Marketing is everything involved in interacting with a client from the first time they learn about you to servicing the relationship a decade later and beyond. The mood of our society has changed as a result of this pandemic. Like other crises in history, the GFC, the Tech bubble, or even back to World War 2, Covid-19 will change the way we view the world. Consumers will adjust their goals and buying decisions accordingly.
1. Changes to advice clients’ needs, wants and desires
I can’t remember a more anxious time across the country affecting so many people. Floods and Fires cause trauma yes, but the often aren’t with us for extended periods of time like Covid. When people are stressed, their decision making changes. This includes decisions about financial matters. Decisions on budgets, savings and investments need to continue. So do decisions to retire or the decision to move into aged care. The need for sound financial planning advice is perhaps more important than ever. Pre-pandemic it would be fair to say that Australians were very aspiration based when it came to talking about their goals with their financial planner. The pandemic has changed that. It’s now a defensive game, about protecting and preserving. Safety and security will be key themes that will carry real resonance.
In my opinion, ‘value for money’ will be the biggest driver going forward as consumer behavior changes. Very few Australians will have had their savings, investments and superannuation or retirement income vehicle impacted. The shut down has left many people not working. Access to super and job keeper/seeker payments will provide a way through for many.
So what do value seekers look like?
- They are looking for premium service at very good price
- They will reject low quality or cheap and nasty
- Equally, they will reject what they see as excess. Luxury can now be seen as extravagant and wasteful. So can things that they don’t understand the value of, even if they’re valuable.
- Ultimately, they like all consumers will determine what’s valuable to them and what isn’t
- Value seekers will often share information with others about good value experiences.
Now more than ever it’s important to demonstrate value and define that value. The bottom line is this: If you don’t define the value of what you do for your new and existing clients, they will define what’s important to them and what is not. Defining value means that you show the benefit in explicit terms, especially if it’s something you want them to pay for. This means you spell out the value of the advice and the service offering in terms of why it’s important and how it benefits them.
2. Changes to service delivery
The pandemic has made business rely on video conferencing really will. In a recent ‘keeping in touch’ chat with a client he said presenting a statement of advice worked really well. Zoom was the program being used. Reflecting on my own family experiences recently, even the most technically challenged people I know have come around to enjoy the benefits of facetime with family and friends. The changes are also likely to impact how the work is delivered too. Working from home once a week might become the new normal. There’s a lot of business real estate that’s not being used right now.
An additional change to service delivery are the seminars, events and other networking occasions financial planning firms offer. There’s a BIG implication here. If your ongoing client service agreements include those things and you don’t deliver them, a fee refund will likely need to be given. During Covid-19, make sure you can still deliver everything you promised you could, otherwise refunds may be required.
3. Changes to reputation management
As a financial planning marketer, I help my clients uncover insights that can be used to genuinely help them stand out from the crowd. The way you promote yourself and even the website images you use will need to change. Images of Yachts and fine dining experiences might be cliché, but in Covid 19 they’re luxury, wasteful and not part of life as we know it. Even walking on the beach right, a favourite photo used by many firms featuring retirees (and a lazy photo choice to, in my marketing opinion) now would be breaching social distancing rules in many parts of the country right now.
Now is not the time to retreat. No one wants a financial planner who wobbles at a time like this. The future post Covid will be owned by those financial planners who are strong communicators and position themselves as helpful solid voices. Those who retreat might have questions or concerns raised about their stability. So be strong and be bold in your promotions and reputation management. Create content around strategy and advice that provides certainty in an uncertain world. People are happy to take advice from those who can help deliver more confident futures, especially at times like this.
4. Changes to customer service
The friendly smile of the receptionist or the greeting over the phone has also changed. But there’s more to customer service than that. Things like answering emails and returning phone calls promptly are also important and probably more important during a time of financial uncertainty and stress.
If you’re a financial planning business that doesn’t make ‘keeping it touch’ calls now might be a good time to start. You’re not ringing about anything specifically, but rather just to check in with clients to see how they and their family are going at what is a challenging time. Of course you can provide them with an update on things that isn’t considered a formal annual or bi-annual review and certainly there’s a lot to generally talk about in the world of finance and the swings caused by Covid-19.
5. Changes to business development
I’ve seen two patterns emerge in regard to business development and I expect these to continue in the near term. The first group of business is those who have said ‘I’m not taking on any new clients right now’. This ‘closed door and look after my own client base only’ approach mat provide some comfort. But is it the right approach? This might create a longer-term negative sentiment, especially if a new client that was referred to you by an existing client is turned away. Perhaps a better approach is to accept new clients, but to slow down business development activity.
The second cohort of businesses are those that still have the doors open to new clients and deliver services by video or over the phone. These financial planners have pivoted their service delivery and are doing their level best to keep new business coming through the door with video appointments. I think there is also comfort in taking this approach, in that it makes life seem ‘more normal’. There’s probably also less competition right now which might even make competing easier, especially if you can find any ongoing distressed advertising opportunities that make sense.
Regardless of which approach you’ve taken during this pandemic, it’s important to remember that life as we knew it will return at a future point. Clients’ expectations of the value provided will be a greater factor in the go forward, for all financial planning firms. Think about how you’re going to pivot your marketing strategy to meet their needs. How will you light their way post Covid-19?