The applause was loud and lasting in a ballroom packed with over 250 senior financial advisors who were being treated to a preview of their firm's new television advertising campaign. Giving credit where credit is due, the ads were very well done; they clearly communicated that the firm featured offers comprehensive wealth management services through knowledgeable and trustworthy professionals. But then, so many financial services ads make similar claims these days in an attempt to get affluent investors' serious money.
Shortly afterwards, I found myself presenting our latest research on the affluent in a small workshop to 50 of the top advisors who were in attendance during that advertising screening. After giving an overview of the research project itself, I outlined the specific criteria the affluent are looking for in a financial advisor: comprehensive services, trust, and a “go-to” financial coordinator for the entire family. This led to a discussion during which I asked this group of elite advisors three simple questions:
Do the affluent in your community know where to find a “go-to” financial coordinator — a professional who can oversee and untangle all of the various threads of a family's financial affairs?
What percentage of your firm's advisors consistently do what is being portrayed in these new ads?
Do your affluent clients understand the true comprehensive nature of the financial advice you can provide to their families?
Suddenly the room went quiet. Then gradually, a few voices at a time, my audience of advisors concluded that the answers to questions one and three were “No.” And to number two, only a half-hearted “Yes.” Just a small percentage of the firm's advisors, it turned out, were providing all of the services portrayed in the ads; that revelation led me to share the following with the group.
Too much marketing, particularly if it tells a false story, can backfire. Even though the financial services industry is spending over $1 billion annually on advertising in an attempt to brand their respective registered reps as “go-to” financial coordinators for a client's family affairs, the affluent are confused and have developed a serious degree of skepticism towards the financial industry's marketing. In fact, our research suggests that the more money and effort devoted to marketing financial products and services, the more heightened their skepticism. As a result, you really can't rely on any financial institution to brand or market your services for you. You are the product and you must take responsibility for making sure that your clients like, trust and respect you.
Ultimately, the affluent want simplicity, clarity and tangible proof that you are who you represent yourself to be. Following are three action steps that can help you make sure you are fulfilling these needs.
Be the Real-Deal! You must build a modern financial practice / wealth management team that focuses exclusively on attracting, serving and developing loyal affluent clients. All marketing efforts — corporate and personal — must promote services you can actually deliver.
Be “Kaizen” Driven! “Kaizen” is a Japanese business philosophy that translates as constant improvement in productivity and performance. You must always strive to improve and your actions will speak louder than any brochure or corporate marketing campaign.
Never Assume! Though “comprehensive wealth management” is a phrase that is bandied about all the time, don't assume your affluent clients know what it means — or what specific services you offer. You need to clearly explain what you are going to do, do what you said you were going to do, make certain your clients recognize and understand what you are doing, and then remind your clients what you have done — over and over again.
Taking these three steps seriously can help you project the image that the affluent want to see and ensure that they will believe it and stick with you and your firm.
Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com