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For years, nearly every business model has incorporated the importance of customer satisfaction in their success measures. The financial industry has done much the same, with client satisfaction driving the actions of most planners and advisors. Well, there is a new kid on the block in terms of the success of a financial planner: client engagement. It’s not enough for clients to be satisfied, they need to be engaged as well. Engagement is what drives word of mouth around the community, discussions amongst family and friends, and, ultimately, client referrals.

This creates a tricky hurdle for advisors. The actions that create client satisfaction are pretty straightforward, but what can advisors do to get their clients to engage with what they are doing. The steps that foster engagement can be pretty similar to building any personal relationship. Think of the process like you would think of dating, starting from the first date and ending in a long-term relationship.

  1. Make the first move. They say, “You never know until you ask.” Well, getting your clients to engage could be just that simple. Ask them for feedback on a regular basis. Make sure they feel open and comfortable to voice their opinions and concerns to you through both casual and formal avenues. Ask them to fill out a survey or questionnaire, or simply have a conversation about their thoughts. Find out what they want, what they expect and how you can better serve them. Take that opportunity to ask them if they would refer your service to a friend. You could be planting the seed of referrals that could lead you to valuable growth.
  2. Finding the connection. Of course it’s important that you are what your clients are looking for, but they also have to be what you are looking for. You know what you look for in your clients in terms of personality, life status, goals and values, so make sure that they will fit into your practice. Before you begin working with a client, it’s critical that you find these things out about your clients, and have a plan set up for handling them if you feel they aren’t the optimal fit. The first meeting is much like a first date, where both the client and advisor need to assess each other and see if they are a fit. If they aren’t right for you, you won’t be right for them, and it will be impossible for you to capture the engagement you are looking for.
  3. Creating the bond. The financial world is often viewed as a cold, impersonal industry. You already know the importance of making your clients feel comfortable, but successful engagement relies on a deeper feeling of trust and guidance. These feelings are fostered by different actions depending on the client. In order to give each client what they need, divide all your clients into different segments based on their value to you, and ensure that you give them the same value of relationship and communication in return. Giving your clients the relationship they expect and the commitment you promise will give them the warm and fuzzy feeling they will need to take the relationship to the next step and engage.
  4. Be a leader. A client’s engagement and decision to refer is based a lot on the role their advisor plays. They are looking to you for guidance when it comes to making difficult choices and critical decisions in their financial path. Have a strong presence and give them the knowledge and support they need to feel confident and secure with their finances. This leadership will oftentimes result in more followers.

Overall, you need to find clients that you know you can be successful with. Then give them the attention and guidance they need, and prove that they can rely on you, and they will very likely take your relationship to the next level of referring others. The future of your success relies on your ability to retain your clients paired with your ability to gain new ones. Getting people to engage will result in both.

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