I started as an ‘adviser’ in 1995. The financial services world was a very different place back then: no qualifications were needed, mobiles phones were rare, and we had only three desk top computers for 30 ‘advisers’.
We had a smoking room too, where the cool kids used to hang out, or at least those with a full diary. We have come a long way since then, but that challenge remains the same; finding new clients.
So, if I were a younger adviser, starting out in 2017, how would I meet that challenge?
Firstly, I would identify my target market. Who do you want to advise? Which markets will you specialise in? Remember, a specialism does not automatically mean the market is small; over half a million people retire each year in the UK, more than 300,000 people bought their first home last year.
Specialising in an area or niche, whether it be a type of person or an area of advice, brings three key advantages. You will become an expert, your business will be more efficient and, crucially, it’s easier to market a niche or specialism.
Your marketing strategy should start with the creation of client personas and then aim to generate enquiries from multiple sources, whilst being easily measurable.
Where possible, you must invest in an effective website, which clearly shows the type of clients you work with, and your areas of expertise. When you are starting out money will be tight, but it is vital you manage your online presence and an effective website is crucial.
If you are working for someone else, and it is not possible to build your own website, try and at least make sure your firm’s site has comprehensive adviser profiles. Also, offer to write regular articles for the site. Most are rarely updated; your boss will probably leap at the chance to put this right. It will help build your profile, position you as the expert and the ‘go to person’ in your niche, whilst showing you are prepared to share knowledge.
Do not be scared to innovate either. For example, I am a great admirer of what Xentum director Adam Carolan has done with geniuswithmoney.co.uk and Pete Matthew, managing director of Jackson Wealth Management, has done with meaningfulmoney.tv.
Next, sign up for the two key directories; Unbiased and VouchedFor. Well-built profiles work and will produce a steady stream of new enquiries.
Get known in your niche
Above all, become known in your niche. Use social media appropriate for your target market, write guides and white papers, network, find events you can speak at, offer yourself as a guest expert to your local radio station; you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get a slot.
In everything you do, demonstrate your expertise. Be prepared to share your knowledge and add value at every possible opportunity.
Finally, and most importantly, build a referral strategy; recommendations are the best source of new clients.
Three pronged approach
To be successful your strategy needs three things.
Firstly, do a great job with every single client, go the extra mile, leave them astounded by the quality of your service and advice. Next, make sure they know you are building a business, are taking on new clients and crucially, the type of clients you want to work with. Clients are very supportive of their advisers and will be pleased to help. Finally, make sure your entire online presence demonstrates expertise and builds credibility. You never know when a potential client, perhaps one who has been referred to you, is checking you out.
Advisers, young and old, cannot neglect marketing and expect their business to grow. All other things equal, marketing ability, is in my experience, the attribute which sets financially successful advisers apart from the rest.
Phil Bray is director of The Yardstick Agency.