Measure what matters
A few years ago, Facebook made an announcement that, to the surprise of many, proclaimed engagement (on their platform) was not a reliable proxy for business success. It was a surprise because engagement had become THE buzzword and was a narrative that had been driven by Facebook.
The reality is, in the early days engagement, for the most part, was a reasonable indicator of success. However, over time Facebook realised that while its platform had reach, recency and frequency like no other medium, the business results brands could generate weren’t guaranteed, especially as more brands entered the Facebook world.
Ultimately, the fact is, not all engagement is created equal. Engagement that delivers results does so because it meets several key criteria in the areas of relevance, differentiation and credibility. These criteria provide an interesting perspective on the role of engagement, and how it can be used to deliver value for your clients. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
The crux of the issue Facebook had, was that if you use “vanity metrics” (such as likes, shares etc) to measure impact, you only need to produce content that is relevant or interesting to an audience. This is not necessarily the same thing as being relevant to those who will engage with your brand.
At a professional service level, the same rules apply. Adding value to your clients in ways that don’t reflect your business may feel like it’s building goodwill, when in fact, it could be having the opposite effect and eroding the value of your core services and expertise.
To avoid these pitfalls, you need to ensure you have a reliable way to be relevant, as frequently as possible.
Having a real-time view of your client’s financial universe relative to their financial ambitions is one of the most powerful tools any advisory business can use to generate relevance:
Without this, you have limited ability to explain, or correctly diagnose issues in a way that is relevant to what the client is dealing with, in combination. Getting this wrong, especially having incorrect information or incorrectly diagnosing the broader situation, quickly erodes valuable trust with clients. On the other hand, getting it right means you position yourself as a trusted adviser to the extent some clients will ‘outsource’ their financial discipline to you. That is, you become your clients’ financial guide.
Timeliness is not only crucial in increasing the relevance of what you have to say, it demonstrates a high level of engagement and therefore builds dependability as a service partner.
Real-time data can also be relevant in the presence of historical data. Allowing you to pre-empt changes in spending based on prior trends, helping clients recognise such habits or events, and plan accordingly.
This doesn’t always have to happen on a one-to-one level. With the right platform, you can automate how you administer the information you have at hand, in the form of alerts, auto-analysis and other reporting mechanisms. You can also run one-to-many forums, such as webinars, where you speak to your clients (and potential clients) about the more common barriers to meeting financial outcomes that you observe and best practices to help avoid them.
In the same way, we demand of our politicians, being “in tune” with what clients deal with day-to-day, month-to-month is a powerful means of establishing and maintaining relevance.
In the case of Facebook, another reason for their stand against standard engagement metrics, was that brands all started to do the same things, in the same way. This very quickly led to an overall decline in business outcomes from the platform because the majority weren’t thinking about differentiation.
Commoditisation of services is the killer of industries; it flattens margin and ultimately undervalues expertise and the value of service. The best way to avoid this is by investing in ways to continually enhance your service proposition.
A platform that offers a single, complete view is important, however, of even greater importance, is the ability for the platform to be tailored to your unique service proposition. That way, the technology accentuates your unique value, rather than giving you a “cookie-cutter” approach that makes you the same as everyone else!
An example of this is customised workflows and reporting. Custom workflows allow you to implement (and innovate with) your own unique service process. Customised and automated reporting is valuable for providing a personalised and real-time view of your client’s projected financial position in your own language and with your own unique style (i.e. your brand).
The final consideration for Facebook was brand credibility. Those that focused blindly on engagement, that didn’t necessarily relate to their offering, failed to build value. This ultimately meant they lost credibility.
Without credibility, people may be aware of you, however, they won’t consider you or your services.
There are numerous ways to build credibility, however, none are stronger that turning clients into active advocates. The key is to find ways to deliver value proactively, without hindering your ability to scale, or eroding your profitability. This is where some relatively simple goal tracking and proactive automated alerting can come into play. If you alert clients that they are on track to head “out of bounds”, isn’t that far more valuable than telling the client they have missed the target after the fact?
So ask yourself, are the types of engagement you aim for a reliable proxy for the success of your business? If you shape your service model around relevance to clients, if you find ways to differentiate via unique service and proposition, then harness these to build credibility, you will see that engagement is more than just a proxy for success, it is the definition of it.
Let’s talk engagement
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DISCLAIMER: The XY Adviser website and all content contained on the website is limited to general information. It does not constitute legal, financial or other professional advice. XY Adviser does not hold an AFS licence and does not provide any financial services. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as financial advice. Before making any investment decision, XY Adviser recommends obtaining financial advice from a qualified financial adviser.