Earlier this year, Pershing published, The Second Annual Study of Advisory Success – A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations. The study defines what success means for advisors and highlights key issues facing advisors. This year’s study finds that successful advisors embrace client communications best practices and work to meet their clients’ evolving expectations regarding access to information.
Four findings reported by the study resonated with our own experience working with advisors:
- A major challenge is keeping up with the demands of the business. Advisors are concerned with having enough time to get things done.
- Advisors agree that it is important to have both a personal and firm brand as well as a defined value proposition, but most clients cannot articulate what sets their own advisor apart.
- Bad news tends to drive client communications – good news can get overlooked.
- Many advisors do not manage their online presence, and social media is uncharted waters. Yet, advisors who rate themselves as “doing better than ever” tend to also be making better use of websites, social media and other technology tools.
Time to Get Things Done
The study noted that even the most successful advisors are increasingly worried about having enough time to get things done. Time pressure stems from the increase in client expectations and the ever increasing number of communication touch points. The study states that “twenty years ago advisors connected with clients through three primary channels, telephone, mail and meeting.” Today there are dozens of other options. Effectively communicating with clients is more complicated and requires either more time or resources to support those efforts. We have also experienced this trend and find ourselves working with advisors more and more on effective client communications, whether that’s creating e-newsletters, providing Twitter support, creating website articles, videos or other content. Outsourcing certain aspects of client communications seems to be one way to stay ahead of the competition.
An Advisor’s Value Proposition: Craft It, State It, Repeat It ─ Often
One of the more interesting findings in the study was around brand and an advisor’s value proposition. The study indicated that the majority of advisors (53%) strongly agree that their personal brand is more important than their firm’s brand for their clients. Yet when recruiting new clients the study results indicate that a firm brand is more important in opening doors. The study goes on to point out that the value of brand for an advisor is the ability to attract more of the right kind of clients. By examining their own brand, advisors may gain a better understanding of who their ideal clients are and how to better shape their value proposition to attract those types of clients.
The study found that 83% of advisors say they have a defined value proposition, yet only 26% strongly agree that their clients could articulate what differentiates them from other advisors. Only 37% of investors who work with an advisor said, “I can articulate what sets my financial advisor apart from other advisors.” The study goes on to reveal that advisors who focus on brand seem to enjoy more success. So a key to success is the ability to define and articulate a value proposition for both an individual advisor and their firm. We have worked with a number of financial institutions on defining their value proposition. Even if you have a value proposition in place, it makes sense to revisit it. You can link here to an article on how to create a value proposition: How a Clear and Concise Value Proposition Can Help You Gain Business.
Communicating with Clients: It’s All Good
The Pershing study found that most advisors’ outreach is based on negative news. 58% of advisors reach out when markets are down, as do 68% when a client’s personal investments drop in value. But advisors are less likely to reach out with positive news, such as when investments are up. In our view, this finding, suggests that a consistent communication outreach program, in good times and bad, can go a long way with clients. The study revealed that the vast majority of advisors do not offer a mailed or emailed newsletter. 6% send a newsletter or e-newsletter when the market is down, 7% when the market is up. 14% send one when the market is down and 15% send one when the market is up. 21% said they send one when there is a new Fed policy or change. 13% send one to educate clients. Opportunities for ongoing, regular communications in the form or a newsletter or e-newsletter exist.
Online Presence & Social Media
Social media seems to be the next frontier for advisors, and an online presence is a key to growth and success. An interesting fact the study revealed was that, among investors younger than 35 years of age, 42% reported conducting an internet search on an advisor before working with them. What does your online presence say about you? Advisors who rated themselves as “doing better than ever” are more likely to have searched their own names online and are more likely to have published thought leadership articles. They are also more likely to have a person managing their firm’s social media content.
Shockingly, 28% of advisors reported not having a website. A modern, up-to-date website is a must for advisors. For those who do have a website, are you making the most of it? This is increasingly important as many potential clients will “stalk” you online before they meet with or speak to you. Does your website contain articles on topics of interest to investors such as white papers, thought leadership articles, relevant charts or graphs? Creating robust and original content or curating content will go a long way with prospects and clients.
LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform among advisors by a wide margin. Fifty-eight percent cited using it in 2013 up from 41% in 2012. Forty-six percent of advisors use LinkedIn to generate new business, while 35% use it to communicate with clients. Advisors tend to use social media to distribute personal updates (47%) rather than news or thought leadership. Yet 46% of advisors say their social media content is meant to focus on market commentary, indicating that their actions are not in synch with their strategies. Part of the reason for this conflict is a lack of time. The study suggests advisors should create original content or curate it on a regular basis.
It’s time for advisors to investigate Twitter. Twitter allows advisors to be thought leaders by tweeting or retweet articles they find interesting or relevant. Clients can follow you on Twitter, and so can prospects. It is a great way to connect to and attract younger investors. We encourage the advisors we work with to follow industry media to understand what they are interested in covering and perhaps become a source. There is an early adopter advantage here for advisors.
Electronic Communication = Success for Advisors
Advisors who rank themselves as “doing better than ever” also tend to make the most of their website, social media and other electronic communications. The key to advisor success is keeping in touch with clients, in whatever format works best for them, in good times and bad.