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by Susan Kornegay, CFP®

The founder of a thriving financial planning practice in Pennsylvania recently observed that his firm’s best marketing brochure is “When a Loved One Passes Away,” the little guide they provide to recently widowed clients.

How could a booklet about death possibly become a successful marketing brochure? It’s actually not that difficult—provide valuable information to people who need it, and let word-of-mouth do the rest.

Here’s how this booklet came about:

Several years ago, a financial adviser in Virginia told me about a meeting he had with a recently widowed client. Her husband had passed away suddenly, and when she came in to meet with her adviser, she brought her daughter who was in town for the service, along with a stack of statements and forms.

This woman needed help. No doubt her head was filled with grief as well as worry about all the things she needed to do. I asked the adviser if he had any kind of checklist or guide that he gave her. “No,” he said. “I’ve done this many times, so I already knew exactly what to tell her.”

Maybe the adviser had lots of experience in this area, but what about the widow? She had never lost a husband before and was completely overwhelmed. I decided to put together the basic content for a guide for widows, something that we could help our coaching clients customize for their practice.

Because they were already serving a sizeable group of senior clients and their adult children, the planners at the Pennsylvania practice jumped at the opportunity to offer “When a Loved One Passes Away” to these families. I suggested their graphic designer put it into a nicely designed booklet with the firm’s branding, contact information, etc.

A 5.5” x 8.5” format works best for a very practical reason—a widow can generally slip something that size into her handbag. When she leaves the adviser’s office, it’s as though she is carrying his or her assistance right along with her. And when she is with a widowed friend, she can pull out the guide and comment, “Look what my financial adviser gave me.” That’s the moment when a helpful booklet like this does double duty as a marketing piece.

The marketing value doesn’t stop there. You can display this type of resource and similar items, much like what you might find in a doctor’s office. Clients see them, prompting them to think about a friend or family member who was recently widowed, and ask if they can take one for their friend. How often do your clients ask for a marketing brochure to take to a friend?

You may not want to attract widowed clients (or maybe you do), but you can create, brand, and provide many other resources to clients that will do double duty as both educational and marketing pieces.

Financial Planning Resources

Let’s start with some basic resources related to financial planning.

A “Discovery Meeting Guide” could help your clients prepare mentally for the topics and questions you plan to discuss with them during your discovery meeting.

A “Wealth Management Topics” checklist enables you to document the wealth planning services you provide your clients year after year, but that they don’t always remember or appreciate.

A “Financial Decision-Making” checklist or guide can provide the framework to help your clients learn how to make financial decisions more deliberately.

A “Planning for Financial Independence” guide would help your clients define a clear picture of what financial independence would mean to them and how they might accomplish it.

A “Preparing for the Unexpected” checklist or guide would help your clients be better prepared for when the unexpected happens. As much as we try to help our clients plan for their perfect future, unexpected life events can wreak havoc on the best of plans.

A “Year-End Tax Planning” guide can be more than just a list of items to gather for their tax preparer. This resource could help your clients think about all the things they can do to potentially reduce their taxes while they still have time to act.

Retirement Planning Resources

Retirement planning is a major area of focus for most planners. Help your clients design their perfect retirement with a “Vision for Your Ideal Future” template that helps them develop a detailed description of what they want their retirement to look like.

An “Understanding Social Security” guide can help clients understand their options and make good choices.

And a one-pager on “Retirement Income Strategies” can help them visualize their options for and sources of income during retirement.

Aging and Family Transitions

Do you help older clients and their adult children cope with the issues of aging and family transition planning? If so, consider these ideas for resources:

“Family Meeting Agenda and Discussion Questions.” Whether you are helping to facilitate or your clients want to have a family conversation after a holiday meal, getting started can be the hardest part. Your agenda or list of questions could be exactly what they need.

“Family Guide to Aging.” A basic guide to aging issues can be a great way to help a family start thinking about what lies ahead.

“Multi-Generational Planning Considerations.” A checklist will help ensure that all the planning areas that affect each member of the family will be covered.

“Long-Term Care Funding Options.” I always suggest “denial” as the first item on this list, as that’s typically the default for many and a good starting point for a comprehensive discussion on how to cover this potential expense.

“Preparing for Family Transitions.” This workbook could help your older clients provide their family members with everything they need to know (or would want to know) to prepare for the time when someone else will take over.

More Niches and Specializations

Whether you focus on serving specific market segments or have some clients who need specialized help, here are some ideas for other resources you might consider.

Do your clients need help putting their financial lives in order? Create an “Organizing Your Finances” checklist for them, including a list of documents they should keep, along with how long to keep them. Or provide a “Financial Operating Manual” binder complete with dividers, an accordion folder, or a set of file folder tabs.

Perhaps your clients want to gain a better understanding of how investing works. “Basic Asset Allocation Strategies” or your own list of “Principles of Investing” would give them a good start toward understanding your thinking in this area. To help them better manage the emotional side of investing, create a guide called “Preparing for Volatile Markets.”

Do you help young families with children? How about a short guide or simply a list of principles titled “Financial Planning for Young Families”?

If your clients have teenage children, they might like to have a worksheet that describes education funding strategies, or a checklist or guide titled “What Your Teenager Needs to Know About Finances Before College.”

What about clients who have children with special needs? A checklist or guide that addresses financial planning for special needs demonstrates your care and understanding of what they should be thinking about for the future.

Divorce presents its own set of challenges—before, during, and after. You can provide a “Pre-Divorce Checklist” to help clients think through all the considerations of dividing assets and/or a “Post-Divorce Guide to Financial Planning” to help them plan for their new future. And don’t forget that they may need a resource to help with financial planning for blended families.

Do you serve the planning needs of business owners and executives? For business owners, think about providing resources such as: “Choosing a Retirement Plan for Your Business,” “Business Owner’s Succession Planning” checklist, or a “Business Valuation Guide.” Business executives might appreciate a simple one-pager titled “Understanding Corporate Benefit Plan Options.”

Put It Together

This is just a sampling of ideas. No doubt, you and your team can think of a lot more. So how do you put one or more of these resources together?

First, think about your ideal clients. What types of checklists, guides, or other resources would help them and showcase what you do for your clients?

Put together your content based on your own experience or process. Online research can help you organize your thoughts and perhaps spark some additional ideas.

Engage a graphic designer to help you with the layout and formatting for a professional look, incorporating your own branding and contact information.

Get compliance approval, if needed.

Have copies printed and make them available to your clients and prospective clients. Digital printing enables you to reorder more as you need them. Place a few of these resources on your credenza, a bookshelf, or a table in your office, conference room, or waiting area.

Why Your Own?

You may wonder why you would want to create your own material. After all, aren’t items like these readily available from broker-dealers, wholesalers, and other organizations? Of course they are, but wouldn’t your clients appreciate having something that represents your thoughts, your experience, and your perspective as their trusted adviser?

When clients take home your booklet or checklist, it’s almost as though you’re going home with them. They’ll be reminded of how well you take care of them whenever they look at it or show it to someone else.

Remember, the biggest benefit of double-duty marketing is that it actually provides value, rather than just talking about it. 

Susan Kornegay, CFP®, is founding partner of Pathfinder Strategic Solutions, a practice management consulting and coaching firm. Having spent most of her 30-plus-year career in the field as a financial adviser and branch manager, she specializes in the client-facing side of the business.

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