Since my July piece in Research, I have been focusing on “best practices.” Any treatment of best practices must include “blocking and tackling” — a sports metaphor that is well-defined by marketing and innovation expert John Caddell as meaning “work that’s not glamorous but is important.” While there are several “blocking and tackling” strategies, the most important is your contact strategy.
A contact strategy is your roadmap to reaching out to the groups on which your business survives, grows or perishes. It consists of: (1) What to say — your message; (2) whom to say it to — your segments; (3)how often to say it — frequency; and (4) how to deliver the message — channel.
While I will focus on segments, I will touch on message, frequency and channel. However, my space here is limited. So I have further developed these parts of your contact strategy in my new white paper, “Best Practice #1: Contact Strategy.” A copy, free for the taking, is here: www.billgood.com/contactstrategy.
“Mass mail” is a term I use for people with whom you have no connection or affiliation. All you have are: name, address, phone number and possibly website.
Ideally, your mass mail lists meet these two criteria: (1) Build a list of people who look just like your best clients; (2) select names on which word-of-mouth can occur.
Example: Your best client is an executive VP of a big construction firm. You would then set out to build a list of senior executives of big construction firms because (a) they look just like one of your best clients and (b) they know each other. Your purpose in contacting them is twofold: (a) build an identity of expert financial advisor; (b) create a response converting the mass mail name to a prospect.
Your mass mail lists are fluid. You keep a list until it become unresponsive. Then you throw it out.
A rookie starting out should develop 5,000-8,000 names. Over a period of years, through seminar invitations, informational mailings and cold calling, these should produce 500-800 prospects. But once again, you may throw out many lists to find the 5000 or so names that will produce the prospects.
People You Know
The term I use for these is “connection.” Specifically these are people you know that you would like to do business with but who would feel awkward if you solicited them directly. They can be people you know through a business affiliation, such as the owner of the dealership where you buy a new car every 2-3 years.
Your connections should also include people you know through social, religious, neighborhood, school or other such affiliations. The popular term is “networking.” The key question is: how do you turn your network “connections” into “prospects”?
Answer: you stay in touch with informational, educational or inspirational mailings. You never ask for anything. You might use email occasionally, but only with permission. People like doing business with people they like and trust. Add one other ingredient: need. When they feel the tug of the need, if they like and trust you, they will approach you.But you dare not solicit them because you will have broken a social covenant not to solicit your friends. If you do so consistently, you will build a reputation that will effectively bar you from the networks you have created. That’s why a disciplined mailing or, with permission, emailing campaign is vital. When one of your connections goes through a life transition AND if they are just a little bit unhappy with their current advisor, they will send you an email, call you or ask you a question at a social event. Now you can upgrade them to prospect.
The Prospect List
Your mass mailings and relationship marketing has one objective: produce a prospect. My definition of a prospect is “anyone who has responded to a marketing campaign or been referred that you would like to do business with.”
Key concept: that you would like to do business with. If you don’t like them, if they don’t meet your “ideal client” standards, throw them out. But on the other hand, if they meet this definition, there are only three exits from your prospect list:
(1) They can buy, in which case they are removed from the prospect list and become a client.
(2) They can die.
(3) They can become a jerk in which case they should be marked in your database as “Perm Off.” By leaving them in your database so marked, if you accidentally get them back down the road you can exclude them as a duplicate and throw them out again.
Here is the truth about prospects. Some, a few, will become clients right away. Most take time. Even referrals don’t just jump in the client boat unless they have an urgent need.
So you have to have a contact strategy for prospects.
At a minimum, we recommend the following: every prospect gets a letter every month; every prospect gets a phone call every 90 days. What about an email? Will that work? One strategy is to send the same material by email and letter. Or, send an email and tell people to look for a letter. Or, send a letter with a link to your website. Today, you don’t know how people really receive their communications. So you have to have a multimedia communication strategy.
Client Contact Strategy
A client is anyone who has bought something from you. Reassigned accounts or orphans are not clients. To become a client, an orphan would have to buy something from you.
Keeping your clients is your most important contact strategy.
Some firms have created a contact strategy which limits the size of your client base. One such strategy is: call every client monthly and meet once a quarter.
If we assume each of these calls is 30 minutes and each meeting requires an hour and a half (this includes prep time and follow-up time), you would require a total of three hours per client per quarter. Assuming a 40 hour week, you have 520 hours available per quarter. Using this formula, assuming you don’t do anything but meet with and talk to clients, your maximum number of clients is 173. But if we subtract Friday afternoons, we’re down to 156 clients. Now knocking out, say, five days for trips, days off, no-shows, etc., this formula would only allow 142 clients. And that allows no time for prospecting, paperwork etc. etc.
Here is THE problem with this theory. Out of 361 advisors who have taken my 48-question “Best Practices 2011” survey, 100 have assets of $100 million or more. Of these, only 33 percent have fewer than 150 households.
Now this is not to say that the strategy of having a few-high-net worth clients is an invalid strategy. It most certainly is not. But it is to say that there are not enough high-net-worth clients for every financial advisor to pursue this marketplace. Plus, in many areas, there may only be a handful of “millionaires.”
And further, since the larger number of FAs with $100 million or more have more clients rather than fewer; a large client base appears to be a best practice.
Over a period of many years, the “client relationship retention strategy” that I have evolved has served high-net-worth, mass affluent and middle-class markets extremely well.
Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much; visit www.billgood.com. His seminar program, “No More Pies,” helps advisors manage ETF portfolios using technical analysis; see www.nomorepies.net. And his blog, financialadvisorsmarketing.net, has lots of useful information for advisors who need to beef up marketing.