on Client Communication
February 22, 2011
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The world has changed in all kinds of ways. What worked in terms of client communication as recently as five years ago doesn’t work nearly as well today. As a result, you need to fundamentally change how you communicate with clients.
Attention spans have shrunk dramatically. Everyone is much more time pressed.
And the level of skepticism has spiked among existing and prospective clients.
Let’s be clear, clients still want to hear from you – in fact, chances are they want to hear from you more often. But they typically want each of those interactions to be shorter, more objective and more relevant.
Short, relevant, objective
What are the implications?
First, send something short once every month or two, rather than a longer piece once a quarter. And second, clients are looking for communication that’s tailored to their situation and, given today’s skeptical mood, is based on credible third-party support.
Suppose a client received two emails from you.
One was a quarterly, four-page glossy newsletter from your firm talking about the outlook for the economy, interest-rate forecasts, opportunities in global investing and tax-savings strategies.
The other was an email with an article from Fortune, Forbes, Barron’s or the New York Times, discussing a topic in which the client had expressed interest such as the direction of the dollar, prospects for the US economy or trends in global investing.
Which do you think clients prefer?
Naturally, almost everyone goes for the monthly articles – they provide not just shorter and more frequent communication, but also tap into credible third-party support. All in all, monthly emails with those articles are much more closely aligned with what most clients actually want.
Tapping into hot buttons
So once we’ve agreed that for most clients, the most effective communication will be shorter and tap into objective sources, the final question is how to make it relevant.
Every advisor recognizes the importance of providing information that taps into the hot buttons that motivate key clients – the things that are really important to them and, in some cases, keep them up at night.
The question is how to identify those hot buttons.
The obvious answer is to ask – and that’s a good starting point. The difficulty is that the way we ask may not always give us clear answers.
Suppose you’re talking to a key client and you say, “What are the most important things for you when it comes to your money? What keeps you awake at night?” The problem is that the answers you get may be the obvious ones that are on the surface, like losing money or not having enough money in retirement.
The challenge is that there are often other hot buttons that are just beneath the surface that we won’t know about unless we ask in a different way. So in addition to asking ‘”What are the most important issues for you when it comes to your money?” advisors should also ask some closed-end questions.
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