Trust, the Best Financial Advisor Marketing Strategy

“Trust”, there’s no word I’ve heard offered more when I ask advisors and RIAs what separates them from their competition. It’s such a predictable response I’ve been thinking of changing my business model to, “If I guess the four things you think separate your firm from your competition, do I win a prize?”

# 1 – Our clients trust us
# 2 – We have integrity
# 3 – We put the clients’ interests first, and
# 4 – We offer comprehensive planning

A close 5th is the use of the term “holistic planning” in lieu of the aforementioned “comprehensive”.

It’s not easy articulating your story – if it was, I wouldn’t have this job. It’s even more difficult to articulate from a client’s perspective what makes you different and valued; so that’s a story for another day.

For now, let’s break down the first item, “trust”, in a way that will help you attach, market, and promote your value.

Trust, and Why it’s Critical to Success

  • Trust, or the lack thereof, is an issue when it comes to sales, profitability, client retention, client relations and referrals.If people don’t trust you, and why should they, it takes a lot more work (actually, it’s almost impossible) to get them to “yes”. “Trust” is instrumental in achieving success; its influences are wide spread.
  •     Trust increases sales.
  •     Trust improves profitability because you spend less energy pushing for a “yes”.
  •     Trust enhances relationships so you get better information from clients and greater share of wallet.
  •     Trust improves client retention – and it’s common knowledge that it’s more profitable to keep clients than to replace them.
  •     Trust breeds passion and advocacy from clients and centers of influence which leads to more and better referrals. Trust is a highly shareable story.
  •     Trust engages prospects sooner. It speeds up the sales cycle.

Myths and Realities

There are many misconceptions about trust. Let’s separate some common misconceptions from reality.

Trust Myth and Reality

SOURCE: CoveyLink – http://www.coveylink.com/about-coveylink/how-we-define-trust.php

The Attributes of Trust

The following are four attributes of trust: Integrity, Motivation, Predictability, and Competence. Understanding these and applying what you can to your sales and marketing may make a significant improvement in your advisor marketing results.

Integrity

This attribute describes how ethical, honest or moral you are. It may be better described by one’s willingness to act ethically. Next to the word “trust”, it’s the second most common adjective I hear when I ask financial firms or professional to describe how they are different or better than their competitors. It’s powerful that most professionals value its importance, it’s disturbing that so many think it’s a point of differentiation.

Integrity may come down to the finer details. Do you do what you say you are going to do? What standard are you held to or do you hold yourself to professionally? Fiduciaries have a clear advantage here. Can you prove you have integrity in advance or in your financial advisor marketing?

Motivation

When clients feel your motivation align with theirs, trust is enhanced.

Can you prove your motivations, your purpose, and your passions are aligned with your clients’?

Predictability

Predictability reduces uncertainty. Mayer et all consider predictability as a factor that influences the cooperation between two people1.

Can you enhance your predictability so it positively influences trust?
A well-articulated planning process goes a long way to increasing predictability, especially if the professional adheres to it.

Competence

Competence can be specific or general; it’s one’s ability to complete a task. As a financial professional or firm, you need to be clear about where your competence lies and how you can prove it.

Do you have general of specific competence and how can you prove it?

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You and Your Advisor Marketing Are Believable
People’s intuition can be both rational and emotional. Rational intuition considers what you present to your audience – you can control what they see and experience. Emotional intuition is a gut-feeling people have about you. It could be based on their past experiences and you may not be able to control how they feel about you. If you are a good listener, professional, and they can relate to you, you should fair well.

Tips:

  • Be professional and relatable in how you speak, dress and present yourself.
  • Less marketing copy, more tangible proof that you are what you say.
  • Choose real words over jargon.
  • Give examples of what you do, how you do it, why you do it and who you prefer to do it for.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You Have Clear Competencies (general or specific)
There something incredibly frustrating about visiting a website and not being able to put your finger on what they do. Most people will leave quickly, hence the need to make what you do, and who you do it for clear and concise. What you do should focus on your core competencies. There’s no need to say you do everything under the sun, unless that’s your strength and your audience needs to see that. There’s value in saying what you do best and sticking with that. People like experts – it says competence and breeds confidence.

Tips:

  • It’s better to be specific than broad.
  • Being specific doesn’t mean you can’t do more, it just says we do this best and if that’s what you need most, we’re a great fit.
  • Use credentials and experience to support you competency claim.
  • Use checklists of questions or common mistakes to showcase your expertise.
  • Write blog posts about your area of expertise.
  • Build your brand around your competencies and your audiences’ needs.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to being a leading expert through your affiliations and the groups/publications you follow.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You Give and Never Ask (social media is about giving, not asking)
One of the first and greatest lessons people get when they have their social media epiphany is, “when I give, I get”, and “when I ask, I’m completely ignored and often ridiculed.”

Tips:

  • Give what you write/own versus always curating other peoples’ ideas/content.
  • Give generously; make sure there’s value in everything you offer for free and ensure it not salesy.
  • Examples of things to give include: papers, checklists, assessments, targeted calculators, DIY worksheets (budget or net worth), visuals that simplify concepts, tax guides, and seminars.
  • Links to useful tools and information. Content curation (promoting other peoples’ ideas) works good when there is significant value to your audience. For example, providing a link to a timely tax guide put out by a local accounting firm that helps people plan their personal tax filings could be highly valued.
  • Inspire people with links to stories of success, and failure, in life and wealth.
  • Start conversations about important topics and bring together experts to answer questions.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You Are Clear About Who You Work With And Why (clear target audience)
There’s some redundancy with “competencies” above but it’s important to know who your ideal audience is and what resonates with them. “Why” you choose to serve this group can be very powerful too.

Tips:

  • Clearly articulate your audience in your marketing.
  • In your marketing, use images, fonts, and words that resonate with your audience.
  • The media you choose also be appropriate for your audience. Choose wisely. A podcast may not work well with seniors but it may work great with busy professionals who commute in New York city.
  • Write a statement about “why” you do what you do. Watch Ted Talks speech by Simon Sinek and listen as he shares how important “why” is.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

People Can Experience Your Brand Before Committing (defined process, approach)
The Internet makes it much easier to share your client experience with prospects. You can visually present “how” you work with people, the process you take them through and the results they can expect from your proven process. You can use video to share your approach to investing with a professionally narrated voiceover, animated concepts and clear explanations less achievable with words alone.

Tips:

  • Define and then diagram your planning process. Make it more interesting and tie it into your brand.
  • Define and diagram your investment philosophy.
  • Create a video introduction to your firm. Make it easy for people to know (in 90 seconds) what talking with you would be like – professional, courteous, intelligent and so on. Hire a professional video recording company. The quality of the video speaks volumes.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You Have A History Of Doing What You Say (proof of the pudding)
I like to refer to this as “being your brand”. If your brand says you have a process, stick to that process. If your brand says you make peoples’ lives easier, make it easier with video conferencing, access to their financial plan online, regular net worth statements so they see the big picture and so on. Advisors who do what they say build incredible bonds with their clients. Being known for “getting things done” can be a huge asset for getting referrals and retaining clients for extended relationships.

Tips:

  • Explicit testimonials aren’t typically allowed but ask your compliance department what is. Perhaps they’ll allow photos of clients at your appreciation events or enjoying their lives.
  • Create a list of action steps and assign tasks after every meeting with clients so they can visually see that you are following through with your tasks. This also helps keep them accountable to their own assigned tasks. Clients will often forget it was them that were the bottleneck if they don’t see they missed the deadline or task as assigned.
  • Go beyond the typical reporting and planning that clients expect; wow them. We developed a Net Worth Tool (spreadsheet) for a client years ago and they tell us it’s the single most powerful tool they use with their high net worth clients. They use this at every annual meeting and clients love it. They went beyond the typical statement review or financial plan review; they show clients their net worth momentum.

You Build and Achieve Trust when…

You’re Easy To Engage With (download paper, attend seminar, meet for coffee)
Advisors’ websites typically don’t make it easy to engage with them – on any level. For example most advisors’ sites have a contact us form or a newsletter sign up but few have papers people can download, video they can watch, tools or reports they can review, processes they can visualize and so on. When you share more about helping people with what you know, who you are, how you operate, and what you do for people, it becomes so much easier to experience what working with you would be like. Interestingly, most sites don’t have clear and compelling call to actions. If you want people to download your paper, “10 Brilliant Ideas to Make Your Financial Life Easier”, it needs to be featured and with a big bright button, DOWNLOAD NOW or something to making engaging your site easier. I frequently find the best “stuff” buried deep on advisors sites with no call to action and no eye candy saying, GET IT NOW.

Tips:

  • Feature content and ideas that build instant credibility.
  • Use big, colorful and simple buttons to engage people, CLICK HERE, DOWNLOAD NOW, REGISTER TODAY.
  • Turn your contact us form into “Schedule a Coffee Session”. Be creative and interesting.
  • Don’t oversell but make sure the benefits of “acting” are clear and concise.
  • Have multiple levels of engagement available. Some people won’t bite on “schedule free consultation” but they may “download” or “sign up” or “attend” or “read more” or “share this article”.
  • Make sure it’s easy to share your content via social media.

In Summary

Trust is a cornerstone to marketing your financial advisor practice and selling your financial services. Don’t get complacent with how you build trust. Find new ways to enhance how you build trust and how easy you make it for people to begin trusting you. Think about the how we market these days, don’t be afraid of change. Embrace change. Embrace “trust” and be a leader in attracting, engaging, influencing and building high quality relationships.

Trust is the best financial advisor marketing strategy. 

Here’s a link to a Prezi on Trust Marketing for Financial Advisors.
http://prezi.com/4d-ju4ry5hma/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

“Trust in the old economy was the natural outcome of a select few, great organizations. Today, it is the price of entry into the new, global economy.” – Steven Covey

RESOURCES:
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.100.6965&rep=rep1&type=pdf

1.R. C. Mayer, J. H. Davis, and D. F. Schoorman. An integration model of organizational trust. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3):709–734, July 1995.