From the February 2007 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

February 1, 2007

Making a Marketing Plan

While prospecting is certainly essential to your future, you're already spending several hours a day with clients. If you allocate some of that time to a new prospecting campaign, you have unknowingly signed up for a guaranteed income reduction plan.

You need to view a major prospecting campaign the same way you would if you were building a new business. To do that, you need time and money, and those can come from your existing business, i.e., your current clients.

This is why every marketing campaign -- even a prospecting campaign -- should start with client marketing. You take at least some of the increased revenue in order to buy some time by hiring additional staff or outsourcing something you've been doing. This, in turn, gives you the time to create your new business. Because you don't reduce the time you were spending with clients, you don't reduce your income in the short term.

Where To Start

Any marketing plan starts with an assessment: How well are you doing? Perhaps the first step in that assessment is to know what to assess, so let's start with a definition.

Clients are people with whom you have a business relationship. More specifically, a client is someone who has bought something from you. Advisors frequently tell me things like, "I have 122 real clients and 394 customers." In my book, they have 122 "A" clients and 394 "B, C and D" clients, many of which are somebody else's "A" clients.

Treat your "Bs, Cs and Ds" like "As," and many will become "As." This should be a primary objective for your client marketing plan. Another way to put this is that you want to become the sole provider for those clients who follow advice. When you have become sole provider, you have acquired an "A" client.

Retention

The first phase in a solid client marketing plan is to increase retention. Actions taken to retain client relationships are by far the most important marketing you will undertake. As you've often heard, "It costs five times as much to get a new client as it does to keep an old one."

Retain clients by handling the three reasons advisors lose clients:

o bad investment advice

o poor (or no) service

o not enough communication.

First, assess your investment performance. If it compares unfavorably with the major indices, you need to overhaul your investment strategies, your funds, your managers and so on.

Next, measure your service against these standards. Use a scale of 1 to 10 (perfection):

o Is your client service performed by a full-time service professional?

o Are most service requests routinely handled in 24 hours or less?

o Are 100 percent of service requests handled correctly?

o Is service always done with a smile?

Great service cannot be performed with consistent speed by a financial advisor because you have an inherent conflict of interest between revenue and service. If you scored above 35, you're doing great. But if not, you need to handle these points.

The communication issue can be handled by assessing yourself according to these factors:

o Do you send every client a message every month about something the client is interested in?

o Does every client receive a phone call from someone in your office every 90 days?

o Does every client and every spouse receive a birthday greeting every year?

o Do you make frequent use of "Etiquette Letters" (Appreciation, Congratulations, Get Well, Appointment Confirmation, Condolence)?

o Do you invite every client to a performance review at least once a year?

o Do you invite every client to an educational seminar at least once a year?

Business Now

You run a business, not a free advice hotline. You have bills, staff, rent and other overhead to pay. We need to bring cash in the door this month, so a very important function of client marketing is to generate some business now.

To be sure, you have fees and trailers, but that may not be enough. Besides, many of your clients are busy creating more wealth on their own time. It's your job to be there when it's available.

Your database and the quality of its data are the key to generating business now. A properly designed and maintained database can be used to identify lists of people who need to buy or sell something.

So here are your "Business Now" questions:

o Do you add a note to document every contact or contact attempt?

o Do you enter all future callbacks and meetings?

o Do you have (and update) a field on employment status? This enables you to target campaigns to retirees, professionals, business owners, corporate executives, employees and employee benefit managers. This information does not change frequently, but when it does, it almost always signals an opportunity.

o Do you update client investment objectives? You need to track and update such objectives as growth, tax liability, safety, income, insurance planning and long-term care.

o Do you update the types of investments your clients hold? People tend to buy more of what they already own, and they like to hear about issues affecting their portfolio.

o Do you ask for and update investments held elsewhere? This should be a no-brainer. If you share the investment shelf with one or more advisors, you can bet your entire net worth that they are trying to push you off the shelf. One of the strategies to become sole provider is what I call "One Asset at Time." But to do this, you have to know what the other assets are.

o Do you send "Call Me" messages to clients who own underperforming assets in (or preferably out of) house?

o Do you call clients (based on interests, investment type, investment position and employment status) to invite them to come into the office or attend a seminar?

o Do you constantly monitor clients turning 70 1/2 and set up meetings before that day so planning can occur?

Business In The Future

The future, of course, inevitably becomes the present. Business opportunities you find in the future will, if handled correctly, become tomorrow's business.

So here go your questions in this area:

o Do you frequently ask clients about other assets they may have coming due? You should ask about tax refunds, gifts, inheritances, CDs, bonds maturing, property sales and business sales.

o Are opportunities always entered in your database when unearthed?

o Do you have (and use) a retrieval system so that you never forget an opportunity, even if it was found years ago?

From Assessment To Plan

Well done. You've completed your assessment. Now what?

Take the points you scored lowest on and give them the highest priority in your plan.

Next month, we'll take a look at a prospecting plan.

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Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.

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