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What about a House Call?

August 10, 2018

This time we hear from Mike Zaino, president of TZG Financial in Charlotte, N.C. He recalls an experience when reverting to a traditional house call paid off.

After seeing how the 2008 recession affected my mother’s ability to retire, I opened a firm that specializes in retirement and late-career clients. We educate folks on IRA rollovers, preservation and money management strategies, distribution guidelines and life insurance products.

Because I was targeting an older crowd, I knew that flashy technology or digital marketing wouldn’t necessarily help me attract prospects. Instead, I decided to run a direct mail campaign and sent flyers to people in the area who fit the demographic profile of my ideal client. I requested that they fill out their contact information along with the specific financial services they were interested in and mail the flyer back to me. The first touch worked, and I received a handful of completed flyers from prospects.

When it came time to follow up on the campaign, I started calling people in an attempt to open up a conversation. In several cases, I was able to set up meetings and move forward with the onboarding process. However, not all prospects were as responsive. There was one 74-year-old woman who had filled out the card, detailing her interest in financial advice, but each time I called her, there was no answer. I left messages, but she didn’t call back. Eventually, I put her flyer to the side and went about my business, thinking I would probably just let that prospect slide.

A few weeks later, I found her flyer as I was cleaning my desk and had the idea to go to her house for a visit. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I thought back to when I cut my teeth in direct sales in my twenties. I knew how to approach a house visit — stand catty-corner to the way that the door opens, smile, wave and be sure not to bring a briefcase. I remembered how well it had worked when I approached people with the intention of just stopping by and getting to know them, without a hard sell. House calls have fallen out of fashion in the financial advisory industry, but I figured I had nothing to lose by trying.

So, I hopped in my car, drove to the prospect’s home and knocked on her door. She came right to the door, and after I identified myself and showed her the response card she had filled out, she invited me in. We had an instant connection. From the relaxed atmosphere of her living room, she explained to me that she had lost her husband several years prior and the financial advice she had previously received no longer applied to her new situation as a widow. She showed me pictures of her entire family, and instead of rushing to provide solutions to her problems, I just listened.

Fast-forward a couple years: This woman and her new husband are now among my best clients — and I would not have landed them had I ignored my intuition to get out and do a house call. I have brought back the habit of visiting clients when I’m in the neighborhood, leaving a simple note if they’re not home when I stop by. It’s not the right move for everyone, as some people do prefer email and phone communication; however, I have found that my clients really appreciate when I take time out of my day to come see how they’re doing. I’ve even started teaching younger advisors the importance of meaningful face-to-face interaction with older generations of prospects and clients.