The ripples from the pension reforms are only beginning. A year that will bring unprecedented changes should see a corresponding surge in people seeking advice. Karen Barrett explains how advisers can position themselves to seize this opportunity and make sure they don’t miss the tide.

    We in the advice business may be about to see the biggest consumer rush since Apple started making phones. Or not. That’s the thing about these pension freedoms – they are unprecedented. We can make educated guesses about how things will pan out, but no-one really knows. So although many are predicting a dash for pension advice, it would be naïve for an adviser to sit back and assume that dozens more clients will come knocking. The surge in custom may be out there, but it still needs to be chased.

    Many of these potential new customers will have never even spoken to an adviser before. What is going to make them break the habit of a lifetime? Reasons that deter people from seeking advice include:

    • I can make my own decisions
    • I have family members who understand this stuff
    • I don’t believe the cost of advice would be worth my while
    • Isn’t the government providing free advice?
    • My pension pot isn’t big enough to justify it
    • I know I should… but I prefer not to think about it

    The challenge, then, is to tackle these and similar attitudes head-on. Some advisers may need to modify their marketing approach from one that appeals to people who are more or less inside the shop, to one that reaches out to those who are still just peering through the window.

    Does your storefront have peeling paint?

    The window that these people are peering through is most likely labelled The UK’s most popular adviser search, it will be the first port of call for the majority of individuals who are wondering whether advice might be for them. What they see in those first minutes could turn them from browsers into potential customers, or else put them off altogether. This is why actively targeting those people is so important.

    Clients using the search will see a list of adviser profiles. Try it now and compare the profiles you see. The simplest may include just the name of the company, a brief description and a list of services offered. By contrast, the very best profiles are used by their owners as eye-catching marketing platforms. Colourful logos, high-quality photos of smiling advisers, a crisp and memorable summary of what the adviser does best, and impressive qualifications and testimonials do more than just make a company stand out on the list. Even more than that, they say: ‘This is an adviser who wants you as a client.’ A well-presented profile makes the tentative advice-seeker feel welcomed, enlightened, in safe hands and above all, valued.

    When we see somebody making a special effort to win our custom, we tend to assume that a similar level of care has gone into the product we’re buying. True, there is a fine line between good marketing and ‘trying too hard’ – but far worse than trying too hard is being seen not to care very much. Some existing customers may be content with a cursory list of services, if they know from experience that you’re good. But the new client needs to be won over – first attracted, and then convinced. Also bear in mind that most of these people aren’t yet attuned to the language of financial advice. Complex terminology too soon could give them cold feet. All they want right now is to know whether they’ll have enough money in retirement. So it may be the right time to dismantle everything you currently say about yourself, put yourself in the shoes of the new customer, and then produce a new profile that feels fresh, immediate and accessible. It could be half an hour well spent.

    How to be heard above the roar

    Those approaching retirement are being regularly told that everything is changing and that they need to seek guidance and advice. But they are also bombarded with misinformation, semi-information, rumour and misunderstanding – not to mention the actively malicious bids of pension fraudsters. Each attempt to promote regulated advice must also compete with the ‘But my mate told me’ factor, along with much else. This is why advisers need to make their voices louder, clearer, more understandable and friendlier too. Many people feel they don’t relate to the world of finance – what they do relate to is other people. So as you prepare to meet the wave of advice-seeking that we all hope is coming, don’t forget it’s a big ocean out there. Wear something bright.

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