When I speak to groups of financial advisers across the country, it seems to me that most of their social-media efforts to date have been spent on marketing and branding, as well as prospecting.
Although those certainly should be part of any adviser's overall business strategy, there is one area that many overlook: the opportunity to build and strengthen client relationships and further client engagement.
Let's face it — life is just plain hectic, with most busy professionals having little time aside from their family and professional commitments. There is no time for idle chitchat and building superficial relationships.
Advisers who want to have a lasting impact on clients — and ensure that they stay clients — must invest time in building real relationships. Advisers should get to know their clients — their likes, dislikes and hobbies — and go above and beyond what is expected.
So how can social media help?
Advisers should set up Google alerts on at least their top 20 clients (google.com/alerts) to stay up-to-date on media-worthy happenings. This is an excellent way to learn about a client's awards or accomplishments.
Using Google alerts, an adviser with whom we work learned that a client who is a Broadway producer had received an award. The adviser had the article and the show's Playbill framed and sent to the client.
Because the client was a new producer and this was her very first award, she was beyond thrilled that her adviser even noticed and took the time to congratulate her. The client has since referred a number of her colleagues to the adviser.
Facebook tends to be where people share personal information, though some share far too much, of course. Advisers should connect with clients and make it a practice to spend a few minutes each day or evening perusing their Facebook wall.
Look for the important things such as birthdays, anniversaries, illnesses, injuries and upcoming or recent vacations.
Here are a few examples of how advisers with whom we work have engaged their clients after seeing what they are up to on Facebook:
• Sent a gallon of ice cream to the son of a client who mentioned in a status update that the child was having his tonsils removed.
• Had a basket of edible goodies delivered to a client who was recovering from surgery.
• Made a phone call to a client simply to let her know that the adviser was thinking about her during a particularly difficult time.
• Printed pictures of each couple in attendance at the adviser's client appreciation event (the adviser had posted pictures from the event on his own social-media page), had them framed and then hand-delivered them to all attendees.
The possibilities are endless. Take an interest in clients' lives and not just their portfolios.
This does double duty. Not only will staying abreast of the happenings in clients' personal and professional lives help advisers strengthen their relationships, it will also help advisers stay on top of changes that could affect their clients' financial situations, such as promotions, job changes or layoffs.
If clients are business owners, advisers should connect with them on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Advisers should engage with clients by posting comments, promoting their businesses within their own network and becoming an advocate for them.
Although many advisers claim to have top-tier service, the truth is that not too many actually deliver on that promise. Most stop at knowing their clients' financial goals and serving their accounts.
Strive to be better than that. Advisers who strengthen their relationships with clients by using social media can expect to benefit in the following ways:
• More clients stay when they like, trust, respect and engage their advisers.
• Clients will be more likely to consolidate all their assets with their advisers.
• Clients will be more open to cross-selling opportunities, due to the relationship that their advisers have built with them, and the trust they place in their advisers and their recommendations.
• Clients become advocates for their advisers and their firms, resulting in a greater number of referrals.
The relationship and the communication with clients shouldn't be solely about portfolio returns. In an increasingly wired world, clients are looking for something more.
With the information and communication opportunities provided to advisers by social media, this opportunity is literally at their fingertips.
Kristin Andree (kristin@andree media.com) is president of Andree Media & Consulting.