Why Engagement Matters in 2019

This could be a dry year of lead generation for many advice firms. I’d like to share why and what you can do to avoid it now before the drought gets worse.

In a little under 3 weeks, I’m running the first of our programs thrice yearly two-workshops, the Excelerator.

The theme that I’ll be working with our members on is engagement and it couldn’t come at a better time.

2019 has to be a year of engagement.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. The volume of negative media noise will continue to drown out your marketing. This will take 12-24 months to rebalance itself.
  2. Whilst the changes coming might not yet be cast in stone, we can already read between the lines. Having disengaged clients now is the prelude to having fewer clients in the future.

I’ve seen this before - ineffective marketing and clients open to doing without advice - albeit under different circumstances.

In 2015 I worked with one firm in particular. Their situation was rather dire.

The practice had been mismanaged. A succession of planners had been employed leaving one-by-one in quick succession. The business was loaded with unproductive resources it didn’t need, including a marketing manager who churned out glossy brochures, expensive website updates and countless content pieces without results.

Internally, morale was low. The owners were mystified and panicked as to how the thriving business had free fallen so rapidly.

There were other extenuating factors. The niche they were targeting was over-served by others with far more experience and credibility, one particularly poor hiring decision had let a “wolf” adviser-employee into the hen house that Licensee background checks should have picked up (had they been done), and there were third-party legal issues draining cash flow.

However, the biggest reason was the firm just couldn’t connect with clients.

Specifically:

  • The growth plan was about converting insurance-only clients to full service. Except all the results consistently indicated this wasn’t what the client base was interested in.
  • The expensive spend on marketing was all branding. Plenty of content talking about the firm and it’s services, very little that showed they could solve actual problems clients had.
  • Almost all attempted interaction with clients was motivated by getting clients to take up services that would deliver financial benefit to the firm. There was no attempt to build social capital first.

Frustrations rose and rose, but this only made matters worst. Instead of focusing on fixing it by taking a different approach and acting fast, frustration that clients weren’t behaving as they should dominated energy and headspace.

Most dangerously, you could feel it from the outside.

The firm was stuck, wishing they’d known sooner.

I’d love to say that there was a magic pill, that it was all fixed in a month but this isn’t that story. You know me better than to spin you the story that compounding problems that took years to create can be solved super fast. This isn’t that story. 

The good news is the business survived and is clawing back what was lost. Here’s how you can avoid a similar trajectory.

If you believe you can get by with the same skill set that got you here, you’re wrong. We’re in new territory. You’re going to need to learn all new skills. You will, however, surprise yourself and find out that some of the old stuff is still relevant, but learning is no longer optional.

Over the next 12 months, you will need to ensure your clients know what you do for them, know why it matters and be willing to sign off that its something they don’t want to be without.

This can’t happen without an avenue of active, consistent and value-add communication between you and them.

If they don’t engage, you won't get paid.

It’s likely that the backwash from the RC will mean that many prospects who would otherwise have considered getting financial advice may find themselves apprehensive about doing so.

This means that your direct marketing (advertising, digital etc) is likely going to be less effective on it’s own. Even if your offer is exactly what they’ve been looking for, the media will make sure that little voice in the head goes, “Yeah, but financial advice..?”

They won’t engage as they otherwise would.

The result is you may need to trade on the trust within your personal and professional networks. They are the ones who will provide social proof that your advice is of value and you can help.

It’s early days. The year has only started. You have time.

But don’t wait. You have been warned.

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