Traditionally, being a financial advisor has been a face-to-face business. We are creatures of the working lunch, the handshake, the coffee meeting. Appointments are the lifeblood of our business, because we’re in the business of personal relationships. That’s our real advantage over the low-cost robo-advisors, and a big part of how we justify our fees.
But social distancing is changing all that in a flash. I’m optimistic about the economy and the stock market long-term. But this bug isn’t going away anytime soon. We are undergoing a rapid cultural shift where social distance may very well become the norm for a good, long while.
And all of us old-school financial advisors, as well as brokers, planners, insurance agents, all of us, are going to have to adjust.
I’ve talked with a lot of people, and I’ve seen a lot of economic cycles. Here’s what I suggest you do to keep growing your business even with social distancing.
#1. Invest in your website
Because we’re doing less business in person, your web presence is even more important.
Boost your inbound marketing efforts. Search engine optimization, content marketing and email marketing are going to take on more importance. If your website looks like it was designed in 1998, it’s time for an update.
Also, consider making some videos. Get them on your website and make your own YouTube channel to capture search traffic this way. (Here’s my YouTube channel.) Video marketing gives you a vital opportunity to get your personality across and to allow new visitors to begin getting to know you as a person.
Every opportunity to present yourself as a living, breathing person who can help prospective and current clients is golden, especially now that in-person meetings are hard to come by because of social distancing.
#2. Become an ace at videoconferencing
This is going to require practice, and perhaps some investment on your part.
Skype’s a start, but it only works for more rudimentary meetings. Chances are good you’re going to want to do some more formal presentations. So use a good business videoconferencing platform. Some B/Ds provide it for their brokers. If you’re independent, you might want to check out a few tools like GoTo Meeting, Zoom, RingCentral, Zoho and ClickMeeting – they can all work for you.
Also, get a good microphone or a headset. Nothing is more distracting to your presentation than poor audio. It doesn’t have to be a $3,600 Neumann U87 microphone but the built-in mic on your laptop probably doesn’t cut it.
Lastly, pay attention to your background when you get on a video conference:
- Is your backdrop clean and professional looking?
- Is your logo clearly visible somewhere?
- Does it backlight you, making you look dark in the video?
#3. Invest in digital signature technology
Make it easy for prospects to do business with you. Embrace E-signature technology. Some firms have done a great job with it already. Others are still stuck in the dark ages. But if you can’t meet face to face, digital signatures will save you and your clients a metric ton of hassle.
#4. Do market webinars and produce white papers
There’s no doubt about it – times are going to be tough for a while. That means that your clients and prospects are going to be very hungry for information. By doing webinars and providing white papers you can establish yourself as a trusted expert, and help bring needed long-term perspective.
Webinars are great at branding and differentiation. You get a great opportunity to follow up with participants and turn prospects into clients. If you’re on your game, you’ll have current clients sharing your webinar with their friends and colleagues – that’s a great way to gather referrals.
Webinar platforms are different than teleconferencing platforms, so don’t try to shoehorn webinars onto your teleconferencing system. They are distinct.
White papers make a great premium – something you can give away on your website in exchange for contact information and permission to send emails (automated or not). Just make sure it adds value and brands your practice.
#5. Call your clients
Most people are undergoing a time of heightened financial anxiety. That’s to be expected. And that’s why your clients need to hear from you. Remind them that their financial strategy is for decades, not months – and that long-term strategy is designed to handle even massive market volatility.
In times of crisis, err on the side of too much communication rather than too little! Be the one who takes the time to listen. That simple little skill can go a long way towards setting you apart from the competition.
#6. Don’t stop networking.
Maybe you’re not going to events at your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. But you can still take the lead when it comes to social media (LinkedIn in particular). Take all that time you used to spend travelling and meeting people at networking events, and work social media. Look for ways to set yourself up as a personal finance expert… especially within a particular niche.
#7. Update your succession plan.
If you’re laid out for an extended stay in a hospital, what’s the plan for your clients? Now’s a good time to make sure you have contingencies in place. And it’s a great time to reach out to your clients and let them know you’re on top of it.
For your clients who own businesses, you can add value by speaking with them about the best practices for small business succession plans as well. As much as today’s environment is tough – even devastating for small business owners, the importance of succession planning has not gone away.
And yes, discuss it with your staff as well.
#8. Ensure the safety of your staff
If it’s your name on the stationery, it’s your responsibility. You’ve got to make sure you have the sanitation and cleaning supplies in the office, including the PPE (personal protective equipment) to keep the office safe for yourself, your staff and your clients.
Here are some specific ideas:
- Offer paid sick leave or general PTO. Don’t put your people in the position of having to come to work sick to pay the bills. Studies show that paid sick leave benefits saves employers on both absenteeism and presenteeism. And if they’re sick and can stay home, they’re less likely to get you sick. You have to stay productive.
- Put a hand sanitizing station by the door, so people will use it when they walk in. You use it more than anyone. You’re the boss. Lead by example.
- Speaking of leading by example, you don’t come to work sick, either. Staff will copy your lead. If you go home when you’re sick, your people will do the right thing, too.
Be safe out there. And look out for other people.