In the ever-more-competitive financial services market, most RIAs are constantly looking for whatever will give them an edge over their competitors and keep clients from moving on. Some will share new insights others will add new lines of financial products, while others will find the answer in technology.

But there’s one area where even the best RIAs can get better: communications. That may sound extraordinarily simple, but it’s true — especially given the fact that relationships play a tremendous role in keeping clients satisfied. If your clients simply see you as someone who offers financial advice from time to time, they’re going to be less loyal than someone with whom they have a strong working relationship.

“Wait,” you protest. “I’m already communicating with them.” But are you doing so as effectively as you could? Are you contacting them in the ways and at the frequency they prefer? Are you delivering the information they want to know when they want to know it?

If you’re using essentially the same approach for keeping in touch with all your clients, the answer to these questions is “probably not” — unless they’re clones of one another. Fact is, every client is an individual with different needs and preferences. Some clients might be busy, preferring to hear from you no more than once a quarter. Others might need reassurance anytime the Dow takes a sharp drop. How they prefer to hear from you differs, too. Older clients might want regular meetings and phone calls, while Millennials might be happier with text messages.

When you focus on sharpening your communications strategy, you’re improving your customer service. By formalizing a plan to describe how you’ll stay in touch, you’re reducing the potential to neglect some clients while over-serving others. Plus, you’ll be able to make more efficient and productive use of your time. Your plan should detail how you’ll connect with each client (or type of client), when you’ll do it, what you want each contact to accomplish, and a way to track your effectiveness so you can fine-tune your efforts as you move forward.

As you develop that plan, keep these basic ideas in mind:

  • Multiple channels. Don’t limit your efforts to just one approach. Not only do different channels work best with different clients, but when you use multiple channels to reach each client, you increase the impact of your messaging. You might use some combination of phone calls, texts, emails, blogs, newsletters, mailings, and in-person meetings.
  • Stay consistent. Stay true to your firm’s image and branding. Even if you’re sending multiple messages on a variety of subjects, make sure they carry the same voice and identity. Clients want to know that you’re still the advisor they chose.
  • Learn from clients. Listen carefully to what kind of information clients want and what questions they’re asking, and then incorporate those messages into your communications. If you’ve heard the same question five times this month, others may want the answer, too.
  • Stay at their level. You’re an expert when it comes to investing, which is why your clients work with you. They probably don’t have your technical knowledge, so when you communicate, do it at a level that’s comfortable for them. Use simple language and practical examples to illustrate concepts that could be complicated and confusing.
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