From Consumer Reports to user reviews to product bloggers, we all appreciate the importance of objective evaluations when making a purchase decision. We fear making a mistake and seeing a product we purchased end up on a “lemon” list. When buying products we have in our mind a set of criteria that will guide our purchase, but we seek to be influenced by those that have had direct experience or a scientific evaluation method.
Intangible products, such as the hiring of a financial planning practitioner, involve a fuzzy process simply due to the lack of easily measurable attributes. Sure we can look up satisfaction surveys from industry research firms, but the underlying failure of these surveys falls on the fact that it is an individual delivering the services and not the firm. Unlike tangible products that come off a manufacturing assembly line, a professional services practitioner is a unique entity with wide quality variability.
What Clients Want
Individual investors are clear in what they want from a planner: expertise/reputation, trustworthiness and care/concern. A base level of expertise is expected across practitioners—it is like a commodity—but the more defining hiring differentiators are those that produce confidence in the practitioner’s ability to be trustworthy and caring.
Prospects attempt to solve for the challenge in assessing the “trustworthiness” and “care/concern” hiring criteria by asking for referrals from a respected source. What they’re really doing is asking this person to proxy for the due diligence he or she otherwise needs to undertake, but doesn’t do for lack of time, attention, resources, and/or process.
While digital marketing (websites, newsletters, email campaigns and social media) is a competitive mandate for a professional services firm, little attention is paid to enliven the essential trustworthiness and care/concern hiring criteria. Oddly, these resolutely human elements are pushed to inconsequence by uninspiring text.
In our normal human interactions in judging these qualities, we rely on feel, perception and discernment. This judgment considers many facets beyond the person’s spoken words, such as tone, expressions and behavior, for a whole-person view deeper than what mere words allow.
Effective Digital Marketing
Effective digital marketing works similarly to present this whole-person view. Of course, nothing is as confirming as direct human interaction, but your digital marketing presentation does drive the motivation for a face-to-face meeting. More and more, the prospect agrees to a meeting only after he or she gains a measure of confidence from your digital messaging that the risk in taking this step is likely to be fruitful. Of great concern (and unknowable) is the number of people who didn’t gain this confidence and dismissed a meeting altogether. This is a serious business risk and ever more the reason that digital marketing must become a high priority.
Making digital marketing reflective of your whole person (or “product”) identifies your expressions and behavior indicating trustworthiness and care/concern. Although text has a role, use infographics, pictures (no stock photos!) and videos for the topics listed below, and a richer, more memorable dimension will result.
Practitioner Characteristics Matched to Hiring Criteria
Of higher priority, placing emphasis on creative expressions of “trustworthy” and “care/concern” advances digital marketing to a similar role of a referral; it is a proxy the prospect can use as a vital supplement to the hiring due diligence evaluation. When the actual face-to-face meeting occurs, your prospect will already be familiar with the “product” (you, the practitioner) and apply the hiring criteria needed to say, “Yes, it is right for me to do business with you.”
Vice president, sales, North America