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Who really makes the first impression on your clients?

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We all know the cliché: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

News flash: You don’t even get a first chance. That’s because your current clients have already given your prospects their impression of you.

Ask advisors how to make a great first impression and they’ll all say the same things. Dress nicely. Warm handshake. Trustworthy smile. Impressive offices. Attractive website. Nope. Too late.

By the time your prospects meet you at your office or visit your website, they’ve already gotten a first impression of you. It’s what your current clients have to say about you.

And yet, most advisors neglect their current clients and put their focus and time on getting new ones.

Everybody knows that one solid referral from a trusting, happy client is worth a thousand half-hearted inquiries from people buzzing your website.

So where do most advisors put their marketing time and attention?

On getting more half-hearted inquiries from more total strangers buzzing their websites.

They spend serious money on clothing. They spend money on personal grooming. They spend money on having the right car and office space. They go to seminars to work on their handshakes and their elevator pitches.

And all the while, they’re neglecting the army of people who are out there creating first impressions of them – for better or worse.

The people least likely to become your clients are the ones who get a wishy-washy evaluation from people who are currently your clients … but may not be sticking around for much longer.

This is a long way of saying that if you don’t pay attention to your current client base, some other advisor will.

The advisor relationship is a lot like marriage. First comes courtship and trust building. Then comes commitment. But many marriages go stale for the same reason that relationships with financial advisors go stale—because the honeymoon ends when the seduction stops.

Therapist after therapist will tell you that the biggest threat to relationships isn’t money or kids. It’s neglect. And the cheapest, most effective and most enjoyable form of marital therapy is Date Night. Therapists often ask the husbands, “When was the last time you took your wife on a date?”

The husbands typically shrug. They look at marriage as a done deal. No further courtship necessary.


It sounds funny, but it’s not. A wedding ring doesn’t provide a lifetime supply of romance. It’s up to the partners to do that.

For advisors, it’s the same thing.  It’s up to them to make their clients feel respected, needed and desired — the same things people want from their spouses. I’m not suggesting sending chocolates and flowers, but actually, that might be a lot more effective than mass emails of white papers about laddering bonds.  (Bor-ing!)

Technology (websites, social media, online newsletters) traps us into believing that automation trumps the human touch. Obviously you’ve got to have an attractive, well-designed, informative website that casts you in the best possible light. But most advisors wrongly believe that websites create the first impression.

Advisors are competitive people, and most enjoy the thrill of the chase. It’s more exciting, and more easily measurable, to land new clients than to maintain great service for your current clients. We can be seduced by statistics — how many new clients did we bring in this month? How many more dollars have come under management?

It’s just as hard to quantify the souring of a current client relationship as it is to pinpoint the day when a marriage begins to fall apart.

The funny thing is that it doesn’t take all that much effort to keep the relationship between financial advisors and their clients strong. And many of the same tools that work in marriage work for advisors.

Call your client out of the blue, just to say that you were thinking of them.

If you see an article that they might enjoy, forward it to them. Or better still, print out a copy and mail it to them. We still have a Postal Service; the power of an envelope with a stamp on it is immeasurable in today’s email- and text-driven world.

Read a good book lately? Perhaps one on the future of the economy, or investing? For a couple of thousand dollars, you could buy a few hundred copies at bulk rate and send them off, with a personalized note, to your client list. “I read this, and I thought you’d find it interesting. Let’s have lunch and talk about it.”

You could also hire my company and we could write a book for you.

Or just pick up the phone and invite them to lunch. Or golf. Or anything.

Marketing via technology is fantastic — it extends our reach and is an amazing force multiplier. But it’s also impersonal and, quite frankly, becomes the tool of a lazy person. It takes little effort to send an email blast to 2,000 people. It does take a little bit of consciousness and thoughtfulness to pick up the phone.

So the easiest way to make a great first impression on your prospects is to recognize that you aren’t the one making that first impression. For better or worse, your current clients do that for you. So when you strengthen the bond with them, you’re putting yourself top-of-mind as they communicate about you to others.

And while you’re at it, why not stop off and pick up a dozen roses on your way home? Or a box of chocolates? After all, what’s the point of creating financial success if your spouse isn’t there to enjoy it with you?