Online social networking technologies are making it easier than ever before to stay connected and build engagement with one’s clients.
Client engagement is critical to any advisory practice because it supports not only the retention of your services over time, but also generates warm referrals – both of which are a potential source of significant growth in your book of business.
Engaged clients make more referrals than satisfied ones
In the report Economics of Loyalty, long-time advisor practice management consultant Julie Littlechild and her fellow researchers discovered that deep client engagement, rather than mere customer satisfaction, seemed to correlate strongly with the act of making a referral.
In fact, the report identified 6 common factors among the client-advisor relationships in which the most referrals occurred:
- More attention – Engaged clients expected and received more frequent account reviews and required more time of their advisor (though not necessarily because they represented more assets).
- Written financial plan – Engaged clients were more likely to have written financial plan in place and felt that the plan was instrumental in helping them achieve their goals.
- Coordinating role – Engaged clients were more likely to rely on their advisor to play a central role in their financial lives, for instance acting as a coordinator among their other professional advisors.
- Advisor to offspring – Engaged clients with adult children were considerably more likely to have an advisor that also worked with their children.
- Leadership – Engaged clients saw their advisor as a leader in terms of being proactive and keeping them on track, especially in turbulent times.
- Opportunity for meaningful feedback – Engaged clients were dramatically more likely to have been asked for their input or feedback on the service being provided.
Online social networking technologies make it easier than ever before to address these six key factors contributing to engagement in your client relationships.
The new rules of engagement are social
Effective engagement is inspired by the empathy
that develops simply by being human.
~ Brian Solis
Using the drivers of client engagement revealed in the Economics of Loyalty data, here’s how you can effectively use online social networking and personal branding strategies to build engagement and drive business growth and referrals with your existing clients.
1. Do more with less time.
Social networking gives you the potential to leverage finite time resources by extending the reach of “personal” communication. If you’re new to social media, these benefits are likely invisible because you’re still at the bottom of a steep learning curve and the time demands are significant.
Here’s an example. In one-on-one meetings with clients, you often repeat the same information – each client hears the same market analysis, technical observations and calming reassurances over and over.
An effective use of social and digital technologies would allow you to have ongoing “social conversations” with many clients at the same time, perhaps referencing shared documents that summarize your view. You might supplement this kind of ongoing conversation with regular Q & A sessions (such as webinars or video conferences) in which you could discuss key issues with your most engaged clients.
Social conversations and archived content assets enable you to cover common material once, freeing up time for you to deliver more valuable and personalized one-on-one client attention.
2. Engagement is the new “client fencing”.
It used to be common for advisors to talk about building “fences” around clients as a retention strategy. A much better strategy in the social media age is to attract and retain clients by building a compelling service offering that attracts and fosters engagement.
Written financial plans are a case in point. They help map out a path and offer measurable milestones that promote accountability with your clients.
A dizzying array of new technology solutions for financial planning, personal budgeting, account aggregation, portfolio analysis and other investment services are appearing in the marketplace. And these new services are luring your clients into relationship – with other service providers, rather than with you.
It behooves you to understand these services and, in some cases, to incorporate them into your practice. Clients want tools that are easy to use and help them plan and track their progress. Give your clients what they want. Attract them. Engage them. If you don’t, there’s someone else out there that probably will.
3. Focus your social networking on peers and clients.
Online social networks are emerging as the place where professionals – both clients and their advisors – go to find specialized knowledge and high-quality advice.
Establishing a competent presence in networks such as LinkedIn is critical for at least two reasons: i) to identify the thought-leaders on particular subjects that are relevant to your practice; and ii) to develop your own thought-leadership in your area of subject matter expertise.
Doing the first helps you identify and build relationships with the best in class professionals in any field. Doing the second helps you identify yourself as among the best in class professional in your field.
Social media is often misunderstood as primarily a tool for prospecting new clients. For advisors and practice professionals, using social media channels to build closer relationships with peers is equally, if not more, important because of the critical role referrals and teamwork play when servicing your most engaged clients.
Being seen as a credible source of subject matter knowledge by your peers and having strong working relationships with similarly credible professionals in complementary practices will both attract referrals to you while delivering better engagement with your clients.
4. Changing demographics delineate the key battleground for financial services.
Intergenerational awareness, emotional intelligence and communication skills are highly valued by engaged, planning-oriented clients. Family well-being is often at the core of their values and define their financial goals and motives.
Social media technologies are being widely embraced by younger investors who are emerging as the key financial services battleground in the coming decade, as massive intergenerational wealth transfer occurs.
Digital technologies are remaking the world of interpersonal communications for many in the Gen X/Y and Millennial demographics and this is changing how and where people meet and conduct relationships.
If you’re not an early adopter or part of the early majority when it comes to social media technologies, then you’re missing one of the best opportunities to engage your clients – more precisely, the adult children of your clients – in this demographic.
5. Leadership and the economy of influence.
Engaged clients want to work with leaders. They want their advisor to lead them in their financial decision-making and keep them on track with their financial plan. They also want their advisor to be a competent and recognized leader within their field.
Social media is creating new channels and opportunities for demonstrating leadership, yet at the same time it’s changing the face of what leadership looks like.
Social media is spawning a new economy of influence. Social interactions – everything from online conversations, to sharing posts, to liking and following – are the currency of this new economy. Strategic investment in these online interactions helps you build social capital over time.
The new marketing paradigm of social media and the influence economy is inbound, rather than outbound. Inbound marketing attracts attention by providing content and information that people want. Outbound marketing, the old mass media paradigm of advertising and interruption, no longer works as well as it once did.
Social media for financial professionals should be guided first and foremost by earning influence and building social relationships online. If you do that successfully, the business will come to you.
6. Asking for feedback builds trust.
Asking for input from your clients lays the foundation for trust. Receiving input with transparency, honesty and a willingness to make things better breeds engagement.
Social media is an always on, real-time feedback mechanism. As you connect and engage with clients online, it becomes easier for them to interact with you and provide feedback.
People do business with people they know, like and trust. Social media networks are an ideal channel through which you can really connect with the people you are advising and servicing by sharing who you are.
Online social networks are transforming how we meet, connected and engage with each other.
It’s hard to imagine a future without the personal interaction between an investor and their investment and/or insurance advisor.
However, a whole new set of rules is redefining how we communicate with, service and ultimately build engagement with our clients.