In the financial world, it’s much easier – and more profitable – to concentrate on your clients, instead of worrying about prospects each month. Satisfied and loyal clients typically lead to repeat or add-on business, as well as referrals, making them the most valuable.
Top independent broker dealers understand that ongoing, meaningful contact with clients actually drives revenue. “Engaged clients are the most satisfied and loyal, they perceive higher value in the role of advice and they will drive almost all referral growth for advisors,” says Julie Littlechild, CEO of Advisor Impact.
Twenty years ago, financial advisors connected with clients through three primary channels: telephone, mail and meeting. These methods still work and should be part of any broker-dealer service. When was the last time you picked up the phone to check in with a client or sent a handwritten note to a client via snail mail? A handwritten note makes people stop, because in today’s world of email it’s unexpected… and thoughtful.
Last year Pershing published The Second Annual Study of Advisory Success – A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations. The study found that successful advisors embrace client communications best practices and work to meet their clients’ evolving expectations regarding access to information.
The study found most advisors’ outreach is based on negative news — 58 percent of advisors reach out when markets are down, as do 68 percent, when a client’s personal investments drop in value. Advisors, however, are less likely to reach out with positive news, such as when investments are up. A consistent communication outreach program, in good times and bad, can go a long way with clients.
“Nowadays, we make a point to call all our clients on a quarterly basis. Even if there’s not a lot to talk about, we’ll simply check in to make sure they’ve been getting their statements. Or we’ll ask about their families,” Andy Barton, senior financial advisor at Libertas Wealth Management in Dublin, OH, told Financial Advisor. “I see the call as our chance to let them know we’ve been thinking about them. It’s also a great opportunity for them to ask us questions that they hadn’t gotten around to calling us about. I’m surprised by how often clients bring up questions that they had been mulling over for months. Sometimes the calls last two minutes, sometimes 10 minutes.”
The Pershing study also revealed the vast majority of advisors do not offer a mailed or emailed newsletter. Six percent send a newsletter or e-newsletter when the market is down, 7 percent when the market is up and 21 percent said they send one when there is a new federal policy or change. Opportunities for ongoing, regular communication in the form of a newsletter or e-newsletter do exist and should be considered.
Barton also touches base with clients in other ways. “We send out a weekly market commentary via email. Basically, one of the advisors in our firm will write a quick analysis about a current topic, whether that’s gas prices or a new law, and we send that out to all our clients.”
Another way to concentrate on your clients is to set up an alert on each client. Plenty of tools help you keep track of clients. Google Alerts is one, Talkwalker another. Talkwalker’s social data intelligence platform monitors and analyzes online conversations on social networks, news websites, blogs, forums and more. The app can send notifications regarding industry news, personal interest, companies they are investing in or are interested in, etc., to clients by e-mail, RSS feed or Hootsuite streams.
The key, here, is to turn a generic “Thinking of you” into a more meaningful, “I immediately thought of you when I saw this.”
When asked the secret to their success, advisers to high net worth clients always say the personal touch is extraordinarily important. Gregory Vaughan, managing director for Morgan Stanley’s Private Wealth Management and named one of the nation’s top financial advisors by Barron’s magazine, built his client base by listening. “When you become a good listener, good things happen. And if you do a good job for clients, the referrals come,” he told Investment News. “We have a very high level of service. We structure our days around communicating with clients.”
Vaughan makes a point of keeping in touch with his clients, speaking with them at least once a quarter and meeting them face–to-face at least twice per year. “Our best clients are our competitors’ best prospects,” he said. “Be the person they call about anything important financially, and call them when bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll be out of business quickly.”
Top independent broker dealers and broker dealer services can learn some lessons from advisors like Vaughan who make communication a priority. Earl Jefferson, president of Legacy Texas Wealth Advisors not only sends clients birthday cards, he also sends each client a note to mark the anniversary of his or her signing on as a client and he e-mails them monthly performance reports and links to his blog.
It doesn’t hurt to think outside the box, like Laila Marshall-Pence, a principal of Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, CA. She invites clients to intimate seminars at her office. In addition, she hosts an educational luncheon for all her clients every spring, plus a smaller, swankier party in December for clients who have made referrals during the past year. “It’s our way to say thank you,” she told Financial Advisor.
Building client relationships that are based on mutual respect and trust are more important than ever in this competitive world. Sometimes, taking the time to reach out on a regular basis makes the biggest difference.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group, RCS Capital Corporation’s (NYSE: RCAP) retail investment advice platform.
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