Advisors I work with want to grow their practice by gaining new clients. However, they don’t want just any clients, they want their ideal client. The type of client that your business model has defined as ideal should meet your economic and personal satisfaction expectations.
The strategy that works best allows you to differentiate your practice from peers, and leverage your preferred channels of communication. Those channels should invite existing clients and other professionals in your community to extol your virtues to people they care about.
Are your clients and professional networks consistently introducing you to ideal client opportunities? The vast majority of advisors I work with feel their planning and wealth management capabilities are second to none. However, they feel their new client acquisition strategies are second to many. That means advisors must gain the trust of these gatekeepers by forging a communication style that is different, impactful, compelling and exciting. This is how people in your network gain the confidence to introduce you to their most trusted relationships. In order to differentiate effectively, advisors must first define their ideal client and then work tirelessly to perfect this process.
It takes visionary thinking to be truly different. Some advisors share their personalities and life stories. Others conduct presentations with creativity and enthusiasm, or make financial recommendations that even the most sophisticated clients find innovative. Visionaries also know how to rise above the daily grind of running their practices to execute long-term growth plans around effective channels of communication. Powerful marketing doesn’t happen overnight. Advisors need time to choose channels that fit their practice, build them out, and get noticed by important people.
Nowadays, RIAs need attractive websites and should have a social media presence. Advisors should not simply post client testimonials online, but they can use Twitter and LinkedIn to discuss financial planning topics and redirect to their websites from those portals. News outlets extend your reach to different audiences. Trade publications put you in front of peers and centers of influence like accountants, attorneys and insurance agents. Mainstream publications and radio programs put you in front of potential prospects. Then there are good old-fashioned meet and greets like educational seminars and appreciation dinners.
What I’ve laid out so far is preparation for the heart of a great prospecting strategy: the referral network. You make it easier for clients and centers of influence to refer you when they know you’re competent and unique, and when they can show people how to find out more about you on their own. Referral networks can generate a stronger influx of ideal clients than relying on less direct channels. People trust the word of personal confidantes more than they trust brands they find online or in the news.
Clients who receive great service may be receptive when advisors tell them referrals are welcome. This conversation should occur with people who are ideal clients themselves, since their social circle is likely to contain a similar demographic. Be sure to clarify that you’re open to people just like them.
Depending on the relationship, some advisors may feel comfortable asking outright – although that approach risks alienating sensitive clients. Never pester clients, but do keep track of how often they generate good referrals. Once a quarter would be great, but once a year isn’t bad. If otherwise profitable clients never produce quality referrals, those clients may not be ideal for long.
Rather than waiting for referrals to walk through your door, consider holding events that give prospects a reason to tag along with people already in your network. Educational seminars offer advisors the opportunity to discuss topics such as stock market trends, economic data or retirement planning. Holiday parties and appreciation dinners can be fun ways for guests to meet an advisor without setting up an office appointment. Country club outings like golf tournaments and charity drives serve similar purposes. Invite clients and professional acquaintances to these events, then tell them to bring a guest.
Centers of Influence
Professional acquaintances are centers of influence if these people hold prominent positions in their given field. CPAs and JDs who are well known and respected in the community are strong candidates. If they become active advocates to their own robust client base, they could be more effective than your own clients. Respected attorneys and accountants have ample clients in need of financial planning. Reciprocity works wonders with these professionals but a revenue-sharing relationship should be your ultimate goal.
When centers of influence continuously produce ideal referrals, advisors have something approaching an invisible sales force. The epitome of this model is a revenue-sharing agreement where advisors, accountants and attorneys formalize client relationships and deliverables. Clients must consent to this, which means advisors have a duty to disclose any potential revenue sharing. Few advisors go this route, but it can grow business exponentially. The professionals have incentive to keep the clients coming in, and the clients receive better-coordinated service.
Within the professional community, the opportunities for competent advisors who have a strong communication approach are endless. Perfecting this kind of prospecting strategy may take time. If you figure it out, you should be closer to realizing your long-term vision for your practice.
Paul Saganey is founder and president of Integrated Financial Partners Inc., which helps advisors build revenue-sharing relationships with accountants and attorneys. He can be reached at [email protected]