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Don’t Give Your Clients the Silent Treatment

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I’m at the age where discussing financial advisers with friends is common. Retirement is around the corner. Portfolios are growing, but so is apprehension about having enough money to make it to the home stretch. Some of my friends are pleased with their advisers. Others are not.

Take my neighbors, for instance. Last week they mentioned they were meeting with a new financial adviser. They’d been paying their former adviser considerable annual fees on a sizeable portfolio for a long time but hadn’t heard from him in years. They want to retire soon and need help figuring out how to make that happen. Yes, they were okay with their rate of return their former adviser had earned them, but, no, they weren’t going to call him. They were finished with him.

They wanted somebody who cared, and he obviously didn’t care, or he wouldn’t have given them the silent treatment for so long. They could find somebody else to manage their accounts equally as well. They’re seriously mad at this guy. And he doesn’t even know it.

In his defense, he probably didn’t mean to give them the silent treatment. It sounds like he was vigilant with their money. He wasn’t neglecting them, but it felt like neglect to them. By not keeping the lines of communication open, he’d lost whatever connection he’d had with them. They’re moving on.

On the other hand, I have a widowed mother who likes to brag about her financial adviser. She’s had his father or him as her adviser for nearly forty years, and though she doesn’t have as much money as our neighbors, she is confident that both she and her money are well cared for.

Though my mom currently lives hundreds of miles from her adviser, the lines of communication are open. They don’t meet regularly anymore and since she can’t hear very well, I doubt they talk on the phone much. But periodically, he checks in with email updates from his office and every month he writes his own email newsletter on a topic he thinks will help his clients. Neither of these is written only for her, but they are personal and remind her that she is part of his group. They make her feel connected. She knows she’s “in the fold” even if she doesn’t read every newsletter.

My neighbors, however, still live in the same smallish town as their long-standing adviser and they seem to hear well enough for a phone conversation. They’re just not inclined to stop by his office or give him a call. They hardly know him. They honestly feel shunned.

Having the lines of communications open with her adviser makes a difference for my mom. It would have made a difference for my neighbors. That’s because client communications do make a difference.

Your communications don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. They just need to be clear and relevant and regular enough to show you’re keeping in touch.

Here are three easy ways to be certain your clients are confident that you are not giving them the silent treatment.

1. Send monthly e-newsletters

E-newsletters keep you connected with your clients. The goal is to provide pertinent, helpful information as clearly and simply as possible on a regular basis. You can do this without broaching compliance because you are informing, not marketing, advising or making claims.

E-newsletters should be educational without being academic and should:

  • Focus on one topic. Traditionally, newsletters are newsy. They can include a lot of information, but the best e-newsletters focus on clarifying a single concept. You know your clients. You likely know what content will serve them best. E-newsletters allow you to introduce one concept at a time in a clear, straightforward manner.
  • Make a connection. Though they are instructive, e-newsletters are personal. They should come from you. Your clients appreciate your perspective, insight, and expertise (or they wouldn’t be your clients). It can be helpful to include links to prepared content libraries on your website or other online articles, but your e-newsletters are yours.

Your newsletters should include your picture, contact information and a link to your website (which can contain reports or other downloads as well as an archive of past e-newsletters) and reflect your point-of-view. This kind of personalization helps you make a tangible connection with your clients.

  • Be sent regularly. The more you connect with anybody, the stronger that connection becomes. That’s not complicated. It’s human. E-newsletters give you the opportunity to be a regular voice in your clients’ inboxes. Sending a monthly email at the same time each month creates expectation. Your clients honestly might not have time to read every newsletter, but they’ll expect you to show up, and will appreciate your input.

There is no shortage of responsive email templates that can help you build a workable smart phone optimized e-newsletter.

Related: How to Use Digital Content to Build Trust

2. Check-in with periodic emails

Sending a quarterly (or bimonthly or semiannual) email letting clients know of changes in your office or procedures or answering potential questions and inviting them to contact you if they need to discuss their accounts shows them you are there, engaged, and concerned about them.

Effective emails:

  • Stay on task. They should be clear, to the point and easy to read. Make a short outline of a few things you would like to communicate and stick to it. It’s easier than you think to start rambling. Having an outline keeps your writing focused and intentional.
  • Are individualized. Though you don’t need to write a separate email for each of your clients, your emails should feel individualized. Whether your using a single email for all clients or sending different emails to different segments of your clientele, when you write them, pretend you’re just addressing your favorite client. It’s hard to be personal and authentic when you’re
  • addressing a broad audience. Thinking of your favorite client when you craft your email individualizes your message (and might make all your clients feel like your favorite).

Also, even if everybody knows you’re sending a bulk email using Mail Merge, your emails should be personalized and sent to individuals not groups. Only use first names, make sure they’re spelled correctly, and try to use the names people go by instead of formal names. These are your clients. They need to know you know their names.

3. Send letters.

Whether you’re sending an annual letter with an overview of the year to all your clients or sending letters to individual clients throughout the year, letters can be an important part of your communications strategy.

  • An annual letter allows you to give your perspective on macro challenges, discuss market conditions and performance and suggest action items for the upcoming year (like setting up an annual review). They build trust and confidence and can become a mainstay of your client services as clients get used to hearing from you on an annual basis.
  • Sending letters to individual clients throughout the year reminding them to set up a review or encouraging them to follow-up on another action item like finishing their trust or planning for taxes shows they’re on your radar. By creating client-specific templates ahead of time and scheduling individual correspondence, you can work these letters into the regular rhythm of your business.

Double Check your work

Though it doesn’t need to be a master piece, your content–print or digital—should be clean and error free. Before sending anything have at least two other people with good writing skills give you input on your copy and proofread it for errors. It’s surprising what a second and third pair of eyes can catch that you miss.

It’s not that blogs, social media and Google aren’t an important part of a communications strategy. They are. It’s just navigating them can seem overwhelming which means they tend to fall off the priority list. A communications strategy that begins with newsletters, periodic emails and letters is not only attainable, it’s foundational to developing the kind of content that grows your business.

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