(This blog can also be found at the FPA Practice Management site: http://practicemanagementblog.fpanet.org/2014/01/08/marketing-with-intimacy/)
In 2013, it is expected that over 100 billion business emails will be sent per day and will grow to 132 billion by 2017 (www.radicati.com). According to the direct marketing firm, Epsilon (www.epsilon.com), email response rates continue to plummet. Since 2006, the click-to-open rate across all industries has declined from about 30% to 15% (as of June 2013). SilverPop’s (www.silverpop.com) research (using 2012 statistics) shows that of thirteen industries, financial services’ click-to-open rate is third from the bottom at 10.3%.
The ease in producing e-mail campaigns has slanted toward marketing efficiency instead of relationship effectiveness. While it takes just minutes to send out an email blast to hundreds of addresses, marketing productivity in financial and wealth management isn’t based on work effort but on the depth of client relationships or intimacy.
The risk in solely relying on the email “numbers game” in filling the sales funnel is the mental shift in seeing only an email address and not the person behind it. Furthermore, the volume-oriented campaign realizes diminishing returns as each e-mail in the drip marketing program becomes increasingly less likely to be read; the person behind the email address eventually becomes blind to the solicitation. Like a drug, to get desired client growth requires more email volume to overcome declining yields and this presents particular issues with small- to mid-sized firms in local markets.
On the other hand, a firm that works toward higher prospecting yields builds a relationship foundation through the marketing process such that prospects that don’t convert this year may do so next year.
Achieving Intimacy in the Digital Age
While email marketing continues to have the best ROI and will remain a key marketing tactic, email’s declining effectiveness cannot be ignored. In formulating your marketing program, engineer events for intimacy, not just volume.
Email – The Subject Line: To suggest that email works toward intimacy is a big stretch, but email is a constant resource; making it more effective is essential. The most important element of any email message is the subject line or, more purposefully, the storyline. Write a subject line that leads to a story: “How worries changed to confidence”; “A family squabble avoided”; “Being released from financial anxiety”; “Making sense of complexity”.
Email – The First Sentence: If the subject line is read, then the recipient will likely look at the first sentence in the e-mail viewer to see if the message is worth opening. Therefore, the first sentence builds from the subject line and captures attention by relating the beneficial solutions your firm provides (i.e. people buy benefits and not features).
Voice Mail: Making a follow-up phone call to an email is a useful tactic in your drip program as it demonstrates direct effort with the prospect. However, in the era of caller ID, the likelihood of your call being answered is low. Don’t hang up! Always leave a voice mail with an important benefit statement (think of it in the same way as a radio advertisement): “Our clients are approaching this year with confidence and I’d appreciate the opportunity to understand how we can assist you in this way.”
Handwritten Notes: Similarly, instead of always sending emails, intersperse a handwritten note (using personal note cards) in the marketing workflow. If you write five notes every business day, across a year you can send over 1,000. The few lines you write are a major effort toward intimacy (to keep business focus, you can insert a pre-printed, benefit-focused insert describing an aspect of your firm’s solution).
Home Visits: For those prospects agreeing to meet, offer to have a home visit. Given the need for a prospect to divulge personal, financial, and emotional information, a significant relationship imbalance results since no expectation exists for you to share similarly. At the prospect’s home, none of the barriers in your office are present (e.g. desks, conference tables). While there is travel time, the intimacy gained—and the commitment you show—may actually reduce the total time needed form a strong relationship. (And, you are able to observe important data points from the home and neighborhood.)
Old Style in a New World
Professional services firms, by definition, are people focused, but technology allows sterility and distance to creep into relationships. Using technology is a competitive and operational mandate, but old-style relationship intimacy can be designed into marketing and service programs. Doing so produces connections and, when this happens, marketing productivity (or yield) skyrockets.