It’s easy to talk about running a business. But often, it feels more like running in several directions at once.
While it’s easy to think of your business as one huge project, it’s actually a mix of distinct, concurrent processes, all of which need to be optimized individually in order for the whole business to work as it should and as you want it to. It’s important to be able to break the pieces apart mentally, pinpoint the areas that are slowing you down or need work, and then take specific steps to get each phase of your business running like a well-oiled machine.
Today, we’ll look at this through the lens of the client funnel. How do interested prospects come into your world? How do you convert them into appointments and ultimately clients? How do you deliver ongoing value and then continually generate referrals?
In total there are seven distinct phases on the path clients take as they move through your business. Each comes with its own set of demands and opportunities. In this post we’ll look at all seven phases, so you can hone in on the areas that need your attention right now.
Phase 1: Attracting traffic
If you’re going to acquire new clients, you’ve got to attract them first. It’s critical to have a strategy for attracting new, interested prospects, because everything starts here. If you don’t have enough new leads, appointments or clients coming into your business, you may have a traffic problem.
Now let’s be clear, spending thousands of dollars on direct mail is not a traffic strategy. Blasting hundreds of radio ads per month isn’t either. Those are tactics, and while they may be useful inside of a strategy, they’re at best only one component of a fully defined traffic strategy. Again, everything starts with traffic. It’s the first phase that must be working in your business when building your marketing plan.
Phase 2: Lead generation
You may think attracting traffic and capturing leads are the same thing. They’re not. Attracting traffic is fairly easy compared to capturing leads. And this is often where we see a breakdown.
You can spend a lot of money on various tactics to generate lots of traffic, but to capture leads, you need strong messaging, visuals and calls to action, and you need to put them in the right media to ensure your message is in front of the prospects.
So what’s your lead capture strategy? If you’re not sure, then you may not have one.
Turning leads into clients requires a process and strategy around communication and selling. (Photo: iStock)
Phase 3: Lead development
Once you’re attracting traffic and capturing leads consistently, predictably and at an acceptable cost per lead, it’s time to nurture and develop those leads. We often use the example of a buying temperature scale to illustrate this point.
If, for example, we hypothetically assign every lead a buying temperature of somewhere between 1 and 10, (1 being cold, 10 being ready to buy today) we need to have a strategy for “warming them up” and increasing their buying temperature over time.
For example, someone who becomes a lead but is just beginning the search for what you offer may need much more nurturing than someone who’s already a 9 or 10. Someone at 9 or 10 is ready to make a decision today. And while most of us have built our business around 9s and 10s while ignoring everyone else, automation makes a better way possible.
Let’s say you spend thousands on a marketing campaign, generate a few dozen leads and close only a few. What happens to the rest? Do you mentally throw the rest away, ruling them out as bad leads?
Hopefully not, as they represent tremendous amounts of opportunity. Just the fact that they’ve already responded makes them a 3 or 4 on the scale, at least. Your job is to put systems in place to develop them and move them up the buying temperature scale over time. You neeed a lead development strategy.
Phase 4: Converting leads into clients
If you’re like many financial advisors, you’re not too worried about what your prospects will experience once they walk through your door. Most prospects presume that you know what you’re talking about, and that you’ll do a good job helping them implement the right plan. In fact, the consulting experience may not be the key thing that differentiates your practice. For many clients, products are products and plans are plans, and it’s all a bit over their heads.
But what about before each consultation? During the lead-up to the appointment how do you keep them warm and keep the conversation going? Did you know that you can use automation to deliver important information in advance of each appointment? This leads to not only converting more clients, but giving them a landmark experience they’ve never had from anyone else they’ve worked with.
In fact, don’t stop there. If you were to envision or script your ideal Starbucks experience, what kinds of things could you or would you communicate before and after each appointment? How about reminders? Maps to your office? An outline of expectations for the meeting. Maybe a list of commonly asked questions prior to each appointment.
All of these things communicate that you care, and deliver a higher end experience for prospects as they determine whether or not to do business with your firm. And the great news is, if you think it through once, you can automate it so every prospect receives this high touch experience with your firm.
Phase 5: Up-selling and cross-selling
In other words, maximizing your lifetime client value, or what each client is worth to your business. You see what most advisors do is close a client, deliver the product or service, and then forget about them and move right back to prospecting for the next new client. But acquiring a new client is the most cost- and labor-intensive thing you’ll do in your business.
Instead of starting all over again with a new cold prospect, first make sure you’ve developed a strategy to increase the value of each client you bring into your practice. This can have huge impact on your net profit at the end of the year, as all additional business you generate beyond the initial sale is almost pure profit.
Most of us as advisors tend to have a particular area of focus. Whether it’s managed money, life insurance, annuities or something else. But in reality, every client could benefit from a combination of these products. Once we solve the core issue that brought them to us, we can and should be up-selling and cross-selling them additional products and services.
Besides, if they’re going to eventually need them anyway, most clients would rather get them from someone they already trust.
Referrals are usually your best source of new leads. (Photo: iStock)
Phase 6: Client retention
Because it’s so costly to acquire new clients today and takes so much effort to gain their trust, you need to make sure you’re retaining each client that you close. One way to do this and thus boost your retention rate is to deliver ongoing value and education.
Think about it. What’s the number one reason client’s leave? They almost always say, “My advisor never calls or communicates with me!”
The reason this is so important is because every year that those relationships remain with your firm you earn or have the potential to earn additional revenue and referrals, especially if you manage money. So make sure you’ve designed and implemented a client retention strategy.
Phase 7: Referral generation
Referrals are, by far, the best source of new leads. They cost us nothing, they’re usually very warm to start with, and they come to us on a favorable basis. The challenge, though, is how to generate them consistently. If your strategy is simply to ask your clients when you see them once or twice a year, I would bet you’ve got some serious untapped potential.
Instead of being content with only getting a handful of referrals each year, you could implement an automated referral campaign that prompts all of your clients periodically to give you a referral. Automation makes generating referrals much more scalable and efficient, not to mention profitable. So ask yourself, “What’s your referral strategy?”
Each phase builds on the next
I’d encourage you to take this seven-phase blueprint, lay it over your existing business and really think about where you could best invest your time, money and energy as you move your business forward. By breaking your client funnel into distinct, but mutually dependent, processes, it’s easier to identify what’s slowing down your growth and begin to see where working on a specific phase could quickly accelerate your growth.
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