I’ve just been reading through a very interesting piece of research that came out of the last census here in NZ, compiled by Statistics NZ, and it immediately highlighted some problems in our process as advisers that suggest we may be missing the mark with many consumers. The key statistic that matters for the purpose of this post is that 7 out of 10 adult consumers in the country experienced a significant change in circumstances in the previous year.
Change of employment, housing, family circumstances, illness…these were the key contributors to what was determined by the consumers themselves as significant changes. 70% of them across the country….and they are not turning to professionals for help usually. The overwhelming majority turn to their social networks – friends, family, work colleagues and community members – for assistance before turning to professionals.
At the same time the noise levels over the “underinsurance” issue, and the “lack of financial literacy”, and the lack of engagement in obtaining professional advice on the part of consumers has risen significantly from the financial services industry.
So what are we to make of the fact that the industry says too few are engaging with us, yet the actual experience of the consumers is that the overwhelming majority are experiencing significant changes in their lives that would appear to warrant some professional advice in many cases?
I suspect that the disconnect between consumers day-to-day experiences where professional advice could be beneficial, and them actually thinking of us, is more about top-of-mind-awareness than anything else. They simply do not think of us as a potential solution or source of help. It quite possibly isn’t an issue of “literacy” per se, as consumers seem to be able to figure out well enough when something is significant and they might need help, and then they mostly to go to their families and support networks for that help.
This line of thought reminded me of a fabulous book called “Fish’, which was about how a very ordinary business was excelling and doing extraordinarily well. A fish market in Seattle of all things, that was selling precisely the same stock to the same customers in the same locality as 2 other fish markets. Yet it was doing something like 3 x the turnover.
One of the keys to it’s success was “Be there”.
The staff were in the moment. They were fully engaged with customers. They were having fun at work and expressing themselves. They made noise in a fun way , and let potential customers know they were open for business and happy to engage. They also let people know they were happy to engage whether people wanted to buy something or not.
The result was that people went to the fish markets when they wanted to buy fish of course, but the majority went to this particular fish market instead of the other two. An additional result was that those who didn’t want to buy fish today, but would tomorrow, went to this fish market in their lunch hours to be entertained and be part of the atmosphere. Guess where most of those people would buy their next fish from?
It doesn’t seem too big a stretch of the imagination to me to conclude that one of their secrets – Being There – is potentially the financial advisers missing ingredient.
If the majority of consumers have significant life or financial planning requirements changes in any given year, and they are not thinking of or turning to us, then we are simply not present in their minds in the right way. It may be that they know who we are, and that is a maybe, but clearly they don’t have a grasp of what it is we can do to help them. They are not linking the significant change in life circumstances to our areas of expertise and the positive outcomes we can help create for them.
It would follow that much of our marketing effort must be about maintaining a constant presence, and creating that top-of-mind-awareness with our potential and existing customers. More importantly though, we have to educate and patiently explain, and remind, and remind again, of the types of problems we can help resolve and the sorts of outcomes we can help them achieve. We have to work diligently and patiently at creating the sense of “being there” if we want them to turn to us when significant changes happen in their lives.
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