Let’s face it, nurturing anything takes time before you see the payoff. Whether it’s a garden, an education or a personal relationship, rushing to the end without providing the right amount of time, care and attention can compromise results.
The same is true with lead prospecting. Financial advisors have long known that building a relationship of trust is critical to bringing on new clients. Although you are “selling” your expertise and experience, clients are “buying” your promise to safeguard their financial assets and guide them to a comfortable life for the future. An advisor’s success is predicated on recognizing and reacting to this fundamental consumer mindset.
Opportunity (and competition) abounds
Likely no surprise to investment professionals, most Americans lack a clear plan for retirement or money management. According to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), 60% of U.S. adults lack a budget, and 30% of Americans are not confident about their retirement savings. While this is certainly bad news for consumers, it confirms the need for qualified financial advisors to promote opportunities and incentives to save.
Yet, technology has given way to more self-managed portfolios. Whether qualified or not, many consumers are managing their own portfolios, at least initially, using online investment tools and robo-advisors. According to Investopedia, “client assets managed by robo-advisors hit $60 billion at year-end 2015, and is projected to reach $2 trillion by 2020.”
When consumers do engage with certified financial advisors, they are more prepared than ever with evaluation questions and criteria. Advisors must demonstrate that they offer something beyond transactional help. In other words, they must think like customers, understand their personas in the moment and their jobs to be done throughout the buyer’s journey to continuously provide valuable content and guidance.
But following multiple prospects along their individual journeys takes time—something most advisors would agree they have little to spare. Lead nurturing is a process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready.
Here are three steps for nurturing investment clients until they're ready to engage.
1. Segment and personify prospects
Not all prospects are equal in terms of what, how and when they buy, and therefore their buying patterns become highly customized. In the age of “me,” investment advisors must acknowledge that customers are individuals and not lump them together based on demographic, geographic or sociographic attributes alone.
Yes, segmentation is important so that you can focus your marketing efforts on highest-yield groups. But, you must also uncover what motivates prospects to purchase, then build personas that help you understand how to interact with them. To really resonate with prospects, it’s important to understand the whybehind the buy.
Once you understand their motivations, the next step is reaching them in the moments that influence their investment decisions.
2. Offer help (and content) to earn trust
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to spot buying signals—if you’re looking. Tracking online and call center activity is especially critical. Monitor where your prospects spend time on your website and the type of information they’re requesting (online or by phone). A prospect looking for additional information versus one requesting a meeting may indicate a difference in terms of their timing.
Once you know who they are (buyer personas) and what they need (activity signals) you can engage with them through content tailored to help them on their journeys. That may sound overwhelming, but you probably have more compliant baseline content than you realize. The key is how it’s packaged, when it’s disbursed and to whom.
For example, providing prospects who have limited investment knowledge with too much detail early in their buyer’s journey may inadvertently intimidate them, causing them to retreat. In the same way, oversimplifying an investment concept may prove condescending to an informed/experience buyer that’s further along in the journey. Advisors walk a fine line between demonstrating expertise and appearing smarter than their prospects.
Align your content depth with buyers, and they will believe you are offering help rather than selling them. Still, if a prospect isn’t ready to buy now, don’t give up. Stay engaged.
3. Engage them personally, but systematically
Because your time to personally interact with unqualified or early-stage prospects is limited, applying a consistent and systematic nurturing process is key to keeping them close.
Marketing automation streamlines and measures lead nurturing tasks and workflows in real time. It is continuous and rules-based, constantly moving leads toward purchase. Recognizing buyer signals, marketing automation presents content relevant to specific segments, personas and stages and enables you to interact in the moment at scale, in ways that feel intuitive, personal and genuinely valuable.
Having a formula approach doesn’t mean you lose creativity or personalization. Today’s tools allow you to highly customize your messages—well beyond the technique of inserting a prospect’s name in an email header. Once you’ve built a library of content that aligns with steps in the buyer’s journey, it simply becomes a process of programming your touch points.
Nurturing yields long-term results
Why is it important to keep leads warm?
Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, says that prior engagement is the best predictor of future sales. “Up to 95 percent of qualified prospects on your Web site are there to research and are not yet ready to talk with a sales rep, but as many as 70 percent of them will eventually buy a product from you — or your competitors.”
Successful lead nurturing better positions youto be the one prospects choose when they are ready to act. However, the process can’t be one-sided. It must deliver value to prospects, helping to complete specific jobs in the moments that matter.
Since time is one of your most valuable assets as a financial advisor, you must look for ways to nurture not-yet-qualified leads efficiently and effectively without personal involvement. Allowing strategy and tools to help keep you in front of and engaged with leads means you will be more available to them when they are ready to convert, earning their trust and loyalty for a long-term relationship.