How Financial Advisors Can Build Their Client Base and Keep Them EngagedOctober 14, 2020
In financial services, it’s all about the clients. What your clients need, what they want, where they are, where they’re going and who they can refer along the way. There is no business without clients, and all financial advisors must be experts in the art of finding new clients and engaging existing ones.
“Prospecting is really the lifeblood of an advisory firm,” says John Anderson, managing director of practice management solutions at SEI in Oaks, Pennsylvania. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying, especially if the advisor has an aging book.”
As clients grow older, they shift from accumulation to distribution. “And as an advisor’s (assets under management) decrease, so will their income,” Anderson says.
So how is a financial advisor to keep a book young? By continually bringing new clients into an advisory practice and engaging the ones you already have.
How to Get New Clients as a Financial Advisor
For financial advisors, cold calling and direct marketing are the way of the past. Cold calls are hit-or-miss, and direct marketing is often chucked with the junk mail. There are far better sales strategies. Here are the top financial advisor prospecting ideas successful advisors recommend:
— Narrow your focus.
— Define your ideal client.
— Develop content marketing campaigns.
— Get social.
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“It’s counter-intuitive, but advisors will attract more of the right prospects if they narrow their focus,” says Kevin Darlington, general manager of Broadridge Advisor Solutions in New York. “The advisor who takes the time to narrow the dimensions of their target audience will maximize their investment in time and money and ultimately reel in more of the right clients.”
Instead of targeting anyone with at least $1 million in investable assets, for instance, he suggests narrowing your criteria to prospects with, say, $1 million to $2 million in investable assets, who are between ages 45 and 60, live within 50 miles of your practice and run their own business. The narrower you can go, the easier it’ll be to target your ideal client.
The process of narrowing your focus will also help you define your ideal client profile or persona. “The persona allows you to look closely at the type of person that you would work best with and create both a marketing strategy and, more importantly, a service model that will appeal to that person,” Anderson says.
Try to identify your ideal client’s primary needs, questions and concerns. With these in mind, you can create a unique value proposition that speaks to your prospect, Anderson says.
Once you know the questions your ideal client is asking, you can create content marketing campaigns that drive her to your website for answers. An advisor looking for business owners, for instance, might create campaigns around business succession planning, Darlington says. You could create short educational videos that address the financial challenges that business owners face.
By targeting your content to your niche, you can become the “go-to” resource for your ideal client. “If a prospect reads or sees content that speaks to their situation, they’re more likely to respond,” Anderson says.
[See: The Best Podcasts for Financial Advisors]
“In light of the pandemic, most growth is going to be through referrals,” Anderson says about marketing strategies. “But a friend or family member isn’t just going to call based on the referral. They’re going to check out an advisor’s website, social media and any content they’ve created.”
How can financial advisors find new clients? Whether you love it or hate it, leveraging social media is one of the most effective financial advisor prospecting ideas.
“Finding prospecting success using social media can seem daunting,” says Bill McManus, managing director of Applied Insights at Hartford Funds in Austin, Texas. “But it’s a robust source for uncovering new opportunities for new client relationships.”
McManus likes LinkedIn, where advisors can “efficiently communicate their personal brand to potential clients and can target prospects using key search terms.”
Now, more than ever, Anderson says an advisor’s digital footprint needs to speak to his or her specialization or niche. “If not, you risk getting lost in the ‘sea of sameness,’ in which all advisor firms are floating,” he says.
Facebook, Instagram and YouTube also allow for “hyperspecific targeting,” Darlington says. If you choose to branch out to multiple social media channels, stay consistent in your messaging.
If social media isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways you can get social with prospects. “If we can identify common interests, we can find opportunities to engage with prospects and clients outside of the traditional office meeting,” McManus says. He gives an example of a financial professional he knows who sets up meetings at a dog park.
“We all have adapted how we interact with others in our social lives,” McManus says. “Let’s put the same ideas into practice for our businesses.”
How to Keep Clients Engaged
Crazy though it may be, not everyone likes to think about financial planning all year long. To help you keep your clients engaged even during the slowest months, try one or more of these client engagement tips from top financial advisors:
— Understand your clients’ contact expectations.
— Host a client appreciation event.
— Connect on nonfinancial topics.
— Make client engagement a team sport.
In her first meeting with clients or prospects, ShirleyAnn Robertson, a financial advisor with Prudential in Schaumburg, Illinois, finds out how much advisor contact a client wants.
Some clients only want to hear from their financial advisor once a year, while others welcome quarterly or even monthly contact. The key is understanding from day one how to manage this expectation, she says.
“From there I can design my database to have each person in the right category for the level of touch they want,” she says. Then the work begins on moving them up the customer engagement tier.
If you missed the opportunity to get your clients’ contact preferences at the start of the relationship, you can even use this as a re-engagement tool. Simple meetings to gather feedback from a client on what they like and dislike about the service model can lead to an even more honest and transparent conversation, experts say.
To keep her clients engaged, Robertson hosts quarterly client appreciation events.
“Nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold,” she says. So she tries to find softer ways of inviting them in. Maybe it’s a wine and cheese event or dinner. During the summer months, she’ll make it a barbecue, complete with games for the kids.
She schedules events so clients can come and go as they please. She then follows up on these events with a phone call on Monday to thank clients for coming by and to say, “Our next meeting is not scheduled until this date. Should we be working on anything for you in the meantime?”
When social distancing makes face-to-face events unwise, you can always turn to a video platform for virtual events.
Julie Genjac, managing director of applied insights at Hartford Funds in Kirkland, Washington, likes to use virtual platforms to engage “face to face” when clients may be traveling or unable to come into the office.
“That way, they don’t need to leave the comfort of their home, or take time away from their family, work or travels,” she says.
She also suggests using lower-engagement months to reiterate your value proposition. “Remind clients that even when they are spending time socially distanced, and are busy with their own life commitments, you are overseeing their portfolio and financial plan,” she says.
When people’s minds are on things other than financial planning, the best way to engage your clients might be by joining them. Rather than just contacting them to talk business, check-in periodically to share other valuable resources related to what’s more likely to be front-of-mind, Genjac says.
[Read: Financial Advisor Q&A: The Foundation for Financial Planning.]
It’s about being creative and helping clients connect with resources in addition to their financial plan.
“This has never been more important, and the power of the ‘just because’ call can make a huge difference, especially for clients who may be a bit more socially isolated right now,” she says. Call to ask if they are getting the things they need.
“That simple proactive phone call, not for business, but ‘just because,’ could be the highlight of your client’s week,” Genjac says.
Alternatively, you could help your clients connect with their own families on financial matters. When the kids are out of school or being educated virtually, it can be even harder to get your clients into the office. Make financial planning a family event by inviting the kids to join a meeting. These are great opportunities to introduce kids to investing and financial planning, says Ken Thompson, head of U.S. wealth shared services at TD Bank.
You can offer resources to help parents discuss financial topics with their kids, he says. You could also extend a client entertainment invitation to your clients’ families, such as the kids or a less-involved spouse.
Perhaps the most important element of customer engagement is the tone of your office and staff, Robertson says. The tone your team sets “transcends how much your clients will engage with you.”
She makes sure her staff radiates the same tone and energy she uses. “The key is I’m always reinforcing, encouraging and thanking my team,” she says.
She also leverages her team to keep her clients’ details straight. “They’ll drop a sticky note on my desk saying don’t forget her birthday is tomorrow,” she says.
Client engagement is about making them feel like part of the family. A personal touch can be the finishing touch that makes your clients say, “Wow, you remember everything,” Robertson says.