The more you help my clients, the more you help me

For financial services providers, getting the marketing support right for IFAs is a big challenge but it obviously carries big rewards.

We all know that sometimes, minds don’t meet, they miss. When it happens to two firms in a business relationship, especially in a manufacturer-distributor relationship, it is very frustrating for all concerned.

The provider may wish to convince the intermediary to advise clients about their product or service, and might see that as simply a matter of convincing the intermediary why it’s right for them.

For years, this has happened under the shadow of commission and the perceived bias of IFAs. That is not an argument we want to get into here but, for good or ill, it is going to be much less of an issue in future as the potential influence of commission is removed.

This should mean a much greater emphasis on convincing advisers on merits alone. But what exactly are you convincing them of? Arguably it should mean establishing that a product will meet their client’s needs, that it is cost effective, that it won’t create any service nightmares, or where appropriate suffer significant performance issues. We would argue that a well thought out properly branded campaign, across marketing and advertising, helps reinforce those messages too.

Yet that is probably the easier strand. When it comes to assisting an IFA with the marketing of a product, or increasingly the marketing of a service, to clients, we think things can definitely go a little awry. IFAs have told us as much. There isn’t an IFA under the sun who thinks a provider knows best about this issue. But many would appreciate help, with some of the material that goes into convincing clients about a service. This is very important in say protection, particularly where both IFA and provider may wish to get it across to clients that cheapest is not necessarily best, or certainly not the only criterion to be considered.

At the moment, the area where it may apply most is around ‘at and post-retirement’. The issues have always been complex, and the landscape has been turned upside down by Government reforms.

There is a huge need for client education in this area, and, we think, many advisers will appreciate the help. But we also think it is also a matter of tone and degree.

It is not a case of don’t sell, but don’t oversell. And if there is an obvious client need for information then perhaps that should be the focus of some of the communication. The provider’s brand will benefit by the association, or so once again, IFAs tell us. That is probably doubly the case where ongoing service is so important, and getting more so. We don’t think this means providers becoming shy about telling advisers why their products and services are so good, but we think it is a matter of bearing in mind advisers’ knowledge of their clients’ needs, and information needs.

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