Motivating Older Clients

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Dan Richards

Two advisors recently reminded me of the subtle differences it takes to successfully work with older clients.  Both provide the highest quality of advice and have regular client events to stay in front of their best clients. Two years ago, however, they were frustrated by the difficulty of getting older clients to attend those events – until each came up with a solution.

Understanding the mindset of older clients was the key.

As people get older they become more risk averse and resistant to change, less venturesome and less inclined to move outside their comfort zone. While many in their 70s, 80s and even 90s embark on ambitious trips, these are exceptions to the rule – as they age, most people prefer to stay close to home and choose the familiar over the novel. 

That’s true when it comes to their investments and to other aspects of their behavior, so we must understand how to work with older clients on a whole host of issues.

Asking clients to come to you or you going to them

Robert is a successful advisor in a major urban center, located at the downtown branch of a bank-owned firm, with the majority of assets held by clients who are over 65.

“Most of my older clients can’t stand the thought of coming downtown” said Robert. “They hate dealing with the crowds, the traffic and the hassle of parking. As a result, I’ve stopped inviting older clients to downtown events.

Instead, I’ve taken a different tack entirely. Rather than fighting an uphill battle, I’ve done one thing that’s produced a great response and great results – instead of asking them to come to me, I’ve gone to them. Recognizing that there is no perfect location in a big city, for the past two Octobers, before clients head south for the winter, I have run an event for my older clients at an exclusive private club in the north end of the city.

I’ve also changed the timing. Rather than an evening event, I invite clients to a Sunday brunch from 11 to 2. Clients love it – older clients who go to church come by afterwards. The club is centrally located and Sunday is generally hassle-free in terms of traffic in any event. Clients also like the fact that there’s lots of parking at the club.

Another bonus is that I invite my clients to bring along their children and grandchildren. This has been a huge plus – most clients have driven by this club but have never been inside. The curiosity factor attracts not only clients but their adult kids also.”

Robert has reconfigured almost every aspect of this event to operate within his older clients’ comfort zone. Not only has he changed the location and the format, but he’s altered the month, time of day and day of the week. In essence, he’s minimized the extent to which he’s asking clients to step outside of things with which they’re unfamiliar.