Videos – Vanity or Value?

In this latest post in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, we briefly set out our thinking on the benefits of video marketing.

Financial advisers often raise the question of the effectiveness of video marketing. Some see it as a vanity project, as an expensive activity that yields very poor results. And sometimes that is exactly the case! But certainly not always…

Video offers a number of great opportunities to financial advisers. First of all, it offers a different, engaging medium to communicate an important message – maybe an overview of your business, your financial planning approach or indeed different aspects of your client proposition. Some visitors to a website prefer clicking on a video than reading paragraphs of text, so video gives you the opportunity to hang on to that visitor to your website a little longer.

Also, YouTube is now the 2nd most frequently used search engine in the world after Google, so video also offers great opportunities as an entry point to your website from searches.

However quality is critically important where video is concerned. To produce a good video takes a lot of time and effort – careful scripting, a lot of thought about production including the video style, the location, use of graphics, the cast, the right music etc., and the key messages to be communicated. And all of this to produce a video that should be kept really brief – the preferred length for most videos is no more than 60 – 90 seconds.

StepChange works with financial advisers and other organisations in developing excellent scripts that will achieve real “cut through” with your audience. We also regularly collaborate with a leading video production company to bring these scripts to final production, using a variety of different video styles. These videos can then be used across all of your digital platforms.

Should you want to add this engaging medium to your marketing mix, maybe it’s time to get some expert help with it? We look forward to your call.

 

Turbo charge your business in 2020

What am I doing, talking about 2020 already? Well I’m not asking you to wish your life away, but quite a number of financial advisers have observed that July and August are quieter times for them. And this quiet time offers an opportunity to do some planning for your business.

You should always be thinking short-term about your activity planning and how you are engaging and strengthening your relationships with every existing and potential clients. However now you have an opportunity to do some longer-term thinking and more strategic thinking about broader areas that will stand your business in good stead over the next few years. While it’s not an exhaustive list, here are a few areas to think about now.

 

Make sure your team are with you

When’s the last time that you gave structured thought to the development needs and engagement of your team? Now might be the time to consider their coaching needs that will help them improve, grow and ultimately benefit your business. And maybe also now is a good time for some team building, a day away from the office. This can be used to work through some of the challenges facing the business, while also mixing it in with some downtime and building a stronger team spirit.

 

Make sure you are fit for purpose yourself!

How are your own skills as a business leader, mentor, manager, business generator, client executive and everything else that you do? Now is a good time to give some thought to gaps that you might have in your own toolbox and to look at how you might close the gaps. Have you trusted people, either staff members or other business contacts who will candidly help you to identify any areas that it might be useful for you to work on? Getting help and coaching shows a desire for improvement rather than an admission of shortcomings!

 

Make sure your clients are with you

When did you last review your Client Value Proposition? It’s important to ensure that you continue to deliver the appropriate levels of service to different groups of clients at the right price. And this is an ever-moving target. So even if you previously segmented your clients, are clear about who you are targeting and have your positioning identified, this needs to be regularly reviewed. The world of financial advice is constantly changing. Your business needs to change with it.

 

Review your communications

How good are your communications to your clients? Now is a good time to stand back and look at the quality of what you produce, your client meeting inputs and outputs, your other individual communications to clients and also your (hopefully) regular marketing communications. Are your messages getting a bit tired, or are they really engaging your clients? Seek feedback – both from any analytics that are available to you and also from feedback that you seek from people who are on the receiving end of what you send and say.

 

Review your processes

Give some time to picking apart everything that you do within your business. Could you be easier to do business with, is there an opportunity to really wow your clients? At this stage, look to identify the gaps in your processes. Then put a plan in place with your team to overhaul the processes and set your business up to deliver a much better client experience in the future.

 

There are many other areas that you can think about during these quiet months – the key is to make sure that July and August don’t just slip by without much work being done. If you can make a start on some of the areas identified here, you’ll thank yourself when 2020 eventually comes around.

Have you some spare time over the summer?

It’s that time of year again… There’s a mini heatwave this week 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;

 

Keep prospecting and marketing

A big challenge for advisers over the summer is to stay committed to business development. It’s just hard work… as prospective clients are less likely to fully engage when the weather is good, the kids are off school etc. However business development work carried out now will pay off when the summer ends and people are 100% back to work. Don’t just give up on all of this for the summer months. Keep your prospecting and marketing campaigns going – keep making those calls, sending out your newsletter, continue your blogging and social media activities.  Now is not the time to let these activities slip!

As part of this too, plot out how you’re going to approach the second half of the year. Who are the prospects that you need to contact in the next few months? What will this contact consist of and when will it happen? 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.

 

Arrange to meet your key clients

This is a great time of year for catching up with key clients, outside of your regular advice interactions with them. 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 to do 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

 

Refine your proposition

Your client value proposition is your magic sauce; it is that which your clients will really engage with. It would be very unusual to have got it 100% right first time and it makes sense to keep it under constant review; pick up the signals that you will inevitably get from your clients when meeting them. Now over the summer, take some time to critically review every aspect of your proposition – the areas of value that you highlight, the steps in your process, your list of services and your remuneration methods. And then don’t be afraid to make changes to your proposition. After all businesses evolve all the time, and so should yours.

 

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!

Do you need a marketing overhaul?

In this latest in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, we set out the details of how we help advice firms in Ireland to completely overhaul the marketing side of their business. With clients having a bewildering array of choices available to them and receiving approaches from other advice firms and financial businesses through many different channels, it is becoming harder and harder to stand apart from the crowd.

The StepChange Marketing Overhaul programme will help you to stand out, both in terms of your visibility and the quality of your interactions with your clients.

How we work with clients has changed quite significantly in recent years. When we started out back in 2011, our formula (which still stands the test of time!) with a client commenced by carrying out a detailed marketing planning exercise, followed by assisting in the delivery of a variety of marketing activities, This is still our launch point with many of our clients today.

However we also came to recognise that quite a number of advisers had similar challenges. For some of them, they came to us looking to start all over again on the marketing side! And so we developed our Marketing Overhaul programme, which is a pre-defined programme of 12 marketing related activities that will enable you to set your business up in good stead for the years to come. And because our clients take the programme as a package, we can apply a healthy discount to the cost.

The programme consists of the following,

 

  1. Developing & documenting a robust, repeatable Client Value Proposition that will help to build trust, engage clients, sell solutions and aid retention. This includes reviewing every aspect of the client proposition – what it is at initial advice stage, articulate on-going service packages, review meetings, how much it costs, how it is paid for (fee / commission) etc.
  2. Developing a new website for your business, built in WordPress. An approx. 10-page responsive website, with focus on financial planning, along with the inclusion of blog module. To include development of website, writing of content and project management of implementation.
  3. Provision of a bi-monthly newsletter for a period of 2 years.
  4. Updating newsletter content to your website & social sharing for 2 years.
  5. Developing a corporate brochure as a hand-out at all prospect meetings, at next meetings with all clients & a supply to be given to introducers.
  6. Leveraging LinkedIn – how to use LinkedIn effectively
  7. Developing a 6-10 slides credentials presentation (including development of PowerPoint template) for 1st meeting with a prospective client – covering Advice proposition, Investment philosophy, Service packages, Review meetings, credentials / endorsements etc.
  8. Completing segmentation of your client base to identify high value & high potential (income value, multiple transactions, ABC1) “relationship” clients. Deciding criteria, analysing database and allocating clients to segments.
  9. Implementing an activity tracking system using Excel. This will track the sales contacts of every sales person and the sales “funnel” activities completed. It enables you to view potential clients and activities that are being carried out with each client.
  10. Developing Service Overviews – 1. Pensions, 2. Investments, 3. Protection, 4. Review meetings. These single page A4 documents set out the depth of your services and demonstrate the work involved (justifying both initial and ongoing remuneration).
  11. A templated website video, branded for your advice business.
  12. 2 x Business Building consulting half days.

 

Should you wish to hear more about this programme, please contact Eamonn Twomey at eamonn@stepchange.ie or at 086 2519895.

Lessons from other industries – segmentation is the key

Going back to my days in college, I can recall a number of the key marketing principles that were ground into me; the importance of research and knowing your customer, understanding buyer behaviour and the role of the four P’s (product, price, place and promotion) among others.

However in my day-to-day work with financial brokers today, the principles that I find myself returning to more and more to address your challenges are Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning (STP). Many advisers today recognise the importance of these strategies as they attempt to make best use of their limited marketing resources, be they time or money or both.

There are also valuable lessons to be learned from how these principles are applied in other industries… but more about that in a minute.

 

Some definitions

So to start this 60-second marketing lesson, here is a definition of each, as set out by Philip Kotler, the grandfather of marketing education.

  • Market Segmentation: Dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers with different needs, characteristics or behaviour, who might require separate products or marketing mixes.
  • Market Targeting: The process of evaluating each market segment’s attractiveness and selecting one or more segments to enter.
  • Market Positioning: Arranging for a product (or service) to occupy a clear, distinctive and desirable place relative to competing products (or services) in the minds of target consumers.

 

What’s happening in the financial broker market in Ireland?

Many financial brokers realise that a “one size fits all” proposition just doesn’t cut it any more. Either for the client who is looking for more than a generic service, or for the adviser who cannot profitably or successfully deliver the same service to all clients irrespective of their value, characteristics, needs etc.

As a result, many advisers are undertaking segmentation exercises, analysing their client bases and potential markets, most often by value. Others are also segmenting but by different dimensions – some are focusing on SME’s, others on specific professional groups.

A smaller number are then going on to specifically target sub-sections of their client bases and target markets with specific propositions, while offering a different proposition to other groups of clients. Some are even offloading their lower value clients to only target their desired groups. Others are identifying specific occupations that they will target and also those that they won’t. And then sticking to this!

Finally, savvy advisers are taking that final step of actually positioning their business and their communications to appeal directly to their target markets, even at the risk of alienating other potential customers.

 

What can financial brokers learn from other industries? 

The best examples come from the airline industry. They make it very obvious that high value passengers get a superior service. They certainly don’t apologise for it! We see first class passengers enjoying benefits such as;

  • A pick up service to bring them to the airport
  • A fast track route through the airport
  • Waiting in a private lounge
  • An airline official at their beck and call to manage any issues that might arise
  • A shuttle service directly to the plane so that they don’t have to wait at all
  • Planes are sometimes even delayed to wait for a late 1st class passenger!
  • Even at the door of the plane – turn left for first class, turn right for economy.
  • And then you’ve all the on-board perks!

Now who wouldn’t start to feel a little special?

There are similar stories of exceptional services offered to loyal users of some of the world’s leading hotel chains – room upgrades, limousine services, free laundry, sourcing tickets for high demand events as well as in-room food and drink services. All to make you feel that bit special.

So what can a financial broker take from this?

 

Develop your service packages

Develop service packages for your business that reward clients depending on their value to your business. Make your high value clients feel really special, reward them for trusting you with their money by giving them a truly rewarding client experience. Build a moat around them and pull up the drawbridge from your competitors by providing a second to none service.

Let your mid-tier clients feel valued by your business, while at the same time making them aware that there is lots more you can do for them (if they are willing to pay for it).

And of course your no/low value clients will begin to realise that it’s a business you are running and that they don’t have 24/7 access to you. If they want access to superior service (ongoing advice from you), they pay. The same as when they book a flight or a hotel room.

 

Do you know which of your clients should turn left and which ones should turn right?

Are you struggling to make the breakthrough with accountants?

Many financial planning firms today are seeking to build long-term, valuable relationships with SME business owners. A problem you may face is accessing these people, and one route that offers great potential when carried out successfully is by building links with accountants.

However building these relationships is often a tough nut to crack! So here are a few thoughts on how you can build profitable accountant relationships, with accountants referring clients to you regularly.

 

Treat accountants themselves as a specific target market

You may have done all of the work developing your client value proposition (CVP), but this is aimed at your end clients – there’s no point simply sending this on to accountants in the hope that they will see the value in it. You now need to be able to communicate the value experienced by accountants in dealing with you. Your CVP starts with understanding your clients and in a similar vein, your accountant proposition starts with understanding accountants; their challenges, the partnerships that they value, where you can provide services that they will truly value etc. If you can help them to solve the problems that they face every day, well then they will place enormous value on your services! So first of all, really understand their business, identify the areas within it where you can add value, and then show them how the way that you propose working with their clients will seriously enhance their own client relationships.

 

This is not a once-off exercise

You then need to get in front of the accountancy partners time and time again to remind them of the value that you can add, and to ensure you get regular client referrals. There are many ways you can do this; here are a few examples,

  • Add the partners to your own communication programme: Connect with the partners on LinkedIn and also get their permission to be added to your newsletter subscriber list. Let them see the expertise and thought leadership that you have to offer.
  • Develop bespoke presentations: These are for the initial meeting with the partners throughout the practice and should focus very much on the role of the accountant and how you can assist them in their own role. Personalise each presentation to the role of the particular partner’s area of specialism – for example the presentation to the tax partner should focus on pension reliefs, tax efficient protection products and other tax angles that you can bring to the table. This shows knowledge, understanding and willingness to engage in their areas of challenge with their clients.
  • Case Studies: Prepare a number of case studies of innovative solutions that you’ve implemented and know are relevant to challenges that are typically faced by the accountant. Don’t leave them guessing as to how you can help, join the dots for them!
  • Briefings for partners: Keep the accountants briefed on issues within the life and pensions industry that they need to be aware of, but may not be that knowledgeable. This can be through email contacts, lunchtime meetings or other such channels.

 

Develop joint marketing activities

And then you need to also promote the accountancy firm and help their bottom line! First of all, refer clients to them whenever possible. If you give them new clients, they are certainly going to try harder to reciprocate. Then offer the accountant the opportunity to include guest posts in your newsletter. This gives the accountant welcome exposure to your clients. You can then look at hosting joint events to which you both bring clients, take a speaking slot to impress the guests, all of this with a view to both you and the accountant meeting the other’s clients and building new relationships.

 

Prove your value with clients

Of course the biggest barrier to accountants referring clients to you is fear. Fear that you will somehow mess up and as a result cause difficulties for the accountant with their client. So when they do take the leap and finally refer a client to you, it’s imperative that you do a good job (as you do!) and then make sure the accountant is aware of it. How do you do this? You might seek a testimonial from the client, which you then share with the accountant. Alternatively you can email the client a few weeks after the end of your work with a short client satisfaction survey – again you will share the results with the accountant.

 

These are just a few thoughts on building profitable relationships with accountants. Build their trust, remove their fears, align yourself to their proposition and demonstrate your value time and time again. And then you will be well on the way to breaking the back of that search for new clients!