Steve Billingham: The secret to client engagement

Nailing client engagement can be tricky at the best of times but it is particularly challenging in the world of financial advice. Most advisers are looking to hold on to the profitable clients they already have while also generating leads for new prospects.

So how do you get existing and potential clients to engage with their financial planning on an ongoing basis?

The key challenges are, first, many financial plans do not actually come to fruition for decades and, second, many clients cannot (or do not want to) picture themselves in 20 or 30 years’ time. The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion it is all to do with tangibility and emotional engagement.

Take banking solutions as an example. It is far easier to engage with clients in this area, as everyday banking helps people service their day-to-day needs, such as their homes, cars, food, clothes, holidays, luxuries and so on. Longer-term investments, on the other hand, can feel more like putting money into a bottomless pit, with no tangible gain until some form of income is taken or a large purchase is made.

Everyday banking solutions by their nature are far more tangible and clients are engaging daily with them in every purchase they make, as well as keeping track easily via mobile apps. So how can we achieve the same for longer-term investment products, where the tangible gain may not be felt for some 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years?

It is not uncommon for advisers to have clients with thousands of pounds invested one way or another but they just cannot get them to engage. It can be like pushing water up a hill. And so it is easy to stop trying to engage these clients and simply put them in the lost cause pile.

In her book ‘Watertight Marketing’, Bryony Thomas introduces the concept of the “logic sandwich”, where emotion and logic play different roles at different stages of the buying or decision making process. At the start, emotion plays the key role, before moving into more logic-driven decision making and then finishing with emotion again. Advisers can be great at logic and technical content but they are sometimes not so good at the emotional piece of the puzzle.

To overcome this, think about how you can emotionally engage your clients and be sure to bring what your proposition offers to life in their mind.

An example I saw recently involved a simple call-out box with the message that saving a little more each month into a pension could keep a hobby going after work.

This simple message strikes an emotional chord and is also tangible: the hobby is something that interests the client, making it emotionally engaging, and keeping it going in retirement makes it tangible. All of a sudden the client becomes more engaged with financial planning for their future.

So the secret to engaging clients is to make sure all your communications have emotional and tangible aspects.

Steve Billingham is director of Steve Billingham Consulting