Management guru Tom Peters introduced the concept of “management by wandering around.” I would like to introduce you to the marketing corollary: “marketing by hanging around.” It seems like every advisor I talk to tells me how difficult it is to get new clients today. Since qualified, motivated prospective clients are probably not regularly waltzing into your office demanding to hire you, I recommend that you go where your prospective clients are. Then, make a point to develop relationships with people who could become great clients.
Marketing is simply a matter of communicating the benefits of your services to people who have a high probability of wanting and needing them. The ones who are interested will let you know that they want more information, and from there it’s a simple matter of signing on the dotted line. If you are unable to get your message to the right people, it is very unlikely that they will magically find out about you and your services.
Many advisors don’t communicate their benefits to 200 prospects in a whole year. I have a very simple marketing success formula: Spread the good word to as many qualified prospects as possible.
The Secret of Ron’s Success
One of the secrets to marketing success in this industry is perfectly illustrated by an advisor I met when I was a wholesaler. Ron was the fifth-highest generator of revenue for one of America’s largest brokerage firms. He worked in Scottsdale, Arizona, which was part of my territory, and he was the top performer in that office.
I cultivated a relationship with Ron. He would take me out to help him sell my company’s offerings to his clients. Ron was extremely easy to like and highly productive, but, to tell you the truth, his demeanor and presentations were not terribly impressive. In fact, he was often late for appointments and would forget to bring along information requested by important clients. We got lost a few times trying to find clients’ homes, and he didn’t have a particularly high level of technical know-ledge, either.
One day, over lunch, I asked Ron what he felt the key to his success was. “You know, you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” I said, only half-joking, “but you’re the biggest producer in the office. What do you attribute your success to?” I was surprised when he said, “Oh, far and away it’s because I’m out of the office more than anyone else in my branch. The second-highest generator of revenue in my office is out of the office more than anyone but me. I believe he would surpass me if he stayed away from the office more.”
I asked Ron what he did when he was out of the office. “I found out a long time ago that great clients don’t typically come into my office,” he said, “so I decided to go to where they are.” Ron had done some research and found that Arizona’s small towns often had fairly large treasuries. He got a list of all the small cities in Arizona, found out when their city council meetings were, and then drove to the towns and participated in the city council meetings. This is called “surfacing in a target-rich environment.”
Over time, Ron became good friends with the movers and shakers of all these small towns, and eventually picked up the investment accounts from many of the city treasurers. This was Ron’s initial key to success. As he developed more relationships and more knowledge about the treasurers’ special needs, he added even more cities to his account list. It seems the treasurers and city leaders talked among themselves and referred their colleagues to Ron.
By the time I met Ron, he was firmly established in this market, and he didn’t even need to participate in many city government meetings anymore. Some of the brokers in his office were trying to copy his idea by simply cold-calling other city treasurers from their offices in Phoenix or Tucson, trying to get their accounts. Ron was sure they’d never succeed. “They’ll never get to manage these cities’ assets because they’re not developing any kind of a relationship with the people involved,” he said. “I’ve spent years developing the trust and confidence of these city officials. I have a personal relationship with them, and I know their spouses’ names, their kids’ names–sometimes even their dogs’.”