Winnie Sun, Founding Partner at Sun Group Wealth Partners, and the Toughest Question She’s Heard

Savvy business owners know that you have to go where the people are. And today, that place is social media.

Nearly 70% of Americans use social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Twitter, Facebook and the like have become part of our everyday lives: Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users report visiting the site at least once a day, according to Pew.

In an industry once fueled by face-to-face networking and client referral, social media has become a crucial part of many financial advisors’ marketing toolkits. In fact, a study by Investment News found that non-referral business development, like social media, is responsible for an increasing share of customer acquisitions at financial advisory firms.

But even as these platforms rise and multiply in popularity, social media can still be an uncomfortable and unfamiliar place for many clients who prefer a more traditional approach to financial advisor marketing. And if that’s the case, what does it mean for advisors?

We’re asking some of the best and brightest financial advisors to share the toughest questions they hear from clients, as well as how they’ve responded. This month we talked to registered investment advisor Winnie Sun, who founded Sun Group Wealth Partners in 2011, about what to consider when social media and client expectations clash.

 

Here’s how Sun dealt with the toughest question she’s ever gotten from a client, and why trusting her entrepreneurial instincts was ultimately the best answer:

“Going out on my own as a financial advisor was a big step for me. I’ve poured my heart and soul into developing our brand and delivering a service that I can be proud of. My active social media presence has played a big role in my success. It’s opened up opportunities to speak to conferences, to be in the press, and it’s opened doors for new revenue channels that might not have been there otherwise. It’s added a whole new component to the business model.

“But one day I got a call from one of my longtime clients asking me — but really telling me — to cool it on social media. She felt that the time I was spending there could be better spent, and that in a way I was not working in her interest. It really bothered her, and she wasn’t shy about expressing this.

“It hurt me, and it made me feel very uncertain. My clients are the most important thing to me. And you know what? I stopped all social media for two weeks because of it to really give it some thought.

“And then it hit me: I’m a business owner, and I need to market. It’s not only essential to get new clients, but it’s an essential way to keep costs down for existing clients. If you don’t market and find more clients, the only way to support growth would be to raise fees on her and my other clients, and no one wants that.

“I went to her and tried to explain that being a financial advisor and a business owner means you have to play multiple roles. And being a small business owner, I’m competing against people who sometimes have the funds to advertise at the Super Bowl. You don’t see anyone telling them to stop marketing. Social media allows me to have a footprint for a fraction of the cost.

“Ultimately she didn’t agree, and she left me, and that’s OK. I had to trust my gut. And my gut was right.

“You want to be sensitive to your clients’ desires, but the lesson for me is to know what’s right for your business, and stick up for it. Referrals used to be the heart and soul of this business. But if you are relying on just your clients and the people they know to sustain you, it can be a scary thought. You can’t afford to sit back and hope clients will walk through that door. Marketing is part of the job.

“Social media has opened up so many channels to grow, and helped tons of real people along the way for a fraction of the marketing budget of some of the bigger guys. It’s a place where I can express myself and help my business. That’s essential in this modern business environment.

“The reality is, to many people, if you aren’t on social media, then you don’t exist. I encourage financial advisors all the time not to be afraid to open up on this medium and don’t be afraid to let your personality and your desire to help people shine through. I’m successful on social media because I’m myself and because I help people. My social media presence reflects who I am as a person. Muzzling myself felt unnatural.”