Legend has it that Henry Ford died without any inheritance planning or life insurance. Millions of dollars were paid in tax on the estate he had built up.
How could this happen to one of the richest men in history? Simply, no one had ever approached him to discuss his financial affairs in full. It is the kind of slap-the-forehead anecdote that goes down well at industry dinners. Everyone likes to think that they would not pass up such a golden opportunity. But every day financial advisers miss out on opportunities to grow their business in the most painless way possible. They overlook a wealth of easily accessible information on people who actually want to be contacted and given financial advice but for some reason have not got around to doing anything about it either because they do not know where to go or they have not had time to do any research on where to get advice.
Historically, financial advisers have used word of mouth referrals to build their client bases. Given the necessary trust that lies at the heart of the relationship between financial adviser and client, this strategy has proved highly successful but many advisers have ignored other channels that could provide excellent opportunities.
One of these channels is direct marketing. There is a wealth of data available that can be used to build client bases. Direct marketing can be used to grow existing business by passing on a great deal of information to your potential customer about products and issues which are relevant to him according to different lifestages or changes in the wider economic environment.
What kind of data is available and how can financial advisers access it? Direct-marketing companies carry out surveys throughout the year which ask specific questions, such as whether people would be interested in financial advice or want to purchase a pension or would like to remortgage or have money to invest or consider making a will. Thousands of people give positive answers to such questions but often this data is unused.
It is also possible to buy this data in specific geographical areas. Contact can be made by telephone, mail or email, according to the customer's preference. If you do not like the idea of cold-calling, there are professional appointment-making companies who will make appointments with payment by results.
You can sponsor a specific question as part of an omnibus survey which means you can contact the respondents exclusively.
In terms of passing information on to clients, you can use direct marketing to identify key points at which to contact existing or new clients.
Why do financial advisers not make more use of this available information? Many may believe that costs of data or associated services are prohibitive but this is not true. Order volumes or costs are modest, meaning they are as affordable to the sole-trader IFA as well as bigger firms.
There are companies which can supply data directly to the customer or you can seek independent advice from a broker. The best way of sourcing these companies is through the Direct Marketing Association which has a website at www.dma.org.uk. The website gives a list of approved local list brokers. Alternatively, you can call the Direct Marketing Association on 020 7291 3300 and ask for the advice line. All advice given is free.