A challenge impacting almost every financial advisor today is new client acquisition. Even the most experienced advisors are experiencing great difficulty attracting new business and a primary reason for their struggle is the majority of them do not have a formal, written plan in place upon which they can implement and measure client acquisition progress.
Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail
There was a period not that long ago when bringing in new business was almost as easy as picking low hanging fruit from an orchard tree. During the 1990’s, the markets were strong, optimism was high and a sufficient flow of prospects and referrals produced enough qualified leads for advisors to reach objectives. Today, that’s all changed. The new millennium introduced a series of financial crises that rattled investor confidence and the subsequent aftermath altered perceptions of what constitutes a meaningful client-advisor relationship.
Most advisors were slow to react to the changes in investor behavior. Rather than create a new client acquisition plan to replace the old one that was failing, many chose the path of least resistance and did nothing different. Their failure to plan became a plan for failure and not surprisingly, their new business numbers plummeted. As New York Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra explained, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Invest In Sweat Equity
When investor behaviors change, advisor behaviors must similarly evolve. Spending the majority of the work day on account maintenance with little or no time allocated on new business development is unfortunately the modus operandi for many advisors today. This business model may have succeeded in the past but it will not work today nor in the years that follow. The first step to creating a proactive client acquisition plan is making a commitment to apply sweat equity and learn new ways to work harder and smarter. Working harder will get you to the prospects front door. Working smarter will earn you an invitation to come inside.
Cultivating referrals from current clients and maintaining regular, proactive communications with alliance partners and centers of influence has been and will continue to be a great way to create new client acquisition opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to help you consistently and predictably reach new client acquisition goals. A different type of approach is required, one that allows you to cross paths more often with prospective clients who will be as willing to do business with you as you are with them.
Narrow Your Vision And Expand Your Business
One of the best ways to identify and reach new prospects is to first know yourself and what value you bring to the table. The temptation is to try to be everything to everyone but in reality, that’s wishful thinking. The most successful advisors have built niche practices where their specialized abilities closely mirror the unique needs of their selective prospects.
Building a niche practice is a process, not an event. Almost every advisor begins as a generalist and through experience, acquires exceptional acumen in areas of financial planning and wealth management that resonates with the specialized needs of a smaller universe of clients and prospects. Your niche clients are usually easy to identify. They are the ones you already enjoy working with and who acknowledge your ability to meet and exceed their expectations. Engage in prospecting activities that target this type of investor profile and your niche will gradually build itself, one new client at a time.
Remember to be patient when niche building. The gravitational process whereby your practice evolves from a generalist model to a more specialized one is akin to how you maintain your lawn. You’ll never see the grass grow in the moment, but once a week it needs to be mowed. It’s the same upon logic upon which niche advisory practices are built.
Create A Digital Dialogue With Prospects
Traditional marketing efforts such as steak dinner seminars and generic mass mailings are proving ineffective in reaching the new generation of investors; however, technology has new windows of opportunity to identify and reach qualified prospects. Advisors now have the ability to research, perform due diligence and engage in discovery about prospects in social media communities such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Advisors can learn through prospect postings on these sites what activities they enjoy, what causes they support, what issues they care about and who the people are that give their life meaning.
Utilizing social media to learn about prospects can create opportunities to meet them personally. Advisors and prospects already know something about each other and what areas of interest they share, thus negating the discomfort often associated with traditional first time, face-to-face meetings.
Some advisors who have embraced social media have enjoyed great success. Their ability to reach highly-targeted prospects with the right message at the right time is how they meet and exceed their acquisition goals.
Choose Your Acquisition Strategies Wisely
A Google search of investor acquisition ideas will produce millions of results that offer suggestions on how to identify and reach new prospects. None of them will be a quick fix or magic button solution because no single strategy – no matter how effective – can produce a stream of prospects on demand. What does work is combining multiple strategies into an integrated plan that can reach prospects no matter where they are.
Whatever strategies you choose, begin by creating an actionable, written plan that serves as a guidepost for you or your advisory team to follow. The next step is to follow it with precision and passion. Allocate a reasonable amount of time each day and each week to prospecting activities and you’ll reap the long-term rewards of your efforts.
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