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Client quest

The Business of Advice book and website looks at how to manage and grow advice businesses. In the fourth article in the series, author David Shelton looks at the hardest task – acquiring new clients

David Shelton
David Shelton Author, The Business of Advice, published by Taxbriefs

Despite consolidation in the financial services market, the competition for clients who recognise the value of objective advice is increasing. This places pressure on your client acquisition processes and, if you are not in the fortunate position of securing high levels of repeat and recommended business, you will have to devote a large part of your marketing budget to acquisition.

The good news is that client acquisition techniques are accountable – you know exactly what returns you get for the time and money invested.

The best techniques for this task are (broadly in order of effectiveness):

  • Professional introducers
  • Networking
  • Client seminars
  • Direct marketing
  • Advertising

Before you begin, you should set clear client acquisition objectives. Many advice businesses proactively target new clients as part of their growth plans. If you have a clear revenue target, you should work out how many clients will be needed to contribute to this. The example on the right shows how this can be done and how useful it is to know how many clients you need, over what time period and to what value. This will give you a clear acquisition objective and you will be able to measure progress and make adjustments to the plan if required.

It is also a process for testing if you can acquire as many clients as you need and the best way to find them. This makes your marketing accountable so you know exactly what returns you should get for each campaign.

It is quite possible that more than one approach will be needed but this level of detail is important. Even if the outcome is different, this
initial analysis will provide you with a benchmark. This gives you the chance to change your plans much earlier than if you had no measures or expectations.

  • Despite the need to estimate costs and outcomes, the benefit of campaign planning is that it:
  • Makes you think about the detail of the task in terms of what has to be achieved
  • Provides reality check in terms of your ability to achieve the number of clients at a particular value
  • Enables you to tailor your marketing budget
  • Allows you to compare different approaches
  • Provides an initial benchmark against which to measure success and make adjustments

Client acquisition is the most difficult of the three marketing tasks. Finding the right route to market, developing activities and running them at the right time and intensity is hard to get right. Planning reduces the risk of failure but be prepared to pilot and make changes at every stage.

If you adopt this approach, then over time you will identify what works well for your business and target markets and be in a position to refine your activities and predict the outcomes more accurately.

The Business of Advice contains a wide range of templates and processes to help you get the very best out of your marketing with as low an investment as possible.

David Shelton is head of IFA consultancy at Scottish Widows. The Business of Advice book and website is a complete system for managing and growing advisory businesses. Published by Taxbriefs Financial Publishing. Order your copy now at www.businessofadvice. co.uk or 0207 549 6723 – price £145 plus £6 p&p.

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