Like the pandemic itself, financial anxiety is highly contagious.
I have yet to meet a person or family untouched by the widespread disruption caused by Covid-19. Those challenges have been myriad. First it was the massive market volatility of March. Then came life circumstances that changed rapidly. Students came home from university. Jobs were furloughed or lost. Retirement savings disappeared. Too many households lost a breadwinner or two to the course of the illness.
As I write this in London nearly consumed by a second wave, it’s clear those changes are far from fixed. This means a financial advisor, the person who can act as a guide through the maelstrom, has never been more important. People are looking to take control of their finances and plan through the uncertainty.
What does this mean for an industry traditionally focused on one to one meetings and conversations that typically happen in person once or maybe twice a year? Advisors had to adapt quickly. The shift to digital was happening, but for many advisors it was more window dressing than the core product. Now that transition has accelerated.
This new way of working impacts an industry without increasing competition. Robo-advisors and digital wealth management platforms offer lower fees and most transparency on assets. The challenge for IFAs is that they need to show to current and prospective customers they are willing to ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to re-defining customer relationships and providing the value and guidance that people seek.
This is where marketing comes in. Marketing can build brand and reputation with clients current and futures.
Ask these three questions first
Before setting out on a marketing campaign, start by answering a few questions about the business.
What’s your unique selling point? Why are you different and what is the value you are bringing to your clients. Is it your approach to investment? Your reputation in the market? Everyone claims they have good customer service but what really sets them apart? It’s important to audit and understand your competitors’ messaging here and find your niche that sets you part in the market.
Who is your target customer? Is it women in their 50s with investable assets of £500k+, the ones soon to inherit family wealth? Be specific about your target audience and from here work out the best way to reach them with relevant and interesting messaging.
How fit for purpose is your digital infrastructure? You need the technology your client base now uses. Future client experiences will be increasingly digitally interactive and on demand, so ensure information can be accessed through your website and through mobile apps. Ensure remote meetings are seamless and professional.
We’ve found most people in the industry are able to make the jump to digital meetings. Some prefer certain accommodations – like having all documentation mailed to them in advance – but that’s very doable. This is a point of difference. Advertise your new service model to others.
Make a splash
Once you have these basic principles in place, there are number of ways to build brand and reputation with your client base, which include:
Content – Make writing personalised and relevant to your audience. Create and think about new formats. Host a podcast, or run a webinar or virtual client event with guest speakers. Use it as an opportunity to engage with your audience.
Social media – Use social media not just as to promote but also to listen. See what your clients are saying and sharing. This can help shape digital marketing campaigns. Build relationships with influencers on-line, for example @ClaerB aka Claer Barrett, Personal Finance Editor at the FT or financial expert @jbthewealthman, Jason Butler, and start following them. See where you can you insert yourself into the conversations.
PR and thought leadership – the media and the money pages remain a trusted source for information and education, so it’s important to build relationships with journalists and give your views and opinions on financial planning, pensions, investments or ESG for example. Can you showcase your work through client case studies and real-life stories?
Paid campaigns – Use Google Ads to increase your page rank/index higher on key terms to attract new audiences. Target them with relevant content and conduct key word research.
Times of disruption are inherently scary. This applies to both businesses – who must make payroll every month – and individual customers. The opportunity is for wealth advisors to forge new links when they are most needed. Helping someone in a crisis creates the foundation to strong, long-lasting relationships for years and even decades to come.
Yvonne is the deputy managing director of Cognito’s London office