Idaho Falls has a population of 58,000. Not quite a small town, but perhaps not populous enough for most advisors to hang their shingle in. An advisor, let’s be honest, needs to have a sizable client book to be successful, and the only way that is going to happen is if he or she is situated in an area with an ample enough populace from which to draw their clientele. A small or even mid-sized city may not be the most advantageous place for an advisory practice.
Well, maybe not. For some, it’s the perfect place to be.
Take Jennifer Landon, president and founder of Journey Financial Services in the aforementioned Idaho Falls, located in the eastern part of the state. Though small by big city standards, Idaho Falls is a metropolis compared to the town of 300 she grew up in. Basalt, Idaho, “doesn’t have a gas station, but it does, however, have its own zip code and post office,” Landon says.
Yet working in a smaller city or town has its advantages when it comes to marketing, Landon finds. “Word travels quickly in a small town. If you know how to harness that, then it can be a good marketing tool through the use of referrals and adequately using your client base to help you meet new people.”
Two marketing strategies
Landon began her career in financial planning in 2001 as a captive agent for a not-for-profit fraternal agency. Then in 2007, she started her own independent business.
Since striking out on her own, Landon has built her marketing program around two central themes: internal and external.
“There are two ways to grow a business,” she explains. “One way is to try to introduce yourself to more people you’ve never met or number two, bring a higher level of service to the people you already know and become very referable through your current network.”
The way to become referable is to provide superior customer service to her current clients, says Landon: If she does that, they in turn will refer her to their friends.
But there is more to taking care of her clients than just making sure their financial statements are in order every quarter, or that they are placed in the right investments. It entails seeing them as people with real-life problems beyond their fiscal status.
Say a client has been recently widowed. She may need help with yard work or shoveling the snow from her driveway so she can get to her car. So make arrangements for someone to do that for the client. “That really solidifies a relationship, when they know you care for them as a person not just as a client,” Landon says. “When you become that type of advisor, then they want to introduce you to their friends. They know there is more to it than the math and the numbers.”
All in the family
One outgrowth of Landon’s internal marketing strategy is what she calls multi-generational marketing. As the old saying goes, no man is an island. All clients (or nearly all) have families…sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. So when drawing up a financial plan, it’s wise to bring in those family members, the meaningful people in their lives, so they can see what the provisions of the plan actually are. If executed properly, Landon points out, financial planning not only affects the individual but their children and grandchildren as well. It’s also a great way to show what she does and catch referrals.
Landon recalls one time a client invited her family in for a planning session. So large was her family that its members stretched the capacity of her office. Once the appointment ended, all of the client’s children took her business card, and the very next day, she received a referral: One of the children wanted his father-in-law to meet with her.
“If we had one marketing tip that everybody should be implementing it would be to be a multi-generational advisor,” Landon says.
Perhaps the most internal of internal marketing methods Landon employs is the sealing of a service contract between herself and her clients. Back in 2007, she worked with Norm Trainor of the Covenant Group and he suggested she formalize an agreement with her clients stating how often the two would meet, or “touch,” and when. For example, after a quarterly statement is sent out, a client is contacted for a meeting or any follow-up questions. The method of communication is also specified in writing and the plan is adapted for each client’s unique needs.
Putting pen to paper provides structure to the client relationship and enables the advisor to take an active, not passive, role, Landon says. “A lot of advisors approach service haphazardly,” she says. “It makes a lot of sense to plan your service initiative ahead of time. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring and having them call you with questions, be proactive rather than reactive.”