An illustration of your client process can show prospects how you’re different and help get them excited about working with you.
One of the steps in our referral marketing coaching process is developing a graphic that illustrates your process of working with clients. We find that it can be a powerful tool in moving people along in making the decision to make you their advisor. Among the benefits of a process graphic are:
- Setting expectations for what will happen if someone decides to become a client
- Demonstrate how your special expertise is reflected in the client experience
- Illustrate how comprehensive or thorough your service is
- Include mystery items to stimulate further conversation about what you do for clients
A process graphic might illustrate the whole lifespan of a client relationship. Picture the illustration of the financial planning process. It starts with setting goals and progresses through monitoring the plan at which point it loops back on itself and starts over again. I believe it can be more powerful to have a graphic that addresses only the initial stages of your relationship. Clients want to know what to expect if they begin working with you – not necessarily the service model that you will employ over the long term but rather the more intensive engagement that typically happens at the beginning of a relationship.
One of the most common frustrations I hear from financial advisors who do financial planning is the challenge of getting clients to produce the documents and information they need to complete the initial financial plan. Sometimes, showing the client the light at the end of the tunnel can help motivate them to take care of the steps necessary to wrap up that initial stage of the relationship.
Many firms lay out their process in text in a brochure or on their website. Pictures are more powerful. They are also more engaging. You can more easily help your clients understand the discrete steps in your onboarding process with a graphic.
Limit the number of words you use in the graphic. Think of it as a way to facilitate conversation rather than to be a standalone explanation of your client process.
Include specialized or technical terms that would be familiar to your target market. We are currently working with a client whose niche is assisting faculty in a specific university system make the most out of the special opportunities they have for maximizing their retirement savings and customizing distributions. Several steps in their process graph make specific reference to the particular benefits plans they have available, even using the initials or abbreviations of those plans. Using that “inside information” is a great way of communicating to faculty members that they have a special expertise in the opportunities unique to them.
Sometimes including something cryptic can be a great way to get people to ask more questions about what you do. One of our clients has an exercise they take clients through where they separate the different streams of retirement income into “buckets.” The bucket analogy is not particularly unique. However, their client advisory board made it clear that that particular exercise was perceived as particularly helpful and valuable. So when we help them create their process graphic, one of the steps had pictures of several pails with “financial planning and buckets” underneath it. No explanation. When they show it to prospective clients, it is very common for people to point at that part of the graphic and ask about it. The advisor gets permission to have a longer conversation about that tool.
Drafting ideas for a graphic is easy using something like WordArt in Microsoft Word. Include enough steps to make clear your expertise or the special elements that make your client experience unique. Once you are satisfied with the number of steps, what you will call them, and the flow of the graphic, higher a graphic artist to create an illustration for you. This will be one of the first things prospective clients will see about your practice so you want it to look professional.
Once you have a draft from the artist, test it with your clients or bring it to your client advisory board. Find out from them if they believe the graphic is an accurate representation of the experience of working with you. Make sure you have included as separate steps those aspects of your process that clients believe make you or your process unique. Ask their opinions of the icons or illustrations you have chosen for each step.
Client feedback can be especially helpful in discussing the pictures you use in your graphic. Finding icons to illustrate the separate steps of your process that are not cliché can be really hard. One of our clients had “setting mutual expectations” as the first step in the process and we set out to find a picture to illustrate it. One of the first ideas was two hands shaking. We quickly threw out that idea. But finding something graphic to illustrate the idea has been a real challenge. For now, we have settled on a drawing of the Dickens book “Great Expectations” but the client advisory board told us we need something better.
Once complete, you can post the graphic to your website, include in a brochure, or have it as a flyer or in a PowerPoint for presentation to prospective clients.
Part of the hesitation people have in becoming clients is fear of the unknown. How long will this take? How much work am I going to have to do? A process graph is one great way of giving prospects a preview of your client experience and will help them fill in the blanks of what is involved in your onboarding process. When done well it presents them an overview of your new client experience that can help them get excited about the outcome. It provides them something they can describe to their friends when they refer you. Understanding your process, feeling some familiarity with it, can help smooth the way for those prospects to become clients.