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Make Your Practice Stand Out: Don’t Let Contentment Become Complacency

What kinds of experiences do your clients have with you? Would they say that you’re reliable and that they’re satisfied with your services? If so, watch out. In a highly competitive industry, keeping a client “satisfied” may not be enough. Lack of conflict or complaints doesn’t necessarily equal loyalty. It could just mean the relationship is forgettable, and thus, vulnerable to disruption.

According to a study by Russ Alan Prince and David A. Geracioti, only 33.5 percent of “satisfied” clients and 13.4 percent of “moderately satisfied” clients said they would give their primary financial advisers additional investable assets. Yet 94.5 percent of those who identified as “loyal” said they were extremely or very likely to stick with their advisers. This study was published in 2005 in Cultivating the Middle-Class Millionaire; Why Financial Advisors Are Failing Their Wealthy Clients and What They Can Do About It.

Think of your own experiences as a customer at a luxury restaurant, hotel or department store. Chances are your mind jumped to interactions that were either extraordinarily good or extremely bad. But experiences that are just okay? Those typically rank low on recall.

What Are Your Clients “Saying” About You?

The quality of your relationship to each individual client matters more than ever. Today, 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites, with the 65-plus population tripling in the last four years to 43 percent, according to Pew Research Center. Your clients talk, and now they can talk to hundreds and thousands of their peers at once. What do you want them saying about you?

Sending your client a signed holiday or birthday card is a nice gesture. But it’s also a predictable one—the “go-to” for any service professional. So think about your practice from the perspective of an outsider and consider creative and consistent ways to make positive impressions.

The Difference Between You and Everyone Else

According to Thomas Fross of Fross & Fross Wealth Management, one of the most successful independent financial planning firms in the nation, there is no silver bullet for client management and retention. Key to your success is varying your strategy based on how your client likes to be engaged.

“Just as a balanced investment portfolio should include a variety of investments, a balanced practice management strategy needs to include multiple ways to engage clients and prospects,” Fross says. “Different clients will respond to different actions.”

However you choose to engage, there are three underlying principles that Fross recommends to help your practice stand out above the rest:

  1. Image is (almost) everything. It isn’t everything, but it matters more than you might think. Think about how your image would be perceived by current and prospective clients. Do you exude professionalism? Having an office, wearing a tie and taking the time to craft a consistent personal brand are all important to your bottom line.
  2. Talk to your clients. Your clients need information and reassurance on an ongoing basis, especially in a volatile market. Make it a priority to engage in frequent and meaningful communication with investors. If you don’t, studies show that they will move on to an adviser who will.
  3. WOW them. Do you make your clients feel special? Do you acknowledge them in unique ways? Average isn’t good enough. But when clients feel valued and important, they are more loyal and more likely to refer you.

Providing extraordinary service can also expand your client roster. According to the Prince and Geracioti study, those “loyal” clients provided nearly 12 referrals to their primary advisers, compared to just 2.1 from “satisfied” clients and 1 or fewer from “moderately satisfied.” So that time and effort spent going above and beyond truly pays off in more ways than one.

John L. Evans

John L. Evans Jr., Ed.D., is executive director, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Dr. Evans works with the Professional Development Team and provides extensive consulting, training and practice management expertise. He is a sought-after expert and keynote speaker. He regularly contributes to The Orlando Sentinel newspaper on business and politics and is featured in the Advisor Center section of Barron’s magazine. Dr. Evans has authored books on client retention and client acquisition, including The Book of WOW and “A Genuine Persuasion System.” He also serves on the board of advisers for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, and Elevate USA in Denver, Colorado. Prior to joining the financial services industry, Dr. Evans was special assistant to former U.S. Senator Connie Mack and director of business development for the state of Florida’s No. 1 registered investment advisory firm, according to Wealth Manager Magazine, for 2007. Dr. Evans holds an MBA from the University of Miami and an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University. 

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Making Social Media Work for You

“I need to start using social media in my practice.”

Is that what you’re telling yourself? It’s a great place to start, but there’s a lot more to social media success than just “being there.” The first question I ask planners to consider is, “Why am I using (or planning to use) social media as part of my marketing strategy?”

If it’s because you want to let the world know your political stance or complain about something, it’s probably not the best use of your time (on or off the clock). But if it’s to build a community, get the word out about your business and show you are an expert in financial planning—then social media can be an extremely valuable tool! It’s all in how you make your plan, execute it and stick with it.

I’ve included a few of my favorite tips below to help you get started.

Social Media Has Its Place…

…But that doesn’t mean it should run your schedule. It’s so easy to get sucked into your Facebook timeline, or deep into the string of replies to a tweet. Responding in a timely manner is important—and now platforms like Facebook track your response rate—but don’t beat yourself up trying to answer every message or comment 15 seconds after it comes through.

An easy solution is to turn on notifications for direct messages, which is where most people go when they are seeking help from you or your business. For comments that come through, set aside a daily time block to monitor your page(s). I recommend 10 minutes; unless you are a social media superstar, that is likely enough time to ensure that you are seeing all of the comments that have been published on each of your posts.

It’s also equally important to have an established process in place to handle complaints, mentions and comments on your social media platforms. Whether it’s the CEO or a part-time intern who is monitoring the account, you want everybody to be on the same page and know when to respond, and how to respond when it’s appropriate.

Create a Lasting Connection

Social media offers a great way to help people understand who you, and your business, really are. If your customers are really buying “you,” what do you want and need them to know ? Use your social media platforms to connect with your audience and have a discussion. Keep asking them questions and producing different types of content—if you pay attention, you’ll start to notice patterns and understand the topics that truly matter to your followers.

Did you post something that got absolutely no engagement? Take a deep breath and remember it’s not the end of the world. Social media is a process of trial and error: test, gather data and adjust your strategy.

Consistency is Critical

Raise your hand if you think consistency is important. If you don’t see your hand reflected in the computer monitor, we need to take this offline. (And if you’re the guy who raised his hand on the subway, don’t worry—you’re definitely not the weirdest one on that train.)

When it comes to social media, consistency is key. It doesn’t matter whether you post every day or once per week—being consistent builds trust with your audience. An easy way to keep track of your content is through a calendar. It doesn’t matter if you use an Excel spreadsheet or a sophisticated project management tool; find what works for you and use it. You can stop at Level 1, or go 100 Levels deep – it all depends on your skill level, interest and the time you can put toward social media. Here’s what Levels 1, 10 and 100 might look like:

Level 1: I want to post on each platform once a week. How do I make it look like I’m active on social media?

Determine the platforms you want to be active on and spread out your content. Use the ideas in Level 10 below for content generation, and set up a simple calendar like this:

Calendar 1.png

Level 10: I want to post on each platform once per day. But how in the world will I create enough content for that?!

It’s a lot easier than you think! All your content doesn’t have to be original blogs that are thousands of words each. Here’s one example:

Level 10 Calendar.png

Build fun stuff about you and your company into your social media plan. People want to know about you; they can easily learn about your products and services through your website and by contacting you.

Level 100: Alright, I’ve got all this down. I want to post on multiple social media platforms multiple times a day.

Awesome! Remember how I said you could use an Excel spreadsheet for your content calendar? If you didn’t believe me, now you should! I love Google Docs, and use it for scheduling content across the Financial Planning Association’s social media platforms.

Here’s my outline:

Level 100

It’s color-coded by type of content. Each type of content goes out the same day each week (consistency is key). I sprinkle in Instagram posts throughout the calendar, based on what content I think will work well there (it’s not a huge platform for us, so I don’t put as much attention there).

A content writer I work with swears by Airtable—I’ve used it with her, and it is a neat platform. Ultimately, it boils down to what works best for you and what will keep you organized and on track.

I’ll close with a few of my key things to remember about social media:

  1. A consistent, regular presence is key.
  2. Make sure your profile info is completed and detailed; people often go to social media instead of Google to learn more about you or how to get in touch with you. Just because something is not my favorite platform doesn’t mean I would take my company off it.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Case in point: Instagram not updating anybody’s feeds after the iOS update earlier this year. It took at least a week before I saw any new content in my feed…which means I didn’t see any new content from the businesses I follow.
  4. Create a content calendar—it makes your life easier!
  5. Your social media posts, retweets, likes, favorites (all of it) is reflective of YOU, your beliefs and your business. Be intentional with what you like and what you post.

As a final note, social media is a free* platform to tell your story. Why the asterisk? Because nothing is truly free. Organic content costs you your time, and paid advertising costs you time and money.

The takeaway? Be intentional with every piece of content you create and post.

Now, get out there and hashtag make it a great day!

Mari Shirley Headshot

Mari Shirley has worked in communications and marketing for a decade, mostly in the financial industry. She started her career in public relations at the University of Georgia Athletic Association (Go Dawgs!), and before joining the Financial Planning Association, she was a brand marketer for Dave Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers and SmartVestor programs. At FPA, she focuses on social media strategy and brand and digital marketing.


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Today, I’m Thankful for You

Another year has passed, readers. And another Thanksgiving has come.

A sporadic tradition (can it still be a tradition if it’s sporadic? Things to ponder) in my family is we go around the Thanksgiving table and say what we are thankful for.

This year, I am thankful, as always, for my family—especially my brothers and sisters and my mom. Thankful that my mom is with us still and is healthy. Thankful for my husband and our dogs and our little house. Thankful for our good health and many blessings.

But I am also thankful for FPA and the FPA members and partners. I am especially thankful for the FPA members and partners who write content for this blog—content that hopefully you all find helpful and relevant to your practices. I am grateful that you take the time to share your knowledge and passion with us—and not just in this blog, but in the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. And I’m thankful for you, readers.

So today, when my turn comes at the table, I’m going to tell my family all about you and how you inspire me. Thank you for making this work so meaningful, educational and fun.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn