July 25, 2013 by Courtney Redfern
When was the last time you thought of your interaction with a business as an experience? Most of us don’t—until we have a bad one.
When my husband and I purchased a new camper, we sought out a loan with the lowest interest rate. As a result, we have a new relationship with a bank we have not done business with in the past.
Five days before my first payment was due, I received a letter from the bank confirming my loan total and monthly payment amount. Instead of providing the payment book originally promised, I received a web address to make an online payment.
Slightly irritated, I went straight to my computer to make the payment. After searching the home page, I finally found a blue button to gain “instant access” to online banking. I was immediately asked for my account number, which I had not received.
Little by little, my account access was becoming less instant. I called the 800 number on the letter. After weaving through the automated phone system twice, waiting on hold for a total of six minutes, and talking to two representatives, I finally received my account number. I never expected a company to make it so difficult to pay them.
Now, obviously this experience has frustrated me. I will not recommend this new bank or seek out another loan with them, because they did not make it easy for me to do business with them. They may have a better rate, but they did not deliver on the customer experience.
What are your clients’ experiences? Do you make it easy for them to do business with you? Have you actually stopped to ask your clients how you are doing?
If not, this is a great time to solicit their feedback. It can be as simple as sending a short survey. A well-crafted client survey can provide you with valuable feedback about you and your firm. It can also help you increase client retention, strengthen relationships, capture testimonials, and gain new referrals.
Plus, your clients will be flattered that you took the time to seek out their opinion and provide them with a more meaningful experience.
Download our survey tips here to help you create your own client survey.
July 23, 2013 by Kyle Pieper
If you’re an experienced financial professional looking to make the leap into the advisory business, you’re probably wondering which option may be best for you.
Do you become an Investment Adviser Representative (IAR) or a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA)? In my last blog, you learned the benefits of becoming an IAR and how earning a Series 65 license can open up some opportunities for your clients.
The other choice is to start your own RIA. Starting your own RIA has numerous appeals. One of which is creating a business that aligns with your personal goals and style.
Starting an independent advisory business is not without its challenges. But, the lure of the opportunity shouldn’t be overshadowed by the details needed to grow the business.
Here is a short list of items that need to be developed and implemented if you decide to open an RIA. To learn more, download a more comprehensive analysis here.
- Operations and compliance support
- Policies and procedures
- Advertising review and website review
- Fees and expenses
- Audit support
- Technology expenses
- Building an infrastructure
- Cost of operations vs. marketing
- Understanding your strengths and weaknesses
If this list causes concern, it may be a better option to affiliate with an established RIA, like Brokers International Financial Services, LLC. When you affiliate with an established RIA, you gain a partner and become part of an organization that has the same interest as yours, without the investment it takes to go it alone.
Securities and investment advisory services offered through Brokers International Financial Services LLC, Panora, Iowa. Member FINRA/SIPC.
July 16, 2013 by Kristine Garrett
If your business mantra is stuck on “recruit,” you may be missing an essential sales element – nurture. While this may sound like something you do to a Bonsai tree, it also applies to relationships. Nurturing client relationships is as simple as taking care of their needs on a regular basis.
When I was in sales, nurturing clients meant you took them out to lunch; dropped off Krispy Kreme donuts; and called them about the latest products available—and “oh, can I bring you a sample?” Then came the internet, email and The Atkins Diet and out went phone calls; face-to-face meetings; and carbohydrates!
Now that clients can visit your website and research products/services online, you’re probably not talking to them as much as you have in the past—making it difficult to maintain and grow those relationships. So how can you nurture them if you aren’t feeding them donuts?
Here are a few Nurturing Dos and Don’ts to remember (Notice I said, “Remember,” because you know these things; you just may need a reminder.)
Don’t give your customers the silent treatment.
When was the last time you talked to your current customers? If you’re not sure and don’t have a plan for regular follow up, it’s time to make one. Dive into your client database, and see how often you are actually communicating with your current book of business. If it’s been a while, it’s time to reconnect. If you don’t, someone else will.
Don’t take business for granted.
You know the customer that you rarely speak to, except when they need something? Every day that client probably has other sales people clamoring for his/her affection. Make sure you are the one they call in times of need by staying in touch.
Don’t get distracted.
Anyone that has been in sales before understands the cycle—prospect, service, repeat. First, you are busy looking for new business. Then, you are focused on servicing that business. Soon you realize there is not much in the pipeline and repeat the cycle. In the meantime, the customers you once worked so hard to get fall to the wayside. If you don’t have a nurture plan, your hard work may be wasted as you slowly lose contact (and sales) with customers.
Do have a strategy.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”1 That pretty much sums it up! Make a plan to follow-up with past clients.
Do be proactive.
Create a client profile to help identify your customers’ pain points. Use this to send them relevant information such as webinar or meeting invites on relevant topics—not just what you want to sell them.
Do make your customers feel valued.
It’s not price. It’s not product. The reason customers leave? It’s more than likely that they think you do not care about their business. They were not nurtured. If they were a Bonsai tree, they would be kindling! Show your customers you care—send a hand-written thank-you note, or find ways to save them money without being asked.
To help you learn how to nurture client relationships, click here to read a previous blog post about getting to know your clients.
Check out our website at www.biltd.com for more sales and marketing tips!
1 Benjamin Franklin. (n.d.) Benjamin Franklin Quotes. In Brainy Quote. Retrieved June 18, 2013, from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr138217.html.
July 11, 2013 by Kristine Garrett
If you knew the key to capturing a portion of the largest emerging market in the world, how could that information benefit your business?
In this article, you’re going to learn who that market is and the key to reach them based on a study by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.
Who is this market? Women.
Women make up the fastest growing group of consumers worldwide,1 and are involved in most of the financial decisions in the home.2 Research supports those statements, but if you gave it some thought, you might come to the same conclusion.
In your home, who decides what doctor you visit; what detergent you use; or the brand of cereal on the kitchen table? In fact, who bought the kitchen table? Chances are, it was a woman who made these decisions and purchases.
Women are responsible for an estimated 85% of consumer buying decisions.3 We aren’t just talking about small buying decisions either. The Allianz “Women, Money, and Power Study” states that 49% of women say they have a great deal of responsibility for making major financial decisions.4
You would think that businesses would be flocking to cater to a market this size with so much financial decision-making power. However, this is an area where the financial services industry falls flat.
The study also “found that women were more dissatisfied with the financial services industry than any other that affected their daily lives.”1
Wow! How can it be that an entire industry is failing so miserably to connect with women? They must be missing the “key.”
What is the key? Communication.
According to the study, “The key to acquiring and retaining female clients is effective communication.”4
A woman seeking help from a financial professional needs someone to help her feel financially secure. To do that, you must know how to speak to her.
The study discussed four crucial things to understand before effectively communicating with women:
- Why you should target female clients;
- How life events influence decisions;
- Why you need to communicate with women differently than you communicate with men;
- Who women are financially.
These topics will be the subject of the next four installments of this series. We will walk through the study’s results, and help you learn how to better connect with this financially affluent group.
Click here to download the Women, Money, and Power white paper.
1 Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, “The Allianz Women, Money, and Power Study: Empowered and Underserved” (2013) available at http://www.biltd.com/CarrierMaterial/Allianz/ENT-1462-N_FINAL.pdf.
2 Prudential Research Study, “Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women” (2010-2011), available at http://www.prudential.com/media/managed/Womens_Study_Final.pdf.
3 The AIO Group, Mass Affluent Women Buyers, 2011.
4 Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, “Help your clients find solutions that fit.” (2012) ENT-324-N
July 9, 2013 by Brokers International
By Kristi Piehl
Founder/CEO Media Minefield, Inc.
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
I love this quote by Albert Einstein. It’s the best way I’ve ever heard to describe a clear and concise message.
At Media Minefield, we talk about messaging every day. If you know your message, you can easily use it to describe your business and approach to your clients on your website, on social media, in online videos, mailings and television news interviews.
Why does messaging matter? In your area, there are probably dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people who have the same licenses and education as you. External communication focuses on potential customers who haven’t heard of you or your business before. Your message is what separates you from your competition. It is especially important to people who may not understand what you do or how you can help them.
While using words like “annuity” and “fixed-index” are commonplace inside your industry, not everyone outside your industry is familiar with those terms or jargon. When you use “insider” language in your message, you run the risk of associating yourself with something that may be perceived as difficult, complicated or negative. Replace “insider” language with simple easily understood words. This may feel like you are diluting your work, but it is better to simplify it than to communicate it in a way that is not understandable.
Consider your message your elevator pitch; in a couple sentences, you want to give someone enough positive information so they understand what you do while giving them the opportunity to ask questions.
Here is a sample message: “I love helping families with their retirement so they can spend time with their grandkids or on the golf course and feel reassured about their retirement strategies.”
Here is an even simpler message: “I help people with retirement strategies so they have enough money to live on when they quit working.”
While these sample messages are clear, neither is personal. An effective and memorable message will set you apart from others in your industry. Think about your background, or what inspired you to get into the business, and incorporate that into your message. If someone visits your website, what piece of information could you share so your business will be associated with something positive and unique?
Remember, an effective message is clear, simple, memorable and even a first grader should be able to understand it.
July 2, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
We’re at the midpoint of a six-part series on branding, and it’s time to talk strategy. (Break out the playbooks and dry-erase markers. It’s XXs and OOs time.)
The worksheet included a section on strategy, and posed the following questions:
- What is your company’s ultimate purpose?
- Do you have your company’s mission, vision or value proposition written down?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is the most important element of your product/service?
If you are a budding student of the brand, you’ve already taken the time to write down the answers to these questions. All others must write “I will not water down my brand” 1,500 times on pieces of Mead wide-ruled notebook filler paper.
But seriously, the answers to these questions are crucial in helping develop a brand strategy. Your business may have several facets, but you don’t haphazardly focus on an element without developing a strategy. You have to know who you are to know where you are going.
McDonald’s executives aren’t likely to sit in a board room and talk about the little nut packets that come with hot-fudge sundaes. This is not the focus of their marketing efforts. Those nuts aren’t important enough to generate revenue and therefore, don’t warrant marketing dollars.
According to an April article in Forbes magazine, what’s really going on is, “McDonald’s continues to broaden its product portfolio by offering high quality coffee and healthy drinks (either through its traditional restaurants or the Cafés), competing head to head with Starbucks and local cafeterias—benefiting from local trends like austerity in Europe.”1
It’s hardly haphazard.
Just because you aren’t the world’s largest food chain, doesn’t mean that you can’t approach your branding and promotion with the same precision.
And take a serious look at the answers to the questions you’ve written down. Take some time to think about those answers, and how you incorporate them into the development and perpetuation of your brand.
Don’t break the playbook before it’s written.