In a recent cover story for Advisor One Magazine, veteran client engagement guru Julie Littlechild authored a superb article that identified four ways advisors can better engage their clients and grow their businesses.
Advisory businesses with the highest level of engagement and growth, Littlechild argues, share the following common characteristics:
- objective and consistent client feedback process in place;
- know their ideal clients;
- structure a defined service plan;
- provide leadership.
While built on a solid foundation of research data, Littlechild’s observations also resonated with me because they just seem intuitively right.
My personal experience has led me to believe that engaging clients and developing one’s business from within is the best approach. In addition, as a social networking strategist, my professional experience points to the powerful ways that social media can be used to implement a client engagement strategy.
Littlechild’s piece identifies four areas in which advisors can better engage their clients. I will use these four areas to demonstrate how social media tools and strategies can be used to increase engagement and drive referral growth in your business.
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1. Asking for feedback sends clients a message that you’re open to engagement.
There are lots of ways to ask for feedback, and some are more effective than others depending on the situation. In her article The Tactical Road to Client Engagement, Littlechild highlights three common methods of seeking feedback that can all have their place: focus group, client advisory board and surveys or questionnaires. As Littlechild points out, just asking for feedback in a genuine manner goes a long way toward facilitating engagement.
Yet, social media is like an always-on focus group where clients and customers can and do express their sentiments about your brand (see ).
Even if you’re not a widely discussed commercial or retail brand, there are still all kinds of feedback opportunities built into digital and social media tools. For instance:
- Start an e-newsletter and track who is reading it and what they are clicking on, then use this information for your outreach efforts.
- Create a Twitter stream of curated content and pay attention to what kinds of content your followers retweet and reply to.
- Simply noting which of your clients is following you and engaging with you online is valuable feedback to use in your business development.
2. Your clients are looking for the ideal advisor, just as you are looking for the ideal client.
The importance of defining your ideal client cannot be over-emphasized. When you define and seek out your ideal client and build an effective service offering around those clients, great things happen. You’re more engaged and your clients are more engaged.
Yet social technologies are changing the power balance between consumers and businesses, buyers and sellers, and clients and advisors. Clients are more empowered that ever before to get information and do their research before showing up in your office. They are as interested in finding the ideal advisor as you are in finding the ideal client.
Thus, it behooves you as a service provider to build a social media presence that attracts your ideal clients by demonstrating your traits as the ideal advisor for your ideal client. In the social media context, I would describe this as developing your authentic personal brand online and using that brand to attract a higher proportion of prospects with the ideal client qualifications you are seeking.
3. Use information to show your client you know them and create a deeper connection.
Littlechild characterizes engaged clients this way:
“While engaged clients often describe their experience as intangible, like a deep personal connection, a sense of being guided or a sense of trust, those descriptions have tactical foundations. They do not happen by accident.”
Crafting a meaningful client experience, tailored to your ideal clients’ needs, is often a major factor underlying the deeper connection your clients feel toward you and your business. It’s not just that they like you, but that you take care of them.
When it comes to social media, many of your clients may not be actively involved in online networks. But that’s not an excuse to ignore them.
For those clients that are active online, extending your client experience into the social media space is critically important to engaging them. Here are some examples of how to do this:
- Email newsletters are very powerful and cost-effective ways to stay connected and provide valuable client touch-points. Certainly, most of your clients use email. There’s really no good excuse for not setting up a professional email newsletter.
- Use content curation to build a content marketing strategy. In the past, you may have used newsletters to inform your clients about things you wanted them to know. Now, your clients have access to lots of information, perhaps too much. If you want to serve your clients’ needs and build a deeper connection, you’d better pay more attention to what information your client wants. Then find and share great content that makes them smarter. If you’re not giving them information they want, someone else will.
- Take time to reach out personally online. Social media is driven by human needs for acknowledgement and connection. Pay attention to your clients’ LinkedIn updates and engage them. Like articles, add comments and build your relationship. Sure, everyone is busy. But if you’re too busy to pay attention to a dozen important clients, there’s something wrong.
4. Take the lead and build your thought leadership.
Clients who are deeply engaged with their advisors feel like they play a valuable leadership role in their financial lives. This leadership is demonstrated in good times and bad and does not shy away from making difficult decisions.
Social media offers advisors an incredibly powerful and effective platform to demonstrate leadership – thought leadership. Blogs enable you to write about your subject matter expertise in an accessible way and be your own publisher. Social networks enable you to network with other thought leaders and define yourself by the company you keep.
Even the mere act of embracing social media in a strategic and intelligent way, not merely as a new pipe into which you deliver your old marketing messages, demonstrates a vision and leadership that will attract clients.
Social media is changing everything about how people communicate. But very little has changed about why people communicate.
Give your clients reasons to know, like and trust you and you’ll earn their engagement and loyalty for a long time.