“Great marketing,” says Ruth Papazian, “is about being ahead of the trend in figuring out not only where the market is going, but where advisors and investors are going to end up.” To help its affiliated advisors end up in a better place, with more and better clients, LPL Financial Services launched on January 30 a client referral program that the broker/dealer calls ClientsFirst. Papazian, executive VP and chief marketing officer for LPL’s Independent Advisor Services (IAS) unit, says the response from LPL’s reps in the first 30 days “has been remarkable,” with 2,156 enrolling in the free program as of March 11. Spurred by research that Papazian says showed that “98% of LPL’s reps said we need a referral program,” the idea for ClientsFirst, she notes, was launched at an offsite meeting at IAS President Bill Dwyer’s house in October in response to the market and economic crisis, since “gaining share of wallet is not the core marketing premise at this point, it’s really about attracting new clients to the trusted advisor.” Moreover, with the “the demise of so many Wall Street firms,” she recalls, there was a clear perception that there was “an unprecedented opportunity” to attract new clients.
LPL enlisted three of its largest vendors–Lincoln Financial, Van Kampen Investments, and Prudential–to provide resources and experts for the first phase of the progam–how to find clients–since each of those firms, Papazian says, “has a tremendous referral program for different market segments.” Van Kampen, she reports, has an “excellent” referral program for CPAs and lawyers. ClientsFirst includes business coaching conference calls, a Webinar series, and a dedicated Web site for effective lead acquisition, provision of prospecting letters, advertising campaigns, radio spots, and public relations assistance in order to “help our advisors build an effective presence in their local markets.”
Also included is electronic marketing help–”we have a robust list purchase vendor that we were able to negotiate good rates for due to our scale”–and while the program does “a lot of local media,” Papazian points out that often, “effective PR can be a better spend” in that local market.
Papazian says LPL is “teaching advisors how to market themselves. Our sponsor firms are participating with us in those training events. The trainers are from the sponsors, along with our own people.” The only cost to advisors is if they decide to implement a direct marketing campaign.
Phase two of the ClientsFirst program will use additional sponsors–”four of them,” says Papazian–that will teach advisors how to convert those prospects discovered in phase one, while phase three will focus on the best ways for advisors to retain clients.
The dedicated Web site will also allow LPL to track advisor usage of the site’s resources and the effectiveness of the site’s tools, allowing the B/D to adjust those resources and tools to meet advisors’ needs. Papazian says that despite the market volatility and strain on advisors’ resources, “there’s no better time to be marketing themselves.”