Journal of Financial Planning: February 2021
Desireé Dudhnath has 10 years of experience in business and financial services specializing in marketing, business development, relationship management, client services, recruiting, and operations. She previously served as a relationship officer, marketing director, recruiting director, and business specialist. Dudhnath is also the CEO of a marketing/business matchmaking firm.
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We experienced the unexpected in 2020. As of this writing, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Now, the pressing question on everyone’s mind is: how do I remain competitive in our new normal marketplace?
The key is to make yourself visible and stand out from the rest and to make an investment in your staff. Hire a marketing and communications person to help build meaningful relationships and implement a tactical strategy for your business. If you can’t hire a full-time person, incorporate these tactics into your existing client relationship manager. Remember, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark, as famed motivational speaker and author Jay Danzie says.
I know you are probably thinking, why? Well, here are the reasons: as the old saying goes, people aren’t buying the product, they are buying the person; and if you want to maintain exciting relationships and grow new ones, you have to think about the three C’s: conversations, communication (and information), and celebration.
Next, I know you are thinking: how do I do this? Here are few pro tips:
Here are a few ideas to facilitate conversations with your clients:
Coffee chats. Create systematic, strategic virtual coffee chats (which can be conducted via Zoom or Google Chat) with your targeted audience. The key is keeping it casual, as you would at any coffee shop, and use it as a “get to know you” session. For instance, ask them about their story and what has been the most memorable part of their journey that led them to where they are today. Another conversation starter is inquiring about the most exciting thing that has happened in their lives and how it has shaped them into the person they are. Ask them about their “aha” moment(s). If you hit a roadblock, let them take the lead and ask about you. Be open, honest, and engaged.
Systematic reviews. Reserve a special time for a one-on-one, in-depth educational dialogue and meet your client where they are (i.e., an economic update, techniques to help in their day-to-day lives, custom tools or strategies, etc.) The frequency should be based on your client’s preference, but it is recommended monthly, quarterly, or annually. They will walk away feeling enlightened and empowered, but most importantly, they will feel confident that they have someone supportive in their corner.
Communication and Information
There are several ways to communicate with and provide information to your clients in the new environment, including:
Virtual events. Host informational webinars on topics of interest (i.e., retirement planning, Social Security claiming strategies, tax savings strategies, etc.).
Seminars and fireside chats. When things resume with some normalcy and it’s safe to host again, mix it up with seminars featuring subject matter experts (SMEs) such as tax specialists or Social Security experts, and fireside chats with noteworthy speakers such as self-made entrepreneurs. A great way to remain connected to SMEs is through LinkedIn (specifically through Groups), virtual networking events, and one-on-one Zoom meetings.
Educational content. Share information that is relevant and valuable (news, updates, etc.) via email, newsletters, or mailings (follow COVID-19 recommended mailing procedures) such as tax planning post-election or holistic planning strategies.
Celebrations are key in these times of constant shifting emotions, transitions, and change. Here are some ideas for celebrating your clients:
Anniversaries. Host a special event to acknowledge the commitment a client made to working with you and to continuing to do so (10-year, 15-year, 20-year, 30-year anniversary, etc.). It can be a virtual or in-person event (with proper safety protocols and social distancing, of course) to show you value and cherish their loyalty.
Celebrate milestones. If your client achieved any major accomplishment (advanced degree, baby, new house, etc.), celebrate them! It will certainly leave a lasting impression. This can be through an e-card or a celebratory Zoom touch base while we remain virtual (note: please be cognizant of your firm’s gifting policy).
With these strategies, it will be more focused on transformational versus transactional relationships. As we know, there is a shift in society to focus on emotional intelligence if we want to become better leaders. As per the Harvard Business Review article “What Makes a Leader” by Daniel Goleman, we must ask ourselves: how do we accomplish that? As professionals, as Jay Shetty tweeted in 2017, “Instead of ‘to-do lists’ we need ‘to-be lists.’ The question isn’t what do we want to do, it’s who we want to be.” We are a fundamental force in this world. As I always say, we need to continue to inspire, enrich, and empower. Invest in your vision, invest in your team, and most importantly, invest in those you serve. What do you want to be known for?