Our financial adviser is smart and analytical and diligent, but that’s not why we picked him. We interviewed other smart, analytical and diligent advisers before making our choice.
The deal-maker for us was the way he communicated.
It wasn’t that he was more articulate or charismatic than other advisers we’d seen. He just listened better, answered our questions more clearly (without making us feel stupid), and took the time to help us understand what we needed to know about investing. Trusting him was easy. We believed he genuinely “had our back.” We needed that; we were rebounding.
Our former adviser had not been forthright with us, had not listened to our concerns, and had responded to our questions with talking points instead of honest answers. It cost us. It also made us wary of other financial advisers. Trust was a big deal for us. It still is.
We’re not alone. People want to trust their financial advisers like they want to trust their doctors and childcare providers. Having a bad experience or hearing about someone else’s bad experience make it hard to rely on those we need to rely on the most. Advisers know this. Fiduciary relationships rest on trust.
Our adviser won our trust because he was honest and forthright. He didn’t lose sight of our pain points or personal goals, and he used stories and examples to help us see what we needed to see. These are communication skills. They are effective. But they need to be sustained beyond the first meeting.
Digital content is an often-underutilized resource for advisers wanting to use communications to cultivate trust in advisory relationships over the long haul. It supports the interactions you have with existing clients and helps you connect with prospects, but if it’s going to boost confidence and undergird trust, it needs to be responsive, personal, clear and consistent.
Here’s how to make sure your digital content is doing what it needs to:
Show that you’re listening to your clients. Serious listening can be hard. But you can’t communicate well if you don’t listen. Good content is relevant. It shows that you not only hear what your clients say but can read between the lines. Most importantly, it confirms that you care about their concerns and pain points.
Listening allows you to be proactive about answering questions that many of your clients won’t ask. For instance, discussing fees or negative returns can be awkward, but that doesn’t mean your clients don’t have questions. An e-newsletter or informational e-mail addressing declining profits, or an explanation of your fee structure on your website can shore up client confidence, reassuring those who might otherwise slip out the back door without asking questions.
In the same way, a short piece clarifying areas of confusion on statements or an article recognizing trends in the economy that might be causing trepidations shows an awareness of your clients’ potential pain points. These kinds of communications open the conversation, invite interaction and demonstrate transparency. They naturally build trust.
Use content that serves your clients and prospects. It’s not that your clients don’t care about your qualifications and accomplishments or aren’t interested in your investment philosophy. It’s just that they are people and people care mostly about what concerns them directly. The goal of your digital content should be to serve people, not impress them.
People want their questions answered, their problems solved, and their goals accomplished. Identify and anticipate their needs so you can work within compliance to offer engaging content that provides the answers, solutions, and expertise they want. That builds trust and confidence. It also gives them something tangible to forward to family and friends who might benefit from your knowledge.
Personalize your content. Your clients want to hear from you. That is, you, yourself. Not that generic educational articles or videos you send on subjects that might interest them or post on your website aren’t good. They can be very good. It’s just that your clients want to hear from you personally. They’ve chosen you to be their adviser or are considering it. Your insights and expertise are important to them. So is your attention.
Your website and other digital content should be relatable, relevant, and recognizable. When people read it, they should hear your voice reflecting your perspective, your passion about what you do, and your concern for them.
Your adviser voice is what you hear in your head when you think about your clients and what they hear when they meet with you. It is distinctly you, and it is powerful. Use it, even if it’s just adding a short note prefacing why you’re sending a helpful link, generic article or video. You don’t have to write a lot, just let them know you’re involved in the process.
Be clear. You need to connect with people if you want them to trust you. Avoid lofty language and platitudes. They don’t connect. If you’re trying to sound important, you’re going to look stuffy. Know that. Nobody connects with stuffy.
Avoid jargon. Be direct. And simplify complex concepts. Use illustrations, examples, and stories to make things clear. Like you, your clients and prospects are inundated with information. They don’t have time to sift through sloppy content or unravel complicated syntax.
If you don’t have the budget for a copywriter or editor, take advantage of online editing tools. The Hemingway Editor is a free app that uses a readability scale to help you simplify complex sentences, avoid wordiness, maintain an active voice, and identify common errors. Lower grade level scores indicate greater readability. Another favorite editing app is Grammarly, an online editor that allows you to download your document, customize editing options, and correct errors.
Be intentional and strategic about delivering digital content. I have not met an adviser who doesn’t have ideas about content. Most would like to update website copy, maintain a regular blog or e-newsletter, optimize social media interaction, publish articles or reports, or even create an e-book, but feel paralyzed by compliance and limited by budgets and hectic schedules. Digital content seems important but not that important. It’s easy to let ideas about improving or developing your content drop to the bottom of the list.
It’s true. Compliance requirements can complicate communications for financial advisers, but they shouldn’t prevent you from engaging your clients and prospects. Compliance doesn’t limit honest, straightforward communication. Don’t let it hinder you from developing communication channels between you and your clients and prospects.
It’s also true that digital content is an investment. It takes time, money and work to make authentic connections. But doing it shows your invested in your clients, which builds your business. Digital content is that important. It shows you’re committed to your clients.
If you’re serious about engaging more effectively with your clients and prospects, you need to be both intentional and strategic. That means developing a realistic plan and thoughtful strategy for publishing your content, then investing the time and energy to see it through.
- Set realistic, attainable goals. If committing time and resources to create or redo the content for your website feels overwhelming, try implementing a plan that allows you to do it in one-page intervals over a specific period. If you have the idea but not the time for a research article or report, create an outline and break down the parts over a stretch. It might take you six months to write, but you’ll do it. Small steps can make a significant impact.
- Develop a communications plan that can grow with your business. For instance, if after you’ve updated its content, you find people spending more time on your website, start creating reports or downloadable articles that people can access when they provide their email address. Once you’ve begun building an email list, start sending regular e-newsletters or blogs using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to track client interaction and segment lists.
- Be strategic. Good digital content is very strategic, but it’s also client-centered. Inbound marketing, the latest trend in marketing, is not about hammering keywords into your text but about solving problems for humans. It uses analytics, social media, and other digital resources to help people access the specific information they’re looking for. Developing a good inbound strategy and investigating digital marketing strategies for advisers is key to getting your content to people interested in what you have for them.
- Be consistent. If you send a monthly e-newsletter, publish it every month at about the same time. People will expect it, even if they don’t have time to read every issue. Before committing to writing a blog, be aware that blogs need to be published at least once a week to make an impact. Don’t start a blog, if you can’t commit the time and resources to keep it going over time. If you use Twitter to facilitate regular engagement with your clients, tweet regularly. You are building relationships, and relationships need to be consistent. Keeping an editorial calendar with topics and publication dates can help you to stay on track.
Whatever you do with your digital content, be intentional about using it to ensure that your clients see that you’re transparent, engaged and available. That builds trust.