Practice Management: The Loyalty Equation Author: Eve B. Rose
The chicken or egg – which came first?
That old saw (paraphrased, of course) applies equally well to investment management consultants. Which comes first? The clients or the practice?
Your immediate reflex may be to say . . . the clients. And of course, if you don’t have clients, you don’t have a practice. But without a well-run practice, you may find yourself scrambling to keep clients or replace those you’ve lost with new ones. Then again, if you are committed to “best practices” in how you run your business, clients must come first. The clients and the practice are irretrievably entwined.
The right strategies will inspire loyalty in your clients. Loyalty as a client retention practice cannot succeed unless you manage your practice to accomplish it day to day, month to month, year to year.
Build a business model that supports your clients’ needs.
When you make a commitment to building an advisory business, it means you have decided to focus less on the daily management of investment decisions and more on the relationships you have with your clients. That means your workday should change too.
Answer these three questions:
- Are you spending hours on the phone talking to clients about their portfolios?
- Do you have 300+ client relationships?
- Were you surprised to learn that your biggest client’s mother needs long-term care?
If you answered yes to these questions, then your business model is probably inadequate.
A loyal person is someone who is “unswerving in allegiance,” and to win and hold somebody’s unswerving allegiance, you need to deliver advice and service to a client, the way that client wants it delivered.
Here are some ideas on how you can manage your practice to inspire loyalty in your best clients.
- Less is more. When you have fewer households in your client base, you can concentrate on your best clients, devoting the time and attention to them that they deserve – and probably expect. Determine how many clients you can support the way you want. Calculate the assets a client must have for you to give them the right level of attention without worrying if you’re making a profit.
- Allocate time. It takes years to really get to know a client. Your first meeting is a great “get-to-know-you” session, and it does help you lay the proper foundation for a strong relationship, but the longer you know clients, the better you understand them. Over time, you can learn what’s really important to them and what they need from you. Block out time to concentrate on the clients you want to keep and replicate. Schedule it on your calendar and keep those “appointments.” And if you are distracted by the hustle and bustle of your office, work elsewhere – at home, for example.
- Develop empathy. Time in a relationship is important. However, making an emotional connection may be even more crucial. Like everyone else, your clients think about you with their right brain as well as with their left. The left side of their brain deals the facts and figures. It wants to know what you are doing with their money and why. The right side of their brain has to do with their emotions, and the emotional component is critical. That’s why successful advisors work hard to turn their best clients into friends. That database you have is valuable, but leverage it. Don’t just send a birthday card to your top clients. Give ’em a call. Take them out to lunch. Drop by to say hello.
- Keep your promises. Do whatever you have to do to keep your commitments. After all, we expect our friends to keep their promises – especially friends who are taking care of our money. So create principles and standards by which you and your team will work. Write them down. Share them with your clients. Make sure your team participates in their development and understands the importance of adhering to them.
- Cater to your clients. The key word here is “cater.” Lip service is often given to the principle of being attentive to client needs. The word “cater” accurately describes the way you should operate your business. It goes beyond the idea of attentiveness into the realm of outstanding, single-minded service. Give your clients what they want from you. Some, for example, want bimonthly calls about their investment progress; others only want to hear from you once a quarter.
- Stay one step ahead. “How extraordinary,” your clients might say if you knew what they needed before they did. It’s not so hard – as long as you are as loyal to your clients as you want them to be to you. Think about the challenges your clients are facing. Not just the investment challenges but also those related to who they are as individuals, their stage of life, the businesses they’re in, and the families they have. You and your team should always be looking for ways in which to help them in every area of their lives. Do this for a while and it will become second nature, as natural to how you run your business as anything else you do.
- Show up. In the end, you need to “be there.” Loyal clients can sustain dips in the value of their portfolio, but they have to see that you are part of their lives and that is more than being just a phone call away. Structure your routine so that you can meet with your best clients on their own turf. Socialize with them and get to know their families. Pay visits to their homes, and make a point of being there for the important occasions in their lives – the good times and the bad.
Copyright © 2007 Rose Communications, Inc.
Eve B. Rose, ABC, CIMA® is a writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience in marketing and organizational communications. In addition to marketing brochures and other collateral, she writes white papers, shareholder report commentaries, newsletter and magazine articles, and management communications – among other things. To learn more about Eve and her services, visit www.everose.com