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Planning an exit? Don’t forget your marketing

Many financial planning firms will admit that marketing is one area that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Faith Liversedge highlights why marketing is not just a client acquisition tool and new business driver but an important driver of the future success of your business

When you think of marketing (if you ever think of marketing) and you’re not thinking of Mad Men, well, you probably think of new business.

Lead generation, referral generation, content marketing, digital marketing; at the end of the day when it’s all said and done, the aim of successful marketing is to bring in new clients, is it not?

No, not always.

Every day I speak to advisers and adviser firms who are actually fairly comfortable with the size of their existing client banks. I would say they’re in a ‘maintenance phase’ not a ‘growth phase’. Perhaps they’d like a handful of new clients a year, but they’re not looking for performance marketing that’s driving any real, consistent growth.

Typically, these are lifestyle businesses, and the directors are eyeing a potential exit in the not-too-distant future.

There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone with a lifestyle business fancies a nice exit to sip Kir Royales on the French riviera at some point, myself included.

And If you’re in that enviable position, it’s easy to think that you don’t need to have your marketing in tip-top order, or perhaps engage in any marketing activities at all.

I’d encourage you to think again…

Acquirers are becoming more and more selective

In my recent guide to intergenerational wealth transfer, I wrote about how acquirers are increasingly scrutinizing client banks, taking into account the average age, the likelihood of the firm retaining family wealth etc.

Overall, however, the key thing they’re looking for is engaged clients.

How much contact do these clients have with their adviser? How much consistent value is being provided? Does that justify ongoing fees and are they likely to jump ship?

When an adviser or firm has consistent, high-quality communication with their clients, this takes away so many worries at the point of an exit.

All of the available evidence tells us that engaged clients are far more likely to refer, to stay, and to come back for additional advice.

Not to mention, ensuring that you communicate effectively, early and well with existing clients (and their wider families) it’s the best method most advisers have of ensuring that they will retain clients into the looming intergenerational wealth transfer.

All of these are crucial points for a successful exit strategy.

And… this is where the right sort of marketing comes into play.

While I’m sure every adviser reading this goes out of their way to communicate with their clients as much as possible, the truth is that with the size of individual client banks today, even in a remote-first operating environment, it’s simply impossible to communicate 1-to-1 with clients half as much as you’d like.

It’s you, but you at scale

Smart marketing is about replicating the adviser/client relationship at scale. It’s not about broadcasting bland syndicated market updates with no personality, no segmentation, no humanity. It’s about capturing the reasons why clients put their trust in you and making sure you prolong that trust by being there, at scale.

To give you an example from my own lifestyle business:

  • Today I landed in hundreds of advisers’ inboxes, many of whom I’ve never met and some are as far-flung away as Bermuda.
  • As I was writing this article, I noticed someone downloaded a replay of one of my webinars, chances are my voice is in his or her ears right now.

A bit creepy, yes, but I say it to illustrate a point. I didn’t have to write hundreds of emails, I didn’t even have to push send. I scheduled it the night before in my woolly socks by the fire and my email marketing system handled it all for me.

Now I just need to check-in if I want a report to see who opened, who clicked, who engaged etc. That’s lifestyle business compatible if you ask me.

The aim of marketing to engage clients is to take your unique approach, your personality and to be able to broadcast it at scale.

Clients want to hear from you, and regularly, I cannot emphasize this enough.

Sometimes they want reassurance, sometimes it’s a trusted voice with market commentary and updates, or sometimes it’s just nice to see you in their inbox or social media feed.

I’ve seen it time and time again. Advisers start a regular, personal communication – say a weekly email newsletter – and have found their clients are far more engaged straight away, and that their clients continually reach back for them for more advice, and referrals have gone through the roof.

Very often also, there’s less pressure on ongoing fees from these clients because they know you’re there, they know they can reach out to you and there’s less of a question of what they’re paying for.

And of course, having this in place – the process, the database, the consistent communication – makes the engaged client bank invaluable in the event of an exit.

Because at the end of the day, what an acquirer really wants to know, is how long will your client bank stick around – and that’s where your marketing comes into play

 

About Faith Liversedge

Faith Liversedge is an experienced communicator with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the adviser profession. She was Marketing Manager at Nucleus for 5 years, creating innovative and award-winning campaigns. Before that she worked for Standard Life, Prudential and Royal London. In 2017 she set up her own consultancy to help forward-thinking financial advisers and planners to become more profitable through websites, communications and other laser-focused marketing techniques.

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