Reaching Out To Your Clients' Adult Children at the Right Time: Marriage, Mortgages and Other Milestones

By Brian Gannon, Technical Relationship Manager on Thursday, June 30th, 2011

A funny thing happened to me the other week – I got married. And then another funny thing happened – my wife sat me down and said, “I want to go back to school to get my MBA.” And I said, “That’s great honey, fantastic! And, umm, just out of curiosity, how much does that cost?” “About $48,000.” And then it finally hit me: Oh no. That actually affects me now. My days of walking into Best Buy to buy The Lord of the Rings trilogy on blu-ray whenever I feel like it are over. I need someone to actually help me with this money stuff. What now?

I think a lot of people in my demographic (thirty-something) have had this moment of revelation at some point in the recent past, or will in the near future. In my case at least, it got me thinking about how I now officially need some advice on my (or really, our) financial future. So the next thought is that my parents’ financial advisor might be a good place to start. And that led promptly to the question:

Why hasn’t my parents’ financial advisor contacted me already?

Now don’t get me wrong. I know advisors are very busy and it’s more my responsibility to seek out the resources I need than for them to be finding me. But at the same time, I’m low hanging fruit. Children of clients have sometimes been viewed as a potential obstacle to attainment of financial goals, but they are probably much more often a low-cost incremental revenue opportunity. Reaching out to them at seminal moments in their lives such as a wedding or perhaps the arrival of a first child might be all that is necessary to bring on a new client. Because they are probably thinking the same thing as I am, “what now?” And because you already have an endorsement more valuable than anything that marketing dollars could buy: that of their parents.

Are young investors hard to reach? They don’t have to be.

Think of it. By reaching out to the children of clients, many of whom are thirty-somethings who are taking on new family and financial responsibilities, you’re connecting with one of the hardest-to-reach groups in investment circles today – the children of baby boomers. We’re the younger generation of investors. We’re elusive. And because of us, you’ve probably seen your share of advisors who shrug their shoulders when asked how they’re bringing “young money” under management (you may have even shrugged once or twice yourself). But instead of throwing up your hands in despair, doesn’t it make more sense to tap into the ready-made “children of clients” market that’s now coming of age?

That said, it’s not just a question of whom you reach out to. It’s how you reach out to them. Specifically, when an advisor does contact his or her clients’ progeny, it’s probably much more effective if the engagement process is administratively lightweight for the client’s son or daughter. Because members of my generation are at best impatient, and at worst, lazy. And the less that needs to be done on our end, the better.

The Men’s Wearhouse example

Recently, I was in Men’s Wearhouse to pick up tuxes for some of my best men flying in from out of town. I got to talking with the store manager who also happened to be the regional manager for the Boston metro area. I commented on how much I liked Men’s Wearhouse customer loyalty program, and he replied “Well, that may be because we learned a long time ago that men ‘don’t do anything,’ and we designed it around that understanding.” And he is so right. I love that program because it’s all on the computer; no online registration, no coupons I have to remember to bring in, nothing. On the contrary, when I finally received the welcome email from my parents’ advisor, it came with a 15+ page application that I needed to print out, complete, and mail back. Whoa. For a Gen X male, you might as well be asking him to build a space shuttle. That application is going to sit…for awhile...or at least until my wife finds it.

Use new channels like YouTube to reach potential new clients

Instead of a long and arduous hardcopy application, why not an online questionnaire on Survey Monkey? Or maybe an email invitation to a short Skype video session to make introductions, discuss goals, etc. Or how about posting a video on YouTube – or a series of videos that each address financial planning after a key life event, such as one video for newlyweds, one for new homeowners, one for expectant parents who are planning a family, and so on? Furthermore, once you start communicating with these potential clients, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a simple text message. It can go a long way. In each of these cases, that’s how my generation thinks and operates: we want quick, easy, and paperless.

And don’t overlook the timing aspect of these communications, either. Sending a congratulatory e-mail when a client’s child gives birth to a child of her own – or when a client’s child closes on his new home nestled on three acres of woodland – is a smart way to get the conversation started. There’s no better sales strategy than reaching out at the precise moment when young investors are experiencing life changes and contemplating their futures.

So, long story short, don’t be afraid to ask your clients about where their children are in their financial lives. We are here, and we have assets, but we are quickly realizing that we need all the help we can get. Extending a hand just when we’re looking for one may be the best prospecting investment you can make.

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