The Power of Partnerships

It’s now 6 months since I left corporate life to join the ranks of the SME owners, helping financial advisers and insurance brokers across the country to develop revenue generating marketing and business development strategies.

One area of the market that has very pleasantly surprised me in the market has been the proliferation of all kinds of partnerships that advisers are utilising to help develop their businesses. Yes, advisers continue to gain tremendous benefit from the support of the life companies, who are working closely with their distribution partners to drive business development and other business support activities. Advisers are also benefiting from the important support activities of the broker representative organisations. However it’s the more informal partnerships and wide use of external experts that I’ve found a bit unexpected!

 Increasing Market Reach

My biggest surprise has been at the amount of collaboration going on between advisers themselves. Advisers are realising that they can’t be everywhere and all things to all potential clients, and are instead partnering with other advisers to address market reach challenges. How is this actually playing out on the ground?

Well first of all, there are a number of excellent advisers with nationwide propositions but without representation in every corner of the country. These brokers are maintaining a truly nationwide presence through collaboration with other advisers in those area where they don’t have a presence. What’s the result? Satisfied clients receiving an excellent, prompt service.

I’ve also been very impressed by some advisers not trying to be “all things to all men” and referring clients seeking specialist advice in certain product areas to other more specialist advisers. Obviously they are ensuring this is a “two-way street” to the benefit of both parties by each offering specialisation that the other doesn’t offer! Both win, as of course do their clients who receive the very best possible advice! The days of feeling threatened by another adviser to the expense of missed opportunities have been replaced by trust in each other to mutually develop profitable futures for all!

Of course the more traditional partnerships with business introducers such as accountancy firms, solicitors continue to abound with great success by many advisers.

 Business Proposition Development

One of the main reason that I set up StepChange was to help advisers to develop a bespoke business proposition and then to help them reach clients in a structured and creative way. If I had a Euro for every time I was told “but brokers don’t invest in their businesses” I’d be a wealthy man! Thankfully this most definitely has not been my experience. There are numerous different ways that progressive financial advisers are partnering with external service providers to help bring their business forwards.

As I mentioned above, advisers are working with specialists such as myself in developing their business strategy, addressing sales and distribution challenges and of course marketing. Often, it’s to take a fresh, new look at their overall business proposition, sometimes to address a particular commercial or marketing challenge. Advisers can’t be skilled in every single area, sometimes it makes a lot of sense to call in the experts! Certainly I have experienced ambitious financial advisers willing to invest in order to improve their commercial propositions.

Another example of partnerships at work, is where financial advisers are developing a truly unique client proposition by working with experts in developing a bespoke investment proposition. This is enabling them to communicate a well-developed and unique proposition to clients and helping them to stand apart from other advisers. It helps them to communicate their independence and still enables them to access the best funds available in the market. The expertise of their investment partners also adds a deeper level of credibility to their propositions.

Yes there’s a cost in each of these partnerships. However the benefits of more clients being reached, with a bespoke proposition, and then being effectively communicated with to enable deeper relationships far outweigh these costs.

 Business Efficiency

The final area is where some advisers are investing in partnerships to make their businesses more “fit for purpose”. This is demonstrated in areas such as compliance support, technology support, customer service and staff training. Again, there are a vast range of external partners with deep knowledge of our market available to financial advisers.

Yes, times are tough and income is very hard-earned by financial advisers today. However I’m seeing a fine cohort of ambitious financial advisers out there who are looking at a brighter future by investing in external expertise to maximise the potential of their businesses. They are seeing short-term costs being negated by both short and long term benefits that I think will help them to be the winners of the future.

Effective Newsletters for Financial Advisers

I know that quite a number of financial advisers like to communicate with existing clients through newsletters which can be effective if the required level of commitment is put into them. I’m going to start by pinning my colours to the mast….. I’m not a huge fan of them as too often they fall by the wayside.  However for those out there who are ready and committed to making a success of their newsletter, here goes on 5 tips to maximise their impact.

 1. Be Clear on your Objectives

Why are you sending out the newsletter? Unless you’re very clear about this, it’s unlikely to have the desired effect. Often newsletters are used as a tool to reconnect with existing clients – a good reason for doing them! If this is the case, don’t oversell. Focus on the reader and what will engage their interest. Are they worried about protecting against a life event or are they concerned about how they will fund their later years? Focus on these types of needs, the approach that you take to helping clients plan to deal with these events and the benefits of your approach. Only after this stage do you talk about your product as the solution to addressing the need.

Too many newsletters talk only about products. This won’t be of interest unless the reader can make the jump themselves to the need that the product provides a solution for.

 2. Make sure you’ve enough Content and are Committed

Hands up how many of you have had plans to send out 3 or 4 newsletters a year and ended up sending out just a single edition a year……or a single edition ever? This is a very frequent occurrence and usually is down to 2 factors.

Often it is because there is great enthusiasm to produce the first edition and this energy then wanes after the effort of producing the first one. Don’t start with newsletters unless you (or someone for you) is going to put the effort into producing the future editions.

The other factor is that all the good ideas go into the first edition and you end up stuck for good content for future editions. The way to avoid this is to plan at least 75% of the content for the first 4 editions before you start at all. This will help you avoid “writer’s block” with future editions.

3. Have a time sensitive article

It’s a good idea to have an article that is based on very current analysis or relates to a current issue. This will show the timeliness of your newsletter and usually will be of interest. The challenge that this creates is that once this article is written, you’ve got to quickly swing into production and also to get the newsletter in front of the reader quickly.

If you’re not going to be able to turn the newsletter around quickly or indeed want to use the newsletter over a long period of time, leave out the time sensitive article.

 4. Have a Call to Action

Make every effort to get the reader to engage in some way with you. Obviously encourage them to ring or email you as a follow-up. Find a way to encourage them to visit your website – maybe there’s more detail on one or a number of the articles on your website? Ask them to send in their email address to allow you send them more, relevant information by email. Maybe consider a competition? Use the newsletter to start an ongoing engagement.

 5. Use all Distribution Channels

Many financial advisers will post out their newsletters as they don’t want to exclude clients for whom they don’t have email addresses. However also post the newsletter on your website. When you’ve done this, send an update to your LinkedIn connections, pointing them to your website. If you use Twitter, tweet the link too. Finally, email all your clients too, encouraging them to read it. Online distribution costs nothing so use all these channels!

Newsletters take effort. If you’re willing to commit and produce excellent content, they can be very effective. If they under-deliver in terms of frequency of issue or indeed quality, they will turn your client off and should be avoided. It’s up to you which camp you’re in!