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Client Marketing: The Easy Way to Get Started

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In my survey, “Best Practices 2011,” 67% of advisors with more than $100 million in AUM have a written business plan. Interestingly, 65% of advisors with less than $50 million also have a written business plan. So we all agree: Having a written business plan is a best practice.

So where do you start?

I recommend any marketing plan—even a prospecting plan—should always start with a client marketing component. I have posted a couple of Financial Advisor Client Marketing Resources on my website.

Here’s the problem you face in starting with prospecting.

If you have been spending several hours a day with clients and then re-allocate some of that time to a new prospecting campaign, you have unknowingly signed up for a guaranteed income reduction plan.

Here’s how it works.

Prospecting has a longer pipeline than client marketing, doesn’t it? While prospecting is certainly essential to building your future, if you don’t deal with that unpleasant sidebar to your plan, your income will drop as surely as the night follows the day.

The strategy I’ve recommended for a long time is that you need to view a major prospecting campaign the same way you would if you were building a new business. To do that, you need time and money.

Where does it come from?

It comes from your existing business, i.e., your clients.

You start with client marketing. You will want to download my Client Retention Formula. You take at least some of the increased revenue to buy some time by hiring additional staff or outsourcing something you’ve been doing.

By freeing up time you were spending elsewhere (most likely in service), you have the time to create your new business. You don’t reduce the time you were spending with clients. That’s where the income reduction comes from.

If you fail to follow some approximation of this scenario, you will have the following conversation.

Your spouse looks at the first check after you launch your prospecting campaign.

Spouse: Pardon me? What are you doing?   

FA: Honey, I’m prospecting. Remember, we talked about building up to the next level.

Spouse: This is ridiculous. You have to knock that off. We can’t live on this.

Where to Start

Like planning a trip, you need a destination. But you also need a starting point.

I would start with an assessment, and before that, I would start with a definition. Clients are people with whom you have a business relationship. As regular readers of this feature know, I’m a believer that the proper definition is: A client is “someone who has bought something from you.”

When I ask someone “How many households do you manage?” I frequently hear, “Well I have 122 real clients and 394 customers.”

Not in my book. You have 122 A clients and 394 B, C and D. Many members of this latter group are A clients for someone else. Treat your Bs, Cs and Ds like As and many will become As. So a primary objective for your client marketing plan is: Upgrade your B, C and D clients to As.

Another way to put that is: Become sole provider for those clients who follow advice. When you have become sole provider, you have at that moment, an A-client.  To help you with this, I’ve written some questions. They are interspersed in the explanations that follow. For each question, assign yourself a score from 1–5.  A “5” answer is, “Yes, I do this all, or most of the time.”

Scope of the Marketing Plan

Client Marketing covers three areas:

1.  Retention

2.  Business Now

3.  Business in the Future

Let’s take these one at a time.


Actions taken to retain client relationships are by far the most important marketing you will undertake. In countless iterations, you’ve heard it said, “It costs five times as much to get a new client as it does to keep an old one.” So how do we approach client relationship retention? To answer my own question, you do it by handling the three reasons advisors lose clients.  You lose them by giving:

1.  Bad investment advice;

2.  Poor, or no service;

3.  Not enough communication.

So an important element in your plan is: Assess your investment performance. If it compares unfavorably with the major indices, you need to overhaul your investment strategies, your funds, your managers, etc.

To deal with the service issue, measure it against these standards:

1.  Is your client service performed by a full-time service professional? ______

2.  Are most service requests routinely handled in 24 hours or less? ______

3.  Are 100% of service requests handled correctly? ______

4.  Is service always done with a smile? ______

Great service cannot be consistently performed by a financial advisor because you have an inherent conflict of interest between revenue and service. So it will not be consistently fast, a very important ingredient of great service. On a scale from 1–10, if you give yourself 10 points for perfection in the four areas above, and if you score above 35, you’re doing great. But if not, you need to handle these points. The communication issue can be handled by these steps.

1.  Do you send every client a message every month about something the client is interested in? _____

2.  Does every client receive a phone call from someone in your office every  90 days?  _____

3.  Does every client and every spouse receive a birthday greeting every year? _____

4.  Do you make frequent use of “Etiquette Letters”—(Appreciation, Congratulations, Get Well, Appointment Confirmation, Condolence, etc.)? _____

5.  Do you invite every client to a performance review at least once a year? _____

6.  Do you invite every client to an educational seminar at least once a year?  _____

Business Now

You run a business, not a free-advice hot line of some kind. You have bills to pay, staff to pay, rent, etc. We need some cash in the door this month. So a very important function of client marketing is to generate some business now.

To be sure, you have fees and trailers, but that may not be enough. Besides, many of your clients will be creating more wealth. It’s your job to be there when it’s available. Your database, and the quality of its data is the key to generating Business Now.

A properly designed and maintained database can be used to identify lists of people who need to buy or sell something. So here are your “Business Now” questions:

_____ Do you add a note to document every contact or contact attempt?

_____ Do you enter all future callbacks and meetings?

_____ Do you have, and update, a field on Employment Status? This enables you to  direct your campaigns to Retirees, Professionals, Business Owners, Corporate  Executives, Employees, and Employee Benefit Managers. This information does  not change frequently, but when it does, it almost always signals an opportunity. 

_____ Do you update client investment objectives? Clients can have more than  one of these. They may need income but want portfolio growth. So you  need to track and update such objectives as growth, tax free, safety, income,  insurance planning, and long term care. 

_____ Do you update the types of investments your clients hold? People tend to  buy more of what they already own. Plus they like to hear about issues  affecting the kind of things they own. 

_____ Do you ask for and update investments held out of house? This should  be a no-brainer. If you share the investment shelf with one or more advisors,  you can bet your entire net worth that they are trying to push you off the shelf.  One of the strategies to become sole provider is what I call “One Asset at  Time.” But to execute this strategy, you have to know what the other assets are.  You generally find this out in client reviews when they bring in all their  statements. But if you don’t record this information, it might as well not exist. 

_____ Do you send “Call Me” messages to clients who own underperforming assets in, or preferably, out of house? 

_____ Do you call clients based on interests, investment type, investment  position, and employment status to invite them to come into the office, or  attend a seminar? 

_____ Do you constantly monitor clients turning 70½, and ensure you set up a meeting before that day so planning can occur?

Future Business

The future, of course, inevitably becomes the present. So business opportunities you find in the future will, if handled correctly, become tomorrow’s business.

So here go your questions in this area:

_____Do you frequently ask clients about other assets they may have coming due?  Specifically you should ask about tax refunds, gifts, inheritances, CDs,  bonds maturing, property sales, and business sales. In short, do you look  for lump sums? 

_____ Are opportunities found always entered in your database? 

_____ Do you have and use a retrieval system so that you never forget an opportunity  found, even if it was found years ago? 

From Assessment to Marketing Plan

Well done. You’ve completed your assessment. Now what?

Take the points you scored lowest on and give them the highest priority in your plan.

Next month, we’ll take a look at a Prospecting Plan.

Bill Good is Chairman of Bill Good Marketing®, Inc. His company, based in Draper, Utah develops systems to help financial advisors have the time and money to pursue their important goals in life. He writes a regular column for Research magazine and a regular blog for AdvisorOne.