Growing Your Business: Turning Client Acquisition Upside Down

The first step in attracting new clients is to understand how most clients choose a financial advisor. The financial services industry has sometimes struggled with being perceived as untrustworthy and manipulative. A Deloitte survey of nearly 4,500 respondents showed that “no more than two in 10 of all respondents have a high degree of trust in any type of financial institution.” With this in mind, the importance of creating a practice that is recognized as trustworthy is paramount. The best way to establish that is to not only behave in a trustworthy fashion but to communicate to prospective clients through effective and honest actions.

Much is made of vision and mission statements, but few pay enough attention to the message. It is imperative that advisors identify and communicate their overarching purpose, values and beliefs. In his bestselling book Start With Why, Simon Sinek wrote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”3 When financial advisors align their products and services with their values and beliefs and then communicate in a way that resonates with clients, attracting new business becomes easier.

Communication Strategies for Client Acquisition

Enhance Your Online Presence

While few clients find their advisors online, many will review your website and conduct other online research before scheduling an appointment. Your online presence should reflect the message you want prospective clients to see, confirm your level of expertise and express your personality. Invest time and money filming videos to use online, delivering your message in a way that resonates intellectually as well as emotionally with prospective clients. Write articles and blog posts with the understanding that may require working closely with your firm’s compliance department. Providing a sense of familiarity before a client meets you will help move the client acquisition process forward more quickly. Proactively send articles or videos to a prospect before you meet.

Your online presence should reflect the message you want prospective clients to see, confirm your level of expertise and express your personality.

Socialize with Clients

Research has demonstrated that developing a sense of affiliation is the simplest way to create trust because it generates a perception of similarity. “People do business with people they like” is an oft quoted saying that is nonetheless true. Interacting with your clients socially forms a bond of affiliation and can create a willingness to help you meet others who may be interested in utilizing your services. The activities you participate in must stem from an authentic shared interest. Do not feign a love of baseball if your true interest is golf. Authentic connection requires listening to and recording your client’s interests and being proactive in learning more about them.

Interacting with your clients socially forms a bond of affiliation and can create a willingness to help you meet others who may be interested in utilizing your services.

Ask for Introductions, Not Referrals

Although clients find advisors through referrals, directly asking for a referral is rarely effective, especially with higher net worth clients. The old “do you know anyone who would benefit from my services?” line is often a turn-off. What is more effective is asking clients for an introduction.

Research from the Oechsli Institute shows that 77% of clients with both business and social relationships with their advisors will make introductions compared to 57% if the relationship is purely business-related. This may involve research on your part to discover who your clients know and with whom they associate. LinkedIn can be a good starting place. Are you connected to all of your clients on LinkedIn and Facebook? Make it a point to become so. Not only are social networks a good way to interact with clients, but they are also great sources of information on who clients know. Try to learn about the people you want to meet, then ask for the introduction.

77% of clients with both business and social relationships with their advisors will make introductions compared to 57% if the relationship is purely business-related.

Host Unique Events

A great way to meet friends of clients is to invite them to an intimate client event. Many advisors host dinners, but creating a unique and memorable event that caters to a shared area of interest for you and the client will truly set you apart. Arrange a behind-the-scenes tour of a local museum or art gallery, provide a sports clinic on golf, fishing or bowling, or organize a wine, beer or scotch tasting at a local restaurant. Invite clients, their friends and other prospects. Most importantly, avoid talking about your business. It may be tempting to try to impress attendees with your knowledge, but the purpose of these events is to create a shared experience. Remove your “financial advisor hat,” be yourself and have fun. This will endear you to your clients and help attract new business.

Creating a unique and memorable event that caters to a shared area of interest for you and the client will truly set you apart.

Tell Your Story

What is your story? Top advisors know how to effectively use a personal or business story to create a connection with potential clients and stimulate interest in what they do. Sharing who you are enables others to understand you better and produces trust by contributing to a perception of similarity and mutual alignment. Telling a brand or origin story makes your practice approachable and relatable. This narrative not only encompasses facts but also the feelings you want to be associated with your practice.

Leverage Public Speaking

One way to get the word out about your business is by speaking to groups in your local community. Good speakers are always in demand and perfecting your speaking ability is likely to lead to a steady stream of opportunities to share your message. If you are not naturally gifted at speaking, join a public speaking group like Toastmasters to improve. When crafting your speeches, understand your audience, tailor the talk toward the group’s interests and incorporate humor where possible.

Titles containing trigger words like “pitfalls” or “mistakes” will catch the audience’s interest. Examples of effective titles might be “Five pitfalls of 401K investing” or “Seven mistakes to avoid in retirement.” If you use a slide presentation, use powerful images and as few words as possible on each slide rather than reading long sentences directly from the slides. Public speaking enhances awareness of your practice in your community and usually costs nothing but time.

Public speaking enhances awareness of your practice in your community and usually costs nothing but time.

Parting Thoughts

Investment expertise, professional designations and financial planning services are no longer enough to attract new clients. Communicating your unique personality whether in person or online creates an authenticity that resonates with potential clients. Authenticity builds trustworthiness, the primary criteria a client uses to choose an advisor. An openness about who you are paves the way toward developing both business and social relationships with your clients, increasing the likelihood that they will introduce you to others in their network.

As with any relationship, it takes time to form rapport, but the investment will lead to additional clients and engender loyalty among your current clientele. Like-minded individuals looking for an advisor will be attracted to your values and beliefs, generating a natural flow of new prospects. Turn the idea of prospecting upside down by crafting a unique message, developing social connections and consistently communicating why you do what you do.