The financial advisor, the medium and the message
By Paul McCord
McCord Training and Development
The medium used to communicate to the prospect shapes the prospect’s perception of the advisor, oftentimes more than the content of the message itself. Few invest their time and money in learning more sophisticated prospecting and client acquisition strategies.
The typical financial advisor will spend over 650 hours a year studying his or her profession through reading professional books and publications, taking online courses, attending seminars, etc. That’s almost 17 40-hour weeks of study a year to become good at what they do. Broken into the equivalent of college credits, it equates to about three full semesters of college work a year.
Three years into the profession, these advisors will have completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, plus a semester of graduate school. After only five years in the profession, they’ve invested the equivalent of seven and a half years' worth of class time. Since most enter the profession with at least a bachelor’s degree, they have, in essence, earned a PhD.
During the same time, they have invested little, if anything, in the other side of their profession — learning to sell and market their services. By the end of their fifth year in the profession, most advisors have spent little more than the equivalent of the hours in one college semester learning how to generate the clients they must have in order to practice their profession.
Unfortunately, being educated on the technical side of the financial industry is useless if you don’t have a client to work with. Being half a financial advisor will get you nowhere except into another profession.
Many advisors struggle when it comes to generating new business. Some cold call; others network the local chamber of commerce. And some stick their business cards to bulletin boards at restaurants or under windshields in parking lots, send unsolicited emails, fax fliers all over town, invest in direct mail, buy leads or purchase expensive advertising. Yet, few invest their time and money in learning more sophisticated prospecting and client acquisition strategies.
When acquiring complex and sophisticated services, such as financial products and guidance, prospects want to work with an advisor they believe to be an expert. Whether their assumptions are correct or not, prospects have preconceived ideas about what an expert is and how experts acquire their business. They assume that experts are not cold calling, sending unsolicited emails, sticking business cards on windshields or bulletin boards, or putting up cheap yard signs on street corners. Rather, prospects assume that experts don’t have to do these things because their practice is populated through referrals from the advisor’s current client base. Consequently, the very act of cold calling, faxing fliers, blasting emails, or engaging in any other form of prospecting which actual prospects identify as crude, sends the message that the advisor is not what the advisor proclaims himself to be — an expert. These prospecting methods confirm Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation that “the medium is the message.”
The medium used to communicate to the prospect shapes the prospect’s perception of the advisor, oftentimes more than the content of the message itself. Unfortunately for the advisor using these media, the message the medium communicates is the exact opposite of what the advisor is seeking to communicate.
Nevertheless, there are client acquisition methods available whose medium message can reinforce the advisor’s content message. Learning and perfecting these formats requires as much dedication and commitment as learning the technical aspects of the profession. Alternatively, hiring someone who understands the financial advisor’s business and can perform a number of these activities for the advisor will both expedite the process and free the advisor from the time commitment to learn and hone the required skills.
Communicating an expert message requires you to use the media of an expert. Mixing an expert message with a non-expert medium doesn’t send a mixed message, it sends the dominate message of the medium — a message that the advisor is just another one of the crowd.
What are the media of an expert? There are many.
Networking: Networking through various organizations and associations is an expert format. However, like all things associated with the expert, how and where you network is crucial. An expert is more likely to be networking through specialized business, industry and charitable associations than through more general organizations. Working with a physician, engineering, architectural, CEO or charitable organization is more “expert” than surfing the local chamber of commerce or breakfast networking group. In addition, becoming an active member and developing relationships without overt prospecting is more “expert” than trying to evangelize someone you just met. The relationship converts the prospect, not the overt selling.
Referrals: Prospects assume that true experts acquire clients through referrals. Generating a large volume of high-quality referrals requires learning and practicing a well-developed process that leads clients to a certain referral-generating comfort level. Simply asking doesn’t produce the quantity or quality desired. However, there are processes used by the top professionals that work extremely well.
Press releases: Learning how to write and distribute well-written press releases about yourself and your practice will have far more impact than advertising. Most prospects are resistant to advertising and direct mail. Press releases, on the other hand, have the authority and subtlety of being reported as hard news. Published articles: Becoming a published author on technical subjects important to the prospect demonstrates expert knowledge — and is in a medium most prospects recognize as educational and informative, not one that can be considered “selling.” With the thousands of article databases on the Internet, becoming a published author is quick and easy if the article is well-written, educational and void of blatant self-promotion.
Speeches: Giving educational speeches to local business organizations will also establish your credentials as an expert. Moreover, like writing content, the medium used has automatic expert credibility. By appearing before the group as an speaker, you become an expert. And like writing articles, the emphasis is on education, not self-promotion. Experts are far more effective at promoting themselves when they don’t overtly promote themselves.
Becoming an expert source: Recognized experts are interviewed and quoted in various media. The experts quoted and interviewed in your local media have worked hard to become expert sources for the reporters, columnists and freelance writers interviewing or quoting them. You can become an expert source also by learning the ins and outs of working with the media and establishing yourself as a source for information, quotes and interviews when they are dealing with a subject that you can address.
By carefully matching the medium you use with the content of your message, you can establish a public image and reputation as an expert in a matter of months — one that will continue to grow over the years. These media are not easy to use, nor are they a quick solution to client acquisition. They are, however, highly effective and come to the prospect in a format that doesn’t confuse the message or, worse, defeat the content of your message.