Have you ever thought about how you can successfully manage the client journey from prospect through to an established client who regularly refers new business your way?
Because the industry has been undergoing so much change these last few years, it’s natural to focus on a subset of issues or the proverbial ‘squeaky wheel’ that demands your immediate attention. We can easily lose sight of what’s fundamental to the success of our businesses by looking at individual trees rather than the forest. But every now and then it’s good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
One of the truisms that should drive every business is the one coined by well-known management guru Peter Drucker – it goes something like this “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer”. This is both simple yet profound and points to the need for all businesses to remain, first and foremost, customer-focused. Without a customer (use the term client if you wish) there is no need for the business to exist, so client focus (creating and keeping) is an essential element to business success.
In the interests of helping practices, we thought it would be useful to take a step back and produce a series of posts that focus on how to manage the client journey – the steps clients tend to pass through from the time before they become your client, right through to the stage where they become your greatest advocates and help you drive exponential growth based on your excellent performance.
In this first post, we look at how to manage the client journey – foundation stage – this covers the things you can think about and do to prepare your practice to successfully manage the client journey end to end. Failure to address this stage is likely to drive sub-optimal performance in later stages of the journey and may lead your practice to a low growth, low success future.
The following diagram represents a number of important and interconnected elements, including the typical client journey.
What many practices now focus on is the advice process because let’s face it, that’s where the majority of compliance obligations sit and we’re living in a time of increased monitoring and potentially significant negative consequences for non-compliance.
Next, and more recently (from 1 January 2020), a Code of Ethics has been introduced – it traverses the whole advice process and the entire client journey because it’s intentionally designed to influence individual adviser behaviours on a day-to-day basis, no matter where the client is on their journey. While specific, principles-based Standards are prescribed, it’s the values of trustworthiness, competence, honesty, fairness, and diligence that reign supreme. The enabling legislation is very clear – advisers must demonstrate, realise and promote th values in the Code.
And then we have the client journey itself that captures each step a client typically goes through pre-advice, post advice, and when forming a lasting relationship with their adviser.
The last element in our diagram makes reference to what we call a Growth Loop, depicting how every practice can achieve exponential growth by leveraging different stages of the client journey and ensuring the last four (4) stages are executed to a very high standard. In other words, by creating, nurturing, and building very strong and mutually beneficial client relationships that drive a virtuous cycle of growth.
The difficulty in managing a practice in today’s complex and fast-moving environment is that we tend to look at specific areas of performance (e.g. compliance) and don’t pay nearly enough attention to a more holistic picture that places the client at the centre of everything the practice does.
One way of doing this is to understand the client journey and put in place mechanisms to ensure it is managed successfully, without neglecting the importance and role of other integrative elements such as the advice process and code of ethics.
The Foundation Stage For Managing the Client Journey
Like a building that requires a strong foundation to survive for many years ahead, the foundation stage underpins and sets the direction for how successful you can be in managing each client’s journey. At a minimum, it requires you to think about and answer these key questions:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is your value proposition?
- How will prospects get to know, like and trust you?
- What is your referral strategy?
- What role will client feedback play in your practice?
Who is your ideal client?
One of the most important things you can do is develop a very clear view of who your ideal client is. This will help guide your business and marketing strategies. Who do you want to attract to your practice and work with over the medium to long-term and why? What sort of clients have you enjoyed working with to date?
You may have come across the saying ‘marketing to everyone is marketing to no one’ and it’s so true. Knowing who your ideal client is will save you a lot of time, money and stress.
What is your value proposition?
Your value proposition is what will attract prospects to your practice from the outset and help maintain your relationship as they progress to become clients and beyond. That’s why it is essential that each practice is able to articulate a value proposition that is clear and unique.
To clarify, this is a marketing statement that summarises why someone should buy your services. It needs to be able to convince a prospect that your advice will add more value or better solve a problem than someone else. A solid value proposition answers these four critical questions:
- What services is your practice offering?
- What are the end-benefits of using them?
- Who is your target client for these services?
- What makes your offering unique and different?
For more details about how to prepare a sound value proposition, check out our blog post HERE.
How will prospects get to know, like and trust you?
A fundamental principle of acquiring and retaining clients is the dictum of know, like and trust. This prescribes a sequence of outcomes that must occur in order for a prospect to become a client in the first place. Firstly, they must know you, then they must like you and, lastly, they must trust you (at least enough to commit).
If you can execute this sequence well, you will convert prospects into clients and build a solid base for referrals and activate the growth loop depicted in our diagram. Let’s break this down so you can build a solid foundation for generating new business.
This first step in the sequence is all about visibility and awareness. It’s impossible to sell a secret.
Prospects need to know your practice exists, so you need to get on their radar. Except for well-established and successful practices, ensuring visibility is one of the biggest challenges and often hinges on knowing who your ideal client is and what your value proposition represents to those clients (see above). Make sure you have a very clear view of both.
Once you know your ideal client and have an alluring value proposition that will attract them to your practice, you can set about making sure they know who are.
There are literally thousands of ways to ensure prospects get to know you. Here are a few ideas.
- Use social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook to connect with your ideal client and target them with content that addresses their pain points – add value rather than sell
- Attend targeted networking events (where your ideal clients are likely to attend)
- Blog regularly on topics that would interest your ideal client
- Contribute content to newsletters distributed by other professionals who serve similar ideal clients
- Speak at local events
Ironically, the goal here is to ensure that not everyone likes you. Sounds perverse, but if everyone likes you then you are trying to market to everyone. Remember, you are trying to attract your ideal client to your practice with a unique value proposition.
That’s why it is so important that you know exactly who your ideal client is and making sure they know you. Authenticity is the key to prospects liking you. They will like you because of who you are and what you represent to them.
This is the most critical element but won’t happen unless prospects first know and like you. People buy from people they trust. But getting prospects to trust you is more than just knowing and liking you.
If you want to create a practice where clients stay with you for the long-term, they need to trust you implicitly. Here are some basic principles to follow.
- Communicate – this links back to the know element. You have to communicate, communicate, communicate. Focus on letting prospects know what you do and the value you deliver.
- Consistency– be consistent with everything you do. Your prospects should enjoy a consistent experience at every stage of the client journey.
- Compelling– your messaging should be interesting, informative, and inspiring to your prospects and align with your value proposition.
- Congruence– all of your communications to prospects need to work together and proclaim a consistent message aligned to your ideal client’s needs and your value proposition. Humans quickly pick up on incongruence and default to ‘I don’t trust you’ as a safeguard.
- Take a long look at how you’re building the know, like, and trust sequence in your practice. This is foundational and has to be working well if you want to take your practice to the next level and be in a position to leverage the growth loop.
What is your referral strategy?
There is no better marketing strategy than a well thought out and executed referral strategy. But many practices rely on referrals as their primary source of growth without first carefully considering what the strategy looks like and how it will work in practice. This means referrals sort of happen by chance rather than as the output of a deliberate and well thought out strategy.
We know that referrals make up about 80% – 85% (if not more) of new business in practices that have their act together, so it’s too important to ignore and, when executed well, makes all the difference. Referrals are also the cheapest way to acquire new clients when compared to other marketing activities.
Knowing who your ideal client is and having a clear value proposition are central to your referral strategy, otherwise, you could end up pursuing the wrong sort of prospects, be it referrals from existing clients or centres of influence.
Issues that need to be considered relate to the why, who, how, when, where.
- Should I rely on referrals to grow my practice?
- What specific steps need to be executed to generate referrals?
- Which of my existing clients are likely to be good referral sources?
- When should I activate my referral strategy?
- How should I approach my clients about referrals?
- What other professionals can I approach for referrals?
- What criteria apply to referrals from other professionals?
The topic of referrals is deep in its own right and deserves its own post so it will be covered in more detail in the future. But you should at least be thinking about referrals strategically to set yourself up for future success throughout the client journey.
What role will client feedback play in your practice?
The topic of client feedback may seem to be an odd addition to this post about getting the foundations right. But, when you think about it deeply (as we have), feedback is a gift and can have a profound impact on every practice.
It’s the only way your practice will improve performance because it comes directly from the only real source of truth – your clients. Done regularly and well throughout the client journey, it will provide you with a wellspring of insights that can be used to address a comprehensive range of practice relevant use cases (see table below).
As you can see, client feedback can touch on almost every aspect of practice operations, so it’s important you have an appropriate system in place to capture, understand and act on collected feedback throughout the client journey.
When asked, every practice will proclaim it is client-centric, but we wonder if this is actually mistaken for acting in the client’s best interests. The latter is, of course, an ethical and legal obligation. The former is quite different.
Client-centricity is a business strategy that involves the practice of putting the client first and at the core of the business to provide a positive experience throughout the client journey in order to build long-term, profitable relationships.
If you are interested in assessing how client-centric your practice is, complete our QUICK ONLINE ASSESSMENT.
This post has introduced the client journey as a centrepiece for managing your practice. Preparation and a strong foundation are essential to your ability to successfully manage each client’s journey. In this post, we’ve also identified the key questions you must answer, together with ideas about how you should respond.
Our next post will cover in detail the initial stage of the client journey – Awareness.
Dr Ray McHale is CEO of Marketing based Assets International Pty Ltd. His company delivers services to advice businesses (financial advice, mortgage broking & accounting) to help them build and leverage strong client relationships to achieve better commercial outcomes. Ray’s company provides consulting & coaching services in addition to MyNextAdvice™, a software as a service platform that delivers clarity, actionable insights & guidance to improve revenue, efficiency, & compliance using client feedback.