Statistics bear out the trend. According to Spectrem Group's July 2009 report, 55% of high-net-worth investors were just as satisfied with their advisor in May and June as they were at the end of 2008. However, less than 40% felt that their advisor was helpful during the economic crisis. This means the majority of established relationships are vulnerable at best.
Nothing puts money in motion like a loss of consumer confidence. That market dynamic has not gone unnoticed. In fact, industry giants are all over it.
Regaining client trust is now the name of the game. The stakes are high, and the major players have anted up in a big way. Take a look at some of the hands that are being played by large firms that deal directly with investors. Their strategies are virtually identical: They are trying to win back clients and attract new ones.
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These campaigns could cause unaffiliated advisors big problems. Financial institutions have enormous marketing, advertising and sponsorship budgets, and their messages are everywhere. They are inundating customers with clever and convincing "come to us" spots on television, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, stadiums, billboards and radio.
Unless you have secured your client relationships, you may be vulnerable. If there was ever a time to ramp up your marketing efforts, it's now.
While you may not be able to outspend the majors, you can outmaneuver them. Consider taking these steps:
* Market aggressively. Position yourself as a trustworthy financial advocate who can help clients speed their own economic recovery. Home in on some of your differentiators, like the fact that you can organize their entire financial picture, keep their accounts continually updated and monitor and track their progress. Most important, send a clear message that you care-that you listen to their concerns and will guide them on their financial journey.
* Give financial checkups to all clients. Organize and update client assets, so you can provide them with a clear picture of where they are today. Give a realistic assessment of how the market downturn has affected their ability to achieve their overall objectives. Zero in on their retirement plans to make sure their retirement goals are aligned with their current financial picture.
* Create action plans. Make necessary tweaks to clients' plans to ensure that long-term goals are met.
* Keep in touch. Pledge to communicate with your clients regularly-then do it. Don't wait for the phone to ring. Reach out to your clients. Offer your wisdom, your guidance and a listening ear. Clients may be unhappy with the market, but they don't have to be unhappy with you.
* Ask for referrals. The trust and goodwill you've built throughout this economic crisis make your clients very powerful spokespeople. Clients will speak on your behalf if you ask them to. Make sure everyone knows that you are actively looking for new clients. Ask clients for the names of people they think you should call on and encourage them to talk freely about your services to any colleagues, friends or family members who may be disenchanted with their current advisory relationship.
Keep in mind that you are in a position of power because you already have a relationship with your client. Your messages will stick because they go beyond sound bites-they are backed by credible action. There is tremendous opportunity now-while money is in motion-to grow your practice, gain more support and provide exceptional service to clients. It all starts with serving clients well and asking for the business to come your way.
Edmond Walters is founder and CEO of eMoney Advisor.