Lindsay Troxell, Senior Director, Knowledge Labs® Professional Development, and Michael Futterman, Head of Knowledge Labs® Professional Development, explain how financial professionals can shift their approach to attracting new clients and position their businesses to benefit from change.

For most business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic will be the defining moment that they look back on and say: “This changed our business forever.” But whether they reflect on that pivotal moment of change as positive or negative depends on how they confronted it.

Businesses that held tight to their old ideas on how to source, court and acquire new clients may struggle to rebound from this experience. Companies that are agile, open-minded and able to adapt, on the other hand, stand to benefit from being on the leading edge of change in the industry. Because while many things may go back to the way they were in 2019, some never will. It has been said again and again over the past few months, but it’s worth repeating: This could be our "new normal.”

Traditionally, the financial services industry – and specifically wealth management practices – has lagged other industries in the areas of technology and marketing. Most firms have relied on face-to-face contact with prospects and clients to build relationships rather than leveraging data-based tools and insights to reach their target markets.

While the old prospecting and sales approaches may have worked in the past, the future is calling – and it’s not using a rotary phone. And the extensive, potentially long-term changes we’re facing as a result of the pandemic only serve to reinforce this reality. The good news is investors need you now more than ever. And to respond to that demand, all you need to do is shift your thinking around how you approach prospecting in today’s socially distanced environment.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

The first step in modifying your prospecting strategy, virtual or otherwise, is to know yourself. Understanding why you got started in this business is key to uncovering who you aspire to work with (or not work with). It also helps identify where you’ll find satisfaction in your business and personally. Note that it can take time to identify your ideal clients. Most financial professionals find that the longer they’ve been in the industry, the clearer their sense of the types of clients they want to work with becomes. To get started in knowing your audience, ask yourself, “Why did I become a financial professional?” and “Who do I enjoy working with most?”

Step 2: Create Personas

A well-crafted client persona is a powerful tool that can help inform nearly all the decisions that are made within a business. A persona is not built from attributes of a single individual but instead is an amalgam of the relevant attributes among the ideal client audience that YOU are trying to get in front of. The goal is to gather as much demographic, psychographic and behavioral information as possible by researching on Google and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You’ll want to become so familiar with this ideal audience in terms of their behaviors, motivators, influencers, interests and needs that you can then craft digital content that will captivate members of this audience and motivate them to take action. Remember: Your personas are a combination of your personal preferences, your special expertise areas and the existing clients who get you fired up!

“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” Steve Jobs

Step 3: Identify Your Audience’s Needs

Before you start communicating with your audience, you need to understand what they want and need to hear. One way to think about it is to imagine you are creating a newspaper. What sections would your ideal audience be interested in reading (i.e., the personas you’ve created)? For example, you may want to include sections that cover the following topics:

Financial Planning Basics: Educational content related to retirement planning, cash management, tax harvesting and other personal finance matters.

Behavioral Finance: Content related to common behavioral tendencies investors should be mindful of, such as herd mentality, loss aversion and confirmation bias.

Health and Wellness: Guidance to help clients achieve physical, emotional and mental balance and well-being.

Professional Needs: Business coaching, continuing education and networking advice for business owners and other professionals.

Now that you have your “sections” in mind, think about the content you could develop to fill those sections and speak to the needs, concerns and interests of your ideal audience. And don’t forget to consider the various formats you might use to reach your audience and keep them interested. Some examples include checklists, videos, podcasts, blogs, newsletters and social media posts.

Step 4: Create a Plan

After laying the groundwork outlined in the steps above, it’s time to develop an executable plan that can be continuously modified until you achieve your desired results. This includes a multi-touch plan for each group within your ideal audience.

First, you’ll want to establish clear objectives for engaging with each group. Are you looking for them to become advocates, clients or resources? What desired action (e.g., introductions, active engagement with you, reactive engagement with you, moving money) do you want them to take?

Now, begin to think about the touchpoints you will use to engage with your audience: Not just the quantity and frequency, but what they will consist of and how and when you will deliver them. For example, a multi-touch campaign might include various forms of outreach and content, such as a podcast (with a call to action for prospects to access a recording of the podcast or download an accompanying checklist) and two blog posts with related content. The podcast and blog posts could be promoted via email and social media, perhaps with a special offer such as a free 20-minute virtual assessment.

The difference between financial professionals who are successful at navigating change and those who are not is not necessarily knowledge or know-how. What really separates the two is their willingness to be uncomfortable trying new things and making changes – even if they don’t always work the first time. Developing and executing a successful multi-touch campaign not only requires trial and error, but it also takes time. You cannot expect to see results overnight. But with persistence, consistent monitoring and, most importantly, a solid understanding of your audience and your own business, you can master the art of prospecting in the “new normal” – throughout the pandemic and beyond.