Here are some highlights from sessions I attended at FPA Experience 2012, the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference, in San Antonio, Texas. You’ll notice my notes focus on marketing and communication, even when that wasn’t the speaker’s focus.
Client engagement, according to Julie Littlechild
Truly engaged clients are the clients who will refer business to you. While 84% of clients in Advisor Impact’s surveys say they are comfortable making referrals, only 2% provide referrals to people who actually make it into your office to meet with you, said Julie Littlechild, CEO and founder of Advisor Impact, in her presentation on “Cracking the Code: Tactics That Drive Engagement and Growth.”
The best and most frequent referrals come from clients who see someone with a need for financial advice that you can meet. At least this is how I interpreted Littlechild’s words.
Littlechild got me thinking that consistently blogging about a financial challenge specific to a narrow target audience is a good way to guide referrals. Your blog helps your clients identify the problems you’re best at solving. Plus, your blog posts will boost your credibility with your new prospects.
For more on research by Advisor Impact, see Littlechild’s article, “4 Ways for Advisors to Better Engage Clients,” which originally appeared in the October issue of Investment Advisor magazine.
Tailor your written communications, says Zywave CEO
Advisors are missing opportunities to deepen their connections with their clients, according to Jim Emling of Zywave in “Expanding Your Firm’s Potential with Compelling Communication.”
Advisors need relevant content delivered at the right time via a medium that will reach clients, said Emling. This is a common sense approach that isn’t often practiced, he added. This is a big issue for advisors’ Generation X clients. More than 40% of them are less than “very satisfied” with current communications from their advisors, according to Emling.
Here are some of Emling’s ideas for boosting your communications:
- Send communications driven by life events like having a baby — When Emling’s wife had a baby, he “never heard a peep” from his advisor.
- Send a series of communications focused on specific client goals, such as managing a problem with debt.
- Send communications that go into more detail on new ideas introduced in meetings — Emling had no idea what ILITs were when his advisor introduced them in a meeting. He would have appreciated a follow-up explaining ILITs in writing.
- Figure out your clients’ pain points so you can focus your communications on those topics.
- When you target younger clients, you may also need to target different referral sources.
By the end of October 2012, Emling’s company is launching Advisor Briefcase, software to help advisors deliver targeted communications.
Engaging women in money discussions
The need to engage your clients and prospects ran through many of the sessions I attended at FPA experience. I was intrigued by Elizabeth Jetton’s discussions of the need to find better ways to empower and engage women. Jetton is a co-founder of Directions for Women.
Engage women with you, so they can see the value of your guidance and you can increase their financial literacy and well-being, said Jetton. She uses circle gatherings of five to 20 women and conversation cafes of larger groups to foster interactions where everyone, even an expert, shares stories.
During her discussion of these techniques, Jetton made some comments that relate more broadly to communications:
- Stories help people learn. When a story is told, the whole brain focuses.
- Don’t ask people to process more than three to four pieces of information at once.
- People use their guts to select you as their financial advisor, and then they rationalize it.
- Clients like to hear advisors’ stories and to know that you’re human and imperfect.
I think #3 speaks to why blogging, social media, and showing some personality in your writing are so important.
In case you’re interested in learning more about circles, either Jetton or Directions for Women plans to publish an e-book, Guide to Circle for Advisors.
FPA Experience through my eyes
Here are more of my blog posts inspired by FPA Experience:
- Your mother and the fiscal cliff
- Carville’s advice to Romney applies to email writers, too
- Social media as practiced by Brittney Castro, Cathy Curtis, and Jeff Rose
- If you missed my email presentation at FPA Experience…