by Tony Vidler
Who do most people turn to first for financial advice? Whoever is “top of mind”…and who is that usually?
Research in multiple countries and jurisdictions repeatedly shows that the number one source of advice for consumers who do not currently take financial advice from a professional is their family, closely followed by their friends. The numbers vary with each study, and I’ve seen some suggesting numbers as low as 29% of consumers turn to family first, and some suggesting that up to 67% do. The consistent outcome in each of the studies though is that family tops the list as the first direction they turn to. Regardless of how the research has been conducted and how many choices were given to consumers to select from, there is a sizeable proportion of the consumers that we have not reached yet who are themselves taking advice from some who we HAVE reached.
That suggests to me that one of the smartest marketing moves a financial adviser could make would be to ensure that we have achieved have “top of mind awareness” with existing clients – the consumers who we HAVE already reached.
When someone turns to one of your clients wanting direction or guidance on financial matters the ideal outcome will be that your client says “you need to talk to my adviser…..”
Clearly for many advisers this doesn’t seem to happen (or not happen often enough).
So what’s missing? Why aren’t the advised consumers – our clients – telling the non-advised consumers who ask them for direction to come and see us?
The answer is straighforward I think: we are not top of mind in this critical area for our own clients.
Becoming “top of mind” is more than simply being “the adviser” they think of when someone asks about “an adviser”. If we are doing a good job of delivering advice and service to our clients we would hope that they do in fact think of us if someone asked the pointed question “is there an adviser you recommend”. So if our clients are prompted with the right question then there is a good chance they will think of us…but that is not top of mind awareness really.
Top of mind awareness is being the immediate solution they think…it is the “word association” response. Someone says “money advice” and your client thinks of you. Someone says “financial planning” and your client thinks of you. Someone says “insurance” and your client thinks of you. THAT is top of mind awareness.
Ideally it goes beyond mere word association though and you or your brand get linked in the clients mind to the resolution of particular problems. Someone says “retirement” and your client thinks of you before they think of a fund manager. Someone says “buy a home” and your client thinks of you before they think of a bank. That is solid top of mind awareness.
Great positioning in clients minds for an adviser is when they are thought of as the “problem solver” or “the person who knows all about that stuff”. To create ongoing top of mind awareness then we have to continually – I repeat “continually” – link ourselves to particular issues and problems.
That is very different to linking ourselves to technical knowledge, or qualifications, or a “process”. As much as we might try to reinforce the value of a 6-step-professional-advice-process and our expertise in portfolio management or business risk assessment they simply do not translate in most consumers minds to a particular problem being fixed. Technical stuff just does not stay top of mind for most consumers. We can educate all we like about the rigour and standards of being a CFP and why that is a good thing for a client, but designations just do not stay top of mind for consumers. We can 6-step ourselves to death in conversations and compliant paperwork and not only will most existing clients who have experienced it not remember what the 6-step process is, they are more likely to guess that is some sort of dance.
The stuff that regulators and overlords dwell upon to raise standards are not the things that create top of mind awareness for consumers. The stuff we fixate upon to demonstrate our technical prowess or professionalism is not the stuff that creates top of mind awareness for consumers either.
It follows that this is where we must focus our marketing to our existing clients. We must continually talk to them about the things we can fix and the problems that we can make disappear. In every meeting our questions and prompts should be focussed on particular problems and issues – even if they are not apparently an issue of the moment we must still mention them. If we are talking to a long-standing client about their portfolio performance we need to link that to how we have fixed, or are fixing, the underlying concern of them “having enough when they are old“. Even though they know we do retirement planning because that is exactly what we have done for them, once they have become clients and we all get immersed in the regular reporting and treatment of their money as a portfolio management function, we tend to forget the issue that drove them to the process to begin with. So linking the performance reporting to “not having to worry about having enough in retirement” is important for creating the awareness in our client that the particular problem we fix is “not having to worry” or “you will be ok“.
It is these sorts of outcomes or issues that we need to write about in newsletters and blogs, or share useful information about in our social media channels, or talk about at BNI or seminars. The key to creating that top of mind awareness in our own clients minds so that they recommend or refer us when their family and friends raise issues, is for us to be continually talking about those same issues. That constant reminder that we are on top of those issues is what creates the top of mind awareness in clients that we need.
Our qualifications, technical knowledge, service levels or all-round-awesomeness-as-a-human-being just does not create the awareness that we want or should have. Being constantly linked in our clients minds with particular issues or problems is. Therein lies the answer to us being thought of as the answer when the friends and family start asking for advice from our clients….and if you haven’t fixed those problems yet for your existing clients then you have no chance of creating top of mind awareness that you are the problem solver for them.
I conclude therefore that the 2 keys to creating top of mind awareness with your existing clients so that THEIR friends and family are directed to you are:
1. First do the entire job with your existing clients, and do it as well as it can be done.
2. Continually remind them of what problem has been fixed.
It is the problem-fixing ability which will drive them to recommend you to others.