Friday 07 October 2016

Drive referrals and build stronger relationships with these time-saving tips

As a financial adviser, you’ve worked hard to hone the technical skills that allow you to deliver high-quality outcomes for your clients. But what about the so-called “soft skills” of client engagement?

Remember, the clients you already have can be your most valuable source of business, both through the referrals they generate and the ongoing value they create. So building strong client relationships is one of the most powerful business development strategies you can use.

While we all know client engagement is important, finding time to do it well can be a challenge. Here are seven practical ways you can keep your clients engaged, without neglecting the day to day.

1. Make the most of CRM tools

Most practices already have customer relationship management (CRM) tools on hand, built into popular planning platforms like XPLAN, COIN and Midwinter. And if they don’t give you what you’re looking for, you can also choose from purpose-built CRM packages like adviser intelligence and PractiFi, the latter based on the market-leading Salesforce software.

All boast powerful features to help you analyse your client base, schedule and track touchpoints, and analyse the return on your investment in client engagement. But how many practices take full advantage of them?

By using your CRM tools well, you can ensure you don’t let high-value clients slip through your fingers, simply because you’ve been neglecting them. The key is to focus on creating a consistent client experience, without overcomplicating things. For example, you can use your CRM system to:

  • record every client contact and schedule the next contact for each client
  • generate reports to make sure that each client is being contacted regularly
  • build in additional touchpoints for significant milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries
  • create checklists for repeated processes like onboarding new clients, running meetings and sending educational content.

2. Know your client

With your CRM system up and running, you’re ready to create accurate, secure and current records for every client. Seek to capture not only financial information, but the little personal details that help you create truly meaningful interactions — from birthdays and anniversaries, to children’s names, hobbies and interests, even their favourite coffee (so you can have it waiting when they visit). Make sure you review your personal fact file before each meeting or phone call.

3. Prioritise, contact, repeat

Naturally, all of your clients are important — but some are more valuable to your business than others. Divide your clients into three tranches with different contact cycles — monthly, quarterly and bi-annually. Then use your CRM software to schedule regular contacts and track your performance.

If you can retain clients during critical periods in the client lifecycle, you're likely to have won their loyalty for life.

4. Look for life-changing events

Whether talking to a client or interacting on social media, look for those life-changing events that inspire clients to re-evaluate their financial situation. The birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce or a significant medical event are all moments when your clients appreciate support — and if they don’t receive it from you, they are likely to look elsewhere.

By contacting clients regularly and keeping your records up to date, you give yourself the best chance of being there at the right time in their lives to provide the timely advice they need.

5. Beware danger periods

Macquarie research shows there are danger periods in the client relationship when engagement levels fall and clients are most likely to leave. A 2014 survey of 1,283 advice clients found that engagement levels fell sharply after year three of the relationship, before rising again towards year 10. The good news is that if you can retain clients through those fallow periods, you are likely to have won their loyalty for life.

By putting a structured system in place to keep clients engaged during critical periods in the client lifecycle, you can ensure a temporary dip in loyalty doesn’t become a client lost forever.

6. Be seen where your clients live online

Social media gives you more options than ever before for reaching out to your clients with targeted content in the places they already live online. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to share insights, post best practice tips, and showcase your expertise. Then promote your posts to a wider audience through Twitter. Once you have created a community of interest, you can use your social media influence to attract followers back to your own site, where you can educate them about the breadth of services you offer, or drive activity with targeted campaigns.

7. Let technology do the work for you

While social media creates endless opportunities for you to engage your clients in new ways, it can be time consuming if you don’t manage it carefully. Fortunately, technology can help here too.

Social media management tools like EdgarHootsuite and Sprout enable you to schedule and publish content across multiple social media channels, then monitor and manage responses from a single, centralised dashboard. One tool, Hearsay, is even designed specifically for planners.

And technology can also make meetings more convenient and efficient for both you and your clients. Next time you’d like to speak to a client who is interstate, overseas or simply time-poor, why not use an online video-conferencing tool like SkypeGoToMeeting or Google Hangouts? That way you can enjoy many of the same benefits as a face-to-face meeting, without leaving your desk.

The endgame

Simple steps like these can help you build a growing base of highly engaged and loyal clients. Then you’ll be perfectly positioned to seek referrals and win new business from your clients and their families as their wealth grows and the client relationship deepens.

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