6 Traits for Build­ing Loy­alty

Self-pro­mo­tion is not the key. Here’s a primer on how ad­vi­sors can build a suc­cess­ful prac­tice with very lit­tle mar­ket­ing, ac­cord­ing to John J. Bowen Jr.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By John J. Bowen Jr.

Self pro­mo­tion is not the key. Here’s how ad­vi­sors can build a suc­cess­ful prac­tice with very lit­tle mar­ket­ing.


You’ve got two choices: A, pro­mot­ing your­self and con­stantly hunt­ing for new clients; or B, serv­ing very loyal clients who reg­u­larly give you more of their as­sets to man­age, de­spite very lit­tle mar­ket­ing on your part.

Of the thou­sands of ad­vi­sors I’ve met and worked with over the years, there are prob­a­bly fewer than 5% who would choose A. We all want clients who stick with us and give us more of their trust and as­sets over time, and who also in­tro­duce us to their af­flu­ent peers. A de­voted client base is the key to build­ing a truly ex­cep­tional prac­tice.

What’s more, hav­ing an ex­cep­tional prac­tice is more im­por­tant than ever. Although many fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sion­als will earn good liv­ings for some time to come, we are rapidly en­ter­ing an era where rel­a­tively few ad­vi­sors reap most of the re­wards. The fi­nan­cial plan­ning world is be­com­ing a place where the win­ners might not take all — but they will take most.


Re­gard­less of whether you fo­cus mainly on in­vest­ments or go be­yond as­set man­age­ment to in­clude wealth and ad­vanced plan­ning ser­vices, you need a loyal clien­tele. To at­tract one, you need to prac­tice what I call the six Cs of client loy­alty — char­ac­ter, chem­istry, car­ing, com­pe­tence, col­lab­o­ra­tion and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness.

We are rapidly en­ter­ing an era in which rel­a­tively few ad­vi­sors reap most of the re­wards.

The first four of these traits are your foun­da­tion: char­ac­ter, chem­istry, car­ing and com­pe­tence. They work in lock­step. If wealthy clients see you as very car­ing, then they are likely to con­clude that you have char­ac­ter, that the chem­istry be­tween you is good and that you are quite com­pe­tent.

But a strong foun­da­tion will still have lit­tle im­pact on how those clients view you when it comes to be­ing con­sul­ta­tive.

Let’s con­sider each of these char­ac­ter­is­tics in­di­vid­u­ally.

1. Char­ac­ter en­tails the per­sonal qual­i­ties that clients look for in fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sion­als. The three most im­por­tant are in­tegrity, trust­wor­thi­ness and de­pend­abil­ity. Ad­vi­sors uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edge that these traits are im­por­tant. Un­for­tu­nately, many have a dif­fi­cult time con­vey­ing these traits to their clients.

2. Chem­istry oc­curs when you’re in synch with your clients. You have chem­istry when you con­nect with them; when you know what they like to dis­cuss and you see eye to eye on im­por­tant is­sues. You can’t fake hav­ing good chem­istry, any more than you can hide it when the chem­istry is bad.

That means you should work with peo­ple you re­ally like and get on many lev­els. By opt­ing to only serve clients who are a good fit for your skills and in­ter­ests, you en­sure that the chem­istry at your firm is only the best.

3. Car­ing is about em­pa­thy and truly

know­ing what mat­ters most to your clients, be­yond their fi­nan­cial goals and in­vest­ment ob­jec­tives. To con­vey car­ing, you have to demon­strate that you have a gen­uine grasp of their most im­por­tant pri­or­i­ties.

4. Com­pe­tence. The more you demon­strate your com­pe­tence, the more loyal your clients be­come. Most clients con­sider their ad­vi­sors to be ex­tremely ca­pa­ble tech­ni­cally and ex­cep­tion­ally smart. But they tend to equate com­pe­tence with thought lead­er­ship, and a strong in­di­ca­tion that your clients re­gard you as com­pe­tent is when they see your peers ac­knowl­edge you as an ex­pert. Es­tab­lish­ing your thought lead­er­ship by pub­lish­ing ar­ti­cles and white pa­pers and get­ting en­dorse­ments from key in­flu­encers in your mar­ket niche does won­ders for your per­ceived com­pe­tence.

5. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is the surest way to cre­ate loyal clients, re­gard­less of your busi­ness model. This comes down to three things: The first is rec­og­niz­ing that your re­la­tion­ships shouldn’t al­ways be about what you do for your clients. Most of them want to be in­volved and would pre­fer a more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach.

The second con­cerns when you com­mu­ni­cate with them. Your client con­tacts shouldn’t be limited to sched­uled meet­ings like quar­terly in­vest­ment re­views. You build loy­alty when you reach out spon­ta­neously, when­ever there is a rea­son to get in touch.

The third is cus­tomiz­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions. For­mal pre­sen­ta­tions shouldn’t be off-the-shelf, but should be per­son­al­ized in a way that con­nects with each client.

6. Cost-ef­fec­tive­ness is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as clients be­come more price­sen­si­tive. But while many fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sion­als have been forced to lower their fees, for af­flu­ent clients the is­sue is less about cost and more about value. The wealth­ier they are, the more will­ing they are to pay with­out de­bate for fi­nan­cial ad­vice, as long as they per­ceive it as high qual­ity.

Clients tend to fo­cus on costs only when their ad­vi­sors fail to fo­cus on value. Pro­vid­ing cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions means not only pro­vid­ing real value, but also the per­cep­tion of value.


The six Cs are all in your con­trol. You can act in ways that com­mu­ni­cate car­ing, gen­er­ate good chem­istry, demon­strate com­pe­tence and cul­ti­vate a col­lab­o­ra­tive spirit with your clients. The key is to care­fully con­sider each fac­tor and how you can seam­lessly in­te­grate it into your prac­tice.

Whether you fo­cus on in­vest­ments, ba­sic fi­nan­cial plan­ning or more so­phis­ti­cated plan­ning strate­gies, char­ac­ter and car­ing are es­sen­tial qual­i­ties to con­vey. Chem­istry be­comes in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as wealth man­agers work to broaden their range of ser­vice. Greater chem­istry leads to greater client rap­port. If you’re a wealth man­ager of­fer­ing com­plex plan­ning so­lu­tions, you need this rap­port to engage with your clients, eval­u­ate their needs and iden­tify which wealth man­age­ment strate­gies can have the great­est im­pact.

The im­por­tance of be­ing com­pe­tent, con­sul­ta­tive and cost-ef­fec­tive also in­creases as you of­fer ad­di­tional ser­vices and prod­ucts.

Taken to­gether, these char­ac­ter­is­tics at­tract the right mix of af­flu­ent clients, in­spire gen­uine loy­alty and be­come the glue that binds the client to an ad­vi­sor as their re­la­tion­ship deep­ens over time.

Ex­celling in all six of these traits re­quires the right sys­tems and pro­cesses, as well as the right peo­ple who can con­sis­tently de­liver an out­stand­ing client ex­pe­ri­ence. The pay­off comes when you can show that you are the right per­son to help your clients make smart choices about their wealth.

You can’t fake good chem­istry. That means you should work with clients you re­ally like and get on many lev­els.

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