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The Return of Relationship Alpha for Most

Today's business environment demonstrates why relationships have never been more important

While there may be a “Return to Relationship Alpha” for some, sadly it is the “Beginning of Relationship Alpha” for most in the financial services world.

Recently, Scott McKain, good friend, world-class speaker and author of several best-selling books (his latest is the just-published “The Collapse of Distinction – Stand out and move up while your competition fails.”), met with me to discuss “the importance of the Return to Relationship Alpha”.

Through the Value Added Institute and McKain Performance Group, Scott makes his living teaching Fortune 500 companies and leading financial services firms how to bridge the gap between what their organization offers and what clients crave. This is what Scott had to say:

“At the hundreds of meetings — well, literally, thousands by this point — I’ve attended and participated in for the financial services industry, I have heard endless presentations on the importance of attaining “Alpha in investing. Wikipedia defines Alpha as, ‘a risk-adjusted measure of the so-called active return on an investment. It is the return in excess of the compensation for the risk.’

“The challenge is that we tend to think of Alpha solely as a return on financial investment. And, that’s the problem…for financial firms…for any kind of business…for every professional. Today’s customer is focused on more than just the active return on his or her financial investment. They also require an active return on their effort, emotion, and engagement. They are focused on ‘relationship Alpha’ as well.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “What will be the client’s active return on their investment of their personal and professional resources — such as their energy and time — as a result of their consideration of my firm as a business partner?”

My guess is that the answer is, “No.” Don’t feel alone. Very few professionals or organizations ever have this kind of thinking on their radar screen.

Think of it this way: the features that sold a car in the ’60’s won’t close any sales for dealers any longer. Customers enhanced their demands from cruise control to anti-lock brakes. Auto manufacturers understand a car for today’s marketplace has to deliver more. The computer you wanted just five years ago is antiquated now. Our clients — just like the customers in every industry — are now also seeking “relationship Alpha.” They expect…they demand…a return on the investment of non-renewable resources like time, energy, and engagement that they are making individually and organizationally.

So, why would you ever believe that your customers are thinking in the same manner? Here’s a clue: They aren’t. If you presume that all they expect from your products and services is “investment Alpha” — in other words, a return measured solely in financial gain — you are stuck in a manner of thinking that is obsolete.

And, here’s the bright spot: No matter what is happening in the economy, we can ensure they achieve significant relationship Alpha based upon the experiences that we are creating for them. Deliver the Ultimate Customer ExperienceTM and you deliver distinct relationship Alpha.

Scott summarized his thoughts by asking: “As a financial intermediary you have to ask yourself if you are delivering an extraordinary return on your customer’s investment?” I commented that if financial intermediaries are, their practices will have evolved from information sources to solution sources distinguished by their ability to leverage Investment Alpha and Relationship Alpha to deliver the Ultimate Customer Experience.

In an industry that as late as February, 2009 still reports in excess of 60% of their customers haven’t been contacted since the market began it downward spiral, Relationship Alpha needs to be driven by means other than punitive measures – yes, firms are still holding back incentive pay until a specified percentage of customers are contacted.

Successful Relationship Alpha will be enjoyed by those firms and financial intermediaries who shift their communication styles to complement the next generation of investors who will view the telephone and e-mail as outdated. MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter will become the communications tools of preference. Relationship Alpha will truly begin when firms and financial intermediaries begin communicating with their customers the way the customer wants to be communicated with, not the other way around, as it is today.

D. Bruce Johnston, named Fund Marketer of the Year by Institutional Investor, has built some of the country’s most successful marketing programs and sales teams. As principal of DBJ Associates, Bruce is dedicated to helping financial firms transform their business and distribution strategies to compete more successfully and cost-effectively in the new global marketplace.

More Stories By D. Bruce Johnston

D. Bruce Johnston, President | COO, CaptureTrackConvert is regarded as a high-energy, results-driven Financial Services Distribution Executive. His 30+-year career has been distinguished by an impressive record of accomplishments, contributions and winner of the Institutional Investor Fund Marketer of the Year award. CaptureTrackConvert (CTC) provides easy to use, powerful enterprise level marketing automation software to fast growing SMBs. CTC is dedicated to helping SMBs maximize their marketing resources, improve the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and generating more sales ready prospects thus dramatically improving sales and the bottom-line.