Relationship building as a client retention strategy

by | Jun 8, 2016

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With more and more importance being attached to the ability of advisory firms to build long-term relationships with clients, IFA Magazine Editor Sue Whitbread considers whether client retention strategies are sometimes overlooked in favour of a focus on client acquisition?

A significant part of the RDR changes for many advisory firms was of course the move from product and solution focus to the provision and sale of a service.  To survive in this new world, let alone thrive, advisers have needed to clearly demonstrate the value-added nature of the service they provide for clients if they are to build the strong, long term client relationships which form the basis of a sound business.

As you’d expect, a well organised and streamlined client proposition has clients’ needs at its core. With this in place, clients will recognise the value of the professional service that they are receiving; they trust the firm and the people that work with them, they have a meaningful plan to work towards, and they recognise that they can deal with any issues as they become due.  This brings the peace of mind of knowing they are on track to getting what they want out of life.

They acknowledge, in effect, that the adviser is sitting on the same side of the table as them and clearly putting their interests and goals first. They appreciate, of course, that there is an ongoing cost for this professional service – but they also see that, in most cases, the value far outstrips the cost. On that basis they are happy to pay ongoing fees for such a service.

Rethinking the model

But the changes that advisers are making to their businesses go beyond the services that they offer: the very structure of their businesses is evolving.  Part of this change is expressed in the way that firms think about how they engage with clients outside the world of financial planning, of advice and into building and nurturing relationships.  And often, this means opening up new channels of communication.

Many of the firms we see are very much on the front foot when it comes to generating and maintaining high quality client relationships which can build on the trust they’ve already established through the financial planning process.  Whether it’s through face to face events, sponsorship opportunities, engagement through blogs, newsletters, social media or a host of other means, firms are getting better at reaching out and cementing the client relationships upon which the business depends – and managing to build their brand into the bargain.

We’ve asked four of our advisers to highlight which activities have worked for them, and to share with us some of their own plans for building client relationships this year.

25 ways to broaden your appeal

Martin Bamford, Managing Director of Surrey-based Informed Choice:

“We host a number of events throughout the year, held with the dual purpose of strengthening engagement with our existing clients and also reaching new clients. These range from sponsorships hosted by other organisations to events that we host ourselves. We always try to keep these local, because being local is an important part of our brand – and consistent with the geography of our clients.

Martin Bamford

Martin Bamford

“In sponsoring or hosting our own client events, we always aim to support other local businesses at the same time; this is achieved through venue hire and the use of suppliers for food and drinks.

“Our sponsored events this year include a 10km charity run for a local school, a season for classical recitals at the local Arts Centre, an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing this summer, and a long-distance charity walking event for our local Rotary Club. We tend to sponsor events which closely match the interests of our clients, so walking and music feature heavily in our selection.

“In terms of our own events, this year we will host a summer BBQ in our office car park for a third year running, to celebrate our 22nd birthday. We invite local clients and professional connections to this BBQ which is a fun, social event. A farm shop in our village caters for this and runs the BBQ, with a local microbrewery supplying the drinks. Later in the year, we will hold a Christmas drinks reception at the Arts Centre, inviting around 50 of our clients and professional contacts.”

Gordon Wilson, Managing Director, Carbon Financial Partners, Scotland:

“We’re actively involved in sponsorship, with the focus on sport as well as on activities for schools. As part of our being event sponsor for the Bill McLaren Foundation, we sponsor the annual dinner where approximately 500 solicitors, accountants and other professionals within our target market are in attendance. We also get to invite quite a few of our clients along, which is great, and an excellent profile builder for us. Not only do we help to give money back to grass roots sports but it helps to raise our business profile in the communities we want to work with.

Gordon Wilson

Gordon Wilson

“We also work with the Prince’s Trust, and with a number of individual schools and local rugby and football clubs here in Scotland. And then, for the first time this year, we’ve ventured into elite sport by sponsoring professional golfer Richie Ramsay.  Our annual golf day has been a great way to engage with clients and potential clients.

“This year we’re hosting a family event at a Scottish Museum for over 200 people. Our Christmas carol concerts have also worked well in the past. Some activities we invest in and expect to see a return, but others are done in order to support the local communities here in Scotland.

“To celebrate our fifth anniversary, five of our team are cycling 500 miles in 5 days for Winning Scotland, with the aim of helping young people to develop life skills. The thrust of our charitable work is to give young people a chance, to make a difference through sport. It’s also a lot of fun and a fantastic way of building our own team spirit within the firm too. A word of warning though.  If you’re considering sponsorship, you need to be properly involved in it, be part of it in the preparation, the execution and delivery. It’s a case where the more time you invest in planning then the better then results are likely to be.

“More routinely, we use the full suite of social media and communication opportunities including client newsletters, blogs, use of Twitter, Facebook etc.  We find that the most successful engagement comes from our newsletters, which we produce electronically and also 3 or 4 times a year as hard copy –  and blogs. We write all the content ourselves, we don’t outsource. That way we can share news of what we’re up to as a company, as a team, as well as more traditional financial planning news updates.

“This year Carbon will be five years old. However through our range of activities we’ve built a strong profile which really helps the engagement process with our clients, and boosts name awareness. In fact the impact has been greater than I achieved in 10 years with a previous business. It really helps us to show how Carbon is different.”

Keri Carter, Managing Director, Broadway Financial Planning, Cotswolds:

Keri Carter

Keri Carter

“We’re a bespoke Financial Planning firm and for us it’s really important to nurture the relationships we have with clients. By planning opportunities for chatting with them on a social level, we get to know them so much better and they get to know all our team here too. It works really well for us – and doesn’t break the budget either.

“We’ve done lots of different things. For example, earlier this year we ran a flower arranging morning for clients which worked really well. Our clients loved it and it was a great way of prospecting too. It was a simple formula, a flower arranging expert and a local hotel – something we will do again.

“We also hold a summer party each year as a thank you to our clients, who can invite guests along too. This year we’re holding it on a steam train! We’ve also done wine tasting with a difference, tying in wines of the world with chats about financial planning related topics such as investment and economic prospects in those different parts of the world.“

Damien Rylett, Managing Director, Brunel Capital Partners, Bristol:

Damien Rylett

Damien Rylett

“We’re still a relatively new business, where building strong client relationships really matters. We understand that clients want to do business with people with similar values and a similar outlook on life. Creating opportunities to bring them together and with us is really powerful.

“We hold an annual client conference, where our clients can come and mix with the team and listen to quality speakers on topics like the state of the global economy.  This year we’re planning some client lunches to give us more scope to get to know individual clients and their partners in a different setting.

“So much investment of time and energy goes into bringing new clients on board, so it’s vital to make sure that we reinforce the relationship over and above the delivery of a financial planning service which provides the bedrock of that relationship.”

Craig Palfrey, Director, Penguin Wealth, Cardiff.

Penguin was formed in 2010 by a group of Financial Planners with a shared vision and a love for their jobs. Our purpose is to make a positive difference for our clients, by exceeding expectations, one relationship at a time.

The fundamental part of this is in building long term relationships with our clients, who value the service we provide for them and trust that we are always working with their best interests at heart.

Craig Palfrey

Craig Palfrey

Whilst we tend get to know our clients well through carrying out the financial planning process itself, we find that it helps if we also look at a range of other ways of developing those relationships, so that we really get to connect with them at a higher level and really cement those relationships.

We’ve tried a number of different activities over the past few years. We’ve taken clients to 20/20 cricket matches which have been fun, but it’s hard to demonstrate any tangible business results from it. It’s simply about relationship building.

We’ve also taken tables at charity events and invited clients to join us. That way we not only get to spend time with them but support good causes too. Our annual golf day has been very successful. With 40 or 50 people there, it’s really boosted goodwill with our clients and helped bring potential for new clients too.

However, for us one activity which has worked particularly well is our next generation workshop. While we act for our clients, their offspring also tend to want to know more about financial planning. So, on Saturday mornings, we’ve invited them along. With an audience typically of 20-40 year olds coming from far and wide, they’ve enjoyed listening to a range of different sessions related to financial planning. These have covered topics such as the basics of trusts, how to save, wills, lasting powers of attorney etc. as well as getting great financial planning tips. It’s a great opportunity for them to meet the team here and to find out more about what we do and the importance of having a financial plan in place. Our pension briefings have been popular, particularly given the new pension freedoms. These types of get togethers are great for generating goodwill and also for attracting potential new clients too.

 

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