Pop quiz ̶ Would you rather do business with:
Someone who sells you something that you’re not equipped to understand or handle yourself, and then leaves you totally alone, or…
Someone who commits to your success and continues to build the mutual relationship through ongoing consultation, personalized service, and attention to detail?
Okay, maybe it’s a loaded question and answer. But you’d probably prefer (b), right? Chances are, so would your clients.
That’s why Hugo Carvajal , financial planner and sales manager at the MassMutual New Jersey/New York City office, builds his business on personalized attention to detail and a commitment to his clients that started with a desire to bring better financial education to his predominantly-Hispanic hometown.
“I was on a call recently,” Carvajal said in an interview, “and the guy said to me, ‘Hugo, I’ve had a lot of relationships with financial planners like you. The biggest complaint I always see is that planners don’t communicate with their clients. Once they sell them something, they never hear from them again. What’s going to set you apart?’”
Becoming a Financial Coach
A portion of what sets Carvajal apart is mutuality: the commitment to his community that drove him to become a financial advisor in the first place.
Carvajal grew up the child of immigrants in Union City, New Jersey, a primarily-Hispanic town with a serious lack of financial education. That lack is what made him decide to take a personal finance class in his last year of college.
“I figured, I’m about to go into the real world,” he said; “let me figure out how to manage my finances.”
Learning to take care of his own finances quickly turned into a drive to help others take care of theirs, especially the ones who, just like Carvajal, didn’t have access to financial coaching growing up. Now he works with individuals and Hispanic business owners in his home state, as well as managing a team of local financial planners to help bring financial education and good planning back to his roots.
“My dad retired a couple of years ago; my mom will retire a few years from now,” said Carvajal. “No one ever sat down with them 30, 40, 50 years ago and told them they should start putting money away. There’s absolutely a lack of financial education in our community. That was really my ‘why’ when I started, and it still is today – coming back and educating the Hispanic community on personal finances.”
Making it Personal
So, that’s the why. Now, for the how: how does Carvajal stay relevant to his clients and prospects?
“I always look at the little things,” said Carvajal, adding that he focuses on ways to make service personal and memorable. “If I have a client who’s big into sports or a specific team, I might get them a mug or some other small token. I send all my clients a birthday card every year, and for my A-list clients, I’ll also get them a birthday cake and personally go drop it off.”
And it doesn’t stop with the clients themselves – Carvajal also looks to the future when he’s thinking of ways to stand out. For clients with children, he brings an extra gift: a book about raising financially aware kids.
“I have multiple copies on my desk,” he said. “I staple my business card to it, and I give it to parents so hopefully they’ll take time to educate their kids on financial awareness. I position myself saying, listen, I know I’m going to be in this business a long time. I want to start doing multigenerational planning. I want to increase the chance that those kids will be my clients when they grow up. So planting the seed early on with something like that is great.”
Staying in contact with clients is important, but you can do a lot more than just check in with them once a year.
“I really employ social media,” Carvajal said. “Every time I have a new client coming in or a referral, I’m connecting with them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Whether they become a client that day or not doesn’t matter to me. But guess what – they’re going to be seeing my posts, they can interact with my content.”
Regular activity on social media helps to build your brand and keep you relevant, Carvajal argues. It’s especially important, he said, as the millennial generation grows up and enters the realm of potential clients.
“Not once have I gotten a client from Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter,” he conceded. “But getting clients from social media isn’t the point. It’s about building a brand and being relevant so that when you do get a referral or pick up the phone and call someone, they can look you up online and see, hey, this person really knows his stuff. This person has a good following.”
It’s what people do these days, Carvajal says, especially millennials: they look you up before they do business with you. It makes sense, then, to stay active on social media so that when they’re looking, they like what they find.