A successful advisory service requires that advisors spend time focusing on clients—and on themselves.
First, consider your client-focused strategy. To be competitive, Boston-based Cerulli Associates, a global research and consulting firm, suggests advisors develop a strategy to reliably deliver exceptional client experience. The firm released research findings this week detailing areas in which advisors should innovate, as follows.
Creative client segmentation is a way for advisors to establish client personas, for which they can automate workflows and optimize engagement opportunities, Cerulli’s release said.
Technology makes such client segmentation easier. “Nearly 60% of experience-centric practices use technology to automate client interactions, which includes building client personas, helping advisors draw a direct connection between the client’s perspective and the approach they prefer,” said Marina Shtyrkov, research analyst at Cerulli, in the release.
Intergenerational engagement helps advisors serve younger investors who might be clients’ children and heirs. Engaging younger generations helps stem attrition when a client passes away and beneficiaries choose a different advisor.
To improve engagement, Cerulli suggests advisors work in teams. “Clients who work with integrated, effective multi-advisor teams appreciate feeling like they have an entire team of specialists at their disposal,” said Shtyrkov.
Client recognition and appreciation can be used to nurture client relationships, but not necessarily by hosting client appreciation events, as is typical.
Rather, Cerulli suggests advisors aim to offer “experience-centric practices” that focus on “the kind, unexpected gestures that engender joy, trust and loyalty.”
Examples include recognizing a client’s key life events, transitions and milestones. Also, being available when a client experiences a crisis or emergency creates a sense of on-demand support, the release said.
Holistic planning is another way to offer superior client experience, with Cerulli’s research finding that, on average, U.S. advisors expect to expand comprehensive financial planning services to more than half (55%) of their clients by 2020—an increase of one-third of their client base in 2013.
As advisory teams expand their services, planning tools should be adapted to varying levels of ability, interest and need, said Shtyrkov. “Modularized or ‘light’ planning tools make it easier for advisors to incorporate financial planning into conversations with more clients,” she said in the release.
Cerulli’s findings are published in this year’s third-quarter issue of The Cerulli Edge—U.S. Advisor Edition.
Find your niche
As more advisors focus on holistic planning—and on client experience more generally—you might have to consider how to differentiate your services from the crowd, which will require some inward reflection to identify your potential niche.
Stephen Wershing, a financial advisor marketing consultant in Rochester, N.Y., and president of The Client Driven Practice, describes six types of niches in a July blogpost on Kitces.com. In order of how compelling they can be to prospective clients, the niches are: affinity, values, educational, experiential, psychosocial and technical.
Affinity niches, for example, are about developing relationships based on a common social circle, which is an easy way for clients to choose an advisor when they aren’t sure how to differentiate among “a sea of financial advisor sameness,” Wershing wrote.
To decide on your niche, he suggests, among other things, that you consider what type of work engages you, what your most significant personal experiences are and what clients say is most significant about your services.
Wershing also stresses that differentiation is about setting yourself apart from other advisors. “Try to think beyond providing better service or just developing better relationships with clients,” he said. “Different beats better.”
Why? Because better is hard for clients to evaluate and distinguish.
For full details on the six niches and how to create yours, read the Kitces blogpost.