In a world where consumers are literally overwhelmed by marketing images – from the flashing ads on their Internet browsers to the fistful of flyers and direct mail pieces that choke our mailboxes every day – financial advisors often find themselves fighting an uphill battle as they craft their own marketing strategies.
What’s worse, the advertising onslaught has filtered down to a point where consumers question the motives of even those who offer perfectly worthwhile and honorable products and services.
“People’s attitudes have changed since the 1970s and ’80s – they’ve become much more skeptical about marketing efforts,” says Brad Whitmore, president of Greensboro, N.C.-based Identity Branding. “The whole ‘do not call’ list has spawned a ‘do not trust’ movement, it sometimes seems. People are more guarded and skeptical than any time in history … we know that many of these people need our products, but they simply don’t want to be sold to any more.”
Given the seemingly insurmountable odds against finding new prospects and starting to build those all-important one-on-one relationships, what can an advisor do to create a sense of trust in potential clients? Here are four suggestions that are certain to help set you apart from the crowd – and assure new clients that you are indeed a good person to do business with.
Join the team
You can’t imagine a football or basketball player being able to deliver the goods without the help of his teammates. In the same fashion, aligning yourself (and your sales and marketing efforts) with a larger group of individuals, all fighting for the same cause, can be an easy way to let clients know that you mean business.
Mike Steranka, RFC, president of Retirement Planning Services Inc. in Crofton, Md., discovered that offering his own products in conjunction with the matched services of a close-knit set of like-minded experts and specialists was a fast route to instant client trust.
“I decided to seek out a group of credible, respectable professionals in the area and work to establish relationships with them. I wanted to match up with professionals who serve and complement what I do,” Steranka says. “I had a friend of mine, the largest estate planner working around here, and after I’d made a private presentation to him, he said that my offerings were phenomenal and he asked if I could do a couple of seminars on his behalf. That turned out to be very good for both of us – his clients are happy and we’ve both picked up a lot of business.”
Since then, Steranka says that he’s expanded his professional net to include a local real estate agent, a mortgage broker and a CPA, all of whom can benefit from the interconnected nature of their services and clients.
“It’s really a value-added prospect for all of their businesses. I know these guys and trust them, and we’re able to help our clients meet all of their retirement goals.”
A remarkable approach
Confronted with a seemingly cynical culture full of people who have learned to be wary of every marketing message in the book, Whitmore says advisors need to take a few steps to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
“How do you convey your message to people who don’t know you, don’t know your business and are pressed for time, with all the busy things going on in their lives?” he asks. “You can do it by being remarkable. By taking efforts to position yourself in the community as someone who is constantly visible and offers services that are relevant and beneficial, you can begin to establish a characteristic uniqueness to your business.”
Rather than deluging a skeptical public with marketing pieces or even media advertising, Whitmore suggests that personalized and very public tactics – none of which will even promote your products in an explicit fashion, in many cases – may be the best solution to building trust.
Across the Southeast, Whitmore has helped advisors coordinate community events such as child ID days, which help parents and law enforcement agents work together to build a database of information which can be used in case a child goes missing. It’s an emotional, beneficial public service that draws potential prospects from a wide variety of backgrounds; by taking a very active role in the program (or similar community efforts), Whitmore says the public will instantly associate a participant with a new level of credibility.
“Visibility is the very foundation of attraction, so events that make an advisor visible are absolutely crucial,” he explains.