Like many financial advisers, a 20-plus-year industry veteran whom I will call Chris operates a very successful practice. Several months ago, he came to us with a desire to expand his business.
Although Chris enjoyed a robust client base in a defined market niche and garnered referrals to great new prospects, the size of his practice had changed very little over the past few years. With his children's college tuitions and his own retirement to fund, he decided that it was time to grow.
Before we suggested how to expand his reach through social media, we asked that Chris do some preparatory work, beginning with market segmentation.
We looked at his top clients and outlined their specific characteristics, based on income, assets, age, specific industries and occupations.
This served as the basis for determining the criteria for clients to meet Chris' A+ and A lists, as well as his B and C lists. The criteria for each segment also had some soft characteristics, such as willingness to refer.
When Chris applied his newly defined criteria to his client base, he found that the majority of clients fell into the B and C categories. Further, in analyzing his calendar, he found that he was spending 80% of his time with B and C clients and prospects; his staff discovered that they were spending about 90% of their time handling the accounts of C clients.
Although the results of segmentation showed that Chris was spending too little time with A-level clients and prospects, he was reluctant to “abandon” his B and C clients, and felt that it was unwise to turn anyone away, especially in today's market.
The answer lay in a personnel adjustment — partnering with a younger adviser in his office to deal with clients as a team — establishing a process that shifted B and C clients and prospects to that new partner, and using social media to allow Chris to spend more time with A and A+ client prospects.
STEPS TO TAKE
On the social-media front, Chris took the following steps:
• He identified his top 20 clients. These weren't just his largest clients, but ones with whom he had close relationships and who were willing to refer friends and associates.
• He scheduled appointments with these top clients to brainstorm about people he should meet. The goal was to make one of these appointments each week.
• He used LinkedIn and other sources, such as zoominfo.com, to prepare prospecting lists for each meeting.
• He shared with clients his excitement over his new team structure, describing how the team would be offering a better level of service.
• He used the prospecting list to ask for personal introductions to three to five people that the client knew well and thought might be good for him to meet — specifically those who met the practice's A+ and A criteria.
• He used LinkedIn's Advanced Search feature to research other A+ prospects. If Chris had a meeting scheduled with a client at his or her place of business, the team looked for “second degree” LinkedIn connections in the same company or general location. Chris would then call the common connection and ask for an introduction. This proved to be an excellent way to beef up his calendar each week.
• He set up Google Alerts on his top clients and centers of influence and monitored their social-media sites to stay abreast of developments in their personal and business lives. When appropriate, he reached out with a call, note or gift, which has proved to be an excellent way to continue building valuable relationships.
As his practice became more process-driven and his use of social media grew, Chris found that his clients were more proactive in giving him referrals. He now spends more than 80% of his time in front of A and A+ clients and prospects, while his junior-adviser partner and assistants do the rest.
Chris' business has grown much more efficient and he is having more fun. And just six months after implementing the change, Chris is on track for his best year ever, by a very large margin.
Kristin Andree (kristin@andre media.com) is president of Andree Media & Consulting.