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Tough Times Call for Drastic Action

Emphasizing your current and future longevity is the key to closing the sale.

By Martin R. Baird

International unrest. War. Corporate layoffs. Subdued consumer spending. A soft economy and a shaky stock market.

With a business climate like this, what can financial advisors do to attract new clients and manage more of their existing clients’ assets? Hold on to your hats, folks. I’m recommending that you give your services away, or give away something that is not linked to your services but has value for your clients and prospects.

Advisors should resist the urge to raise fees, rates and commissions to make up for lost or slow business. Clients will feel pressured if they’re expected to pay more for the services they’re already receiving. Giving things away is a marketing model that works, but choose your giveaways carefully. It may be difficult to charge for them again later.

If you’re not standing on the edge, you’re just taking up space. In tough times like these, you need to put your feet on the edge and let it all hang out. Right now, it takes more than the ordinary to get through to people. It takes the extraordinary. Service and experience is not enough. It takes a drastic shift to get people to change their state of mind and try something new.

While it may
be a bit unconventional, giving away your services is kind of like saving for a rainy day.

Here are some ideas for giving it away.

Free days. Set aside your typically slowest business day for free meetings with clients. If they want to buy or sell an investment, they must pay for that, but your time is free. Divide your time into 30-minute sessions. Once the day is booked, people will have to wait until next week or pay the traditional fee if they expect you to squeeze them in after regular hours.

Free asset rebalancing. Many advisors charge for asset rebalancing, but people balk at paying. However, with the way the market has behaved the past few years, their investments could be seriously out of balance. If their situation gets worse, that’s not in their best interest or yours. You can do the calculations at minimal cost. Give this service away and help your clients.

Free asset rebalancing could be part of a frequent buyer program. Clients with certain investments or with assets of a certain value or higher would receive the service free of charge.

Charity work in the community. Give free financial advice to professional organizations or community groups that are in your target market. This advice could be given during meetings one day a quarter. For example, work with local high schools. Spend one day a semester with the students and then spend one night a semester with their parents. Obviously, adults need financial advice, but most people don’t realize that teenagers carry credit cards. They spend billions of dollars a year; they are future clients.

Free reports. What about giving away a calculation or report that’s easy to do with your whiz-bang software? Sure, you may have charged for this in the past, but now it’s too important for your clients not to have the information.

Town hall meetings. People in your community have financial issues and concerns. Get them together for a free town hall meeting on a weekly or monthly basis to talk about these issues. They just might walk away with some free ideas. Politicians use town hall meetings very effectively and they can work for you, too.

For the first few meetings, you should come prepared with your own materials and answers to common questions. It could take a few sessions for people to get the hang of it. You can leverage town hall meetings by seeking coverage from local news media. Send a press release announcing the town hall meeting, and reporters may show up.

“Nonservice” giveaways. Package items you can acquire at minimal cost, such as information products or software, and give them away to clients. Software can be acquired inexpensively if it’s purchased in bulk or downloaded off the Internet.

Let’s say you work with older people. These clients are often interested in genealogy. Find some good genealogy websites and software and put them all together as a giveaway. You and your clients can work together to create their financial legacies. You can give them the tools they need to create a family-history legacy. They and their families will appreciate it—and remember you.

Plan for rainy days
I’m often advised to take cash generated by my business during the good times and save it for the tough times. By offering some things free of charge, you’re reinvesting from the good years to make it through the lean ones.

Martin R. Baird is president of Advisor Marketing, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based consulting firm, and author of The 7 Deadly Sins of Advisor Marketing. You may reach him at 480-991-6421.


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