It’s a hard truth to face, but the fact is the way many advisors communicate with clients is broken. Just because it’s always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always work – or – as we say for investments, “past returns are not always indicative of future success.”

It all started last spring when we burned all our Potomac brochures. As in literal 🔥

No, we weren’t closing up shop. No, they weren’t misprinted. But rather an interesting advisor communication launched us headlong in a direction we didn’t (at the time) know we needed to follow.

We won’t reprint the entire email here, but suffice it to say this advisor vehemently expressed his disdain for our communication model. He found our “humor” and “wise characterizations” inappropriate and didn’t enjoy the way we handled video communication. He expressed that he would prefer “detailed, informative reports that are drilled down with facts, not humor {sic} funny talk.”

We were most certainly taken aback, but they say disruption is often the genesis of change and the catalyst of growth. For us, this feedback helped us solidify the way we wanted to communicate with our clients.

We are very intentional about how we communicate here at Potomac, and we believe how you communicate is an opportunity many advisors don’t fully realize.

“May I Ask Who Is Calling?” – Choosing Your Voice Over Industry Speak

The aforementioned exchange caused us to deeply evaluate both how we were communicating with clients, as well as how we would proceed in the future. Ultimately, we had to decide, will we be true to our voice or adopt the same industry talk that we had been taught to use?

You would probably agree that most of us brought up in this industry were taught, by our mentors, to always be vague in our financial content. Undoubtedly, compliance has much to do with this, along with the fact that you never want to claim your word is absolute truth.  This is the way Wall Street has communicated for decades.

The unwritten rules said: Don’t use “bull or bear.” Don’t talk about extremes. Don’t commit. Fall somewhere in the middle. Lean on ambiguous phrases like “possibly,” “maybe,” “likely” or “unlikely” to get by and cover your back.

While we are always careful to be remain compliant, this roundabout way of relaying information didn’t align with our vision of how true, honest, and genuinely helpful communication should be. It wasn’t transparent.

The result? We decided to stay the course with our voice and vision. We didn’t change who we were as a result of this email, but rather decided to double down on our method. We knew that this integrity would be rewarded both by our clientele and our wider audience.

We blew the door wide open on our mission to be transparent. We refocused our messaging. And ultimately, this disruption helped us take the next ten steps in the direction we had been only tiptoeing into up to that point.

Why is Advisor Communication Broken?

What we always knew yet continued to witness over this past year was that consumer expectations had drastically changed, and rightfully so. Even from as recently as ten or twenty years ago, the way we live and operate daily is different.

Information, goods, and services are available to us 24/7/365 in the palm of our hand. We can order food, send money, host video chats, pay our bills, stream movies, and check in on our dogs at home all with a decent internet connection. The way we navigate our world today is so very different it would have sounded outlandish to us a decade or two ago.

To no one’s surprise then, this new way of living has trickled down into the way consumers want to interact. How many memes have you seen about the nuisance of a phone call? Or jokes made about using paper checks? Today, people are even inconvenienced by wearing pants because theoretically you can get away without formal bottoms on Zoom calls.

This all points to the same conclusion:  the way advisors communicate with their clients will have to evolve or that advisor risks future loss. Clients pass away, they choose other advisors, their objectives change—there is continual attrition in any book of business. To remain relevant, you must evolve with the times and meet clients where and how they want to be met.

Planned Content vs. On-Demand

Our world moves faster than ever. Can you keep up? For many of us, the answer has been no. But we know that in order to continue thriving in this industry, we have to be able to adapt to these changing expectations.

In the past, advisors have relied heavily upon planned content. They know each quarter they’ll write a market review and each month they’ll send out a newsletter with some tips and timely reminders.

But this type of planned content can be very limiting. Not only does it take you a long time to create, but it can quickly become irrelevant. How many times have you written an article or update you then have to edit or throw out because events occurred post-production that completely negate your content?

Our resolution has worked remarkably well. We pop open our computer or set up our phone to record an update, screen share some relevant charts, then insert that video into an email and hit send! Not only is this type of communication timely, but it also doesn’t take much time to produce. You can do it anytime from anywhere.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not dressed to the nines. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a fancy intro or outro. What matters is that you’re pushing out relevant information when it needs to be pushed out! That is the greatest value you can provide on an ongoing basis.

As advisors, this is a great service you can provide to your clientele and prospects. Ease their minds if a correction occurs. Give them your opinion on inflation when it’s making all the headlines. Keep them abreast of how tax and legislative changes could affect them in the future. You don’t want to lose clients or prospects to advisors who aren’t afraid to be vocal when it matters most.

Gated Content vs. Transparency

Another trend we’ve embraced that has helped us gain significant traction is “un-gating” our content. Of course, this follows along with our personal vision of making things as simple, transparent, easily accessible, and on-demand as we possibly can.

We have seen it work remarkably well first-hand both inside and outside of Potomac. Let’s take webinars as a prime example. Creating a webinar, promoting a webinar, paying for social media ads to gain registrants, and sending out a sequence of six to eight emails throughout the process is ultra-time consuming. Then, half of the registrants don’t even show up. And the reality is you have a handful of client-facing activities that need to handled weighing heavy in the back of your mind all the while.

Here’s a novel idea: why not just record the webinar, send out the link and resources, and give your audience the information they need without all the fuss? The whole idea is to create trust with the content and education you are providing. Approaching the “webinar” in this way still fulfills the goal of earning trust but does so without wasting your time and without asking your audience to jump through hoops to get it.

The challenge for the advisor does then become making the content enjoyable enough to be so well received that the audience wants to reach out and give you their information without your having to ask for it. One tip to accomplish this is to let your client questions guide the subject of your content. Chances are that the questions you are currently getting are shared by others in your network who could benefit from seeing it in their newsfeed or having it sent to their inbox.

Stepping Up to the Plate

Overall, our content marketing vision at Potomac has evolved. What started out as a more structured approach with quarterly and monthly newsletters—which again can limit the efficacy of your communication—has transformed into “What can we do to make things as simple and accessible as possible?”.  The important thing is that the information is provided when and how it will add the most value.

The first step in crafting your new client communication model is always the hardest, but rarely (if ever) have we seen advisors regret taking the leap. As you roll out some new methods—whether that be through email, video, or social media—make sure to get client feedback. Ask what their preferred mode of communication is after having implemented some new techniques. You may just find that this is the nudge you’ve been needing all along.

Fresh out of ideas?

We invite you to join us and steal a page or two out of our communication playbook. Subscribe to our podcast below to receive the kind of timely updates we’ve been describing here. If something resonates with you, give it a try yourself. The more advisors we can help, the better.

Disclosure: This information is prepared for general information only and should not be considered as individual investment advice nor as a solicitation to buy or offer to sell any securities. This material does not constitute any representation as to the suitability or appropriateness of any investment advisory program or security. Please visit our FULL DISCLOSURE page.