A financial wellness program always sounds like a great idea for everyone involved: advisors, employers, and participants. However, without careful planning and execution the launch of a financial wellness program will fall flat and have little impact.
There is no guaranteed method for a successful launch as there too many factors are at play including demographics, experience, and time. However, in my years in the industry, I have found some best practices that will help you improve the roll-out of a financial wellness program to your participants. (This advice is applicable to both advisors and employers and if you have any questions please reach out.)
Artificial time constraint
People are busy and seem to be getting busier by the day. Many, if not most, of us will procrastinate on anything that we are able to. This includes going to the doctor, taking our car to a mechanic, and working on improving our personal finances (only four out of ten adults has a will or living trust). We will not take action unless we have an event on our calendar that we need to prepare.
When you launch a financial wellness program you will get little engagement unless you create an artificial time constraint. We recommend that you roll out a financial wellness program in conjunction with another event such as:
- Going onsite for meetings
- Virtual meetings on specific days
- Open enrollment season
- Tax season
Going onsite at a client for one-on-one meetings with your participants is a great time to launch. You will be onsite on specific days which creates the time constraint. You send out the link to your financial wellness software in advance (ideally at least three weeks) and an introduction to the program as part of the meeting announcement. The participant will see that creating their financial wellness profile as something they need to finish before meeting with you. They might wait until the last minute but having an appointment with you on their calendar makes it more likely that they will take action.
People prone to procrastination (almost everyone) appreciate a reminder or two that they have an appointment and that they have some homework to do beforehand. This is why your doctor or stylist will likely have a telephone service either calling or texting you a reminder a day or two before your appointment to make sure you remember to show up and bring with you anything they need.
You should also be sending out reminders to people. If you are scheduling one-on-one meetings I would recommend a service such as Calendly which can send customized email and text reminders a set number of hours or days ahead of the appointment.
If you want to send a mass blast you are going to either need to get everyone’s email address from your client or to have their benefits department send it out on your behalf. If the company does not have its employees’ email addresses you can try a paycheck stuffer. That will still be something that the employee can take home with the software URL on it. A flyer on a break room wall tends to a poor way to remind people as it is easily ignored and not accessible when they have the time to take action.
Provide something of value upfront
Tying the launch to an event and sending reminders works for people that are interested in financial wellness enough to make an appointment. Unfortunately, you will find that a lot of people are not. Those people are going to take more convincing to get to the table.
I am a big fan of providing people something of value that gives them a glimpse of the expertise they will receive if they become a client. For a roll out you might consider sending out some content upfront along with the link to the financial wellness software or a scheduling link. Some ideas are:
- A guide on an aspect of personal finance that would be applicable to a good portion of the participants at that particular client (we have a financial wellness ebook you can use for this)
- A video series that walks a participant through a financial wellness topic or problem
- A webinar introducing financial wellness or something topical at the moment (e.g. taxes in Q1)
- A set of emails dripped out in the weeks leading up to the launch that provides an overview of what the program covers
The participants will see these, get some value from it, and will be more likely to take advantage fo the financial wellness program because of it. This transforms you from “that financial guy that enrolled me in my 401(k)” to “that expert who is offering this service that I don’t want to miss out on.”
More than almost anything an internal advocate will move the participation needle. This is someone at the company (possibly in the benefits department, in the C-suite, or in ownership) who is passionate about helping the employees succeed. This person goes the extra mile in talking up the company’s benefits and trying to get people to take advantage of them. They are not just going to announce the financial wellness program but will talk about it in the lunchroom, send out reminder emails, and make sure that people will know what they are missing if they choose not to participate.
Build a relationship with the person and collaborate on this launch plan. They know their employees better than you ever will and can provide you feedback on what tactics they think will work and what will not. They will make sure that your materials will get their employees’ hands.
You do all of this prep for the launch but financial wellness is a process rather than a one-time event. Have a post-launch strategy where you keep the pedal to the floor by providing value and reminding people of the things they can do to improve their financial future. People might eventually tire of hearing from you but not before they are on track to achieve their financial goals!