For most advisors, the marketing game plan was completely disrupted by COVID-19 overnight. Suddenly relationship marketing appeared to be put on hold; there were no more personal introductions, intimate social events were canceled, and social lunches became another Zoom event on the calendar.
Few, if any, marketing gurus predict 2021 will see us returning to our old normal. While 2020 took everyone by surprise, people learned to adapt and function, which is how a small cadre of financial advisors continued to have marketing success. They modified their approach.
Harvard Business Review recently ran an article—10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic, by Janet Balis. And these truths, with a little modification, are also relevant for financial advisors.
How financial advisors approach marketing after this pandemic will determine their success, or lack thereof, going forward. As I share these five financial advisor marketing truths below, think of how fundamental they are, but also how they’ve been modified by the pandemic.
1. Thoroughly Know Your Client Niche. It’s important to not only understand the needs and challenges that are specific to your niche but also to have clarity in what differentiates you from the competition. No longer will a smooth value proposition suffice; clients and prospects will want to know specifics regarding your true value. Articulating this clearly, confidently and concisely, as well as verbally, in print and through digital communication (website, social media, video, etc.) is a basic requirement.
2. Know How Your Competition Has Changed. As Balis describes in her article, client expectations were rising before COVID-19. When it hit, digital transformation accelerated overnight. This has elevated client expectations. Think in terms of what you can do for me in digital time (thank you Amazon Prime). Is your competition the advisor down the street or a digital alternative? Are you up to speed with your virtual office? Are you prepared to know and exceed your clients’ expectations? This requires that you know precisely what they want, what their expectations regarding your advisory services are and that you work furiously to exceed their expectations.
3. Genuinely Connect Emotionally. This is something we’ve been preaching for at least 10 years before COVID-19. Two fundamental truths arise from this level of connectivity, the first being a wealth of knowledge about your client and family—far beyond their financial affairs. This allows you to serve as more of a holistic advisor, which is what today’s affluent want. This level of connection also brings you an ideal client who is willing to introduce you into their spheres of influence, extremely loyal, willing to consolidate assets and willing to pay for your services. This creates the oxygen that stimulates word-of-mouth influence, the heart and soul of successful affluent marketing.
Relationships are everything. That said, the financial services industry has a reputation for giving all of this “lip service”—saying the right things, producing family-focused television ads, while still operating a transactional business model. We create a product; you (advisor) sell it.
COVID-19 has exposed pretenders. Yes, it’s time to take the relationship management/relationship marketing nexus seriously.
4. Relationship Marketing Now Involves Online Dating. Balis writes, “The old truth was courting customers is just like dating,” but “the new truth is courting customers is just like online dating.”
This is all about your virtual reality—investing in your virtual office, presenting yourself virtually (videoconference), your delivery, developing rapport, conducting a business meeting and sales skills that enable you to get the business.
Sixty-seven percent of today’s affluent will give you an email introduction to someone in their sphere of influence if you ask. Elite advisors are getting these email introductions, which begin the process of online dating. This was unheard of pre-COVID. Seventy-seven percent of affluent clients claim similar value from a videoconference as a meeting in their advisor’s office. Things have changed. Social media takes online dating to another level; LinkedIn connections, Facebook advertising, blogs, content videos—all drive traffic.
5. Marketing Is the Growth Engine. A financial advisor not growing is stagnant, and dying a little every day. This is a scary thought for those who threw in their financial advisor marketing towel in 2020. A true marketing plan requires a serious commitment to growth. Otherwise, it’s merely an academic exercise. It looks good on paper, sounds good, but minus consistent execution, the growth engine is never activated.
The key to financial advisor marketing is in establishing big goals that are quantifiable, such as the number of new clients, new assets, etc., and crafting specific activities that will activate your growth engine, driving you to your goals.
Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, and Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com