By Jon Ulin, CFP®
Investors have had a lot to deal with during the past two years, with simultaneous housing market, stock market and banking failures worldwide that will forever leave a significant mark on the financial sector and many people's retirement goals. Trust has been difficult to hold on to and create in this economic environment.
With confidence at an all-time low, some investors would prefer to diversify their money by purchasing a larger mattress. The lack of confidence in the markets and abundance of fear has produced enormous stress on financial advisers. Even as the economy gradually stabilizes, it will not be business as usual for some time.
How do you do more than just stay afloat in this new marketplace? Getting back to basics and strengthening your core competencies can help you attract and retain more savvy consumers. These ideas are not rocket science, but relationship science. You may believe you are providing excellent service for your clients, but unfortunately, there is not a risk tolerance test to identify how people really feel.
The heydays of the 80's market explosion that lead to the late 2007 peak of the Dow market index is over. Perhaps the Gordon Gekko "greed is good" mantra can finally be put to bed. Concerned clients may, for the first time, be looking beyond returns and focusing more on an adviser's brand, emotional competency and service.
Define Your Personal Brand
Brand is more than just a corporate name. It's the personal experience you may have developed with the company's product or service as an emotional experience. We are entrepreneurs and service providers-no different from any other business owner or industry. The restaurant acronym TIPS means "to insure proper service" at every customer interaction. In the same context, construct a thoughtful approach to how clients will view your service and mantra. Update your mission statement to clearly identify your core values. Demonstrate this behavior to your staff and clients at every interaction, so that they adapt to your new business culture and become enthusiastic about meeting with you.
This all starts with self-awareness of your own strengths, goals and values. Clients tend to gravitate toward advisers who are confident, empathetic and demonstrate their own emotional core competencies. Your brand is your marketing message, and it should come across clearly to your target market.
The brand promise for my practice states: Every day we will positively influence our clients' lives with every interaction in a healthy and safe atmosphere. We will provide world-class service, education and confidence at every step to help our clients reach their financial goals and personal dreams.
Define Your Emotional Competency
Step into your clients' and prospects' shoes in your service meetings. Advisers need to provide clients more than efficiency frontiers and fancy math on our whiteboards. Having a sustainable business in the new economy may involve taking more of a holistic and personalized approach.
When understanding the principles of empathetic communication, do your clients believe that you really understand their concerns and anxieties more than anyone else? By taking a counseling approach, you can learn more about your clients and strengthen those relationships.
Define Your Service Objectives
Redefine your technical competencies regarding client service and systems. Review your practice management skill sets and weekly goals compared to your business plan each month. Identify what service and communication touch points would "wow" your clients and keep them engaged. Advisers who have personalized relationships with their clients reap the benefits from long-term financial planning.
Investors today are focusing on adviser experience and credentials-and even more so on trust, client service and communication. Adviser-client service should be seamless and consistent, no different from what you may expect at a four-star restaurant. Client perception, staff interaction and office communication can have as much effect on building lasting relationships as the actual work you are providing.
By stepping up your service plan and creating efficient systems for your practice, you will realize more referrals. By getting back to basics, you can create a consistent client experience and a level of trust that could be stronger than ever. Define your target market, fill that niche and don't ever speculate on what clients want.
Jon Ulin, CFP®, is a financial adviser with LPL Financial in Boca Raton, Fla. Contact him at (561) 213-6249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.