In late August 2015, Wall Street suffered a major loss with the Dow opening 1,000 points down. The ripple effect was felt far and wide - and caused widespread concern for anyone with money in the stock market. For most people, understanding the scope of the day’s impact was not immediate. Sure, there was coverage on the news and articles in the newspaper, but the direct effect on their finances was unclear – was their 401K depleted? Was their investment account salvageable? Would they be able to retire in 10 years as planned?
The confusion around August’s plummeting Dow was unusually high, but not an uncommon scenario for those financial advisors whose phones predictably began to ring off the hook. Given the diversity and sophistication of the products about which you must be informed, it’s no easy task to be able to answer all of the questions each individual client has, but it’s further complicated by the need to immediately understand how external events like the stock selloff impact decisions and options…and then communicate that information quickly, intelligently and compliantly across an array of clientele. How can you do this successfully and, in turn, differentiate yourself from your competition and grow your business?
Here are some tips that will not only prepare you in advance of stock market events, but will also help you find more clients:
- Establish a cadence of communications before a crisis. The worst time to have the conversation about their investments is when the market is fluctuating dramatically and your client is panicking. After all, how many clients have said they’re high risk and in the market for the long term, only to get cold feet when the market crashes? Rather than waiting for the panic to start, establish a regular cadence of communication with your clients to reassure them that their investments are safe, and you have them covered. People are looking for guidance, and you have the insight they need to make the right decisions for their needs. Rather than being reactionary, you can take advantage of market “down time” to share your knowledge and educate your clients.
- Adapt your communication to the client Clients’ preferred communications channels, formats and frequency are as individual as the people themselves. Some may prefer social media communication or text messages while others will prefer email. Still others will want to consume information on their mobile devices while on the go. For advisors using social media for business, the number of networks used and the frequency of activity are directly proportional to asset gains. Advisors who stated that they use four social networks and are active on social media almost every week attributed a total of $1.2 billion in new assets to their social media efforts, compared with $80 million gathered by the advisory group using only one network three times a month.
- Communicate on three levels. Also consider that not every message is ideal for every customer. To manage this, divide your communications into three different levels:
- 1:1 – personalized communications specific to the individual
- 1:many – tailored content based on particular characteristics or needs (such as retirees)
- 1:everyone – messages for all of your clients, such as recent market trends via LinkedIn. Advisors who stay top-of-mind by regularly posting articles and other updates are seeing gains.
- Remember that less is more. We live in a sound bite world, where we statistically have been found to have shorter attention spans (eight seconds) than goldfish (nine). With that in mind, keep your communications short, so they’re easy to digest and understand. Package the content in a format that makes it easy to consume regardless of what device your client is using to read it.
- Be timely and informed. With those soundbites on every screen and radio wave, we are victims of 24 hour news cycle and the effect it has on our clients’ psyche. Even severe crises typically only maintain headlines for 24-48 hours before market turns. That means you need to package up relevant content in a timely manner so clients don’t have to hunt for, aggregate and analyze it. Provide it to them in their immediate moment of need…and head off that frantic 5am phone call.
- Apply context to content. Show that you really care about your client’s needs by providing the context they need to understand the content. Every customer is different. Context lets you make an impression because it’s more personal to their needs, whether they’re a business owner or an investor.
Like it or not, market volatility is a reality of the world we live and work in. But being able to provide content in context to your clients to help them wade through the uncertainty will help you gain trust and establish stronger, longer-lasting relationships in a relationship-driven business. Along with establishing yourself as a go-to resource when the market takes a nose dive (or other volatile moments), you just might also see an uptick in referrals as people gravitate towards advisors who have their backs in good times and in bad.
Ric McConkey is managing partner at Financial Media Exchange (FMeX)
Brian Cleary is chief strategy officer of bigtincan