If the fortune is in the follow-up, why do so few RIAs have a defined conversion process in place? Firms want to focus on attracting views and visits (the top of the marketing funnel) to capture more leads to grow their business; however, one powerful way to increase your revenue is to upgrade a key part of your marketing funnel: your follow-up communication system and prospect experience. With faster and higher rates of conversion, you can accelerate growth with far less incremental effort.
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“My marketing funnel is fine.”
You may immediately dismiss the notion that you can improve your conversion, “Once someone is sitting in front of us (in person, on the phone, or through video), we sign up nearly everyone!*” If this sounds like your firm, I invite you to stick with me in this post. You may be missing out on significant business from people who never make it down the marketing funnel to the consultation or slowing your income from sluggish prospect response.
*Note: if you do sign up close to everyone, it may be time to assess your pricing.
When does conversion begin?
Before I discuss how to improve, the first question to answer is, “When does conversion begin?” The common assumption is that it starts mid-funnel at the consultation. You meet with someone and mutually decide if you’re a fit. If that person or couple becomes a client during the consultation, you can check the conversion box. Perhaps they sign on a few weeks later or in the second or third meeting if that’s how your model works, and you consider it a success. Huzzah!
While the signature on an agreement may be the official conversion, if you wait until this point to start your system, you are too late. You have the opportunity to shorten the cycle, improve your results or weed out people who are not a fit by implementing your conversion efforts much sooner.
How far back in your marketing funnel do you need to go to kick off this process? Technically, conversion could begin when a person becomes aware of your firm or when you begin to generate interest through hyper-focused content or advertising (aka “top of funnel”). Because the person is still anonymous at this point and your relationship is neither mutual nor formalized, the conversion process does not start here either.
Conversion strategy starts when a person raises their hand, introduces themself and says it’s okay to communicate with me, individually. To design a prospect experience that is scalable, automated, personal, and converts more of the right people to clients, you must begin your process at this point of personal introduction. The start can be a phone call you receive, a name and email address shared on your web site, or an in-person interaction in line at Starbucks. You only need a name and a method of contact from which to move forward.
The best way to detail out each step of what you need to consider in a conversion system is to use online lead capture as an example. A lead originated this way involves the most steps to convert, although it requires less effort since you can automate much of the follow-up.
Let’s assume your website is the hub for all online lead capture. Most people, whether they meet an advisor out in the community or stumble upon an article shared on facebook, will end up at your site. Your follow-up marketing system starts with the lowest commitment action a visitor can take.
Look at the majority of advisor websites and you will find the only call to action is to schedule a free consultation. Most firms focus only on attracting the person who is ready right now. They do not account for most of the visitors; the people who took a few minutes out their day to inch forward on the possibility of maybe getting help with their finances. If the commitment of a consultation is too much, too soon (as it usually is), then those visitors leave without introducing themselves.
Unfortunately, even decoding this first step a person should take if he or she is eager to start can be difficult for the visitor as websites do not clearly identify the process a potential client can expect.
There are two fixes your firm can make to remedy this situation:
- Clearly state the first step in your prospect experience. A block of copy on your home page or a slider with a simple call to action that says, “Take the first step” can tell an interested person what to do. Do they need to click a button to schedule? Fill out a form? Call a number? Spell out exactly what action to take.
- Showcase a hyper-targeted lead magnet (e.g. a free download, guidebook, workbook, video) that a visitor can opt-in to easily with their name and email address.
A request for a lead magnet is the earliest entry point into your conversion process. This is where the four steps of follow-up begin. Each step must communicate clearly and let a person know what to do next. Here’s how it works.
4 Steps in your follow-up marketing system to help you grow faster
Step 1 – Capture:
The content you offer in this step drives the quality of the lead. Your goal is to attract in the potential clients who will be most valuable to your firm (your high value hyper target) and repel those who are not a fit and waste your resources. This is the first step in conversion. Consider the following guidebooks. Which one will bring the most qualified candidate?
- Example 1: 5 questions to ask when hiring a financial planner
- Example 2: 3 ways to save for retirement at any age
- Example 3: 5 truths about retirement executive women need to address in their 50’s
(Here’s hoping you picked Example 3).
Once a person completes your online form and clicks submit, greet them with a thank you page that clearly communicates what to expect. It can be as simple as, “Thank you for requesting our free guide. You will receive an email with a link to download your copy. Please check your inbox. “
If you’re really fancy, you can add, “In the meantime, we invite you to watch this educational video that will teach you how to find engaging mid-life volunteer work,” and include more content right there on the thank you page. You have a captive audience who is already eager to learn from you.
Step 2 – Contact:
Once someone introduces themselves, you must deliver what you promised. This is your first opportunity to warm up the lead. You send a welcome email that includes a thank you and a link to download the material. But, you don’t stop there. A follow-up sequence is essential because most people don’t read, watch, download or listen the first time. You have the option to:
- break the content down or restate it for them across multiple emails, or
- provide new content in each follow-up email, taking a person through the story you want to tell
Depending on how someone enters your system, you may change what you send. A lead coming into your system after a live workshop may receive a handout with a different series that supports the content you taught. The lead magnet replier goes into your auto-responder series for the free download.
In each or the majority of the emails in this sequence, provide a call to action that indicates exactly what they should do next if they want your help (or want to learn more). A simple P.S. or closing greeting provides clarity. Simply say, “If you want help figuring out (the concept we covered in this email), we invite you to schedule a call (here).” The good news is all of this can be automated using an email management platform such as Mailchimp.
Step 3 – Communicate:
After you complete the initial follow-up campaign, you cannot drop the ball. This is a critical part of your marketing funnel, and the step at which many advisors fail to act. One-to-one follow-up must continue. Map out the communications you send based on the action or inaction of the lead.
How and what do you communicate at each step? What is the follow-up action? What happens if the lead:
- Inquires about your service
- What do prospects experience when they call, email, text, or message your firm?
- Are you setting expectations at each touch point?
- Does the person know what the next step in your process is?
- How have you or a team member screened this prospect?
- Schedules (or wants to schedule) a consultation
- How easy is the scheduling?
- Do you use an online calendar (such as Calendly or Oncehub) where a prospect can select a time that fits in their schedule?
- What does your schedule page explain about this step?
- What is in your confirmation email(s) ?
- Does a prospect know what to do to prepare?
- Should s/he expect to receive any materials in advance?
- How do you communicate to ensure that person shows up for the session?
- What happens if someone cancels? Do you have a process to reach out to reschedule them? How many times will you try?
Pro tip: Build an “abandoned cart” email into your marketing funnel. If someone clicks to sign up for a consultation and does not complete the task, set up your system to deliver an email similar to what you get when you leave an item in your online shopping cart.
The single most effective way to prepare and pre-sell a prospect is to send a Welcome Kit prior to their meeting. Whether delivered online or in the mail, you send the prospect the information you want them to know in advance of the session. With this outreach you engage them in the process before they even meet with you.
- Attends the Appointment
- How and what is the experience of the session?
- What happens at the end if a person does not sign up?
- What happens if they do?
- In what format do you send a thank you?
- How many times do you follow-up?
- In what manner do you follow-up?
- Over what period of time?
Clarity on each of these questions can accelerate or improve your conversion, moving a potential client through the marketing funnel swiftly.
- Takes no action
Keep on communicating! When you do not hear back from a prospect at any stage, follow-up is essential. You can design your marketing funnel to trigger individualized follow-up emails at key points such as 6 weeks after their last interaction, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year. Set the context for the email upfront. “It’s been a while since you downloaded the guide” or “…wanted to find out if you’re still looking for help with your retirement planning.” Then, you can offer up additional free educational material. You can ask if they have found financial planning help or invite them to a webinar or an event.
Everyone who enters your system will receive regular calendar-driven communication from you. Step 4 of your follow-up system explains how to handle people who do nothing.
Step 4 – Cultivate:
No matter how far a person goes through your system, he or she will receive regular, calendar-based communications that keep your firm top of mind. Whether it is a lead who has yet to call or a prospect who went radio silent after a consultation, you want to stay front and center. This way, when a trigger event occurs that prompts your follower to take action, you firm is top of the list.
Pro tip: Don’t leave your clients off your cultivate list. Another way to accelerate growth is to remind your clients you exist – for additional assets, more planning, or a referral.
Communications is the cultivate step can be sourced from your home base content, often taking the form of a blog digest and/or a newsletter. Sending a minimum of two emails of this nature a month helps keep your list warm. You also relieve the burden of questioning when and how to follow-up. You leverage your effort by sending to everyone in your system at the same time. This results is a better use of your resources and allows people to engage on their timetable.
Offline leads still enter the system
For that fellow latte lover that you met in line at Starbucks, the conversion process still applies. Add them to your marketing funnel. Figure out based on your conversation where they enter your system. Did you mention sending over a copy of your free guidebook? Did you suggest a conversation to answer some of their questions? You may enter a few steps ahead of where the online lead starts. Take the appropriate next action as outlined in your marketing system. Then, make sure you follow through on your follow-up. It is where the fortune lies.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated and expanded to reflect current environment.
Kristin is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. Managing her own firm, she grew it from zero to six figures in less than three years, completely from scratch. In 2014 Kristin transitioned full time into training and coaching, where she now helps independent financial advisors to grow their firms.