Client Communication beyond the Newsletter
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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You have written about the importance of communicating with clients in a variety of ways. What are some examples of things that work best, other than the standard newsletter?
Dick M., NY
You don’t say much about what you are doing now, so I will assume it is mostly newsletters – probably sent to your clients via email. Finding the best form of communication is a tricky thing. It’s based on what your clients want – and expect.
You may think you are communicating well with clients because you send them newsletters and emails about market activities, but that’s not enough. Few people learn just by reading, and yet much of what we communicate (at least in our industry) is in writing. We send emails, newsletters, client reports, etc.
Answer the following questions: How often do you call your clients only to check in? Do you ever have a “sit down” with them when it isn’t just to review their portfolio, but rather to talk about the advisor-client relationship and how things are going? Or do you set up a meeting or phone call just to allow them to pose any random questions they might have? Do you offer a conference call for several of your clients for group updates, or do you create an audio for clients to listen to when they want? Do you have any videos of you or colleagues talking about your views on the market? Do you make other experts available to your clients via educational events, in-person meetings or phone calls? Do you solicit ideas via a client survey? Or ask clients what other information would be helpful or useful to them?
The best way to offer communication is via a menu of options. Create a list of what you can do, and then ask clients what works best for them. Strive to customize the communication around what they care about and how they like to learn. Some clients might like a meeting once a year; others might like once per quarter. Some might be content getting a monthly newsletter from you; others want a phone call once a month.
The key is in understanding your clients and what they need from you. It is great that you are thinking about this. Use it as an opportunity to learn more about the people you serve and how you can increase your communication activities.
We outsource our investments for our clients. It has worked very well for us and we like the approach. Lately clients are asking us what our contribution is – if we aren’t managing the portfolios directly, what are we doing? This question minimizes our contribution. We have CPAs and tax experts on our staff. We do a great deal of financial planning. We watch out for our clients and move their money whenever it makes sense. I don’t think clients are asking the right questions, and I don’t think they understand the value we provide.
Keith K, Massachusetts
I’m laughing as I read your question – not at you, of course! You gave me the answer in your question. You laid out – quite succinctly – a very good response to clients when they ask about or bring up as this issue.
You need a good “story.” Stories – also called positioning or value statements –proactively tell the clients what you do for them and what they can expect. Perhaps your real strong suit, as I infer from reading your question, is in the area of financial planning. Simply having an off-the-shelf investment solution would not help your clients with this important area. Instead of defensively explaining what you do, go more aggressively on the offensive, explaining to prospects and clients the value you add, what you do for them, and how you help to solve their problems. If you are telling your story well, and reinforcing it with clients often enough, this question won’t come up.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.