It's a scene you know well: the first meeting with a prospective client. You know that the prospect will likely consider 10 other advisors this week before deciding which one will provide the best service for their 401(k) plan. Now is the time to "wow" them. How are you going to do it? A PowerPoint presentation? A glossy binder?
This is 2012-it's time to use a tablet.
Many advisors acknowledge tablet devices' portability and convenience. A Byallaccounts survey of more than 250 advisors found that 59.3% of them were using the iPad in client meetings, and 48.9% said the iPad helps them be more responsive.
If you're not using a tablet, you'll soon find yourself in the minority. Forrester Research predicts that by 2015, tablet sales will equal that of laptops. And note that early adopters of tablets have advanced education and higher-than-average income-$120,000 annually-which make them desirable customers, Forrester says. Advisors not using tablets will miss an opportunity to demonstrate innovation and a forward-looking approach to technology and communications.
Even at this early stage of development, a dizzying array of apps are available to advisors in the app store itself or as part of an enterprise app store. So what makes a killer app? Consider the following criteria:
1. Does the app deliver timely and relevant content and functionality? This seems like an obvious point, but some apps are little more than glorified brochureware. For example, one of the large FSIs I work with decided to make an app out of its four-step investing process. Needless to say, the app didn't get a lot of downloads. But what if the app had connected to the next step of the sales process, allowing the general investing story to evolve into facilitated dialogues with clients about specific investment choices based on their situations? Further, what if the app had enabled the advisor to follow up with communications that relate to those discussions, helping to close deals?
These are the kinds of apps that are of greatest value. While telling the story from a presentation perspective is important, the beauty (and value) of these devices is that they can immediately move the advisor and client into the next step of the decision-making process.
2. Does the app make it easier to do something you already did, in a setting that's more comfortable for you? "Time is money"-a cliché, but true. If an app can save you either, it's likely a good one, and this helps you evaluate the basic functionality of the app.
Interactions with tablet devices typically occur in nonoffice settings (the train, industry events, a client's home) or in a "casual computing" setting (for instance, browsing or app usage while watching TV). Apps that recognize and capitalize on this behavior by helping you multitask or capture information "in the moment" or at your convenience can help you increase productivity.
The most obvious examples of this are apps that allow you to do away with endless reams of paper in favor of reviewing the latest research and commentary on your tablet. At a recent industry event that I attended, one of the apps being used allowed advisors to immediately capture contact information for participants with whom they were interested in following up. This information was then fed directly into their CRMs, greatly reducing the amount of time they (or someone at their office) would spend transcribing the information. Moreover, advisors were able to capture notes related to those interactions in the moment, making the information more germane and, ultimately, more actionable.
3. Does the app enhance client relationships and drive business? Studies have shown that client satisfaction increases based on frequency and relevance of communications. Well more than half of every demographic (Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers) is interested in having online tools available to them when considering their benefits options, according to MetLife's 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends. A good app should facilitate this communication and be a conduit to organic upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
If an app includes financial planning functionality-whether broad portfolio modeling or specific retirement or plan modeling-the app should be sophisticated enough for you to develop viable scenarios yet simple enough to help you facilitate a conversation with your client. Unlike laptop and desktop PCs, tablets (with their wide viewing angle and multitouch navigation) are perfect for "across the table" communications-several people can easily view and navigate through the same content at the same time. Features, functionality and content should encourage discussions about related topics, either by linking to relevant follow-up information or (even better) by linking to other apps that will allow you to have a discussion about these topics.
Successful apps will support this sort of cross-linking in such a way that they create an app "ecosystem" that lets advisors address a range of client concerns without creating an overwhelming experience. There is a real opportunity to provide apps to both organizational decision-makers and end participants and to drive conversations with C-level executives about plan enrollment, investments, and use of features, functionality and services.
4. Does the app draw on the native features of the device? There are many options for developing an app, but the best apps draw on the native interface features and interaction conventions unique to touchscreen devices. This gets back to point No. 3-creating a seamless app ecosystem. Good apps will draw on design best practices for tablet devices. Content and functionality should be accessible in portrait or landscape, and key features that are not dependent on timely data should be available on- or offline so advisors don't need to be concerned with whether they have a wireless connection.
Further, when using an app as part of a facilitated discussion, the app should allow you to adjust key data points on the fly, so you can quickly run through different scenarios with the client, manipulating the data or inputs without cumbersome retabulation. This lets the advisor respond immediately to a client's concerns and develop recommendations that can be acted on right after the conversation.