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How Advisors Can Thrive in the Time of Coronavirus

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Despite the volatile markets and other challenges we are all facing right now, there are several steps that advisors can take to survive and even thrive, according to executives at fintech firms LifeYield and SmartAsset.

The four key takeaways they provided Tuesday during the webinar “How Advisors Can Attract and Retain Clients in Volatile Markets” were:

  1. Now is not the time to stop prospecting for new clients.
  2. Advisors should adjust their messaging to the news.
  3. Advisors must shift their mindsets to lead productive conversations.
  4. Advisors should leverage social media and other technology to tell their stories.

“Every industry out there is being affected by the coronavirus, but advisors in the investment industry are especially susceptible” because of the high percentage of revenues at most advisory firms that are “driven by asset management fees,” according to Chris Sonzogni, director of advisor marketing at SmartAsset.

“One of the best ways to shore up your position is to continue to grow and reach new prospects,” he said. Most advisors tend to rely on in-person events to grow their businesses and “social distancing obviously puts those marketing efforts at risk,” he pointed out.

Advisors may need to rethink their marketing mixes, he said, noting social media is the “only online marketing channel that’s really gained traction with even a plurality of advisors.”

He suggested that advisors “think about the lines of communication that you’ve already opened with prospects that you might be able to leverage.” And a good place to start might be social media, he said, noting many advisors have social media accounts but rarely post on them. “Now is a good time to start thinking about new ways to potentially reallocate your marketing budget or look at new marketing channels,” he said.

Then comes the question of what new prospects are looking for from an advisor. “Prospects as well as clients are pretty concerned about how well their portfolio is performing [so], at the end of the day, they’re looking for assurance and advice,” Sonzogni said. One big mistake that advisors often make when they start talking to a new prospect or start posting on social media is they “immediately default to talk about markets and performance,” he said. They should instead “start talking about the human side of financial planning,” such as stories related to the local community or smart money moves that investors can make, he suggested.

He also stressed the importance of quickly contacting new leads, pointing to data showing firms that contacted a lead within the first five minutes were seven times more likely to convert the lead than those that replied even one hour later and 60 times more likely than companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Coronavirus, meanwhile, should change your messaging, he told listeners, making four specific suggestions:

  1. Be a community member first and highlight how local citizens can do their part to help during a crisis.
  2. Share your expertise such as by hosting a webinar or writing posts to help followers alleviate financial stress.
  3. Humanize your practice, maybe by sharing stories about yourself or your employees and how you are working remotely.
  4. Explore new ways to connect, such as by partnering with other services to reach a broader audience.

Advisors should make a “mindset shift,” Steve Zuschin, executive vice president-advisor success at LifeYield, went on to tell listeners. That readjustment should, among other things, include thinking beyond performance and increasing flexibility and availability, he said.

Noting how much many clients love “human-to-human contact” with their advisors and how that sometimes happens over a meal, he pointed to one idea he recently heard that he really liked for this new age of social distancing: “Consider sharing a meal with the client over a video conference,” such as by using DoorDash or Uber Eats. You can conceivably send the client or prospective client a menu before a video meeting and ask him or her to pick out what they want to eat and then have it delivered to them so they can eat it while you virtually meet, he noted, adding: “It gives you an opportunity to create that lasting impression [and] I guarantee they won’t forget it.”

Although advisors cannot control market volatility, there are things that an advisor can control, he went on to say, giving four examples of such topics:

  1. Revisiting a client’s comprehensive financial plan.
  2. Rebalancing.
  3. Tax-loss harvesting for a short-term tax benefit.
  4. Tax efficiency for a long-term tax benefit.

One advantage of tax-loss harvesting is that it “kicks the can down the road,” betting that tax rates will be lower in the future, he said. Tax efficiency efforts, meanwhile, provides asset location optimization, can increase the after-tax rate of return and locate assets in the right places to reduce tax drag across a household’s portfolio, he noted.

Advisors should also use technology including LifeYield’s Taxficient Score to differentiate themselves, he concluded, noting that, among other things, it can be another effort that creates a lasting impression.

Zuschin and other executives from firms that offer tech tools recently told ThinkAdvisor that tax efficiency tech strategies are proving to be especially handy tools for advisors to use with their clients amid the current volatility in the stock market.

— Check out 8 Ways to Build Relationships While Social Distancing on ThinkAdvisor.