Getting clients is hard work. Keeping them should be a bit simpler, but its not. If someone else contacts your client at the right time with the right idea, and that client hasnt had regular contact with you, what do you suppose will happen? Do you think your client will call you and say, Another financial advisor just proposed a great idea. Can you help me implement it? Not likely. If the other advisor got that far, you havent been doing your job and will probably lose some or all of your clients business. On the other hand, if you have been systematically mailing, faxing, emailing, meeting with your client, inviting him to seminars and letting him know you care, maybe you will get that call from him. So how do you make sure the assets you are managing stay with you, and how do you ensure that your clients will call you when they hear a great idea, have a new need or want to refer someone to an advisor? The secret is having a client management system (CMS).
There are several ways you can develop and implement a CMS. You probably use a combination of a day planner or personal digital assistant (PDA), calendar (online or on paper), suspense or tickler file, infrequent mailings (such as holiday or birthday cards), occasional meetings and impulse calling. In an ideal world, these actions should be integrated. They would then occur more regularly and be more effective.
The solution is an automated CMS. There are hundreds of systems out there; some are even designed specifically for the financial advisor.
Figure 1: Some Features to Look For When Selecting a CMS
|Ease of use||Ability to integrate with your PDAs||Ability to communicate with your email program||Ability to coordinate with your calendar (online, PDA, other)||Ability to merge mailing lists, fax lists, and email lists|
|Ability to integrate financial data from various online sources||Ability to segment access to handle multiple users||Ability to prompt to complete scheduled actions||Availability of online help||Availability of 800 number help|
|Action item tracking||File maintenance (important for compliance)||Interopera-bility with current and future systems and software (especially scanners and faxes)||Cost of initial software and upgrades||Industry evaluations|
The list of items featured in Figure 1 is not comprehensive but should give you a starting point.
Helping you help your clients
How will an automated CMS help you manage client assets, keep clients and gain new business? With such a system, you can perform the following tasks:
- Ensure that client data, key dates and other information go where they should, making them available when they are needed. Have you ever tried to find information when a client calls in a panic and have not been able to find it anywhere? Or have you felt as if you were drowning in paper?
- Integrate the capabilities of your chosen CMS with PDAs and other electronic or online calendar systems. If you entered a meeting into your PDA during a client meeting, wouldnt it be nice to be able to automatically load the same information into your online calendar so your office staff knows whats happening and you have a back-up in case the PDA crashes or is missing?
- Integrate the CMS with your office software and equipment. This should be a no-brainer, but most users forget to look beyond the version of Office they need and the amount of space the software needs. In reality, the interoperability checks need to go much farther. Imagine being able to scan client statements into your computer and to have the CMS integrate the information with the other data you have in the clients file. The same applies to integration with your Internet access/mail program (Internet Explorer, Outlook, etc). This leads to the next major feature of a CMS.
- Integrate mailing, fax and email activities. If you can perform multiple tasks with just a few keystrokes, you are probably more likely to do what needs doing. A CMS enables you to create a letter, track its approval and prepare a multimedia approach to transmit the information.
The possibilities are almost limitless and your efficiency can skyrocket.
Most marketing and client-management efforts fail because they are not done reliably, efficiently and consistently or in a way that makes sense. Keeping up with all the components of an effective client-management program is almost impossible when you have more than a few clients. Yet, if your clients feel even a bit neglected (especially in the long down market we are currently experiencing), they are all too likely to be lured elsewhere or to take at least some of their business elsewhere.
Then there are the issues of performance, comparisons, due dates, expiration dates and other recordkeeping headaches. Future purchase options come due, clients get raises, children are born, parents age, people change jobs or retire, goals change, CDs mature, term life policies expire, people sell houses, and so forth. If you have this information readily available and appropriately auto-flagged, you will be the one to roll over their pension, start their babys life policy, increase their term or disability income coverage, and so forth. If you are a regular presence in their lives, even via postcards, letters, emails or greeting cards, and you meet with them once a year, they will remember you when big events happen. If you forget them, they will surely forget you.
Your new years resolution
So, whats the next step? If you are like most people and have new years resolutions, add the following to your list. Ask everyone you know if they use a CMS, and if so, which one. What are the pros and cons of their systems? Next, do a Web search for client+management+systems+financial+software and make it a point to take the vendors up on their free trials.
What does a CMS cost? In my research, most packages run between $150 and $300 and include ongoing Internet site support and up to one year of call-in support. Check out the software discounters on line for the greatest savings but dont rule out your local software or computer store. Advice is always useful, and websites dont usually give much of that.
Is having and using a CMS worth the cost and time? I think so. Losing just one $3,000 annual investment account will cost you $150-$300 in lost revenue, plus future trailers. Do the math and make the choicenow.
Janet Arrowood is the managing director of The Write Source, Inc. She is also a registered representative with The Leaders Group, Inc. She can be reached at TheWriteSource@earthlink.net.