Today’s new breed of advisor recognizes that the nature of the advisor-client relationship has changed, with discussions shifting from investment markets, products and performance toward life goal-setting, protecting the client’s future and life enjoyment. Over the course of the next couple of months, we will take a step-by-step look at ideas you can use to build your 2003 business plan and reposition yourself against your competition. In our first instalment, we helped you develop a template for the foundation of your practice — your mission statement and values proposition. Here is the second step:
(November 2002) While many advisors have focused on helping clients relate their money directly to their life, most have not seized the opportunity to use this values-based, life planning approach as a differentiator in the marketplace. The best way to do this is through the communications package that you create, reinforcing your approach and branding every time you “touch” a client.
It is equally important for advisors to take a life planning approach and to be seen as doing so. Your task in creating your new communications strategy is threefold:
- To develop a regular contact schedule that ensures your clients keep you “top-of-mind,” even if you aren’t talking with them or meeting them face-to-face.
- To continue to relate emotionally to your clients, reinforcing your value in helping them in their lives and reminding them of why you are different.
- To use your communication as a “disturber” that will raise issues in the client’s mind that will cause them to come back to you as a resource to help them deal with those issues.
Here are some of the most common communications strategies advisors use, along with how the life-based advisor has changed the traditional approach:
|Target audience||Examples of communications opportunities and subjects||Delivery methods||What may be different than most advisors?|
|General life planning information||Clients
|– Retirement lifestyle planning
– “Fit after 40” and “healthy aging”
– Critical illness
– Long-term healthcare
– Children’s education
– Family budgeting
– Understanding the Internet”
– Starting a second career”
– Key non-financial factors of retirement success
– Web site
– Published articles
– Pre-meeting package for initial meeting
|– Emphasis on non-financial
– Suspension of self-interest
– Use of third party proof sources
– Use of outside experts
– Advisor as an information conduit
– Advisor as a “human Web browser” on life issues
– Life planning before financial planning
|Targeted life planning information||Key
|– Career transition
– Employee life planning info
– Life transitions info:
• family changes
• critical illness
• elder care
• sudden wealth
• information on life planning techniques
|– Forwarded articles
– Sending out books
– Focused workshops
– Referrals to other professionals
– General information sessions
|– Advisor as a coach
– Advisor as a “human Web browser” or source of non-financial information
|Information specifically tying financial planning to life planning||Key clients
|– Sudden wealth
– Suddenly single
– Helping the community
– Gifting loved ones
– Saving for education
– Saving for retirement
– Low-stress investing
– “How markets affect your life”
– “Understanding your investment personality”
– “Protecting your loved ones”
– “Targeted saving”
– Web site
– Writing articles
– Regular client meetings
– Initial meeting with new clients
– Joint seminars with other non-financial professionals
|-All information framed in terms of life planning
– Life planning as a branding method
Your communications strategy with current clients
How you communicate with your present clients is not only a relationship management tool, but also a marketing tool. You want to ensure that you continue to reinforce your branding as a financial life planner by:
- Regularly sending out non-financial information. Sending out information accomplishes two things: it reinforces your identity as an advisor who is interested in life planning before financial planning and it stimulates thoughts that your client may find valuable (and thank you for).
- Focusing on the S.O.S. principal (suspending your own self-interest). When you do something for a client that doesn’t directly relate to selling a financial product, you help to create the thought in their mind that says “this person really is interested in me rather than my money.” That takes your relationship to a partnership level rather than just supplier-client.
- Staying “top of mind.” Since change is both predictable and unpredictable, it is very important that your clients think of you as their “first call” after family when they need answers. By continuing to communicate non-financial things to your client, you have conditioned them to call you for non-financial life events.
The next step in developing your business plan is to create a communications strategy that will continue to reinforce your branding in addition to providing your clients with regular “touches.” All of the communications pieces that you create should have a common approach:
- They should all be written to appeal to the reader’s “right brain.” Almost everything that you write should elicit an emotional response from the reader. This can be accomplished by ensuring that all of your advertising, client letters, newsletters, Web site, etc. not only tell what you do but also how this will directly impact a client’s life.
- All of your information should be conveyed in client-friendly terms and phrases. Use of acronyms, industry buzzwords or other “left-brain” terms not only makes you look like every other advisor, but also assume that your client automatically knows what you are talking about and why they should care. Always try to “connect the dots” in your communications, even if you feel that the client can already do that.
- All of your communication should treat the subject of financial planning as a means to help the client with their life goals. Since you are repositioning yourself as a life-focused planner, you want to ensure that any of your discussions around money look radically different than your competitors by tying financial choices to lifestyle choices.
The tools of your communications strategy
|Communications method||Importance in your practice||Frequency||Your plan|
|Pre-meeting package||As needed|
|Focused client education workshops||Bi-weekly|
|Update letters (can be delivered electronically)||As needed, at least monthly|
|Client appreciation events||Semi-annually|
|Regular phone calls||At least monthly for “A”s and “B”s|
|Regular review meetings||Quarterly for “A”s and “B”s, semi-annually for rest|
|Replace business cards||As needed|
As you review your material, pay close attention to these overused words and phrases that are no longer effective as positioning words to explain what it is that you do:
- Financial planning
- Wealth management
- Dreams and goals
Here is an example of how you can reposition your products and services in a way that will explain, in emotional terms, the value of what you do:
|Our products and services: Helping you choose the right financial path for your life|
Your Life and Financial Pan
• Visualizing your future and helping you clarify your life and lifestyle goals
• Meeting your lifestyle and retirement needs through our approach to your financial plan
• Helping you create the legacy that you desire
• Giving you access to the best education and information to help you create the life you want
Your Investment Plan
Preparing for Retirement
• • •
Be sure to check back to the Practice Zone for the third instalment of this series where Barry examines how to use the life-planning approach to prospect and how advisors have developed the referral market in their community as a direct result of their focus on life planning. To read part one of this series, please click here.
• • •
Barry LaValley is president of LaValley Communications and a partner in The Centre For Retirement Success. His company provides advisors in Canada and the U.S. with information on how to create a life planning focus in their practice and use it to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. He also conducts client workshops on life planning and the 10 key factors of a successful retirement. Barry helped author a new book entitled Your Clients for Life along with American authors Mitch Anthony and Carol Anderson that is available in book stores or through Barry’s Web site. Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his Web site at www.lavalleycommunications.com.