If clients believe you are concerned about them, the battle is won, writes Stephan Craft.
In a competitive market, advisers are under pressure to offer greater value to increasingly cost-conscious clients. But when it comes to client satisfaction, research shows that value must be clearly demonstrated.
King Loong Choi is a senior analyst with specialist financial services research firm Investment Trends. Since 2003, it has been investigating the drivers of client satisfaction with financial advice. And according to Choi, it’s all about perception.
“What consistently comes through is that clients’ perception of value is the main driver of client satisfaction and engagement. Similarly, when you look at why clients stop using their advisers, the top reason is that they no longer see any value in their ongoing relationship,” he says.
As a result, frequent, high-quality communication can be almost as important as performance in building and sustaining strong client relationships.
“On top of fees and performance, the other major factor is consistently demonstrating concern for the client and a desire to help them progress towards their goals,” says Choi.
For busy advisers, the challenge is to find opportunities for frequent, targeted communications, without over-stretching themselves or their limited marketing budgets. Fortunately, digital communication channels and social media have made it easier than ever before to reach out to current and prospective clients quickly and cost-effectively.
Matching the medium to the message
Sharing engaging content with your clients can be an effective way to showcase your expertise and reinforce the value you provide. And there is evidence to show the more methods you use, the better. A study commissioned by the Association of Financial Advisers found a strong relationship between advisers’ client satisfaction scores and the number of channels they used to communicate with clients, with advisers using five or more channels scoring nine out of 10 or higher, compared to just 6.9 for those relying on a single channel.
Using a variety of content and communication channels also helps you cater for different learning styles, while choosing the right channel for the right audience. Choi says that Investment Trends’ research shows clients want more educational content from their advisers. Relevance is the key to demonstrating value, so it needs to be well targeted.
Advisers should consider the following options.
Articles: ideal for news and educational content. Post them to your website, then use emails or social media to promote and link back to them.
Videos: high impact and engaging for short messages.
Slideshows: a visually engaging alternative for longer or more complex messages.
Webinars: allow you to interact with multiple clients easily, then record the results for future viewing.
Face-to-face presentations: an effective way to meet prospective clients and generate referrals.
Email: cost-effective and targeted. Use an email campaign manager to track results.
Direct mail (letters): more expensive and harder to track, but potentially more effective with older clients.
Your website: building a rich repository of content showcases your expertise and makes you easier to find online.
Facebook: an effective channel for a wide variety of age groups, with built-in marketing and tracking tools.
LinkedIn: most effective when communicating with business owners and executives.
SMS: great for quick reminders before or after an appointment, presentation or webinar.
Nurturing relationships at scale
Stephen Everett is the owner of Elders Financial Planning at Alfred Cove, in Perth’s southern suburbs. A financial adviser since 2000, he is a strong believer in the power of online content for nurturing client relationships at scale.
“If you look where our competition is, and the fact people can now go and arrange life cover or income-protection online … there’s a battle to differentiate yourself,” he says. “My strategy is to put a human face on the service offering.”
To do that, he posts videos, slideshows and articles on a dedicated Facebook page, then shares them with clients by email. While he stresses that online communications are not a replacement for face-to-face contact, he says they’re invaluable in reinforcing the value of personal advice.
“It’s about reassuring them [clients] that they made the right decision,” he says. “I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on marketing so I've got to find ways to do it incrementally. The beauty of Facebook is you've got such great target marketing and it’s relatively inexpensive as well.”
Everett says it’s become easy to create and share your own content using inexpensive and freely available tools such as Windows Movie Maker for video editing, Canva for slide shows, and MailChimp for email campaigns. But he has also achieved great results by sharing relevant content from authoritative sources, including a recent, six-week email campaign based around ANZ’s Bringing clarity to insurance video series.
“The problem for small practices like mine can be actually having the content and finding time to get the content together,” he says. “That’s where having really well produced material to share can be so valuable.”