Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pareto Platform On Referrals

Wanted to share another true advisor story, this time from my friends at Pareto Platform. This guy really has some terrific ideas on how to get your clients to do your prospecting for you! I have long advocated this type of relationship-based approach and this serves to illustrate that it can and DOES work when you do it properly.-td

An Advisor on the High Road: How One Advisor’s Consistent Client Service Generates Recommendations

By the Pareto Systems Team

In this article, we profile one Financial Advisor who uses a consistent and well thought-out client service plan to turn his current clients into raving fans, and who received seen a steady stream of qualified recommendations as a result.

Michael started his career with a large insurance firm in 1989, but after eight years he felt stifled by company policies and in-house products. “By going independent, I could represent myself as I saw fit, which was very important to me,” Michael told me in a recent interview.

Last year, Michael met with forty-eight prospective clients, and all but three opened accounts. While this statistic is impressive in itself, even more impressive is that forty-five of these interested investors called Michael first. “Your best clients are your sales force,” Michael maintains. “They are more than willing to send anyone to you if the topic ever comes up.”?

Michael doesn’t spend a cent prospecting; in fact, he says that “getting burned by prospecting early on was actually very good for me.” He considers the exercise a waste of time, energy and money. “I hired an assistant right away, something I considered a good investment, but I didn’t have money laying around for wasting on letters to strangers.”

What Michael has done is given his clients the tools to keep his name “top of mind,” so that it will easily come up in a conversation.

He makes sure that every client receives a customized portfolio binder with his or her name embossed on the cover (“this impresses the client more than anything else and shows that I pay attention to details”) and a three-hole punch for statements and articles.

The most popular section of the binder has proven to be “The Rules of Money,” a collection of common sense suggestions that deals with compounding, the importance of carrying little debt and so on .”Not exactly rocket science,” Michael says, “but people love it.” He has also invested in quality hardcover books for a lending library.

Last year, Michael created a unique wall calendar for his clients, again using the same common sense feel. It includes tax tips during tax season, RSP deadline reminders, more “Rules of Money”, etc. All forty-five referrals that Michael signed on last year resulted from his calendar and portfolio binder.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation Michael and I had:

Pareto: Some people are going to read this and think: “This would never fly with my clients.”

Michael: I went to one client’s house to drop a calendar off, and she asked me if she could have six more.

Pareto: What other events or campaigns make up your marketing plan?

Michael: It’s really straightforward. I make sure that everyone hears from me once a month, and I can tell you that everything I send is ”cheap and cheerful..” A birthday card one month, a 2-page newsletter the next, a magazine, a magnet, a call rotation.

In November, I host a client seminar and they are invited to bring a friend. This is about as close as I get in asking for a referral. The day after the seminar, I send everyone (even those who didn’t come) a summary of the meeting. That way, people get to see what happened, and it brings their guard down a little.

Pareto: What is going to change for you in the coming year?

Michael: I’ll need another assistant to keep up with demand, and I’d like to communicate a little more with all of my clients. Probably email alerts, and a webpage down the road. But I wouldn’t be sending recommendations; I’ll probably send messages that people will read and think, “Wow, I didn’t know that.? Then they’ll forward the email message to someone else.

Michael maintains that his approach to growing his business won’t change. He says that he will continue to invest money into his business and his clients. When I asked him if he expected to see another forty-five referrals this year, he replied:

Probably more.”

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