Research keeps telling us that peer-to-peer marketing, or old fashioned word-of-mouth advertising and recommendations, is still the most effective form of marketing there is. Virtually no discriminating consumer today trusts advertising – and virtually all consumers who are prospective professional services clients are discriminating in that they are increasingly selective, wary and critical.
It’s obvious surely? Talk business with YOUR peers….other business owners.
Pretty much every professional is a business owner in real terms, if not in legal structure. It may be that they work inside a larger corporate brand, but inside that brand each is running their own mini-business and is responsible for generating new clients and revenue, dealing with staff and suppliers, handling tax and compliance and bureaucracy….the same things that other business owners are constantly dealing with.
The way to develop relationships and trust and to also showcase your expertise with these perfect prospects is to talk “business” with them….and they want you to. One of the greatest sources of advice that business owners turn to is other business owners after all:
However, when we say “talk business” that is not the same as “talk product” or “talk your expertise”….that is NOT what they want. Well, at least not at the beginning – but they will in time.
The thing with business owners is that their world is complex and there is an ever expanding set of skills and body of knowledge required to run a business well. Exactly the same as it is for us. It is tough for any one person to master it all, and it is tough for them to even keep on top of all the issues that they might need to be aware of. It makes sense then that they talk to and listen to others who are in the same position so that they can pick up ideas, tips and understanding about the issues that can help them – or prevent them – from achieving their own goals.
Being able to share information and practical tips about governance or management, handling staff and HR issues, understanding financials and tax issues, or legislative changes such as new health and safety regulations and their impact in a small business…these are all examples of adding value for a business client. They are all examples of the very things that the typical adviser-as-a-business-person has to deal with and figure out too….and what we know in these areas becomes valuable information for our peers who are yet to spend the time figuring those things out.
The point for my peers here is that concentrating on helping ideal prospective clients – other business owners – to reduce or better handle the complexity of being business owners builds great relationships founded on trust and respect. You become a valuable part of their business network…a trusted voice….a peer, if not a friend. When that level of respect is attained they will not consider turning to another adviser who specialises in the work you do. This is is how lawyers and accountants have built their professional practices for decades isn’t it? By being the professional who provides good business advice beyond just their area of technical expertise they become the Number 1 source of all business advice.
The lesson for experienced financial services professionals is to begin by using your wider body of business knowledge to create and deliver value, and to build those relationships. Once respect is earned for your commercial expertise, your technical expertise is beyond question in their minds.
Successful peer to peer marketing of financial advice begins with positioning as a an actual peer – a fellow business owner. Helping and being helped – one business owner to another – to build better businesses and easier lives is where great networking begins. It is also how great networking sustains an entire career and builds a fabulous client base.
All it takes is the ability to create conversations, being willing to share experiences and knowledge, and patience. For a professional adviser wanting to make a successful career with long term relationships and happy clients it is a no-brainer….and it pays off.