When Adversity Hits Home Successful SBOs Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!
Adversity elicits talents which, in prosperous times, would have lain dormant.
Thus far, 2008 have been tough for the U.S. economy, in general, and small business, in particular. As Dr. Paul S. Kedrosky, Executive Director of the William J. von Liebig Center in San Diego put it: “…[T]he likelihood of a U.S. recession is growing, and, credit crisis or no credit crisis, it’s arguably somewhat overdue, with the current U.S. expansion now at the end of its sixth year. Either way, it’s worth scanning a real market for the probability of a U.S. recession in 2008, and the one I use at Intrade says we are almost up to 60%.”
While we don’t know how long these adverse conditions will prevail, this much is clear: many SBOs are struggling to keep their heads above the rising waters of a nascent recession. I’m not talking about flash-in-the-pan ventures, but successful, established SBOs facing a bottom-line decision: Is this business still viable?
Of course small businesses remain viable! At least they are for SBOs willing to commit to marketing, acquiring new business, and to building and sustaining good relationships with customers and clients despite a brutal economy.
But, I’d Add a Caveat…
Make that three caveats! I’m referring to the three-word maxim the U.S. Army uses when facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the nation’s defense: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!
And successful entrepreneurs will continue in the same vein: doing the things failures don’t do or won’t do—using unalloyed grit, determination and stick-to-itiveness.
A financial advisor I know exemplifies that can-do mind set and will-do approach to running a successful business in an uncertain economy. Let’s look at what he’s doing not just to survive when times are tough, but to prevail.
- My friend has developed and implemented an “Affiliate Program” with CPAs in his marketing territory.
- After building good rapport with his CPA clients, he asks selected individual CPAs and CPA firms to join his Affiliate Program: “You have the clients; we have the products and services. By working together we can co-promote our products and services.”
- If turned down, he stays in touch, and keeps asking.
- By getting CPA affiliates to bring him in when their clients need financial products and services (IRA funding, for example) he automatically expands his marketing base.
- Experience shows that without a financial advisor’s support, CPA presentations of retirement planning, estate planning or financial security needs are often much less effective. Conversely, when advisors are well-educated in the use of tax-planning techniques, they’re more likely to incorporate them into planning recommendations.
- Financial services advisors become a link to many new clients for CPAs. So the goal of CPA firms and independent practitioners to educate area financial services producers who have the potential of referring business to them.
- The program works both ways. My friend refers his customers and clients who need the services of an accountant to his CPA affiliates.
- Often these are the biggest and best clients of both my financial advisor friend and his CPA affiliates, so it works out rather nicely.
- An Affiliate Program is especially worthwhile because retaining customers is a challenge for any business, and getting new customers costs much more than maintaining the ones already doing business with you.
In a marketing area where many other insurance agents and other financial professionals have gone on to supposedly greener pastures, my advisor friend is holding his own. He wants to be there to pick up clients who have suddenly found themselves without a financial advisor. He’s doing this by…
Marketing & Promotion
- Maintaining a consistently positive presence and high profile in his target market(s) through articles, press releases and interviews in local media outlets, print and other forms of advertising.
- Linking his Web page to his Company’s and other Web sites.
- Sending email and direct mail letters on the economy, market conditions and other topics of importance and interest to his clients and prospects. These letters would ordinarily have to be submitted in advance to company compliance departments for approval, but his company provides first-rate, pre-approved letters that can be personalized by their advisors.
- Providing excellent client service, requesting referrals and introductions from existing clients at every opportunity.
- Being open and receptive, but never proselytizing, making promises he can’t keep, or misleading prospects by claiming special insight into the direction the economy or market is taking.
- Prefacing marketing and sales initiatives with the statement that his “first priorities with clients have always been: 1) Understanding their situations, needs, wants and objectives, and; 2) Assessing their tolerance for risk, and developing realistic risk profiles.”
- He insists that only then can he recommend financial products and services to meet his clients’ needs, wants and objectives consistent with their risk profiles. “That hasn’t changed in a tough economy, he insists. “And won’t!”
- Never denigrating other advisors or impugning their motives or reputations, especially not his prospects’ or clients’ former advisors.
My friend appreciates the benefits of long-term client relationships, and provides good value for services rendered, by offering quality products and services that meet his customers’ needs, wants and objectives. He knows that once he has them, customers will buy from him (and maybe only him) again and again–and become clients.
That’s how he’s not just keeping his head above water, but turning this period of temporary adversity into opportunities.
- How often have you faced obstacles you never thought you’d be able to get past—but did! How did you do it?
- How many ways can you think to adapt my friend’s Affiliate Program—or similar concepts–to your business and your marketplace?
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