Imagine your best clients talking about you behind your back. In glowing terms, this would be any financial advisor’s nirvana. In marketing parlance, this is referred to as word-of-mouth-influence (WOMI).
The supremacy of WOMI is unparalleled in the annals of marketing; herein lies the opportunity for financial advisors. Unlike Zappos or Amazon Prime, the relationship between advisor and client has already been established. The secret for financial advisors is proactively stimulating positive WOMI among affluent clients.
Our research is clear on this issue. An affluent client’s initial face-to-face meeting with their financial advisor, then subsequent decision to hire this advisor is heavily influenced by recommendations and reputation. A mistake many advisors make is assuming that by being a first-class professional, the "word" will get around. This is not the case with today’s affluent. They expect their financial advisor to be a first-class professional.
So what’s an advisor to do? It’s actually quite simple: emotionally connect with each affluent client. This requires getting to know them on a personal level, while simultaneously letting them into your world. They need to know you, warts and all, on a personal level. Granted, this is far more nuanced than the typical advisor/client professional relationship, but it’s not complicated.
The following is an outline of a formula we lifted directly from our affluent research on how to establish and strengthen an emotional connection with clients.
- Express interest in their family. People love talking about their children (interests, awards, challenges, illnesses, etc.), travels and hobbies. The secret to emotionally connecting is when you conversationally uncover a piece of personal information—let’s say it's about family—you then share something personal about your family. Always keep in mind that emotional connectivity is a two-way street.
- Engage in some form of social activity outside of the office. This can be as simple as a nonbusiness lunch—the no. 1 activity for introductions and unsolicited referrals. However, during this social interaction, you want to follow-through on some of the personal information you’ve previously uncovered before gathering more. For instance, assuming you previously were privy to the information, you ask, “How’s Leo’s ear infection?” or “How’s Donna’s mother doing?” At this point you want to get the conversation to be about feelings, not just information. You need to listen, empathize and steer the conversation towards feelings. For instance, “Gosh, you guys must have been worried when you saw Leo’s first symptoms.” When considering feelings, think in terms of "proud," "stressed," "worried," "hassled," "fatigued," "energized," "happy"—the list is endless, but the idea is to stimulate a discussion on a feeling appropriate to the personal situation. Once again, you need to discuss your feelings as well. This is the type of communication that facilitates an emotional connection.
- Become obsessed with knowing your client. Every piece of information you gather can help you strengthen the emotional connection that you’re developing. Whether it’s their favorite restaurant, charity, or their pets—anything that’s important to your client presents an opportunity for an emotional connection.
- Slow down. You never want to give an affluent client the impression that you’re rushed. Whether it’s an in-office review, a nonbusiness lunch or a phone call. They need to feel that your entire focus is on them. Too often, we’re there but not really there—we try to fake it. This is toxic to emotional connectivity. Slow it down and take your time with affluent clients.
- Include a "personal element" in all forms of communication. Whether you’re calling to confirm a lunch date, sending an in-office follow-up overview, an email or text, include something personal. It could be as simple as a P.S. at the bottom of your overview along the lines of “How is Leo faring?” Or, opening a phone conversation with “How is Donna’s mother doing?”
- Connect on Facebook. Other forms of social media can work as well, but with so much personal information being shared on Facebook, for active users it can serve as a real-time window into a client’s personal life.
As you’ve probably already determined, none of the above is complicated, but it does require time and attention. An emotional connection requires sincerity. Don't grill your client with personal questions. Don't use cheesy phrases like “So how does that make you feel?”
Harvard Business Review ran an article by Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon entitled “An Emotional Connection Matters More than Customer Satisfaction” where they reported from their research that “emotionally connected customers are twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers … they buy more products, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, and [give] more attention to your communications; follow your advice, recommend you more, everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.”
Make it a priority and you will be activating the most powerful marketing force available to a financial advisor: word-of-mouth-influence.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com