The Schwab 2015 RIA Benchmarking Study identified client acquisition as one of three top priorities; this is consistent with other adviser studies over the past few years. There’s nothing surprising about this emphasis since advisory firms are not only specialty practitioners, but small businesses, too. What business can grow without increasing its client base?
Client acquisition is the end result of a much more involved process broadly called “prospecting.” Prospecting integrates the entirety of a firm’s marketing efforts from a website to seminars to email campaigns to referrals.
The Sales Funnel
A “pipeline” or “funnel” (photo, right) are the common terms used to describe prospecting. I prefer a sales funnel because it identifies the client acquisition stages and the flow from one stage to the next.
Labor Increases with Each Stage
A lead enters the funnel through a website inquiry, referral, seminar, email reply and other direct-response methods. These incoming leads contain relatively little of an adviser’s most precious commodity—time.
Once a lead enters the funnel and proceeds through each stage, the labor content increases dramatically. Therefore, each funnel stage is a component of the advisory firm’s marketing ROI.
Matters of Salesmanship and Insight
Each prospect is looking for an ROI in the relationship, too. When a prospect sees the expected benefits received greater than the cost, he or she is willing to move to the next stage. This is an especially important concept to appreciate in determining the marketing system’s value: the prospect controls the movement from one stage to the next.
Such control places the responsibility of demonstrating the benefits and their monetary and emotional value on the adviser. Proving this value is one measure of analysis and another measure of salesmanship. (For a detailed discussion, see “Clients Buy Benefits, Not Features.”)
Making Each Sales Funnel Stage Productive
The stages of sales are lead generation, interest qualified, business qualified, solution verified and ‘Yes.’ Below are tips to make each stage productive.
1.) Lead Generation. An effective marketing program uses positioning content that helps the recipient of a lead-generating message qualify its validity to him or her by concluding, “That would be useful for me.” or “I don’t need that.” Within this, focus on:
- Efficiency Issue: Each message must drive home the key positioning elements that fit with the firm’s benefit package and its value.
- Key Tactical Step: Provide clear call-to-action content and buttons that allow a choice of “Yes” or “No.” While a “Yes” allows the recipient to become a lead and enter the funnel, a “No” minimizes opportunity costs. (Note: my next blog will address improving “Yes”/“No” yields stage to stage.)
2.) Interest Qualified. If the marketing program achieves clear positioning, the emphasis is identifying the prospect’s decision time frame. A “Not Ready Yet” answer is a first cousin of a deep-in-the-funnel “No”; they both severely damage marketing ROI. Within this, focus on:
- Efficiency Issue: Determine if the expressed needs are urgent enough to move to action versus a “just looking” approach that can sap resources.
- Key Tactical Step: Develop a qualifier for the person handling lead responses and enter the results into the CRM for ongoing tracking.
3.) Business Qualified. The assigned relationship manager evaluates the prospect’s needs, their fit to the benefits the firm produces, and the prospect’s projected value. Within this, focus on:
- Efficiency Issue: The prospect’s needs may be urgent but not be of sufficient business value given the firm’s service delivery costs.
- Key Tactical Step: Strategically, develop a separate package for low-asset prospects knowing that such relationships will be valuable in the future through wealth accumulation and transfers.
4.) Solution Verified. Meetings have occurred and the final evaluation is at hand. Within this, focus on:
- Efficiency Issue: Confirmations are made of needs and benefits in order to minimize (if not eliminate) delays.
- Key Tactical Step: Provide emotional affirmation and talking points that assist the soon-to-be-client in confidently severing past advisory relationships and informing other decision influencers such as children, accountants, and attorneys.
5.) “Yes.” The relationship moves to a fiduciary overseer of the client’s future well-being. Within this step, focus on:
- Efficiency Issue: The closing package (e.g. investment policy statement; account-opening documents; authorizations, etc.) must exist in a workflow to ensure 100 percent accuracy and a top-end presentation.
- Key Tactical Step: Restate how the benefit package addresses needs, anxieties, and aspirations; doing so minimizes any buyer’s remorse.
ROI is the Result
The flow through the funnel actually involves substantial thought and activity to ensure that a prospect has the best chance to produce value, to become a client. Too often, there’s a sense of “let things take care of themselves” instead of establishing directed efforts designed to make each stage productive to the firm’s marketing ROI.
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey