As competition gets fiercer for accountants and financial advisers, how can you make sure your message gets across to your clients? It all comes down to your communication plan.
Research shows the average adult has an attention span of eight seconds — less than a goldfish — thanks to the rise of smartphones and other handheld devices.1 So when there’s so much noise competing for the limited attention of your clients, how can your firm cut through and be heard?
As technology increasingly shapes how people communicate, it’s more important than ever to create a plan for how, and how often, you connect with your clients. In fact, research shows that the more communication channels an adviser has, the higher their clients’ satisfaction ratings.2
So if your firm doesn’t have a communication plan in place, here’s how to prepare one in four simple steps.
1. Understand your clients
The key to client engagement is to understand the preferences of each demographic so you can tailor your communications accordingly. First up, categorise your client base by age group.
- Baby boomers. Either approaching retirement or retired already, baby boomers need to build trust and a personalised relationship with their adviser, so they prefer face-to-face contact.
- Gen X. Now in their late 30s to early 50s, Gen Xs prefer clear and direct communication, usually via email. They don’t mind an informal approach from their adviser, but they generally despise jargon and buzz words.
- Gen Y. Tech-savvy Gen Ys expect personalised communication through online channels. The best way to engage these 20-somethings is via their favourite device: their smartphone.
- Gen Z. Although you may only think of them as the children or grandchildren of your existing clients, Gen Zs will one day be your biggest target market. They’ve already spent their whole lives in a cyber world — and this will be the only place to reach them in the future.
2. Plan ahead
Be sure to plan your communications in advance, rather than contacting clients on an ad-hoc basis. Start by making a list of all of your regular client touch points, including things like newsletters, updates and seminars. Then, mark on a calendar how many times per year you deliver each one, whether it’s annually, quarterly or monthly.
This will allow you to fill in the gaps with ‘surprise and delight’ communications, including emails, social media blogs and birthday messages. That way you can make sure you’re reaching your clients regularly and through a variety of channels.
Once you have your plan for the year, don’t just set and forget it. Review your plan regularly so you can find new opportunities to cut through the noise.
3. Find out what your clients want
Feedback from your clients can help you understand which communication channels to use. However, many firms tend to make assumptions rather than asking their clients directly.
Next time you see each client, ask how much information they like to receive from you, and whether they feel there’s anything missing from your communications with them. You can even find out if they’d rather to meet at your office or in an informal setting like a café, and if they prefer talking over the phone or via a video call. It’s also worth asking which social media channels they use.
Keep a record of their answers so you can tailor your communication methods to match their preferences, rather than settling for a one-size-fits-all approach.
4. Set your communication goals
Give yourself a clear goal for each client communication by asking why, what, who and how.
- Why are you communicating? Is it a reminder or update, is it designed to educate and inform, or is it asking your clients to take action?
- What is the message? Communicate your key message clearly, so your clients don’t become confused or disengaged. For example, are you offering a service, or is it targeted information on a specific topic?
- Who are you speaking to? Remember that each client segment has distinct needs, so the content should clearly explain how you can help that particular segment.
- How will you deliver it? Think upfront about the most effective way to communicate this particular message. For instance, should it be on your website or social media channels, should it be a direct email to a specific client group or is it worth producing a printed flyer that clients can take with them?
With a well-considered communication plan, you’ll be able to build deeper relationships by keeping your clients engaged all year round. What’s more, you’ll be front of mind for your clients whenever there’s an opportunity for them to refer friends or family.
1 Consumer Insights, Microsoft Canada, Attention spans, 2015.
2 AFA Whitepaper, Connecting with clients, October 2013.