5 Exclusive Tips To Maximize Customer Experience—The New Frontier

Beware the new reality: Marketing is no longer in control of your brand. Rather, customer experience (CX)—the actual experience your customers are having—is.

Because customer expectations are at their highest levels, CX has superseded customer service and branding to become a key driver of retention and acquisition. Consequently, a brand’s success hinges on creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner that resonates with customers and makes them feel valued and appreciated.

Astute and innovative companies are swiftly diverting significant budgeted dollars from branding and marketing initiatives toward CX. In this new paradigm, customers dictate all aspects of their relationship with your brand, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile, social and web technologies. In the words of customer service expert Jack Mackey, “You can say what you want about who you are, but people believe what they experience.”

Gartner defines CX Management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” CX is the emotional representation of how your audience perceives your brand. It is about listening to your customers and acting accordingly. Delivering a successful CX is crucial for an adviser for the achievement of three key strategic goals: (1) Drive customer loyalty; (2) create brand evangelists who will promote your brand; and (3) attract and retain new assets.

Make CX Your Best Product Offering

When it comes to competing on CX, engagement is of paramount importance. Consequently, begin by making CX the best product your firm provides. Make your message memorable, entertaining and valuable, and leverage any available client data to extract maximum value from the interaction at any touch point of the sales journey.

To create a powerful and effective CX, you must ensure that your clients’ offline experience matches the online one. For the latter, the use of video is of paramount importance. Consumers’ thirst for video seems unquenchable and marketers are responding in kind. Video, far better than words, appeals to the visual and emotional part of a consumer’s brain, thereby facilitating a better and faster understanding. Most important, video establishes an emotional bond that even the best-written material cannot achieve. (For more details, read my InvestmentNews article, “Use Video to Connect with Clients.”)

Five Ways to Improve CX

Any CX must be able to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages to your audience at the correct touch point. I suggest five basic steps that advisers can take to create a meaningful and rewarding strategy that will help them improve client satisfaction, expand their book of business and increase revenue:

1.) Establish your vision

The easiest way to define your vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles and that will drive the overall behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.

2.) Become customer-centric

Put your customer first, and at the core of your business. Becoming customer-centric means you use any client data available to better understand your clients, and align your business growth strategies and policies with their needs. This is not only a sound business strategy but, as a Deloitte and Touche research pointed out, it also empowers a company to become up to 60 percent more profitable.

3.) Listen to the voice of customer (VOC)

The secret to attract and retain clients and assets is not fees or products, rather it is the CX that an adviser offers. Consequently, taking into account the voice of customer (VOC) is of crucial importance. VOC—a term coined by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in an MIT Marketing Science paper—is the process of capturing client’s feedback to formulate a detailed understanding of their requirements. Customer feedback is an invaluable asset for an adviser. It provides crucial intelligence to gauge what works and what needs improvement. VOC allows you to leverage one of the skills clients value the most: your willingness to listen.

4.) Build an emotional connection

In the words of consultant Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Ergo, make emotional connections with your clients your competitive advantage! The best customer experiences are grounded in emotional connections. Scientific research confirms that emotions shape attitudes and drive decisions. Loyalty is directly correlated to a customer’s emotional attachment to a brand. According to an article titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” in Harvard Business Review, “When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.”

5.) Deliver omnichannel customer experiences

Clients are expecting from you the same level of multichannel engagement they receive from companies like Amazon and Zappos. To be effective, your omnichannel engagement must go beyond the mere distribution of information through different channels and match clients’ preferred means of communication. The line between online and offline engagement is blurring fast and consumers demand engagements that allow them to seamlessly switch channels or devices while interacting with your brand.

Consumers have developed high expectations as a result of interacting with brands that offer them a user-centric CX. Advisers should switch their focus from customer service to CX as a way to prove to their clients a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction. Allocating time and resources today to deliver an engaging and compelling CX will put advisers ahead of the curve and position them well to cash meaningful dividends for years to come.

Claudio Pannunzio

Claudio Pannunzio is the managing director of Cürex Group Holdings. He was formerly the president of i-Impact Group Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.


10 Steps to a Great First Meeting

Engaged team members need to know how they influence the success of the business. (4).pngYou’ve finally gotten a meeting with that top prospective client you’ve been trying to meet for weeks, maybe even a couple of months. Congratulations!

Now what? If you’re like many planners, you’re excited to have finally landed the appointment, but perhaps a little apprehensive about making sure the meeting goes well.

Here are 10 steps you can take to pave the way for a successful introductory conversation.

  1. Do your homework. Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and other online resources can provide a wealth of information about your prospective client. However, keep in mind that you’re not compiling a dossier but simply looking for potential areas to explore—their employment, where they live, their family, organizations they’re part of and activities they enjoy.
  2. Determine the specific result you want to have from the meeting. What do you want your prospective client to think, or more importantly to do, as a result of having met with you? Is your goal that you mutually agree that you’re a good fit? Do you want them to schedule a discovery meeting or send you their statements? Be specific.
  3. Write out an outline or structure for the meeting that you believe will enable you to achieve your desired result. Think about creating the best flow. The better you plan for the meeting, the more likely it will be successful.
  4. Confirm the meeting with your prospective client. Send a calendar invitation, and then follow up to confirm the day before your meeting with an email, text message or phone call. Reiterate how much you are looking forward to your time together.
  5. Be intentional about what you take along to the meeting. A notepad is a must. A couple of simple one-pagers (your bio, your differentiators, your process) that support your story can be much more valuable than a slick marketing brochure or research piece.
  6. Focus on learning about them. Demonstrate a client-first mindset. Ask questions. Show genuine interest in their story. The more you learn about your prospective client, the more you will be able to connect your story to theirs.
  7. Know what you plan to say. If they aren’t a good fit for what you do, communicate that. Share that based on what they’ve shared about themselves and what they need from a financial adviser or planner, as well as how you typically serve your clients, you don’t think you’d be a good fit for them (or, cost effective for them) at this point. Be kind. Communicate that you’re not right for them, not that they’re not right for you.
  8. Describe what differentiates you. If they are a good fit for you, tell them how you’re different from other advisers and how you believe you can help them. Conclude with, “Based on everything you’ve told me about yourself and what you need, and how I typically serve my clients, I think we’d be a good fit to move forward to our discovery process.” Then stop and wait for their response.
  9. Set expectations. Assuming they agree (and why wouldn’t they?), set clear expectations for next steps and gain their agreement.
  10. Always follow up with a note of thanks, recapping the key takeaways from the meeting and confirming those next steps. Your note can be handwritten on a card (more personal) or by email (much faster).

Remember, everything you say and do communicates a message to your prospective client. Make certain it’s the message you intend.

Enjoy a productive meeting with your next client!

Susan Kornegay Headshot

Susan Kornegay, CFP®, is a partner at Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. After more than 30 years as a financial adviser, branch manager and practice management consultant, Kornegay enjoys helping financial planners define a comprehensive and consistent client experience and then market that experience in clear, client-friendly language. She is a coach, along with Adam Kornegay, RCC™​ in the Messaging and Marketing Strategy FPA Coaches Corner.

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Looking for More Revenue from Sophisticated Clients in 2019? Ungate Your Content

Do you want to increase revenue for your financial advisory firm in 2019? Of course you do! If you’re aiming to get more from high-net-worth families with complex planning needs, then it’s time to ungate your content.

What do I mean by ungate? I mean that it’s time to get your marketing content out from behind your contact forms and share it freely with your prospects and centers of influence.

Let me ask you three questions:

  1. How many leads are you generating through gated content?
  2. How many of those leads are high-net-worth families?
  3. How many of those families convert to clients?

If you are pursuing a retail-driven strategy, then gated content will serve you well. You can put guides, white papers and checklists behind contact forms. Prospects on the lower end of the net-worth spectrum will trade their contact information for your content.

But what about people at the higher end of the income spectrum? They value their privacy. Nothing you can offer is worth giving away their identity to a stranger.

Develop a Marketing Touchpoint Mix

If gated content won’t drive revenue from high-net-worth families, then what will? Developing relationships with their other trusted advisers and plan on working your way toward your ideal clients through these advisers, who serve as centers of influence (COI). To do this, you will need a strong marketing touchpoint mix designed for a cohesive user experience.

What does a strong marketing touchpoint mix include?

  • Pitch deck. Your pitch deck should cover who you are, who you help and how you help. Create a tailored version for COI meetings that speaks to how you help shared clients.
  • Make it as simple as possible for prospects and COIs to learn about you and your firm. A positive experience with your website that is consistent with your other materials can greatly increase the perceived professionalism of your firm.
  • Social media. For most firms, this will be the use of LinkedIn to maintain connections with COIs. Publishing your blog content here is an easy way to stay top of mind and demonstrate content cohesion.
  • Email marketing. Create a consistent, ongoing touchpoint with your COIs by producing an informative, relevant and valuable email newsletter.
  • Events and sponsorships. Present your firm in event programs and sponsorship materials in the same manner that you do across other platforms.
  • Webinars, guides and expert-level content. This is the content that should be readily available. An acceptable bridge to cross is a registration form for a webinar. Beyond that, make it very easy for prospects and their trusted advisers to quickly see these demonstrations of your expertise.

How do you make this happen? There are two ways:

  • Build a cohesive brand voice. Develop a voice for the firm that captures the spirit of its relationship-oriented business and the firm’s focus on helping people. Work with members of the firm to identify key characteristics for the firm’s brand voice. Define target client types so that your marketing touchpoint plan can be designed accordingly.
  • Develop an ongoing marketing touchpoint plan. Establish a content calendar to ensure consistent publication of marketing materials across your website, blog, email and social media. Align the calendar with your community initiatives or sponsorships. Include timely supporting materials in your plan, such as an annual financial planning guide or a market outlook, so that these are available for COI and prospect meetings.

Why is Content Cohesion Important?

When you target more sophisticated clients, retail lead generation tactics won’t work. The gate between you and the high-net-worth client is not a contact form, it’s the client’s centers of influence. You need to break through that gate by showing COIs that you are the best fit for their clients.

Your marketing content must pull double duty, since the ideal outcome is that the COI shares your material with the client by way of introduction. Therefore, your content must be cohesive across all touchpoints.

When the COI shares your email newsletter with the client, the look and feel of it should match your website because the client will visit the site to vet you. At the pitch meeting, your deck must align with both pieces to further demonstrate your high degree of professionalism.

But What if You Don’t Have the Time?

For many advisers, the time demands of a sophisticated marketing touchpoint plan will be more than they or their in-house staff have capacity to handle. Firms are facing increased pressure to implement new technology platforms, streamline operations to protect profit margins and find growth opportunities through mergers and acquisitions. An experienced professional services marketing firm can help you stay on track and find ways to increase your firm’s revenue in 2019.

Editor’s note: Our July 2018 marketing cover story discussed how when looking for a marketing firm, it’s best to interview several firms and choose the person who shares your visions and goals and who is also a good fit. See that article here.

Katie Gilmore

Katie Gilmore is the founder and CEO of KSGilmore Consulting LLC, a content marketing firm specializing in professional services. She has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, leading teams of creative professionals to support clients’ business development objectives. Prior to founding KSGilmore Consulting LLC in 2015, she served as director of marketing and business development at Ice Miller LLP. Gilmore is past-president of the board of directors of AMA Indy, the Indianapolis chapter of the American Marketing Association. You can email her at katie@ksgilmore.com.