Article by Matt Kress, Product Manager at AdvisorEngine
Originally published at advisorengine.com
WealthTech Club comment: This article vividly describes the changes in the advisors’ role and needs happening lately. To help them grow the business, it’s no longer enough to automate accounting or data flow. The platforms should focus on the outcomes their clients will have from working with them, and not on their services.
Your prospect’s expectations of working with a Financial Advisor have changed. The digital world we live in today has played – and will continue to play – a large part in how prospects find, select, and hire you to be their financial advisor.
We no longer read physical newspapers like we used to. Instead, we use multiple sources of information, sometimes only scanning the headlines, and occasionally reading more in depth. With so many resources available, Investors are making better, more informed buying decisions in all aspects of their lives.
I have had the privilege of coaching over 250 Financial Advisors using our AdvisorEngine Kredible model – helping them strengthen their approach to attract clients. I have learned invaluable lessons from these sessions. No matter what approach to financial planning you employ, you can apply these takeaways to your own business.
Here are five key lessons I have learned that you could use to think about growing your own business:
1) Your online presence matters
The two most common practices that prospects utilize in their search for a financial advisor are:
- They ask friends, family or professionals they work with for referrals
- They search on the internet
From our Kredible Wealth Management Research Study, conducted in October 2015, we know that prospects gets an average of 2.6 referrals. The majority of time, once a prospect has identified two to three advisors they go online to learn more specifics about each:
- Who are they?
- What type of clients do they work with?
- Do they understand my goals and help prospects like me with their goals?
- What does the process look like to hire and work with the advisor?
- Any other relevant information they can use to determine if that advisor would be good to work with and won’t scam them out of their life savings.
Depending on what they do and don’t find online, prospects will eliminate advisors from consideration as they look for the right fit.
This is all happening before you even know who the prospect is. This is before you even have a chance to talk to them and learn more about their life, family, financial goal. Before you learn what event in their life that led them to wanting to hire a financial advisor and actively searching for someone to hire.
Have you Googled yourself lately?
Go ahead, type in your name and firm (John Smith Advisory Name) or name and location (Jane Adams Atlanta).
Evaluate the information that shows up on the first page of Google search results – think about it from the perspective of a potential client and ask yourself the following questions:
- “Are these pages supporting my credibility and expertise as a financial advisor?”
- “Do these search results present me the same way that I hope my ideal clients and prospects would talk about me to someone they trust?”
- “Do these pages explain why I became a financial advisor and explain the process of working together?”
- “How do I stand out? How can I help more than the next Financial Advisor?”
You want to own your search results and extend your professional brand across many platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, professional societies, etc. Think about all of those referrals you are missing out on and pave a path to reach them through your online credibility.
Own your Google search results
Here are some ways you can own more links on the front page of your Google search results – again it involves putting yourself in the prospective client’s shoes:
Think about publications that your clients and prospects may enjoy reading. What captures people’s attention online?
Take a few minutes to think about the questions your prospects typically ask you and then reach out to an editor letting them know that a lot of your prospects (their readers) have similar questions and you think an article could give them some value. You need to give them an idea of what you’re thinking. Here are some ideas:
- Golf publication: 2 wealth building lessons from the golf course
- Business publication: 10b5-1 Tips for executives preparing for retirement
- Retirement publication: How couples need to learn to live together again with all their free time in retirement
- Local newspaper/digital publication: Profile a community member that might be a client (How a local business helps the community thrive by doing….) This isn’t purely your advice but it associates you with the business and publication to help stay top of mind
Create and share press releases with any appropriate news-worthy event:
- Did you receive an award or make a top advisor list?
- Are you or your firm participating in any local or volunteer activities?
- Did you hit a milestone in your firm?
Consider signing up for HARO or other similar services – HARO provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage – and select your preferences based on where you think your client preferences are. Monitor their emails and spend 5 minutes a day responding very quickly to any requests.
This can help you share expertise when reporters are asking for relevant information. You need to respond as quickly as possible with good information so it might make sense for you or your team to monitor it.
Remember, these are not guaranteed ways to show up. Google is always trying to show the most relevant article – but making sure these sites link together can help increase the chance of rising to the front page.
2) You have to sell the value and outcomes of working with you
Sometimes, advisors make the mistake of talking too much about things that matter to them, not what matters most to their clients.
Let me say that again and in a different way.
Sometimes, advisors talk too much online about their services and what they do instead of talking about the goals their clients have in their lives, the problems and life events they have, and how they can help their clients achieve their goals.
Navigating an intangible service like financial advising can be difficult, and building a trusting, collaborative relationship is imperative.
Right now, there is a BIG gap with advisors distinguishing themselves on the relationship and service side of things. Advisors aren’t allowed to post their track records and customer testimonials so prospects are leaning on working relationships, third party validation and trust to differentiate advisors.
Show you care about your client and their goals by working hard. Show why it’s important to you that they achieve their life goals.
Go the extra mile on a personal level as well. The better personal relationship you have with clients, the easier it is for them to refer you and stay working with you when they have concerns about the economy and their personal situations. Once you establish a trusting relationship, you can really move the needle forward by providing an incredible experience that shows you’re providing more value than other advisors.
How do you do this? Evaluate your website and look at every time you say something similar to any of these statements:
- We do….
- We help…
- We offer…
- Services include…
List those sentences on paper and then answer the question, “What value does this offer our clients?”
You want to start sentences with the value and benefits for your clients and then you can use the factual supporting points of how you do it.
For example – don’t just say that you offer Financial Planning. Instead say; “We believe that working side-by-side with you to create a Financial Plan helps you organize your financial life, prepare for retirement and gives you guidelines to live your ideal life while staying confident you won’t run out of money.”
3) Your clients want you to focus
As a direct result of the crowded financial sector, differentiation is key to growing your business.
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is your target market?
- Have you had multiple successes with a particular type of client?
Whether you choose a particular occupational niche, target a specific company or pinpoint certain life transitions and events, people want to know you can specifically help them. The most successful financial advisors target certain markets to build, manage and optimize portfolios that help achieve compelling outcomes.
If you are an advisor who tries to please everyone, it’s going to be A LOT harder to grow your business than those who say they are not the best for everyone. There is plenty of room for specialized advisors to grow their market share. Look to create digital offerings that convey your target market because one of the key benefits of targeting a specialized niche is the opportunity to take advantage of unique marketing channels that may by highly effective at reaching that particular target market.
The more contextual and personalized your message is, the more it will resonate with prospects to start a conversation with you.
I often hear pushback about not wanting to lose out on potential opportunities. You don’t have to say that you only work with one small set of clients (Although, this would help you gain more of those clients and create a niche). You can create a section on your website that talks about some of the ways you work with clients or some of the types of clients you work with.
This at least gives prospects an idea that you understand them, are willing to work with them and can help them achieve their goals. When it comes to marketing and advertising, you need to be as specific as possible. This will help you maximize the returns on your marketing efforts and spend.
4) Your location is becoming less important for clients to work with you
The digital revolution has made it easier for clients to access their money and see how their portfolios are performing. Digital portals are now very commonplace, where clients can log in, manage their money and communicate with advisors. Physical location has grown far less important, making digital offerings more critical.
Advisors who fail to develop a multigenerational strategy for clients’ adult children, or other young investors, stand to lose out on a significant future wealth transfer opportunity. Planners need to make a point of getting to know their older clients’ children in order to retain them, as clients after their parents are gone.
This next generation of investors will be far more technologically literate and diverse. Aim to build your business in a way that you can scale with clients and have a digital offering that your clients and family stewards can use to work with you.
Make sure you are selecting the right technology and getting familiar with the ways younger generations of prospects and clients want to engage with you. Do you have video calls? Can you work with clients who live in a different state? Can you text clients?
Make sure you think about your own life. In the past 10 years, how has technology changed your behaviors. Are you texting and on social media to keep up with your children and grandchildren? What are your clients doing? They are probably more tech-savvy than you think and will appreciate a modern tech-forward approach.
5) Personality, Personality, PERSONALITY
Work to build upon relationships by connecting with clients and perspective clients on a deeper personal level. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through as you answer the following:
- Why do you enjoy being a financial advisor?
- What led you to your career?
- What do you find most rewarding working with clients?
- How do you balance life?
- What can you be found doing on the weekends?
Explain your “why” with all that can help you connect with people on a more meaningful level. Being able to show compassion and understanding of client’s unique situation is crucial. Find a commonality to sustain a lasting relationship and focus on creating an incredible client experience and surpassing communication expectations.
The best advice is deeply human and it begins and ends with people. Technology is evolving to be more important in helping you deliver your best advice to clients but our research is showing that your relationship with your client is the most important thing.
Focus on how you work together with your clients. Explain YOUR process – most advisors don’t talk about the “process of working together” or what expectations are in place from your viewpoint. The more you expand on what drives you and why you like working with your clients – the more it helps prospects envision themselves trusting you and building a working relationship (even before they have a conversation with you).
Here’s a summary of the 5 key takeaways:
- Google yourself (name and firm, name and location) and optimize your first page of Google search results based on your ideal clients.
- Stop focusing on your services and focus on the outcomes your clients want to have from working with you.
- Make sure your content on your website and social media profiles show clients that you work with people like them and understand them (as specific as possible).
- Create a digital offering and evolve your practice to exceed the expectations of the smartphone generations who don’t remember printing a map for directions or not being able to find answers to any question they could imagine using Google.com.
- Show your personality and humanize yourself. Cookie cutter, general text on your website and social media profiles won’t help you stand out and gain an advantage over your competition.
Remember, what worked for you five, ten or twenty years ago to get to where you are now most likely won’t work as well going forward in growing your business. You need to adapt to prospect behaviors, technology and industry shifts, and think more about the future when looking to grow your business.
Matt is a product manager at AdvisorEngine. Before he joined the firm as part of the acquisition of Kredible, he co-founded and sold a Software as a Service business called Relately and helped small and medium-sized businesses with their digital marketing efforts. His mission is to help advisors understand the digital world we live in today so they can help more people live their best lives.