audience get a real sense of what you’re about.

 

Images are really important

To be honest I used to scoff at this one a little. But research shows time and time again that using images to accompany your posts really does matter. It’s worth spending that bit of time sourcing a good image to go with your post as that visual trigger increases the chances of your content being read.

 

A well thought out social media strategy is still a must for Financial Brokers. As is spending time on building an excellent LinkedIn profile. Social media still offers you lots of opportunities, but like all other marketing methods it continues to evolve. Watch this space!

Image courtesy of Samara Gerard