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With high-street spending at its lowest for 15 years, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium, it seems that consumers are still adopting a cautious approach despite talk of a recovery.

On the face of it, this spells more bad news for the economy but as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. The current uncertainty provides the perfect opportunity for advisers to market their services effectively, ensuring that both potential and existing clients have the cornerstones of their financial planning in place to weather the economic storm.

Bearing in mind that for many consumers, access to advice is the key to effective financial planning, the time has never been better to market your business and your services.

A winning approach has to be the ability to offer the personal touch. This may sound simple but in practice it requires the same commitment and determination as the implementation of other strategic approaches. The ability to harness a consumer’s willingness to pay for more, even if you are not on their doorstep, and continue to enjoy your tailored services should not be underestimated.

The most important thing to bear in mind is the holistic needs of the customer rather than the products on offer to meet their needs. This is something that transactional advisers cannot match and one of the reasons why IFAs have always competed well against high-street banks.

So, looking ahead, how can we make our personal relationships more effective? The following four examples show how clients can better appreciate your service.

First, make client lives easier. A useful starting point is to help clients identify the most troublesome areas in their finances and tackle those first. Typically, consumer brands understand all too well the importance of simplifying the consumer experience. Think of the car dealership that brings the courtesy car to you and take yours for servicing, meaning your day can continue as usual – priceless.

Provide clients with ongoing benefits. Identify the ongoing benefits that your business provides to clients aside from the work under-taken on their portfolios.

Make it personal. Many service-oriented organisations are adapting personalised approaches for repeat customers. Restaurants are at the vanguard of this approach.

Invest in continuous learning. CRM systems are widely available and generally used to help vendors better understand and serve their most loyal and profitable customers. CRM identifies contact points between customer and company and views each as an opportunity to learn more about customer needs. Apart from structured fact-finds, why not consider how else you could find out about your clients’ financial needs. For example, do they have any business needs which could yield opportunities for you?

A solid strategy based on sound customer relationships can produce powerful results and fantastic customer advocacy. What’s more, the retail distribution review is forcing us all to re-examine our approach and perhaps focus on building even stronger relationships with our customers which encapsulate all the elements of the customer relationship strategy we once envisaged we would offer.

By doing so, we look forward to a time when clients will be happier, will “spend” more with their adviser and in the long term create a hub of marketing advocacy that will bring more business to the door.

Richard Howells is intermediary sales director at Zurich UK Life

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