Most advisors have suspended their formal marketing activities during the pandemic, so they can focus on their clients during a period of high uncertainty. Yet, paradoxically, it appears that some advisory firms are getting more new clients in the pandemic than they ever have before.
What’s going on? The easy explanation is that all the uncertainty is driving people to seek guidance, reassurance, and a professional assessment of their financial situation. Eric Pascarella, who practices in Parsippany, NJ, says that his the people knocking on his door fall into several distinct categories:
1) Clients who are not happy with their current advisor, due to a lack of communication when they want it most;
2) younger clients experiencing their first recession who want to know if things are really as bleak as the media reports; and
3) older clients who have never worked with an advisor, who are on the verge of retirement and facing job uncertainty, who want financial planning more than investment advice.
But how do they find you? Stephen High, of Kraft Asset Management in Nashville, TN, discovered that the new clients coming into his offices had been sent his way by existing clients—that the anxious citizenry is asking for referrals more often today than in the past. Mark Newfield, who practices in Richmond, VA, thinks this could become a record year for new business due to client referrals. Randy Brunson, of Centurian Advisory Group in Duluth, GA, describes the current situation as “the least effort I’ve ever put into onboarding new clients.”
Is there a reason some advisors are seeing more new business than others? Looking back over the messages, it seems clear that this unexpected COVID marketing opportunity came to advisors who did two things. First, they have been sending an unusual amount of communication to their clients in written and video form. These messages provide insight into the current situation, which clients can easily forward to their anxious friends and neighbors. In this environment, client communications are receiving a much wider audience than most advisors realize.
Second, clients become more likely to refer if their advisors sent them greater-than-expected care and even sympathy during this time of uncertainty. As an example, Jane Young of More Than Your Money in Colorado Springs, CO sent cookies to her clients, with a picture of a mountain in frosting on top, with the message “The Best Views Come After the Hardest Climb.” “We also,” she says, “included a card to enable our clients to pay it forward and send a cookie to the person of their choice.”
Stephen High, Chief Manager of Kraft Asset Management in Nashville, TN, reports that his firm sent out “Covid-19 care packages” to clients, consisting of shortbread, sauces and jams. “I cannot remember when a relatively small gesture has created so much joy and goodwill,” he says.
These small gestures, received when clients are feeling isolated and anxious, have clearly resonated, and s have made clients more likely to boast about their advisors with friends and neighbors who happen to be looking for shelter in the storm. The lesson here is that more people are more receptive to a professional relationship during periods of great uncertainty, and that advisors who have stepped up their level of care and communications—particularly those that are easily forwarded—are inadvertently doing some of the best marketing work of their careers.