Remember what it was like to be in a relationship in high school?
It was hard to go a couple hours without talking to your significant other, let alone a single day.
Communication was constant, and it came in every form: Long phone calls during the day, short phone calls after hours at night, texts sent whenever, and depending on your age—a lot of photos through Snapchat.
As you get older, though, communication frequency can change. Once you’ve been married for a while, those hours-long conversations might occur once a week instead of every day.
And when you connect with friends, it might be over text every couple of weeks or even a few months apart instead of every day.
But no matter how your communication evolves, there’s one constant: Relationships can’t be formed, and can’t grow stronger, without good communication.
So it’s no surprise that communication, and the rate at which it happens, is critical for advisors who want to develop strong relationships with clients.
A recent YCharts study on advisor communication shed light on how advisors communicate with clients, and how their clients feel about how they’re doing.
The YCharts study does a fantastic job of answering one critical question that is at the core of all advisor marketing initiatives: How important is regular client communication for financial advisors?
After reading through the report, these are my main takeaways that advisors need to know about the frequency and importance of communicating with clients.
Delivering financial advice requires trust, and trust requires communication.
But according to the YCharts study, not many clients feel like they’re getting the communication they want.
One out of every four clients said their advisor contacts them “very infrequently” and a whopping 50% of clients with over $500,000 in assets said that they’re contacted either infrequently or very infrequently.
The issue with infrequent communication is that it can lead to a shallow relationship and a lack of trust.
About 60% of clients said more frequent communication would give them more confidence in their financial plan.
This isn’t a hard concept to get, right?
Think about your closest friends. If you send them a generic text once a quarter, your relationship might suffer. You may wonder how much they really care about you.
It’s not going to be any different with client relationships.
People are people and relationships are relationships, no matter if they happen in business or on the playground.
For those who don’t spend their free time reading reports about the most effective communication methods, you might think that email is oversaturated and couldn’t possibly still be a great way to connect with people.
But every year, the stats disprove that idea.
Yes, we get too much email. But when we want important communications, there’s still no better place than the old inbox.
The most intriguing thing about the YCharts survey is how aligned the “over 50” and “under 50” crowds are in their communication preferences.
Email reigns supreme in both groups whether they want to receive interesting articles relevant to their interests or get their advisor’s thoughts on the market.
Seventy-five percent of those under 50 chose email as their preferred way to get interesting stats, visuals and articles. Text messages were a distant second with 33% of the votes.
Now, I don’t think that these responses invalidate the need for advisors to explore the ways they can leverage modern digital touchpoints like texting.
Instead, I think this speaks more to the important place that email plays in our lives. It’s still the best place to store important information when you want to access it more than once.
Email is searchable, accessible across basically every connected device, and most important of all, persistent.
You might have texts set to delete automatically after 30 days, but you have to purposefully delete an email if you don’t want it in your inbox.
If you’re an advisor who has discounted the role of email in your client communication plan, you should reassess its usefulness in your firm.
My third main takeaway from the YCharts study is that people want personalization more than ever.
If you’ve followed along with my content, you know that I place original content at the top of the mountain for what advisors need to do to connect with people, and this survey backs that up.
People are savvy consumers, and they can tell when they get a newsletter or email that’s simply been repackaged with a logo.
When a client says they want personalized communication from you, what they’re really saying is that they want the real deal, not a cheap imitation.
They want you. Your personal thoughts, your ideas, your words.
They don’t want a message that’s been “personalized” with their name at the top, and maybe a couple lines you edited so the content is technically yours.
The need to get personal is only going to become more important as generational shifts occur. Four out of five younger clients said it’s very important to get personalized information from their advisor.
Expectations are shifting, and it’s easy to see why. With advancements in AI and adaptive learning, the software experiences that inform all aspects of our lives increasingly tailor our experiences to our unique tastes.
When you log into Netflix, you aren’t just shown a list of movies others watch. You get a list of movies customized to your watch history.
The Google app on your phone serves up news stories that are drawn from your search history and browsing data.
All experiences are crafted to make people feel unique, special, and catered to as if they are the only person receiving that experience.
The experience you create for clients has to evoke those same feelings.
I understand that personalizing communications to every client is, quite possibly, an impossible task.
But what’s not impossible is increasing the rate at which you communicate with clients.
In fact, I have 5 simple ways you can stay in contact with clients all the time so you can build those strong relationships and create more trust.
Best of all, if you are regularly creating content that gets in front of your clients, you don’t always have to worry about personalizing information.
Then, the content that you can make more personal will augment and enhance your typical outreach schedule.
So here we go. Five simple things you can do to regularly stay in contact with clients.
Does it matter whether you blog once a week, twice a week, once a month? A lot has been written about how often you should publish, and I’ll leave for another time.
Choose a schedule you can keep, and stick to it. Your blog topics should be about questions and concerns you actually cover with clients to make your content relevant over the long haul.
Post about your thoughts on the market, yes, but also put a priority on creating content that isn’t time sensitive so you can keep using it to communicate your value.
Send a Newsletter
If you’re posting content to your blog, you can’t simply publish it and be done. You have to create a structured, integrated approach to how you let people know you have content worth reading.
We already covered how important email still is for communication, and a newsletter to your client list and interested prospects is an essential for marketing your firm. Your email list should be something that people opt in to receive—so they’ve already indicated that they want to hear from you.
When someone is on your email list, you have permission to talk to them. Take advantage of that and use it as a primary method to regularly reach out and bring value to their lives.
Be Active on Social Media
People spend a lot of time on their phones. Too much? Again…let’s save that question for smarter people than me. But with the amount of time the average person spends on social media, it’s important to be present where they spend their time.
The core idea around all of these tactics is that you have to be present in their lives so that you’re something who gains a foothold in their mind when they think about financial issues. Social media can also be a place where you can tell clients to go when they want to get your unfiltered, immediate thoughts. Show off your personality, but create your content always with who’s reading it in mind. Just posting about what you’re doing all the time doesn’t add value.
My philosophy on how to use social media is simple, and summed up best by this quote from Seth Godin: “Authenticity in the marketplace is a myth. What people want is to be understood and to be served, not merely witness to whatever you feel like doing in a given moment.”
Record a Monthly Video
Maybe you’re not a writer, so posting to your blog sounds like a nightmare. That’s okay. The only thing that’s not okay is not communicating. If you’re not a writer, look at other avenues.
Maybe a podcast is your thing. Maybe a video is your thing. I advocate for more video because it’s a golden opportunity—very few advisors use video to communicate with their clients right now.
Video makes an impact because it puts your face in front of people when you can’t be there in person. The more face time you can get, the more trust and familiarity you can develop.
Set Up Automated Check-in Communications
When I think about personalized communications, I think about automated messages that you can tailor to a person’s interests. You might use a service like Vestorly or possibly enable notifications to send to clients from your portfolio management system.
You can’t always be 100% personal, but you can always find a way to be present. Automated communications, like a simple notification about an important portfolio milestone, can be one way to keep yourself in front of people and supplement the original content creation you do.
In the end, all your client communication should have one underlying trait—it should focus on what clients value so you speak truth into their circumstances.
All good content is others-focused; it doesn’t prioritize your firm or your accolades.
It seeks to educate and inform and make your clients feel like they are in a better place for having read, watched, or listened to it.
Want to talk about this blog? Find me on Twitter and let’s have a conversation.