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Protect Your Client Base by Becoming a Connector of Dots

October 2017
By Tim Sanders

How to Avoid Disruption, Protect Your Client Base and Expand Your Business



Simply being viewed as a good option for financial advice is a dangerous strategy in today’s world of technology innovations, constant regulatory changes and market shifts. Clients have more options than ever, and as an advisor, business continuity is hard to maintain. The secret to long-term success is to make the leap from optional to essential in the eyes of your clients. One way to become essential is to become a Connector of Dots.


Become a Connector of Dots

Your clients need to solve a variety of problems in their lives which will require finding service providers, business partners, and collaborators. Even though social media has made finding people and services easier than ever, there is a big opportunity for you to connect the dots for clients and reinforce your essentialness at the same time.


Think Holistically About Client Challenges

Management expert Peter Drucker once said, “People don’t want quarter-inch drill bits. They want quarter-inch holes.” His point was that we need to take a step back and ask, “What is our client’s greater task here?” In other words, wealth management may be just a part of the process for a client, who is seeking to build his or her legacy or plan their retirement. The more holistically you think about the customer’s real task, the more opportunities you’ll find to help them solve gaps in services or relationships.


Get Clients to Lock-On

In her book Customer Capitalism1, Sandra Vandermerwe argues that client lock-in, securing a client through a contract or technology platform, is not only difficult, but in many cases, has diminishing returns. On the flip side, she’s found through research that it’s possible to get a client to lock-on to your firm, and experience increasing returns through referrals and product-extensions and upsells. The secret to lock-on, she concludes, is identifying the Customer Activity Cycle to close any existing value gaps2. Not only is this a lock-on strategy, it reduces vulnerability to losing clients to a competitor along the way.


Closing Value Gaps

Figure 1 shows an illustration of that concept: When Mercedes released the smart car in Europe, they went beyond simply selling a car and thought about the customer activity cycle. They realized the customer was seeking short-haul mobility, and that the car was one of several elements of that solution. Others included car rental, insurance, detailing, financing, maintenance, and so on. By building in or referring solutions for ancillary services, they not only added value, they closed gaps that competitors could potentially enter. Here’s what that customer activity map looks like.

Figure 1
The Mercedes Smart Car Euro-Launch


An example is the rental car strategy. The customer is given a Fiat or a BMW to drive and falls in love with it, switching from a Mercedes when their lease is up. That’s an example of a value gap’s impact on loyalty. The success of the smart car launch in Europe and their ensuing customer lock-on was driven (pardon the pun) by their laser focus on providing solutions for each of the customer’s needs related to short-haul mobility.


Connecting the Dots in Retirement Planning

To put this in the context of financial services, ask yourself: “What’s my client’s true customer activity cycle? Planning a sustainable retirement? Taking care of kids? Building a legacy? Sometimes it may vary and it’s likely that your initial interview has already uncovered this. Looking across the customer activities your key clients are involved in, create a document or database that includes reputable service providers you can refer to clients to close value gaps. Figure 2 shows an example  of what your customer activity space might look like for retirement planning.

Figure 2
Value Gaps in Retirement Planning


For example, for clients who are seeking retirement planning advice, they also need an attorney, insurance agent, accountant, aging in place solutions and identity theft protection. Continually add to your network of referral partners, making sure they provide top notch services at a reasonable price. The more organized you are, the more efficiently you can connect those dots.

Next steps:

  1. Choose a service that you provide, e.g. retirement planning.

  2. Brainstorm a customer activity cycle for that service that includes both financial and non-financial activities and needs.

  3. Identify value gaps in the cycle that you’re currently not meeting and where competitors could enter.

  4. Build in-house capabilities or form relationships with trusted service providers you can refer to clients to close value gaps.


More about taking your client relationships from optional to essential

Tim Sanders
Founding Partner, Deep Media Inc. Author and expert on motivation, emotional talent and sales innovation.

1Sandra Vandermerwe, Customer Capitalism, 1999. Most recent data available.

2How Increasing Value to Customers Improves Business Results, MIT Sloan Management Review, 10/15/2000. Most recent data available.

Tim Sanders, Deep Media Inc. is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.