June 25, 2007

Revved Up For Ailing Pensions

The events we most desire do not happen; or, if they do, it is neither in the time nor in the circumstances when they would have given us extreme pleasure. --- Jean de la Bruyere
I attended the public unveiling of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries' Prescription for Canada's Ailing Pension System (CIAPFCAPS for short?), anticipating content for a terrific post. I wanted to get material you could share your clients.

Unfortunately, the recommendations are limited to defined benefit plans, which only cover 21% of Canada's private sector workers. Your small business owner clients won't be interested in retirement plans that cover primarily the public sector ... with our tax dollars.

I put a post on my consumer blog: Prescription for Canada's Ailing Pension System.

So I did try to get you some good stuff but as Jedi master Yoda says:
Try not.
Do, or do not.
There is no try

June 19, 2007

Universal Principle of Influence #2: Scarcity

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
--- Thomas Sowell
Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #2: Scarcity.


We want what more of what is less available. That's why we're motivated by offers which are today-only or limited quantities.
The Nintendo Wii game console is an example. As an experiment, I signed up at Console Watch which checks online retailers every 30 seconds and sends an email whenever the Wii (or Xbox 360 or PS3) are in stock. Usually, they'd be gone before I could click to the site. Except once. So I ended up buying the Wii in January for no particular reason. Fortunately, my 12 year old son was kind enough to make use of it.
You Yourself
You have a one-of-a-kind offering ... yourself.

Within reason, you can increase your value by being less available. For example, unless you're working for 911, answering the phone the moment it rings can have two drawbacks
  • putting urgent (the disruption) ahead of important (what you were working on)
  • reducing your perceived value
Loss Language
Loss is the ultimate form of scarcity. Use loss language: show your clients what they stand to lose, not their gain. For example, "you save $10/day with insulation" is less compelling than "you lose $10/day without insulation".

Loss language is especially effective when clients are uncertain. They become more risk averse because they don't want to lose. With insurance, are we better off focusing on tax savings or the losses from doing nothing?

Our clients have a scarcity of attention. So how can our messages stand out?

Information is like bread --- best fresh and hot. You can give your clients new information: "I just learned..." or "You're one of the first people I'm telling ...".

This is especially effective with information that's exclusive or hard to get: "I just got this information today. It won't be released until next week but I wanted you to get an advance copy."

I'd write more, but I'm running out of time ;)

June 11, 2007

Universal Principle of Influence #1: Reciprocity

In order to influence a child, one must be careful not to be that child's parent or grandparent.
--- Don Marquis
I saw professor Robert Cialdini twice last year and learned his six universal principles of influence. I liked the way he described them and have been using them ever since. You may find them useful if they also make sense to you. Here they are
  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Consensus
  6. Liking
This time, we'll focus on #1.

We want to follow the rule of "give and take". We must not take without giving in return the kind of benefit we received. What you give is what you get. This principle applies in all cultures and for all people except moochers, ingrates or teenagers :)

You have a moment of power just after a client says "Thank you". That's when you can say something like
  • "My pleasure. Who do you know who would benefit from this level of service and commitment?"
  • "I was glad to do it. If the situations were ever reversed, I know you'd do the same for me."
  • "Of course. We're glad to do it. It's what long term partners do for one another."
I was struggling with what gifts I could give. I'm not a big fan of handing out branded trinkets like pens, mugs or golf balls. Affordable items seemed inconsequential and manipulative. Cialdini said that a pen with your company's logo won't trigger reciprocation. Your gift needs to be
  • significant
  • personalized
  • unexpected
In our business, the ideal gift is information, tailored to the recipient and given fast.

This was a "WOW" moment. I hadn't thought of giving an intangible gift. I've been consciously sharing information ever since. And occasionally insight and wisdom ;)

You're limited in how many people you can see in a week. So sharing information in person or by phone isn't practical. Email can be used but we get so many messages, including spam. Finding an old message is a hassle. How do you have a meaningful discussion by email. The ideal is an online forum where content easily accessible, searchable, hyperlinked, archived and interactive. That's what blogging offers.


June 5, 2007

How To Make A Client Meal Memorable

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything
Anything at all
--- Peter Gabriel, I Don't Remember
Dining with your clients costs money. How can you make the experience one they'll remember and tell others about?

This is a challenge because many places serve good food. But are they memorable? I'm about to change a lunch reservation and I can't remember the restaurant's name. And I've been there at least six times. Maybe that's just my memory. Maybe that's how your clients feel too.

Spending more money isn't the answer. Being creative is. Here are ideas:
  • an uncommon place
  • a restricted place
Uncommon Places
There are places most wouldn't think of going. A fitness club may have a nice restaurant with healthy food. Osgoode Hall is interesting if you you'd like to see lawyers and judges.
Between visits and without warning, Osgoode Hall added six police officers and an airport-style luggage scanner. The small pen knife I got in Switzerland was deemed dangerous. Since they wouldn't safeguard it, I was told to throw it away or take it away. I took it back to my office, which was only two blocks away and returned for lunch. That was my last visit. So I don't know how security is now.
One advisor suggested eating at a grocery store deli. No joke. The food was surprisingly good. Your clients may not be keen on such a location.

By Invitation Only
Some advisors belong to members-only clubs such as a social club, sailing club or golfing club. Your guests can't visit without you. One company had a kitchen and served gourmet meals in their boardroom. You could even have the event at your home. The location needs to be convenient if you're meeting over lunch.

What do you think? You can leave even comments anonymously.