Why addressing customers is a marathon and not a sprint

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    In the age of digital marketing, consultants are inundated on all sides with new ways to lure potential clients into their pipelines. From social media tactics to email marketing, webinars and after a long year returning in-person events, there are many options for the customer-focused advisor. But not all marketing efforts are created equal, and the fact is that most consultants simply lack the time and marketing expertise to create a truly effective campaign.

    Even those who do this may be missing what I believe to be the most important step in customer acquisition: data analysis. Finally, how can you improve your process if you don’t know what is working?

    When working with consultants, I always suggest viewing customer acquisition as a long-term journey. Like any adventure, new customer acquisition should start with a small step, and any subsequent action should be both thoughtful and strategic. This is a journey that you must take with the prospect, guiding their hand at every turn, and using each new phase to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

    Consultants need to understand that pulling out all the stops from the start is a waste of time, money, and energy. Effective prospecting starts with thought leadership. Sharing information and resources should be the first step in attracting prospects as well as existing customers and professional colleagues who can act as referral sources. The challenge is to create this content and then track and measure the results.

    Creation and dissemination of meaningful thought leadership at entry level

    The first time you approach a prospect, engaging content must come first, whether it be in the form of blogs, podcasts, short whitepapers, or infographics delivered through a website, social media, or email blasts. I encourage consultants to think carefully about the key topics they are offering to potential clients and how those topics will resonate with their target audiences. It may be wise for RIAs to stay away from over-saturated financial services topics as there are plenty of places where people can find out about daily market moves or general investment advice. Instead, act as a source of valuable information that recognizes the real life challenges and opportunities that potential clients face in their own life – topics like estate planning, talking to children about money, career changes, intergenerational wealth transfers, and divorce planning .

    This content must be provided with care and not in a Constant Contact fire pants. Think about who your potential customers are as people and what communication methods they prefer. Don’t send everyone the same material – a new parent interested in setting up a college fund for their child is far more likely to click on an email, social media post, or white paper that is relevant and actionable Advice on the matter included than intended to open content related to divorce planning or pension distribution.

    Recognizing high quality engagement and potential leads

    When it comes to prospecting, tracking is essential. To understand what kind of information is reaching prospects, you need to know what they are clicking, what they are downloading, and what they are forwarding to other people.

    Consultants can use a digital marketing platform to evaluate email opens, redirects, and clicks, and I recommend consultants also use social media analytics from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to understand how many people are See every post and measure the number of likes and shares and comments on every topic and most importantly who clicked through to their website to find out more.

    When a topic does well on social media or email, you know that this is a topic that people are interested in and you may be asking yourself, how can I build on that? The next step will be to reach out to those interested and invite them to a low stakes event where they can get to know you and learn more about the subject.

    Perhaps this next step is a Zoom webinar or, depending on the target group, an intimate customer event like a champagne reception. Whatever you choose, it is important that all of the people you invite have a demonstrable interest in you, your practice, and your thought leadership. If you skip the substantive portion of the trip to go straight to event planning, chances are you are wasting your time and budget.

    Put emphasis on every action a prospect takes – just opening an email isn’t necessarily a good target for deeper engagement. But if someone is constantly downloading, forwarding, commenting on, or otherwise interacting with your content, they’re a hot lead to be on the guest list.

    Tailoring the event to the customer (and your brand)

    When it comes to moving from introductory content to more interactive online and offline events, advisors need to consider how real those activities are to their story and their overall approach to wealth management. For example, we recently asked an advisor to speak at a major Hightower event. After reviewing the topic and schedule for the event, he declined. Why? Because he knew himself and his practice and the event, although interesting, did not match his target group. Knowing who to talk to is critical to making good marketing decisions. Don’t waste your energy on events or content that isn’t tailored to the type of customer you want. Even if you love the idea, if it doesn’t help your practice grow, it’s probably not a good time to use your time.

    At the end of the customer acquisition pipeline, data tracking and analysis becomes especially important – if you don’t get the data, analyze engagement activities, evaluate prospects, and draw conclusions from your campaign insights, you are preparing for a much bigger loss End of the funnel than you would have experienced in the beginning.

    Consider trying out a number of exclusive high-end prospecting events at the end of the funnel for both clients and professional referral sources. These events are most successful when they focus on topics targeted at a specific audience, such as young professionals approaching retirement, female leaders, families with inherited wealth, entrepreneurs, or individuals finding their way around in their lives . The goal of these events, which can provide networking opportunities for clients and prospects, is to turn prospects who have spent months walking with the advisor through social engagement, email downloads, and webinars into real clients.

    Business development is always an investment. To make sure that you are distributing your marketing dollars in a way that gets ROI and new customers, you need to understand the process. The ideal customer acquisition journey takes time as it involves building a lasting relationship with a prospect. The more carefully you tweak your content, choose the right point of sale, and track the results of each marketing activity, the more likely these end-of-funnel events will lead to a positive outcome.

    Meghan McCartan is Managing Director, Head of Marketing at Hightower Advisors, www.hightoweradvisors.com.

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