Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Post-Recession Tips for Financial Advisors

After spending much of their time bailing out and mopping up during the financial tsunami of the last 18 months, many financial advisors might be considering a different approach for their marketing and business plan in 2010. But no matter how the recession has affected your firm, a new financial reality will be left in its wake—one that requires the ability to change and adapt.

“We have entered a new economy,” says Sandra Bekhor, President of Bekhor Management, a Toronto-based marketing firm focused on the professional sector. “Now, perhaps more than ever before, it’s survival of the fittest. Financial advisors need to be stronger and leaner.” They will also need to be smarter since the recession hurt more than just the bottom line for many investors.

Highly publicized cases of corporate fraud and irresponsible business practices have created a climate of fear and distrust. “Perhaps the biggest challenge facing financial advisors in the new economy will be the trust factor,” says Bekhor. “What they really need to do is enlist trust.” She says financial advisors will need to find ways to retain – and in the case of new investors – establish client confidence.

Although people will likely be extra cautious about deciding when, how and even if to invest, Bekhor warns against placing all the blame on the economy. “What the recession has done in many cases is exacerbated pre-existing problems,” she says. “In good times, you can gloss over things, but in tough times everything is under the microscope. And so problems get exposed.”

Good business practice has always included the need to plan and assess, but succeeding in the post-recession world will require a more critical, flexible and creative approach. “Successful financial advisors will have a profound understanding of the behaviors, skillsets and systems that are necessary for their firms – and their clients – to adapt to a changed economy,” says Bekhor. “In the new world bigger isn’t necessarily better. Better is better.”

For those financial advisors that are feeling a little uneasy, Bekhor offers the same advice she gives clients—don’t panic. Although this recession is somewhat unique, and its recovery will likely be slow, history has shown that the economy will recover. “All the dust will eventually settle, the markets will stabilize and investors will return,” she says. “Those who make it their business to revamp will be the ones who succeed.”

Here are four tips that Bekhor says will help financial advisors build a successful marketing and business plan for 2010:
  1. Find the weakest link in your practice and fix it – A weak economy and a new economy share one important trait: they provide the circumstances in which problems that result from core weakness seem to magnify. Financial advisors that have the foresight to improve infrastructure, accountability, marketing, communications and processes will have found that they have protected their firms from being too deeply impacted by the recession. The same will prove to be true in the new economy that follows.
  2. Hone in your unique and valued strengths – Your unique and valued strengths are the reasons why your clients have chosen to work with you and stay with you. Hone those strengths in and market them for their authentic value and difference—and your firm will naturally rise to the next level.
  3. Adapt to a new economy – After having incurred losses, investors are going to become smarter shoppers. They will become more particular about what they want in a financial advisor, and the Internet will facilitate their ability to find it. Financial advisors that successfully adapt to a new economy will proactively address these changes: from the way they practice to the way they market their firms. They will place a new and important emphasis on communication, customization and planning, and their marketing will effectively promote such change.
  4. Renew relationships: with a modern twist – Ramp up your networking plan to position your firm to maximize referrals and new inquiries from investors that have decided to look for a new or – for those who have neglected their financial plans – first financial advisor. To demonstrate your ability to offer new and fresh perspectives, develop a social-media marketing plan that amplifies your networking reach with an online component.


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