Successful financial advisers are differentiating themselves with small, inexpensive touchpoints that strike a personal chord with their clients and taking other key steps to create a "five-star" experience for clients.
Advisers can wow their clients by focusing broadly on three areas, according to Susan Kay, director of business development at MFS Fund Distributors, speaking at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit in Denver on Tuesday. Those areas are: providing "personal touches" for clients, creating a more engaging office experience, and hosting innovative events.
"Throughout history, successful business people have figured out how to court prospects by creating a five-star experience, thinking outside the box and finding ways to exceed client expectations," Ms. Kay told about 170 mostly female financial advisers in the audience.
She shared some of the most creative and memorable ideas she's seen from advisers around the country.
Creating personal touches starts by considering the things that matter most to individual clients, Ms. Kay said. For small business owners, that business is their lifeblood. She suggested tracking down the DBA for that business and sending a small card that celebrates the business anniversary.
Other clients love their pets. For these animal lovers, Ms. Kay suggested printing postage stamps (through Stamps.com) with their pet's picture, or creating a handkerchief with the pet's name (K9design.com).
Advisers can also creatively celebrate a client's birthday with a back-issue of a magazine from the year they were born (Pastpaper.com).
Yet another way advisers can differentiate themselves is through an "I'm sorry" drawer. In this scenario, the adviser keeps a drawer of boxed chocolates or some other gift. Any time the adviser utters the words "I'm sorry" to a client for a small mishap, the adviser would send the gift right away. That rebrands the experience from a negative to a positive one, Ms. Kay said.
Remember that treasure chest at the dentist's office when you were a kid? It probably vastly improved the semi-annual teeth cleaning. Advisers can create similar experiences in their office. For example, one firm has a "Candy Bar," which includes several jars of candy and tiny takeout boxes so that clients can take home their favorites.
Displaying a list of the community organizations that a firm works with also relates what an adviser is passionate about and leave a good impression, Ms. Kay said.
[Recommended video: How to host extraordinary client experiences]
Another firm built a client library with books that clients can check out. The books range from dealing with Alzheimer's disease to raising financially fit kids. These paint a picture that the adviser understands the needs of families.
Unique client events
Advisers also can get more creative in the events they host, Ms. Kay said. For example, some firms are hiring life coaches to conduct two-hour workshops that help a client define his or her purpose and establish next steps for achieving it.
Yet another idea is to host a wine party, but with a unique twist that tests the client's tasting skills. Advisers can order a wine tasting party kit online (such as at Giftedgrape.com) and then invite three or four clients and ask them to assemble a team of their friends to participate in a tasting competition. Bottles of wine are hidden and the teams taste each one, ordering them from the least to most expensive, or simply trying to guess which type of wine is in each bottle.
The tasting parties can get loud and competitive, but ultimately end up being a lot of fun for clients and give the adviser a lot of time to interact with their friends.
Such events cost very little but can go a long way toward strengthening existing client relationships or finding new ones, Ms. Kay said.
InvestmentNews is hosting two more Women Adviser Summits in 2019 in San Francisco on Oct. 22 and in New York on Nov. 19.
Jay Cooper is a freelance writer in Denver.