Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 7, 2008

The Medium, the Message and the Financial Adviser

The typical financial adviser will spend over 650 hours a year studying their profession through reading professional books and publications, on-line classes, seminars, listening to CD’s, and other study methods.  That’s almost 17, 40-hour weeks of study a year to become good at what they do.  Broken into the equivalent of college courses, it equates to about three full semesters of college work a year. 

Three years into the profession, they will have completed the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree, plus a semester of graduate school.  After only 5 years in the profession, they’ve invested the equivalent of 7 ½ years of class time.  Since most enter the profession with at least a Bachelor’s degree, they have, in essence, earned a Ph.D. 

During the same time, they have invested little, if anything in their profession’s other side—learning to sell and market their services.  By the end of their 5th year in the profession, most advisers have invested little more than a college semester in learning how to generate the clients necessary in order to practice their profession. 

Unfortunately, being technically good is useless if you don’t have a client to work with.  Being half a financial adviser will get you nowhere except into another profession. 

Many advisers struggle when it comes to generating new business.  Some cold call.  Others network the local chamber of commerce.  Some stick their business cards to bulletin boards at restaurants or under windshields in parking lots, send unsolicited emails, fax fliers all over town, invest in direct mail, buy leads, or purchase expensive advertising.  Yet, few invest their time and money in learning more sophisticated prospecting and client acquisition methods.

When acquiring complex and sophisticated services such as financial products and guidance, prospects want to work with an adviser they believe to be expert.  Indeed, whether their assumptions are correct or not, prospects make a number of assumptions about what an expert is and how experts acquire their business.  They assume that experts are not cold calling, sending unsolicited emails, sticking business cards on windshields or bulletin boards, putting up cheap yard signs on street corners, or faxing fliers.  Rather, prospects assume that experts don’t have to do these things because their practice is populated through referrals from the adviser’s current client base. 

Consequently, the very act of cold calling, faxing fliers, blasting emails, or engaging in any other form of prospecting that prospects identify as crude, sends the message that the adviser is not what the adviser proclaims himself or herself to be—an expert.  These prospecting methods confirm Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation that “the medium is the message.”  The medium used to communicate to the prospect shapes the prospect’s perception of the adviser more than the content of the message.  Unfortunately for the adviser using these media, the message the medium communicates is the exact opposite of what the adviser seeks to communicate. 

Nevertheless, there are client acquisition methods available whose medium message can reinforce the adviser’s content message.  Learning and perfecting these formats requires as much dedication and commitment as learning the technical aspects of the profession.  Alternatively, hiring someone who understands the financial adviser’s business and can perform a number of these activities for the adviser will both expedite the process and free the adviser from the time commitment to learn and hone the required skills.

Communicating an expert message requires you use the media of an expert.  Mixing an expert message with a non-expert medium doesn’t send a mixed message, it sends the dominate message of the medium–a message that the adviser is just another one of the crowd. 

What are the media of an expert?  There are many:

Networking:  Networking through various organizations and associations is an expert format.  However, as all things associated with the expert, how and where you network is crucial.  An expert is more likely to be networking through specialized business, industry, and charitable associations than through more general organizations.  Working within a physician, engineering, architectural, CEO, or charitable organization is more “expert” than surfing the local chamber of commerce or breakfast networking group.  In addition, becoming an active member and developing relationships without overt “prospecting” is more “expert” than trying to evangelize someone you just met.  The relationship converts the prospect, not the overt “selling.”

Referrals:  Prospects assume true experts acquire clients through referrals.  Generating a large volume of high quality referrals requires learning and practicing a well-developed process that leads clients to a comfort level to give strong, quality referrals.  Simply asking doesn’t produce the quantity or quality desired.  However, there are processes used by the top sales professionals that work extremely well.

Press Releases:  Learning how to write and distribute well-written press releases about yourself and your practice will have far more impact than advertising.  Most prospects are resistant to advertising and direct mail.  Press releases, on the other hand, have the authority and subtlety of being reported as hard news.

Published Articles:  Becoming a published author on technical subjects important to the prospect demonstrates expert knowledge—and is in a medium most prospects recognize as educational and informative, not one that is “selling.”  With the thousands of article databases on the internet, becoming a published author is quick and easy if the article is well-written, educational, and void of overt self-promotion.

Speeches:  Giving educational speeches to local business and civic groups and organizations will also establish your credentials as an expert.  Moreover, like writing articles, the medium used has automatic expert credibility.  By appearing before the group as an expert, you become an expert.  And like writing articles, the emphasis is on education, not self-promotion.  Experts are far more effective at promoting themselves when they don’t overtly promote themselves.

Becoming an Expert Source:  Recognized experts are interviewed and quoted in various media—print, audio, and visual.  The “experts” quoted and interviewed in your local media have worked hard to become expert sources for the reporters, columnists, and freelance writers interviewing or quoting them.  You can become an expert source also by learning the ins and outs of working with the media and establishing yourself as a source for information, quotes, and interviews when they are dealing with a subject that you can address as an expert.

By carefully matching the medium you use with the content of your message, you can establish a public image and reputation as an expert in a matter of months that will continue to grow over the years.  These media are not easy to use, nor are they a quick solution to client acquisition.  They are, however, highly effective and they come to the prospect in a format that doesn’t confuse the message or, worse, defeat the content of your message.


1 Comment »

  1. […] I received an email from a financial planner regarding an article I wrote some months ago titled “The Medium, the Message, and the Financial Planner.” The planner brought up a question about the difference between one’s image and the substance of […]

    Pingback by Image vs Substance « Sales and Sales Management Blog — June 27, 2008 @ 9:12 am | Reply

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