Client segmentation and scheduled marketing campaigns are key to efficient communications.

“It’s clear from so many client surveys that performance is on the list, but communications is at the top,” said Dan Kraus, a Raymond James advisor and branch manager in West Palm Beach, Fla.

That’s just one reason—albeit a vital one—that advisors carefully consider their client communications strategy. Here’s another one. “Most people look at advice as a commodity, so the best way to differentiate yourself is through your communications and service.”

Kraus is a strong proponent of the 12-month communications plan, a marketing calendar that includes a variety of client touches. “Have it structured on your desktop and make sure you follow though,” he counsels.

Kraus concedes that the most effective way to communicate with clients is face to face, “but time is your scarcest resource, so you’ve got to merge email, phone and face to face,” he says.

Planning is essential because even scheduling client reviews is a challenge. “You can’t meet with 100 households in one quarter,” he says. “So segment your book and split those segments into thirds.”

For example, Kraus might have 30 A client, 90 B clients and 110 C clients. He’d split the A clients into A1, A2 and A3, and do the same with the other groups. The A clients get quarterly reviews, so he’d meet with 10 of those every quarter. He meets B clients every six months and C clients annually, also scheduled into the first three quarters of the year. He saves the fourth quarter just for A clients, the other groups having already been dealt with.

By better coordinating client reviews, Kraus has more time for other communications. He sends out a weekly market analysis, penned by Raymond James’s chief investment strategist, conducts monthly campaigns and sends out a quarterly letter on the market that he has pre-approved by compliance.

Monthly campaigns are based on themes. January’s campaign is about planning for the coming year, for example, whereas February’s is about collecting 1099s and preparing for taxes. “We keep on track and in touch with clients so I can delegate a lot of it to my assistant,” Kraus says. “These campaigns are more service/planning oriented, which gives me a reason to get on the phone with people.”

Two years ago, “I used to come in without a game plan,” he says. “My goal for November was to put in five client calls per day about tax trades or swaps. These calls add value and let clients know that I’m thinking about them, and that can lead to more business. November is also the holiday season, so I’d ask clients whether they want to have a family meeting.”

Now his communications plan is scheduled, Kraus says he has more time for other activities. He’s also a branch manager, so the system allows him to stay on top of those duties while staying productive on the sales side.

“I encourage other advisors to do this because it’s really in their best interests,” he says. “Those advisors that use this system here have found it valuable.” One advisor even turned the plan around and used it to let clients know that this level of communications is what they should expect from him and that he expects them to make themselves available for quarterly meetings.