Why Your Clients Are Not Coming to See You
Sometimes the reason why your clients are not banging down the door to meet with you has nothing to do with you or the service that you provide.
This is an analogy and not a random blog post. Please bear with me and keep reading…
I am finally getting physical therapy for my knee, after living almost my entire life with a knee injury. When I first met with my physical therapist to introduce myself and explain why I was there, he looked at me funny. “You are telling me that you have had this injury for literally decades and you’ve never done anything substantial to address it?” he asked as he crinkled up his eyebrows in disbelief.
Well, yes. And here’s why:
I ignored it and hoped that it would resolve itself. I had been an athlete growing up and banged myself up quite a bit. Most of the injuries healed. Getting hurt was part of playing the sport and I was used to it. Post-injury physical therapy had never been a part of the equation.
There were times when I tried to make a change, but then I quit. There were times over the years when I would dabble with physical therapy but then I would lose interest: I wouldn’t bond with the PT assigned to me, or I felt like I was sitting in a clinic with a bunch of elderly patients who didn’t have the same lifestyle wants and needs that I had.
I knew other people like me with sports injuries. It’s not like I was the only person that I knew with a bad knee, so it didn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary.
I got used to it. Over time I came to identify myself as someone “with a bad knee,” the same way that I described myself as having green eyes or curly hair. It was just who I was.
There was one over-arching reason why I didn’t fix my knee: Inertia.
But then something changed.
You see, my family likes to hike. It’s one of the few hobbies that we all share. And now that my two sons are getting older, they are getting stronger and they are getting faster. Due to my knee injury I am becoming the slowest hiker in my family, and there may be a time in the near future when I might hold back my husband and kids from hiking at the speed at which they are comfortable. And I don’t like this feeling of not being able to keep up.
I have the motivation to fix my knee.
Once the motivation was there it was relatively easy to get going. I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for a brief x-ray and office visit to diagnose my knee (good news, no arthritis!).
I won’t lie; what I wanted from this doctor was a prescription for a knee brace that I could go out and buy at the drug store, a quick fix that wouldn’t require any work on my part and that would get me back on the hiking trails quickly. He refused my request, telling me that a brace would in fact make my knee worse by allowing the surrounding muscles to atrophy. He told me that what I really needed was physical therapy, and then I would be good as new.
I was initially disappointed by not getting the “quick fix” that I marched into the doctor’s office looking for. But I also was intrigued by the idea that after physical therapy I would have full function of my knee and that I would be able to do whatever I wanted without the need for any sort of a brace. That sounded good.
Physical therapy is not easy, but now I have a concrete goal and it is one that I believe is achievable. I let my PT know exactly what I wanted (to be able to hike with my family in New Hampshire’s White Mountains) and he is designing exercises with my goal in mind. I am working hard and I know that he has my back.
After decades of ignoring this injury there is truly no quick fix, but the enticement of long-lasting use of my knee – and the promise of being able to keep up with my growing boys – is what is keeping me going.
What does this have to do with your clients and their money?
I am hoping that my little tale of finding the motivation to fix my knee has some alarm bells going off in your head with regards to why your clients are not coming to see you for your amazing financial education, counseling, or coaching services. Maybe it is because:
They ignored it and hoped that it would resolve itself. Many people’s money problems amass over a lifetime of small negative experiences, and some people hope that just how the money problem seemingly appeared, someday it would disappear.
They had tried at times to make a change, but then they quit. You may have clients who come and see you for one or two appointments, and then disappear into the ether. You do what you can to re-engage them, but they are not ready to do the hard work and make the change. Maybe your messages don’t resound with them, or maybe they don’t identify with the work that you are trying to do.
They know other people like them. “I am bad with money,” is a pretty common refrain here in the United States, so it is easy to identify this self-characterization as normal and not needing to change.
They got used to it. Adults have a lot of responsibilities in their lives, with money being just one. While during a financial crisis it might be front-and-center, at other times their dysfunctional relationship with money is simply hanging out in the background. It can be easy to ignore.
So while there may be many reasons why your clients are not banging down your door looking for your financial capability services, I will contend that inertia plays a role.
How do you counteract inertia?
I will sometimes hear my nonprofit consulting clients talk about wanting to “motivate” their clients to come and use their financial capability services, whether they be informative workshops, directed counseling, or inspiring coaching. But causing motivation to happen from the outside is hard if not impossible, especially with adults who have free will and lots of responsibilities weighing on their shoulders.
What I recommend instead is for financial capability programs to be out there in their communities talking about money; talking about hopes and dreams; and maybe also talking about how hard it is to get ahead, how difficult it is to manage a household, and what a challenge it is to keep your head above water financially when life keeps throwing your curve balls. And this ongoing and never-ending conversation can happen over many different platforms, from posters hanging in your lobby, to appearances at live events in your community, to memes and gifs that catch people’s attention in their social media feeds.
The best you can do to communicate as a financial capability professional is to be curious, be trustworthy, and be patient. Let your ideal clients know that you see them and that you are there to support them, and they will come when they are motivated to do so.