Tag Archive for: client communication

Marketing tips from referral expert Steve Wershing

These lines in Stephen Wershing’s Stop Asking for Referrals caught my eye.

I have looked at hundreds of advisor websites, and many of them don’t just say the same thing — they use the same words. Make sure that your marketing communicates what’s different about your clients and what’s unique about what you do for them.

I agree with Wershing about these weaknesses, and I was happy that his book offered advice about how you can differentiate your marketing materials.

Some of Wershing’s tips resonated strongly with me. I discuss them below.

1. Define your target audience narrowly

Focus on a problem that you solve for a narrowly defined group of people, so it’s easy for people to recognize your ideal clients. This focus will differentiate from other advisors and make you easy to refer.

2. Focus on benefits

Failure to focus on benefits is a common flaw in the articles and white papers I edit for investment and wealth management firms, so I’m glad Wershing discusses this. I like his before-and-after examples of elevator speeches. Here’s an example.

Before: We do financial planning for the suddenly single.

After: When people come into money, it is easy for them to lose their values and make bad decisions. I show them how to avoid those pitfalls.

3. Ask for introductions or advice

Ask clients for introductions or advice instead of referrals, says Wershing. This puts less stress on clients than referrals so it’s more likely to be productive. To boost your introduction request’s effectiveness, do research to identify people who fall within your target audience. LinkedIn makes this easier than in the days prior to social media.

On the advice front, consider trying the following question posed by Wershing: “If you were in my position, trying to do what I am trying to accomplish, what would you do?”

Wershing’s suggestions about introductions and advice remind me about the power of informational interviewing, which has been essential to my career development.

In an email exchange with me, Wershing said, “The most exciting thing I have discovered in working with advisors on these strategies is the techniques that will attract more referrals also end up providing the client better, more expert advice.  Advisors can improve the industry while growing more successful. I cannot imagine a better outcome.” I agree.

Your suggestions?

If you’ve tried the techniques discussed above, I’d enjoy hearing from you. Please add your voice to the conversation.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw-Hill in return for agreeing to write about it.

Marketing communication notes from #fpaexperience

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Send a series of communications focused on specific client goals, such as managing a problem with debt.
  3. 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.
  4. Figure out your clients’ pain points so you can focus your communications on those topics.
  5. 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:

  1. Stories help people learn. When a story is told, the whole brain focuses.
  2. Don’t ask people to process more than three to four pieces of information at once.
  3. People use their guts to select you as their financial advisor, and then they rationalize it.
  4. 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:

Email writers, boost your effectiveness with this quote

Think about your reader if you want your communications to get results.

When you want the recipient of your email or letter to act on your information, heed the following advice from Lee Wood, as quoted by Kenneth W. Davis in The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Business Writing and Communication.


…give me the information in the order I can use it.

For example, don’t start by talking about the envelope you’ve enclosed with your letter.

Instead, first ask your client to read the form and then sign it in the spots you’ve marked with a big red X. Only then should you ask the client to mail it in the self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Be kind to your readers. It’ll pay off in better results and relationships.

Want to learn more about writing better emails and letters? Check out my presentation, “Writing Effective Emails.”

How Merrill Lynch and US Trust stay relevant to clients, according to Justine Metz

Justine Metz presenting On Merrill Lynch and US Trust to Financial Communications Society

Justine Metz presenting to FCS in Boston

Bank of America’s business units, Merrill Lynch and US Trust, needed to rebuild their reputations following the financial crisis. Justine Metz, marketing and sales support executive for global wealth management & investment at Bank of America, outlined the business units’ approach in her September 18 presentation to the Financial Communications Society (FCS) in Boston. Metz titled her presentation “Marketing’s Imperative at Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust: Staying relevant to clients during times of financial crisis.”

Reverse psychology as key

“I wanted us to fight more.” This was Metz’s initial reaction to the need to boost her business units’ reputations following the financial crisis. After all, banks’ reputations had hit all-time lows, and no one was giving Merrill Lynch and US Trust credit for doing anything good.

However, Metz went with “reverse psychology” in her unit’s response. While they continued to push back on inaccuracies, the focus was on advisors and their clients, she said. “We had to shut up because no one wanted to hear us.”

Key role for uber-brains of the advisory business

“Advisors shielded the brand throughout the crisis,” said Metz. Merrill Lynch advisors continued to receive high ratings from clients even as the industry suffered declining ratings. Merrill Lynch also got credit for having great information produced by smart people. Metz calls them “uber-brains.”

The rise of social media gave the firm non-traditional ways to highlight its smarts, so it @MerrillLynch on Twittercould spur clients and influencers to talk about it. It introduced a Twitter account (@MerrillLynch, which has almost 25,000 followers), a YouTube channel, and iTunes apps, including MyMerrill and BofAML Research Library.

Why social media? “Our main strategy is to empower our clients to talk to one another,” said Metz. That fits in with today’s emphasis on communications by people rather than institutions.

Return to TV

TV ads were on hold for three years while the firm focused on social media. When it rolled out a new commercial, it didn’t throw out its strategy of getting its clients talking. Instead, the new Merrill Lynch and US Trust ads about “The Power of the Right Advisor” and “What is Worth,” respectively, are designed to complement that strategy.

FCS chapter forming in Boston

The presentation by Metz was the second Boston event put on by the New York-based FCS. A steering committee is developing a Boston chapter. To learn more—and to volunteer—contact FCS President Kevin Windorf at 212-413-6044. I’m a volunteer. I enjoyed meeting new people at this event.