“Hi, is this Mr. Baer?”
The voice on the other end of the phone almost sounded as if she was apologizing in advance for what she was about to say next.
“My name is Sarah. I'm a recent Oberlin graduate, and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to talk.”
“Of course,” I said. “I'm always glad to help out a fellow Obie!”
And with that, she launched into a script about her new job at a nationally known insurance company, and how she needed to “practice” meeting with prospective clients and showing them some of her insurance offerings.
Assuming I was simply being asked to help her out, we agreed on a day and time for Sarah to come by my office to “practice.”
What I didn't know until the day arrived, was that while Sarah was there to practice, her boss, Rick, was there to close a sale.
The entire experience left a terrible taste in my mouth, feeling like I'd been bullied into buying a product I didn't want or – at the age of 26 – have any idea I even needed.
To make matters worse, Sarah soon decided financial services wasn't for her and my account was moved to someone new to the business. While the new guy, Jake, seemed nice enough, I viewed him as just another salesman whose job it was to suggest ways for me to part with my money.
So, I ignored Jake's calls and spent the next decade avoiding anyone who worked in the insurance or financial services industry.
If only things had started out differently when I was first contacted by Sarah, I would have gotten an earlier start on my financial planning. That's because the most successful financial advisors earn their clients based on trust, and keep their clients based on relationships.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we share our method for building the advisory business you've been dreaming of, I need to share how we got here.
Ken (my partner at Advisor Inbound and co-author of our book, Systematic Advisor Marketing) and I have both worked as traditional marketers, each running our own agencies in the past, and working with a variety of clients in many different industries.
Clients have hired each of us for a variety of reasons. To build or improve their website, to write and design sales materials, to create and manage online ads, and a ton of other “marketing” activities.
When you think about it, what they were really hiring us to do was bring them more customers. Customers who would spend more money with them, so their businesses would realize bigger revenues, so the owners of those businesses could take those profits and spend them on things that were personally important to them… like a new house, or a family vacation or college tuition for their kids.
But I'm about to tell you something counterintuitive. More traffic, more leads, or even more customers doesn't always mean more profits. Ken and I both learned this the hard way.
For instance, Ken and his team once worked with a pest control company that was getting leads from online ads. When Ken took over the ad campaign, his client was spending around $250-300 in advertising to sign up a new customer.
Not only was Ken able to drop that cost-per-acquisition down to $42, but he was also able to drive more customers to the company than they'd ever seen before.
But there was a problem.
The pest control company didn't have the capacity to take on all the additional work Ken and his team were sending their way. Since they were unable to keep up with the demand, their work became sloppy, clients were leaving as quickly as new ones were coming, and money was being spent that didn’t grow revenue for the business.
When examined through the lens of the modern marketing world, the marketing campaign was doing its job, or so Ken thought. But if his client's business was suffering, clearly there was a problem. That problem took Ken down the path of data-driven marketing, focusing on analytics, process and ultimately looking at marketing as responsible for growing company revenues not simply running “good’ campaigns with “good” vanity metrics.
I also had my share of clients with problems.
Most went something like this: “I need help with Facebook ads, David.”
“Sure, what are you trying to promote?” I'd ask.
They typically reply with something along the lines of “I need more customers.”
To which I'd ask, “Okay, what's your offer?”
“Offer? I don't have an offer. I just want them to come to my website.”
One look at the websites these business owners wanted me to send people to from Facebook ads told me there was little chance they'd be seeing many new customers as a result of my efforts. The sites I saw were poorly positioned to make sales, let alone get visitors to take an action like requesting an appointment or signing up for an email list.
Marketing, you see, is not just about getting prospects to show up. It's about…
• Making your ideal clients aware that you exist and what you can do for them.
• Helping them discover how your solution addresses the problems that concern them the most.
• Starting and maintaining a relationship until your prospects are ready to do business with you.
• Investing further in your most valuable asset (your existing clients) so you can build on those relationships and earn additional business from them as a result.
To put it another way, everything is marketing. By that we mean:
Customer service is marketing. Onboarding is marketing. Every interaction you, your staff, or your brand has with a client is marketing.
Which is exactly why Ken and I moved away from the typical “lead generation” marketing model we had previously worked under toward a holistic, systematic marketing approach – the exact system you're about to discover for yourself.
The Advisor Inbound Method
“There are literally thousands of ways to find business prospects to really build your book of business. Prospects are everywhere and this means on billboards, trucks, on the television, on the radio, on the internet, in newspapers, in networking groups. They're everywhere. All it takes is the ability to act on these leads and to make it happen by making that first introductory telephone call.” – Mr. Cold Call
I don't know about you, but I've never been comfortable in the traditional “sales” role, which has made it challenging for me to hunt down and close prospects.
And I'm not alone in my discomfort with selling.
Most advisors I've spoken with tell me that their early days in the business were spent cold calling, an activity none of them have told me they enjoyed. After all, it takes a great deal of emotional strength and commitment to know that 19 out of 20 times you pick up that phone, rejection is waiting on the other end.
While cold calling might be a rite of passage for many new advisors, it plays a key role in the high churn rate for those early in their career. Advisors who manage to stick around after “doing time” cold calling are quick to jump to less stressful business-building tactics as soon as they can afford to do so.
To be certain, the effectiveness of cold calling is entirely dependent on the list of prospects you're reaching out to. Working your way through the phone book (as some advisors have told us they've done) is probably going to be much less effective than working through a list of your firm's past prospects who previously demonstrated interest in financial services and simply need to be re-engaged.
But to assume that anyone and everyone is a prospect – and it's “just a numbers game” (as plenty of sales professionals believe) – is at best inefficient and at worst ineffective.
There is, of course, a better way: letting your ideal prospects come to you.
In the marketing world this approach is known as inbound marketing. It places the burden of the first move on your prospect as opposed to you. Cold calling, by contrast, is an outbound marketing activity that requires you make the first move by reaching out to prospects. The biggest downside to outbound marketing is that prospects are not expecting to hear from you and may or may not have any interest in what you are offering.
Conversely, prospects from an inbound campaign self-identify as having an interest in your offer (or, at the very least, they recognize a potential need for your expertise) and are volunteering to receive more information from you.
Using an inbound versus outbound approach to your marketing will make a dramatic difference in bringing you a great many more qualified prospects who will require less education and convincing than if you’d first connected with them through a cold call or networking event.
What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index to his desires — desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence. – Bertrand Russell
The basic choice to employ inbound over outbound tactics is certainly appealing to advisors who want to simplify prospecting efforts. But the real success doesn’t come merely from employing inbound marketing in lieu of other options.
The true advantage of an inbound approach is your ability to better manage your prospects and clients at every point in your relationship with them. Because when you start the relationship using a client-centric approach (it’s all about them) as opposed to a sales-centric approach (it’s all about you), your prospects and clients are much more willing participants.
This is precisely why we’ve developed the Advisor Inbound Method, our systematic approach to advisor marketing.
To be clear, we didn’t invent this approach. Over our years of working with small and medium sized businesses, we’ve found gaps in their attempts to attract, convert, and retain customers. And as we’ve implemented solutions – some we already knew and others we discovered along the way – we cherry picked the most effective elements, which we’ve compiled into our method, which we share in full detail in our book, Systematic Advisor Marketing.
The Advisor Inbound Method is broken down into eight clearly defined steps, each of which we’ll cover in greater detail over the next several chapters. But let’s start with a quick overview now.
In any advisor-client relationship, there are three general categories:
1. The pre-engagement period
2. The initial engagement (when your clients first begin to work with you)
3. The service delivery period
Within each of these three categories, there are specific activities you, as the marketer of your practice, can choose to take control of.
During the pre-engagement period…
• Attracting Prospects. The most effective way to attract prospects is to identify a narrowly defined target group who have a problem they need solved and insert yourself or your practice in front of them, offering a solution.
• Capturing Their Information. Offering your prospects an opportunity to preview your solution (without committing to becoming a client or even having to speak with you) provides you with a means of collecting their contact information. Giving access to a brief guide, or video, or webinar or even a live seminar can provide a value-based, frictionless way of collecting their contact information for future use.
• Nurturing The Relationship. Not everyone interested in learning about your solution is likely to become your new client right away. In fact, most won't. By establishing a routine of regular and consistent follow-up, you can continue to build a relationship with prospects until the point they are ready to move forward.
At the point of initial engagement…
• Converting Them Into A Client. In order to make the right offer to prospective clients at the right time, it’s important to understand their decision-making process and establish a system to manage the conversation designed to set you up for a sale.
• Making It Easy To Get Started. Often overlooked or taken for granted, sometimes a new client can get stalled before they've even gotten started because the process is intimidating and confusing. But when you plan ahead so you can assist new clients in getting started, you're more likely to keep them moving forward.
During the service delivery period…
• Delivering A “Wow” Experience. Far too many advisors lose clients because after the initial sale, the tone and frequency of communication changes dramatically. Instead, when you create a process of delighting and “wowing” your clients, you'll not only retain them, you'll benefit from additional opportunities to extend the services you provide them, as well as earn more referrals from them.
• Furthering The Relationship. Stemming from the work you and your team do to delight and “wow” your clients, you'll earn the right to offer them additional products and broaden the range of services they'll consider investing in with you.
• Getting Referrals. Most advisors believe their business is referral-based. And yet, few advisors have a true system for getting referred. When you've done the necessary advance work with your clients and circle of influence, asking for and receiving referrals can be a snap.
These are the eight basic steps that comprise the Advisor Inbound Method of building a thriving practice.
If you're interested in learning more about each of these business-building steps, grab a copy of Systematic Advisor Marketing here.