I hope you've had a chance to read Client Communications 2.0, a feature-length article in the May issue of Financial Planning magazine. I was pleased to interview several of the nation's top financial advisors and leading lights to learn how they think the Internet and social media are impacting client behavior and expectations.
The bottom line is that living in a wired world has created a new breed of informed, socially engaged buyer. Let's call him or her Client 2.0. This client is more prone to use social media (as well as friends and colleagues in the physical world) than advertising and company promotions to inform their decisions about products and services.
But the digital world is creating wired clients who need the personal touch more than ever.
This is good news for advisors like Scott Hanson, CFP, CFS, ChFC -- who runs Hanson McClain Advisors, a large RIA and financial planning firm (2,800 clients and over $1 billion in client assets under advisement) with partner Pat McClain from their headquarters in Sacramento, Calif. -- and it should be for you, too.
REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE
“If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we need to communicate with our clients frequently and, just as important, communicate with them in the way they want to receive that communication,” says Hanson, “Our firm has always had a system in place to ensure that we reached out to our clients on a periodic basis, rather than just waiting for them to call us when they needed something. Some clients receive quarterly calls, while other clients prefer only an annual review. We’ve used client relationship management tools to systematize this process so we don’t have to review client lists when we think communication is important,” Hanson adds.
Keeping clients invested in a portfolio that best suits their needs is not an easy process, according to Hanson. When times get tough, they begin to lose faith in the markets, in the economy and in their financial advisor. “Having the right kind of communication with them can not only inform them of topics we think are important, but can also help in building their belief and credibility of what we can do for them,” Hanson says.
LET THEM HEAR YOUR VOICE
Hanson and his business partner, Pat McClain, have done a weekly radio program for the past 16 years. “This show has done wonders for attracting new clients, but it’s also been helpful in communicating with existing clients,” Hanson says. “During the midst of the financial meltdown in 2008, we conducted a couple of ‘market update’ radio programs and we invited our clients to tune in to this special broadcast; but rather than just rely on our radio listeners as we had in the past, we invited our clients to listen by sending them invitations through email and snail mail. Plus, we made a copy of that program available to them on our website.”
PRINT STILL HAS A PLACE
In addition to the radio program, Hanson McClain has implemented some other forms of communication. They continue to send out “market update” letters to their clients when the markets are in a bit of turmoil. Last year, they added an in-depth quarterly investment newsletter that contains detailed information about the economy and the markets. “We found that some clients appreciated the high level approach of our market update letters, while others needed more specifics that were highlighted in our investment newsletter,” Hanson says.
ADD NEW MEDIA TO THE MIX
Realizing that technology has changed the computer to a media interface, they have now started doing a video quarterly newsletter. Those who prefer to watch TV rather than read newsletters or listen to the radio can watch an interview with Hanson and the firm’s chief investment officer. “The video feature is by far the most time consuming and most expensive of our outreaches,” Hanson says. “We go to a television studio and use professional production folks to make sure our videos are high quality,” Hanson says. “Because so much of our ‘product’ is perception, we believe it’s important that all of our communications are of high quality, including our videos.”
ENHANCE YOUR REPUTATION WITH PR
To reinforce client perception, Hanson McClain also hired a public relations firm to help get their message out to both existing and prospective clients. “The PR effort has been very helpful for us,” Hanson says. “We’ve been quoted in numerous publications. We always inform our clients when we’ve been quoted in a newspaper or magazine. We also list all our media mentions on our website for others to see. This enhances our reputation and our visibility – something that’s especially important during troubling times like the ones we experienced during 2008 and 2009,” Hanson says.
HELP THEM SIFT AND SEE
Has Hanson noticed anything different about his clients and prospects over the past 3 years? “People’s risk tolerances have definitely changed,” he says. “This past decade has not been good for equity investors and many of our clients have told us that they cannot take another downturn like they had in the past. They just don’t have the same appetite for risk.”
Regarding the speed of information and ability for people to be constantly connected via smart phones, tablet devices, computers, television and radio, Hanson says: “I’m having a hard time seeing that the ease of accessing information has been beneficial to investors. One would think that the information age would help people make wise investment decisions, yet tremendous bubbles of tech stocks and housing occurred during times when just about everyone could gather insightful information within minutes. If advisors can get their clients to pull away from the media for a few moments and take a long look at the history our great country, they’ll see that we’ve gone through fabulous periods and horrendous ones. Basically, we’ve gone through economic cycles. This miserable period we are in will one day end and we will again move forward to new and better times,” Hanson asserts.
BUILD A WELL-OILED MACHINE
While you might think that Hanson and McClain are busier than one-armed paper hangers managing and producing all of the client communications and business management activities above, they have mastered the art of building a great team. They company works like a well-oiled machine. "With 2,800 clients, it has to," Hanson says with a laugh.
STUDY OTHER SUCCESSFUL ADVISORS
But while they are all about client service and delivering a great experience, they continue to emphasize that they are in the marketing business, not just the financial planning and investment advisory business. For several years now, they have been coaching other advisors on how to emulate their success through Hanson McClain Retirement Network, a marketing network and training program for like-minded advisors.
On top of all this, Hanson and McClain still lead balanced lives. While technology has allowed them to stay connected 24/7, they schedule time to disconnect and focus on leisure pursuits, sports, charity work and family time. One of Hanson's recent trips to the Grand Teton mountains for a family hiking expedition was featured in the local news paper after a lightening storm created a harrowing experience for Hanson and his family. Curious? You can read about it in the Sacramento Bee.
If you have missed any of my other Marketing Maven blog posts, please skim the archive of articles below. "The Eyes Have It" (my last piece for Financial-Planning.com) has some great examples of how you can use visuals and electronic new media to build your brand.
Marie Swift is a nationally recognized consultant who has for over twenty years worked exclusively with some of the industry’s top financial institutions, training organizations, investment advisory and financial planning firms. Her “Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry” blog provides additional insights and advice. Find it at www.marieswift.com. Get breaking news at www.twitter.com/marieswift