There have been several instances in recent months of events surrounding investments and the economy that could have caused concern on the part of a financial advisor's clients. During such events, clients who are alarmed at what is going on are likely to contact their financial advisor seeking reassurance. It is generally acknowledged that it would be far better for the financial advisor to pro-actively contact affected clients, rather than clients contacting the advisor. The lack of a pro-active response speaks volumes to clients about the caring and concern that an advisor has for the client. Having said this, however, it is not always easy for the financial advisor to respond quickly, accurately and efficiently without potentially disrupting the flow of operations inside the financial practice.
There are several ways to enhance communication with clients without necessarily increasing the workload for yourself and/or your staff. Setting procedures and standards for client communications might be a good starting point, though. Some advisors have set specific "touch counts" as a standard for their practice. Touch counts can be a variety of types of client touches, such as direct face-to-face appointments, phone conversations, e-mails, printed mail pieces, etc. Advisors who have embraced this concept have set a minimum number of touches each client might receive in a given year. The number might be dependent upon the type of client, amount of assets under management, type and/or amount of fees or general engagement parameters.
As an example, let's say an advisor were to select 12 as the number of touches for a particular client. Once the number is determined, the breakdown on the type of touches involved would need to be defined (i.e., four appointments, four newsletters, two e-mail blasts and two scheduled "how are you doing" calls). The point of such a system is to define and publish these standards so that clients working with that advisor get a better feeling for the quality and breadth of the relationship they will enjoy.
Another clever way to drive client communications with little or no effort is through an interactive Web site. Adding a news feature, such as a crawler or other moving banner on the Web site that can be customized to respond quickly to events in the news might attract attention, particularly if the advisor's clients are aware of the feature and recognize the value of checking your Web site often.
Most Web site providers that serve the needs of the financial services profession have developed lockbox-type technologies. One example of this is Advisor Square (http://www.advisorsquare.com). Whenever an item is uploaded to a client's lockbox, an e-mail is generated and sent to the client alerting him or her to it. This might be an excellent way to send letters, batch uploaded) to clients quickly and safely. (The lockbox is a secure, encrypted area on the Web site that is password protected.) AdvisorSites (http://www.advisorsites.com), IAS (http://www.iassoftware.com) and Lightport (http://www.lightport.com) also offer such a feature.
Newsletters are another effective way to deliver information on an ongoing basis to your clients. A number of services are designed to fit the needs of financial practitioners in generating newsletter content on an ongoing, periodic basis. Advisor Products (http://www.advisorproducts.com) offers a personalized quarterly newsletter to clients and prospects. This is a full-color newsletter that can match your corporate colors and reinforce your brand identity. Your logo can be placed on the masthead. Graphics feature full-color photos. Your newsletter will also feature the design look of an upscale magazine, and you get "a state-of-the-art custom-published newsletter that people will read and value," according to its Web site.
Another such service is Forefield (http://www.forefield.com). Forefield offers a full-featured, monthly financial planning newsletter service offered to both independent financial advisors and financial institutions. The Forefield newsletter service allows financial advisors and institutions to create customized, FINRA-reviewed, and fully branded newsletters for clients, including both PDF and native HTML e-mail versions.
If you work through a broker-dealer, the b-d may offer a similar service, often at a discount.
Another interesting technique is to add a blog to your Web site. Updated content is essential for Web site success. Unless content is frequently updated, there's no reason for clients, visitors and, for that matter, search engines to return.
Yet, most Web sites are rarely updated! This is because updates usually require time and money:
Time, to write and format updated content-or write, and then send, your words to someone else to format and add.
Money, to pay someone else to format your message and post the new content.
Blogs eliminate design and formatting as obstacles to success on the Internet. Blogs make it possible for anyone with basic word-processing skills to add new postings to their blog in just a few minutes or less.
Equally important, blogs encourage conciseness and frequency. Blogs encourage you to think in terms of short "ideas" and "sentences," rather than long, detailed articles that may never get finished and/or added to your site.
The best blogs often contain numerous, short postings. Blogging success is based on the frequency, relevance and timeliness of your postings, rather than their length.