Results of some interesting surveys looking at attitudes to financial planners were released in recent weeks which, together, tell a story of interest to all personal services businesses.
Research findings from Roy Morgan last month showed financial planners were not well regarded by consumers in the key areas of “ethics” or “honesty”. In other words, consumers did not think they were trustworthy.
A few days later, Lifeplan released a survey which showed that clients of financial planners thought they were trustworthy (even if they did say they were pessimistic about the performance of their investments).
And this week, a survey by Datamonitor claimed that people value the financial advice of friends and family over that of financial advisers.
An important difference between the studies is that one surveyed people who already use a financial planner, while the others surveyed the general population. The difference in outcome is dramatic, and shows that clients of financial advisers have a completely different view of planners than non-clients.
It is a difference that financial planners can tap into in their new business development activities, and one that all professional service providers can learn from.
The main lesson is that the trust and goodwill of existing clients should be treated as a real asset of the business, and invested in to create additional goodwill that can be tapped into.
The first part means maintaining trust and honesty in all dealings with clients, as well as building on it by expanding contacts and communications with them.
If this is done well, it can be the firm’s best investment in new business development, reinforcing the strength and value of word-of-mouth referrals in winning new clients.
If a financial planning client is chatting to a small group of friends at a typical gathering, he or she could well be the only user of financial planning there. That makes them the leading authority in the room on financial planning.
Any professional services firm not considering ways of developing activities and events for clients, to which they are encouraged to bring friends, is wasting effective relationship-building and marketing opportunities.
Such an approach is particularly appropriate for financial planners to use in a way that shows the added value of dealing with the firm. It can organise client seminars open to others at little cost, accessing the investment knowledge of fund managers as an attractive and relatively easy to run event.
Disclaimer: Lifeplan is a business unit of Australian Unity Investments, a client of Pritchitt Partners