by Tony Vidler
Advisers are racing to use new technologies and modify engagement & busines processes, and that is totally understandable. But there is a real risk of losing sight of the essentials and overlooking some basics.
Like, answering a customer enquiry. Or helping your community in the way you can help best – by giving financial advice.
I read a little while ago that professional service firms in the UK have generally embraced social media and digital marketing reasonably well now but in that same report it also noted that half of them did not respond to an enquiry through Twitter. Crikey. I would have thought any or every prospect enquiry these days was gold…but apparently not.
So I’ve checked with a bunch of advisers over recent weeks and it seems this is not unique to the UK. The majority of advisers did not seem to have a process or routine for checking on interactions and opportunities in their digital platforms…they were 100% reliant upon push notifications from the social media channel to alert them to the possibility that someone might be knocking on their digital door. Here’s the thing: the social media channels do not (as a rule) alert you to every follower, liker, comment or anything else. They’ll certainly let you know stuff is happening, but then there are more alerts about nothing other than the social media platform would like you to click back on the platform to see an ad, follow some account they recommend and so forth.
The point here is that digital is fabulous for creating and engaging with an audience, but you cannot rely upon the social media platform to do your work for you. The advisers work, in this respect, is to monitor and engage with the audience. Advisers simply cannot afford to put all of this effort into creating a great professional presence and then risk not responding to an enquiry nearly half the time.
How often do we see that in professional services? Smart people running good businesses and overlooking the basics?
Which brings me to the more important suggestion: why are advisers overlooking the REALLY obvious right now? The fact is that advisers (usually) have an extensive community of people they know, and who also know-like-(and perhaps) trust them…but who are not clients of the firm. The alma mater…the friends from the sports clubs….school and university….business networks….while the average human might have 300 or so in their network the average adviser typically has a thousand. Generally the advisers are also reluctant to try and engage professionally with that community, and I am suggesting that this should change right now.
I suspect most advisers are scarred from their early days in the business where some old cigar-toting sales manager tried to encourage them in their first weeks to go out and sell some product to everyone they knew. That in itself (in hindsight) probably caused more PTSD for new advisers and their communities than anything else the industry has done, and the stories of those times that consumers tell resonate with the newer generation of advisers who have come through without that particular baptism of fire. The result is everyone is nervous about engaging professionally with somebody who they already know.
No advisers today – newer or experienced – wants to be “that guy” who tries to flog products to their friends and families. Apart from anything else, it is just a poor way to run your life and treat your friends and family. If you are a decent human being (as the overwhelming majority of advisers are) heading down the product-flog-path with friends and family is a shortcut to creating incredibly low self-esteem and all the problems that come with that. Don’t go there.
Bear with me here…I am not about to suggest that advisers should go back to the dark days of product-flogging friends and family.
I am going to suggest however that we should NOT however back away from helping those friends and family where it is needed and wanted.
This is the very time to let your community…your networks…know that you and your business are there for them. Financial advisers have so much knowledge and so many skills which are useful to so many people right now as they try to figure out how to cope with economic-anxiety. Why would you not make that available to the people you care about most? You’re open for business aren’t you? You have skills that some of them need don’t you?
A simple message to your networks letting them know that you are there is what is required. Let them know that you are open to helping them. It doesn’t matter where they bought the insurance, or who they took the loan through, or how they came to have the investments they have….these are areas where there are numerous questions and high anxiety and you can help them if they need it.
Let them know you are there. It may be that they have a great adviser already, and that is ok. It may be that they are fine and don’t need your help, and that is great. But it just may be that they do need some help and are unsure where to turn or who to talk to, and surely a great option for them is to get that help from a professional who already knows them and cares about them?
Don’t overlook the obvious. There is an opportunity for advisers to do what they do best and build some fantastic professional gravitas along the way. Maybe there will even be a client or two come out of it in time…but that would just be a bonus.
Be there for them. Let them know that you are there for them.
People will remember that and you will create some advocates. But if nothing else, it will reinforce to you the good that you do.