Every senior advisory practice needs to be in a constant state of forward motion. It needs to consistently grow through a regular stream of promising prospects, new products and services, state-of-the-art technology and access to the latest research.
Promising marketing tactics can come from a variety of sources and take many shapes. There are professional services offering to regularly fill your inbox with promising leads. Others offer the latest and greatest in technology. Yet others promise illuminating research that will arm you with enough knowledge to destroy any previous sales record. Those not wishing to venture into new territory can rely on various grassroots marketing efforts, such as asking clients and associates for referrals, working the local Chamber of Commerce and even cold calling. But a scattershot effort will generally bring scattershot results.
How do other successful senior advisors stay ahead of the pack and consistently meet higher goals for themselves year after year? According to those interviewed here, variety is the answer. What attracted Client A may not work for Client B or C. Or the technique that created a steady flow of appointments when the bull market was raging may not be as effective in the middle of a recession. Despite the obstacles and challenges, learning how to get an edge on the competition by consistent marketing will help your practice to steadily move forward.
Take the Initiative
“Always schedule annual client reviews and have an agenda prepared ahead of time,” counsels John Graziano, PFP and CPA with Future Financial Planners, Inc., in Bayonne, N.J. Graziano advises senior planners looking to grow their businesses to regularly utilize a “sales process to go through with every client during the initial meeting/client interview.” Another tip from Graziano: “With the client’s permission, use their tax returns from the last two years to look for sales opportunities. If the client has a lot of taxable interest, dividends and capital gains, calculate if deferring this income would reduce the taxable portion of their Social Security and decrease or eliminate their required estimated tax payments. While the client is not excited about tax deferral they do get excited about reducing their tax bill.”
Mark Snyder, ChFC, has a one-word answer for the advisor seeking marketing’s Holy Grail. “Listen,” says the perennial top producer, with 30-plus years of experience. “After meeting with a steady stream of similar clients, say recently retired seniors, themes or trends will emerge form the conversations. These trends are opportunities and should be acted upon. Another way to substantiate client claims is to watch the media.”
What Snyder means is if he notices from client meetings and conversations that a particular issue is consistently emerging such as the future strength of Social Security or the high price of assisted-living facilities, he’ll present solutions addressing these concerns. And once he’s on to a promising solution, Snyder delivers an orchestrated marketing campaign that frequently encompasses local print ads, a custom newsletter, a media-relations campaign, client events and nearly anything else that will put him in front of clients and prospects as their solution provider.
“Retirement planning can be complicated,” he says. “Staying current with what new products are available that can help your clients is important. It’s equally important to know how new legislative or tax changes may impact them and then broadcast that message.”
Steve Curry, managing partner at Gilford Securities in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., agrees. “Referrals, outside activities, public speaking and print advertising will each bring in some business,” he says. The 30-year veteran adds that being in the same line of work for a number of years will create a track record that can help build client confidence. “Clients want to see experience in all types of markets. Freely talk about what you do for a living but do not be too aggressive.”
Financial news, whether good or bad, can almost always be converted into a marketing message. Volatility may open a conversation on the need for a financial review, as can news of mergers, acquisitions or interest-rate movement. It can pay dividends to call five of your top clients at a specific time each week. Such client contact can grow relationships and provide additional business-building opportunities, especially if you use the occasions to ask for referrals or point out how you may be able to help others. “Ask for introductions, not referrals,” says Graziano, who urges advisors to always ask clients to refer friends and coworkers. “An introduction means your client is saying you are a trusted advisor, someone their friend should do business with.” Graziano has provided existing clients with an “introduction kit” consisting of his personal brochure, newsletter and business card, plus a postage-paid envelope and blank note so the client can write a note on his behalf. “This has worked extremely well for me with retirees when their former employer announces a new downsizing and they contact old coworkers.”
Know Their Needs
Being aware of a customer’s needs is vital when trying to turn a prospect into a client or a meeting into a sale. Getting as much information as possible before launching into a discussion will help convince the prospect as to why he should deal with you—and not the guy down the street who’s been mailing him elaborate dinner-seminar invitations for the past year.
It can also be helpful early on to examine what the client’s current financial plan consists of and honestly decide whether you can help him to better prepare for his financial future. Learn as much about the client as possible before any phone conference or meeting. Knowing basics such as age, occupation, marital and health status and risk tolerance will accelerate any conversation. Probing deeper to learn of long-term client goals can take conversations to entirely new levels. Other items to consider: Do you have a relevant staff specialist that can enhance this prospect’s future? Can you offer a more competitive fee? Better communication? When it comes to growing your business, it is just as important to consistently market as it is to keep appointments and stay current in your field. One never knows when a promising opportunity may arrive but by consistently marketing through a variety of means you can increase your chances of being ready when one does.