GUEST COLUMNIST – KATRINA SHANKS
How many times have we heard the term ‘unprecedented’ this year? 2020 has been a year like no other for New Zealanders – and for their financial advisers, writes Financial Advice NZ’s CEO Katrina Shanks.
In a changed world, in a changing financial services environment, advisers are faced with the challenge of building meaningful, trusted and lasting client relationships. And in doing so, they have a key role in helping Kiwis – and New Zealand at large – bounce back and reconnect with their goals.
‘Bounce’ was also the theme we chose for our 2020 Financial Advice NZ Conference, and I’m proud to say that our keynote speakers have been highly informative and insightful in addressing it.
In the lead-up to the break, I’d like to revisit some of the gems presented by business growth expert Keith Abraham (The Power of Advice vs Selling), and Ekant Veer, Professor of Marketing at the University of Canterbury (Building Trust in a Chaotic World). Both talked our audience through the huge opportunity, and many nuances, of being a trusted adviser in a complex and rapidly changing world.
The importance of ‘connection’
As we know, financial advice isn’t about selling products, but rather understanding clients’ needs and wants, and offering solutions to a problem. As Keith put it, in these times of many ‘unknowns’, advisers need to be the “calm voice and the safe pair of hands – the sense-makers”.
One of the key takeaways of both sessions was that personal connection is the basis of trust, and that advisers need to communicate less but connect more. ‘Connection’ is what ultimately creates a loyal customer base; one that returns and refers.
Advisers must be strategic and proactive in identifying clients’ drivers, motivations…and tailor the advice experience around it…
Advisers must be strategic and proactive in identifying clients’ drivers, motivations, and ‘blocks’ – and tailor the advice experience around it. Even before the discovery meeting, this effort starts with building up credibility and profile through a professional digital presence, including social media, blog content and guides. This is how advisers can present themselves as thought-leaders in the industry, ahead of the ‘transactional’ phase of the client relationship.
Then, the relationship needs to be nurtured beyond the actual ‘advice’ moment, when the solution is provided. After the meeting, advisers should have a process to onboard clients and make them feel valued. That could be checking in with a quick call or text, or sending out an onboarding pack with some extra information relating to the client’s journey.
And finally, there’s the ‘forever after’ phase – a contact programme to stay in touch with clients on a regular basis, ideally not just once a year to remind them about their review meeting. Think about monthly or quarterly eNewsletters, for example, filled with practical tips and insights. The key thing is to always provide value, and in doing so, being authentic.
Mastering needs-based advice
Again, the goal of an adviser is to be the sense-maker – take the complexity and turn it into something simple and compelling, providing insights and information along the way, and helping clients implement their plan.
…People will never forget how you made them feel…
Clients look for quality of advice, value, speed, convenience and overall quality of service. With this in mind, face-to-face conversations are the core of the advice relationship.
Whether advisers meet their clients in person or via videoconferencing, the conversation itself needs to reflect the quality of the service. From asking meaningful questions through to creating a good virtual experience, attention to detail is pivotal. That’s how advisers can be memorable, win clients’ hearts, and foster trust.
I particularly liked one of the quotes that were used: “People may forget what you said. People may forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What brand means
Ekant talked about the role of brand in building and maintaining trust, especially in the chaotic world we live in.
He started by saying that a brand isn’t just your logo or your physical presence. A brand is a ‘constellation of meaning’, where each star represents a value that the brand stands for.
When looking at constellations, often you can’t see the pattern until someone points at the dots. So it’s the adviser that needs to ‘connect the dots’ for clients, showing them how their values interact with one another to form a constellation of meaning, a brand.
I feel this is particularly important, because advisers are their brand. How they talk, how easy they are to deal with, how informative and efficient in delivering solutions they are – these are all things that contribute to creating a ‘feel’ for the brand, and for the quality of advice.
To nurture a loyal client base, advisers need to maintain brand trust through the advice journey…
So, how can advisers create a brand identity? By listing the values they’d like to have in their ‘constellation’, how they want to be remembered, and what emotions they’d like to elicit (e.g. honesty, discretion, reliability etc.).
Maintain brand trust
Creating a brand identity is just the start. To nurture a loyal client base, advisers need to maintain brand trust through the advice journey, driven by consistent quality of service and non-negotiable standards.
Here are some practical steps that emerged from the sessions:
- Make a plan for engagement – It’s important for advisers to maintain contact (even in hard times), share success stories, and never take clients ‘for granted’. Negative word-of-mouth is damaging, and losing a client can have a ripple effect
- Consistently improve and implement – To create momentum in their business, advisers need to consistently think about their vision for the future, improve, implement, and invest time and energy in their growth
- Be human – In this digital age, advisers must engage online just like they would do in person
- Identify your competitors – Advisers don’t just compete with other advisers, but also with negative emotions they or their clients may have
- Have a plan – Writing down goals and plans for the next week, month or year is key
There was a lot to unpack, and these are just a few ‘nuggets of inspiration’ to start 2021 with a fresh approach. The New Year will be another intense one for advisers, but it’s heartening to see so many of you taking up the challenge.