Part of the value in my articles is the research I share with you. Sometimes, these bits of wisdom are hard pills to swallow. Often, building and proving credibility requires people to make difficult choices or recognize painful truths. For example…

The Spectrem Group recently released a report titled “Attitudes of Affluent Investors on Surviving the Economic Crisis.” Below are a couple of quotes from that report. You’ll see that they substantiate what I’ve been writing about for the past year. Essentially, consumers do not distinguish between the various types of financial people. Rather, they lump them all together and hold all of them accountable for this terrible economy. This series of articles tells you how to pull yourself out of this lump and distinguish yourself. Now, the quotes:

  • Investors do not distinguish between firms that received bailout funds and those that didn’t. In their opinion, everybody was bailed out, and they were all bad.
  • Investors can’t easily demonstrate their anger toward the government, but they can and eventually will demonstrate that anger toward firms they believe are responsible. This will lead to investors changing advisers, arguing about fees or becoming more self-directed.

One of our clients runs a high-level advisor registry. In a recent conversation, we discussed the amount of advisor firings. Where normally it’s 6-10%, these days, it’s closer to 70%! People are not happy.

When we recount these numbers in our seminars, everyone in the room shakes their heads and says, “Not my clients.” But they’re wrong. They simply don’t know their clients well enough.

What about you? Chances are, you didn’t do anything to deserve this attitude. But, equally, you might not have done anything to distance yourself from the failures, scandals, fraud, and allegations. Chances are, you have not yet initiated a proactive credibility-building campaign. If that’s so, then those quotes above are directed at you.

The purpose of this article isn’t to criticize advisors. Our goal is to give you a way out of the morass, to give you specific steps you can take to show yourself as different and better, to distance yourself from the bad press and perceptions. And, our strategy is to show you how to entice clients away from other firms that have failed to take these steps. In the previous article, we covered the first two steps.

Step 3. Show Your Relevance

Research findings released in the past two years provide clear insight into client concerns. Your job now, it to shape your “distinguishing” argument around those concerns. In other words, focus on how you are different and better in the areas that are most important to your clients and prospects.

Make a list of things that people are unhappy about, worried about or not getting from their current advisors. We call them “Opportunity areas.” Next to each item, describe how you are different and better. Here is a partial list to get you started. Then, look below for some research findings that will help you create your own Opportunity list.

A sampling of what clients say they don’t like about their current advisor or financial services firm includes:

  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Advisor does not understand, explain or listen
  • Not sure s/he is looking out for my best interest
  • Lack of transparency
  • Lack of trust
  • Performance
  • Investment philosophy (“buy and hold doesn’t work for me anymore”)

What clients don’t like about their financial advisor

Let’s focus on two of the most important areas and look at what you can do to distinguish yourself in these areas:

Number 1 – Lack of Responsiveness.

According to the research, receiving poor advice from their financial advisor is the top reason that clients switch to another one. But why would they stay? Something as simple as promptly returning telephone calls is the number one action an advisor can take to develop loyalty in a client. Spectrem Group survey of affluent investors.

The Spectrem survey measured responses from 500 investors with at least $500,000 in investable assets. It might seem odd, but the survey showed 90% of the investors feel that returning phone calls promptly is the most important reason for remaining loyal. That beat out good investment returns, which came in second at 80%.

The importance of responsiveness was also front and center in the results of a Rand Report – Investor and Industry Perspectives on Investment Advisors and Broker Dealers. The number one, most common complaint about advisors was “lack of accessibility or attentiveness.”

Idea 1. If you pride yourself in being responsive, use this aspect of your business as a distinguishing factor. Commit to a standard. Commit to returning calls or emails within 24 hours or less. It sounds ridiculously rudimentary, but that’s what clients want.

Idea 2. Set a standard for regular proactive communication. If you currently meet with clients once a year, consider changing the standard to twice a year. And use this change as an opportunity to connect with your clients and show how you are continually looking for ways to better serve them.

Idea 3. Look for ways to reach out to your clients beyond the annual review. You don’t necessarily have to visit with each client in person, but you do have to reach out to them and make sure they feel comfortable that you are looking out for their best interests.

Number 2 – Lack of Trust

The “Cohn & Wolfe Financial Confidence Survey” is a study of 650 U.S. consumers. It shows that the public has little trust in financial advisors, insurers, and other financial services companies. In fact, when asked to list words to describe financial institutions, “greedy” and “impersonal” were each selected by 32 percent of respondents. “Opportunistic” was selected by 26 percent, and “distant from me” was chosen by 22 percent.

Conversely, Cohn & Wolfe also captured the positive words that people used to describe the industry: Only 3 percent of respondents selected the words “sympathetic” or “transparent,” 5 percent selected “ethical,” 10 percent “honest,” and 13 percent “trustworthy.”

Further reflecting their lack of confidence, 66 percent of respondents said they do not believe the financial services industry will help them to ever regain the wealth they lost during the economic downturn. Only 8 percent said they did expect such help; 27 percent said they didn’t know.

Turn data into action. Those numbers are appalling. With them in mind, what can you do to let your clients know you have the ability and commitment to get them through these tough times and rebuild their portfolios. If your clients have faired better than most, use this story in your marketing along with your commitment to continually improve.

Look at how you can re-establish the trust factor with existing clients and show yourself as transparent, ethical, honest, trustworthy and sympathetic. If you feel you would genuinely score higher, if your clients were asked to complete the survey, then you might consider formally surveying your clients and using the comparison in your marketing.

In Conclusion.

In this second installment, we’ve given you some steps to help you show yourself as different and better. We want you to use this challenging economy to your advantage. Perhaps the biggest benefit you can glean from this series of articles is knowing what your target market, prospects and clients are thinking and feeling. You can’t adjust if you don’t have that information. Overcoming this economy is a process. If you want a helping hand to implement these credibility-building activities, give us a call.

Your Reward

If you regularly read my articles, you know that I always give a reward. It’s my way of saying Thank You for placing your trust in me. This month’s reward is a 2 for 1. Go to my website: www.aboutpeople.com and buy our brand new book Axis of Influence – How Credibility & Likeability Intersect to Drive Success. Do that, and I will personally send you (free) our eBook: The Boomer Report- The financial advisor’s guide to understanding the Boomer mind. (Pssssst – Pam doesn’t know I’m doing this, so let’s keep it a secret. Send me a personal email (include this paragraph) after you order Axis of Influence, and I’ll personally send your copy of The Boomer Report – free! Send it to: michael@aboutpeople.com)