The saying, “If you build it, they will come,” may sound like a great philosophy when you’re starting out, but, unfortunately, it will not get you clients.
And if you already have a few clients and focus all of your energy and attention on outstanding customer service, you’ll have an award-winning client retention rate, but this still does not equate to new client growth.
If you want to grow your business and increase the number of clients you serve, you should start with the following four steps:
1. Define & articulate your unique value proposition.
While this may sound obvious, defining your target market, defining your competitive advantage, and ensuring it is consistently told in all of your marketing material takes purposeful planning.
You need to start with identifying specifically who you serve. For people to see you as a clear choice, you must represent a clear solution for a specific type of problem or specific type of client. This is not possible if your defined client is “companies that offer 401k plans”.
Think about it, specialists make more than generalists and get more referrals – but it’s a difficult concept for advisors to embrace because no one wants to leave money on the table by casting a narrow net – so we become just like everyone else, in hopes to attract everyone else, and then we must compete with everyone else. When you appeal to everyone – you appeal to no one. Niches equal riches. Define your segment or target that addresses some characteristic or challenge that a small portion of the population can relate to.
Next in identifying your unique value is to define your competitive advantage. In the book “How to Get Your Competition Fired” by Randy Schwantz, he describes the three ways you can have a competitive advantage.
- First, you can provide a service that is unique, that no one else provides.
- Second, you can provide a service that others provide, but you have a better process for it that gets better results.
- Or third, you can describe the service you offer in such a clear and compelling way that prospects are motivated to buy from you rather than from your competition.
You need to be able to clearly articulate your competitive advantage, and ensure this message is consistently told throughout all of your marketing, website, social media and public-facing material.
2. Focus on one marketing strategy.
One of the biggest challenges we all struggle with is time. If you’re going to create and implement a strategy for growth, you must be selective in your strategies and deliberate in how you implement them so you don’t waste valuable time trying and testing tactics that may not be suited for you and your business.
Start by select a marketing strategy that you find effective, enjoyable and easy. So many of us find something that works, then we stop doing it to try something that we think or hope might work better. If you’ve been successful in the past with specific marketing methods – do more of that! Don’t get sidetracked with the latest and greatest method you just read about that may or may not work for your practice. No need to throw spaghetti at the wall.
If you’re not sure where to start because you’re new to the business or have been in “service” mode for too long, then consider one of these three methods that were cited in the Marketing Effectiveness Survey as being the most successful:
- Referral Marketing (center of influence relationships)
- Educational Seminars (speaking and educating)
- Social Meetings / Luncheons (good old fashioned networking and one-on-one relationship building)
Whatever method you choose, be dedicated, focused and strategic with how you schedule and implement your activity.
3. Develop a pipeline process & prospect experience.
Once you get a lead into your system, the quickest way to waste a quality lead is to not have a prospect and pipeline management process. How you interact with a prospect, what you deliver ahead of your meeting, present at your meeting, and follow-up with should all be part of a well-orchestrated and consistent process.
And since 90% of the prospects you meet with will NOT make an immediate decision or have an immediate need, you need an ongoing communication program in place to continue to engage, keep in front of, provide ongoing value, pre-sell your expertise, and keep your hot prospect from turning back into a cold lead.
4. Apply these 5 qualities of excellence.
They say customer service is dead, and based on the number of emails in my “awaiting a response” folder in Outlook, I regretfully must agree.
One of the easiest ways to increase your opportunity of closing more business is to make service excellence a priority. Here are five qualities that when adopted, can create an advantage over your competition.
- Be prepared – research and gather data on our prospect before you meet with them, control the process (have a process!), and always use an agenda.
- Be different – don’t lead with the 3F conversation (fiduciary, funds, and fees), seek to understand what problems they have or need solved, and for goodness sake – pitch YOURSELF and the value you bring as the solution, not specific providers.
- Be valuable – make sure you’ve identified what it is your clients value the most, measure and monitor the value of your service offering, and don’t be afraid to tweak your service model or make adjustments as needed.
- Be persistent – be prompt, responsive, polite and pleasantly persistent.
- Be proactive – engage & educate prospects and clients, and report annually on your services, activity, and results.
By following these four steps, you’ll be better positioned to attract, nurture and convert 401k prospects into clients.