A Sure Sign That You’ve Hit a Plateau
Do your clients fully understand what you do and do they appreciate your value beyond just rates of return? Do they focus on what you cost them, or on what you are worth to them? Can they describe you in a compelling way to a friend or family member? A personal branding strategy ensures that prospects can contrast you favorably to their current advisor and ensures that your clients can describe you persuasively. In this series of tips, I’ve outlined proven branding strategies from our Pareto System coaching program. If you would like to schedule a one-hour conversation with me to discuss ways to refine your current approach, contact Scott Simpson toll-free directly at 1.800.625.6850 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the biggest benefits of a Personal Branding Strategy is that it ensures your clients fully and completely understand and appreciate the value you provide for them which in turn helps insulate them from competitive factors. Sure, branding impacts client acquisition especially with endorsements because your clients can describe you and articulate your value to someone else in a compelling way, but you can’t underestimate the importance of competitor-proofing as well.
The longer a relationship exists, the more familiar it becomes and the more things can be taken for granted and trivialized over time. This is especially true in an abstract and turbulent business such as asset management. You have clients today who stay with you because they like and trust you in general terms, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to the steady bombardment of promises that are made by the advisors trying to lure your clients away. These competitors are throwing the kitchen sink at your clients trying to instill that nagging feeling in their minds that there is a better asset management approach available than the one you are providing now.
It goes without saying that you can’t take your clients for granted. But it’s probably less obvious to you that you can’t take it for granted that your clients are fully aware of all that you do in a clear and comprehensive way.
In speaking with successful advisors on a regular basis, I often hear stories about the shock that comes when a substantial, long-term client departs. Usually the advisor says to me,
“I don’t understand why he would leave. I ‘ve made him a lot of money.”
I’ll ask the advisor if there were any signs, to which the advisor will say that they never saw it coming. Often I will ask the advisor to reflect on any changing patterns in the client’s behaviour leading up to the departure. With the benefit of hindsight, the advisor will recall a change in enthusiasm or analyze some of the questions or comments the client made that seemed out of character (generally prompted by a competitor who got his or her foot in the door and onto your client’s radar).
In some cases the advisor asked the departing client what happened, and why he or she felt compelled to move, to which the client replied with an indifferent variation of this,
“It was time for a change.”
Now maybe the former client was too polite to pin-point where the disconnect truly was. Then again, maybe it wasn’t anything specific. In the minds of many clients a subtle apathy builds over time and they leave because they feel the relationship ran its course. It just naturally came to an end as far as they were concerned.
Again, I can’t stress enough that a durable relationship isn’t just tied to the performance you achieve and the investment solutions you provide, there are several other pieces to the advocacy puzzle, many of which are value-added above and beyond what the client expects. But it’s only value-added if it something that the person actually values. If your clients aren’t aware of all the value you provide, they won’t understand your value nor will they appreciate it. As a result, the more familiar the relationship becomes the more you will be taken for granted.
Integrate FORM with Your Client Goal Setting Process
Of the many steps of the personal branding process that can fast-track clients to advocacy, this has to be among the easiest. When you on-board a new client or have a review meeting with an existing client, ensure that there is a tab in their Personal Financial Organizer (The PFO Binder that is the central hub of your relationship) that outlines the importance of FORM. Simply explain that you take a holistic and panoramic approach to client relationships and that part of your process is to know as much about your clients’ Family dynamics, Occupational issues and Recreational interests as you do about their money.
Many clients will be amazed that you are so thorough and comprehensive. A few will wonder what the real benefits are. Either way, to drive the point home further, integrate FORM with your client goal setting process. But again, be panoramic and all encompassing. Sure you want to understand their financial goals, but you really want to understand what money means to them holistically as it relates to their family, occupation and recreational aspects of life.
We recommend our advisors use our W5 goal setting process with clients and include that document into the FORM tab within their PFO. This is a tangible and meaningful way to effectively make connections for the client as it relates to Family Investment Legacy and Transition issues, Occupational Retirement goals as well as Business Succession objectives, Recreational wish lists, etc – all of which become more predictable when tied into the solutions you provide.
When the Why is Clear, the How is More Appreciated
When you and your clients are crystal clear about all the reasons why they want to achieve financial independence, they place far more value on how you plan to get them to there. This competitor-proofs your clients in a way that ensures that anyone trying to steal your clients will meet resistance and dead ends with every dripping effort.
And again, you get a double-win because the more your client buys-into your process and understands and appreciates it, the easier it will be for them to describe your process to someone else.
On that point, many advisors tell me that their clients have told them that they don’t talk about money with their friends and family members. In truth what they are saying is that they aren’t clear about your process or how endorsing you to someone will ultimately reflect back on them, or they are concerned that you will try to sell their acquaintance on buying an investment product and becoming a client. If that ever happens, use the misconception as an opportunity to re-frame their perception and start the process of helping them understand your commitment to stewardship rather than salesmanship. To accomplish that say something like this:
“Fair enough. The reason I’m asking is because a major component of my value proposition is in making myself available to act as a sounding board for friends and family members of my clients. They do not need to become a client of mine to take advantage of this service. Especially when it comes to family members because I have developed and refined a Family Investment Legacy Process for clients who are thinking about succession issues. So no worries if this isn’t relevant or something you are comfortable with. I just want my clients to be aware that I will make myself available to be a sounding board for people who are important to my clients. Frankly it’s the most fulfilling aspect of my job and one of the primary reasons I became a financial advisor.”