When staffers at Quantuvis Consulting answer the telephone, callers are routinely greeted with this cheerful refrain: “How can I make your day great?”
Engaging. Pro-active. Supportive.
Exactly what a lot of advisors are not these days.
With the economy in a tailspin, skittish advisors are running for cover. And that’s too bad because this is just the moment you could be executing on marketing strategies that can deepen existing client relationships and bring new ones to the door.
As Stephanie Bogan, president of Redlands, Calif.-based Quantuvis, puts it: “There is no better time to market than when markets are turbulent, when returns are down, when client goodwill is gone. You should be out there promoting your service, your objectivity, your long-term relationships. This is when people are actually going to listen to that message.”
Yet the knee-jerk reaction of many advisors in a challenging market environment is to cut back on public relations and marketing dollars.
Bill Blase, president of W.T. Blase & Associates in New York City, has this advice: Don’t.
“People who run their own businesses are acutely aware of every dollar they spend. But the smart guys don’t look at this as an expense but as an investment. You’re investing in your business, yourself, your future. You can’t be so risk-averse and cost-conscious that you never take that larger step forward,” says Blase. “And for all those financial advisors who are no longer marketing aggressively, that just leaves the field open to you. There’s less competition for your marketing dollar — that’s one way of standing out.”
The bottom line? Use the downturn as an opportunity.
“Don’t cut back. Don’t hunker down. This is the time to rise above it,” observes Peter Kaufman, founder of The Hoople Group in Richmond, Va. “It can be counter-intuitive for a lot of financial advisors. But when the tide goes back up, clients will remember the advisors who were there when things were tough.”
Here are 15 suggestions to help you step up to the plate:
1. Stay visible. First, anticipate that clients are going to be anxious. Find out what they are worried about. Let them vent. “Clients need to know the advisor is still steering the ship, even when the going is rough. The economy is the No. 1 topic today. I can’t think of a better marketing plug than clients saying: ‘I was speaking with my financial advisor the other day and while my portfolio is down my goals are still on track.’ That’s powerful these days,” observes Libby Dubick, president of New York City-based Dubick & Associates. “You really need to be out there.”
2. Contact your clients. Touch base with your clients in the way they prefer, whether it’s by e-mail or a phone call. Invite them in for a financial plan review, if that is their wish.
3. Host a breakfast. Handholding letters can be impersonal. Now is the time to look your clients in the eye. “People want to see that you’re out there smiling and not on a tall building ready to leap,” says Kaufman. He suggests hosting a breakfast for top clients with guest experts who can talk about the economy, the domestic equities market, the housing slump. “Bring in three experts and talk about it,” he adds. “If you don’t, it’s like the elephant in the room. It gets bigger and bigger.”