Advisers with thriving practices have taken the time to clearly develop a strong personal brand and to communicate with their plan sponsor clients and participants through social media, says Kim Dellarocca, managing director at Pershing. “The marketplace is really crowded, so it has become essential for advisers, including retirement plan advisers, to be really clear about the value that they bring,” Dellarocca tells PLANADVISER.
Advisers tend to be wary of technology and to continue to rely on in-person, mail and the telephone as their primary ways to reach clients, Pershing says in its report, “Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations.” Those advisers who are not using email and social media to communicate with their clients risk being viewed as archaic, particularly since this year, there will be more mobile devices on earth than people, Pershing says.
“A new generation of digital communication tools, from email
to social media, has become even further ingrained in our lives and our
preferences,” the Pershing report says. “The bar for effective communication
between advisers and clients continues to rise.”
Advisers should begin by developing a unique brand, Dellarocca says, particularly since the Pershing survey found that only 26% of the 356 advisers surveyed said they can articulate what differentiates them from competitors. A good place to start is by examining their value proposition and asking clients to describe what benefits and services they deliver, she says.
Pershing equips its employees with a 360-degree
feedback tool, for instance, so that they can learn what colleagues, senior
executives and junior employees think about them, Dellarocca notes. “Advisers
could do the same thing. It’s not easy. Advisers might find they need to make a
lot of change,” she says.
Social media has become an ingrained part of life today, so advisers should have a LinkedIn account and use Twitter to communicate to the marketplace, she says. This is a big step for advisers, as the Pershing survey found that a mere 2% of advisers use social media to educate their clients.
Advisers should be sure to reach out to clients not just
when the market falls, but with good news and with news and information that
speaks to the industries that they serve, Dellarocca says. “They should be
comfortable with regular communication, to build a rapport,” she says.
Advisers can also use social media to learn about their clients, particularly when they have reached such milestone events as purchasing a home, having a child, becoming a grandparent or going through a divorce, she says. Advisers can then reach out with appropriate financial advice, Dellarocca says. Furthermore, by examining participants’ and plan sponsors’ affiliations on social media platforms and by joining industry and special interest groups on LinkedIn, advisers can ask for recommendations and use these platforms as business development tools, she says.
In addition, after learning through the survey that 76% of advisers do not have a personal website, Pershing recommends that advisers develop one, describing such sites as “their most effective platform for building a personal brand.”
“Not surprisingly, those advisers who report having the most career success are also more likely to use technology,” the Pershing report says. Advisers who are “doing better than ever” are more likely to have entered their own names into a search engine in the past month (46% versus 31% of advisers “maintaining status quo” and “struggling”) and are also more likely to have published thought leadership articles on their individual websites (62% versus 28% “regaining momentum”), according to Pershing’s research.