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client acquisition

5 Keys to an Effective Client Acquisition Strategy

Oct 15th 2015
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“No pain, no gain” is advice we pay personal trainers to provide. If you diet, exercise, and track your progress, results usually follow. Yet, when you embark on a client acquisition strategy for your firm, you often spend time and money and get minimal results. What makes a strategy effective?

Before You Start: Two Rules
Everyone is searching for the silver bullet of prospecting. If you were a fisherman, those fish would be jumping into your boat. Many look to social media as the great solution.

Rule No. 1: There is no silver bullet. As we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, territory is taken and held by boots on the ground, not aerial bombardment. You must engage your prospect and make a compelling reason why they should do business.

Rule No. 2: Persistence pays off. A Northern California financial advisor explained, “You can chop down a tree with a hammer.” Prospecting strategies often fail because just as they are about to start delivering results, the person decides, “This isn't working,” and abandons the strategy. Don't quit; fine-tune it instead.

How to Implement an Effective Strategy
Two people decide they need more clients and embark on a similar strategy. It works for one but not the other. Why? To be effective, a strategy needs five characteristics.

1. Proactive. You must drive the strategy instead of waiting for something to happen. You must be able to ramp it up to shorten the timeframe and increase your odds of success.

Where it works: You do one speaking engagement a month, speaking before homeowners associations. You want to speed up your results. You arrange three speaking engagements per month at other homeowners associations.

Where it doesn't: Referrals are everyone's favorite new account source. You can't lean on people to provide referrals. It makes you look desperate, and it's a longer-term, passive strategy.

2. Targeted. Your practice is built around a certain profile – academics who also consult and publish in their spare time. You want a strategy that puts you in front of these prospects.

Where it works: You contact clients who meet your profile and ask for introductions to peers. You present a workshop at a statewide academic conference.

Where it doesn't: A friend suggests you run a series of ads in the local newspaper. Readers may need accounting advice, but they don't meet your profile. Your specialty area isn't the benefit that will win them over.

3. Delivers message. People who meet with you or hear you speak should remember: “They have a need. Do business with me. Do business now.”

Where it works: You wrote an article that was published in the local newspaper or spoke at a community event. You included an action plan detailing next steps. “Speak with your tax advisor. If you want to speak with me directly, here's how to reach me.”

Where it doesn't: The purely educational seminar. The client learns about an issue, but not how to address it in easy-to-follow steps.

4. Money well-spent. The retailer John Wanamaker famously remarked, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don't know which half.” Your marketing budget is likely very small.

Where it works: You take a client out to dinner and ask him to bring along a friend, someone he thinks you might be able to help. Shortly afterwards you know if this was money well-spent.

Where it doesn't: You embark upon a mailing campaign, working with a firm that does everything from sourcing the list to robo-signing your name to the series of personalized letters sent over time. Success rates are low. Your initial expected revenue is $200 per person; however, it costs $300 per person to get them.

5. Measurable. How do I know if my strategy is working? Obviously getting new clients is the indicator of success, but this takes time. What other metrics can you use?

Where it works: You embark upon an email marketing strategy, utilizing a monthly newsletter to interested parties. You know how many bounced back because of bad addresses, how many were deleted, how many were opened, and how long they spent reading.

Where it doesn't: You buy advertising on the radio. You don't have a code or can't prompt callers to let you know they are responding to your ad.

People don't choose financial professionals the same way they decide where to buy gasoline. They are often very loyal, but circumstances change. You want to be top of mind when they decide it's time to make a change. You are building brand awareness.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on