Generally speaking, are SMSF practitioners implementing effective marketing strategies?
There’s a big mix: Some of them are doing amazing things but most people, I think, just struggle to get started on marketing. Marketing your business is a bit like seeing a personal trainer – you can’t go to the gym once and then throw your hands up in the air if it all doesn’t work.
A lot of SMSF practitioners will try one tactic, such as fixing up their website or posting a few tweets or running one seminar and when the world doesn’t change they put it in the Doesn’t Work basket and look for the next tactic.
Really, what they need though is a proper strategy. It’s the same with a financial plan – you need to decide where you want to go, where you are now, what the difference is and how you’re going to get there. SMSF practitioners need to take the same planning approach they use with finances with marketing.
Often people will use a particular tactic that has been successful for another business rather than putting a marketing plan together. It’s easy to think when you see someone getting a lot of followers on Twitter that you should start madly putting things on Twitter too. It may not make any difference to your business, however, because what you haven’t done is sit down and thought about your business strategy and therefore what your marketing strategy should be.
Once you have a strategy in place and you know what clients you want to go after and what problem you’re trying to solve, then you’re in a position to decide: Does my website need fixing up? Do I need social media, a regular newsletter or do I need to look after my clients better? What pieces of the puzzle do I need to change to get where I need to go?
What is the best way for a practice to determine what their target client base should be?
Well, there’s two ways. SMSF practitioners can find clients who are similar to themselves because those are the easiest people to have a good connection with, which is so important in any kind of financial planning or accounting business.
The other way – if you’ve already got a client base – is to look at which people in your client base you most enjoy spending time with and to look for other clients like them. That tends to be friends and family of those clients, which really comes down to referrals. Some people also decide to target particular groups such as doctors etc. This works really well if you’ve got some kind of link into that community but if you pick it out of thin air, it probably won’t.
What about strategies for generating referrals?
Macquarie did some research on this a couple of years ago and it showed that clients will give you referrals if they give you a net promoter score of nine or 10 out of 10 for your service. So really the only way you’re going to get referrals is by making sure the service you provide to clients is really top notch. That might mean going back to the first question and thinking about who are the clients that you want more of, what clients you have that really fit in your target market and really concentrating on those clients and making sure you deliver absolutely fabulous service so that they refer you to their friends and family.
What areas of SMSF services require improvement?
The main issue with self-managed super is you can’t afford to be ‘half pregnant’. It’s a complicated area – you either need to be in it or out. The group that concerns me are the advisers and accountants who only have a handful of SMSF clients.
What worries me is not that they’re going to recommend anything wrong, but more that the clients are going to miss out on opportunities and that there might be longer term ramifications. There have already been some recent court cases regarding SMSFs.
Self-managed superannuation is still a fairly recent development – it’s only been about 30 years – which means there isn’t very much in the way of court cases yet to determine the way things need to happen and what’s going to be acceptable in the eyes of the law.
What’s coming out of the court cases that are starting to happen now are [issues with] the way that SMSFs are set up in the first place. Trust deeds, especially, need to be in tip-top shape. They need to be set up and personalised for the client’s needs and if you don’t do that, then 30 or 40 years later, when one of more of the clients eventually dies, that’s when it all tends to go pear shaped. I think when you’re a small operator and you only have 15 or 20 super funds, that’s the sort of thing that you’re likely to miss.
For the firms where SMSFs are their bread and butter and they‘re passionate about it and love it, I think most of those practices are doing a great job. The issue is really people who’ve only got a handful because I think there’s a higher likelihood that their clients are missing out on high-quality advice.