Advisor Client Contact Methods: Bad, Good, Better, and Best

Written by: Charles Merwin

Clients know when we are being lazy. Half-baked attempts to stay in touch make them cynical about our level of “personalized service.” That’s because all proactive contact is contact, but not all proactive contact is equal.

There is a hierarchy to contact methods. However you manage your client outreach, don’t forget that the lowest-grade contact methods will breed the highest-grade contempt. 

The hierarchy, from lowest to highest:


These are usually put together by your firm through automated client contact software. Some people write their own – if it is sent to hundreds of clients, it is a canned message no matter who wrote it.

Pro: It is easy to do, and it makes us think that we did something.

Con: It is easy to do, and clients know it. Such messages carry little weight when someone complains that you never reached out to them.

Who it’s appropriate for: Either for no one, or for everyone. There is nothing wrong with a standardized email to everyone so long as it is not your primary means of staying in touch. If you think that it DOES qualify as a true contact, you are wrong.


Personalized content in an email that includes the recipients name and something relevant in the subject line. 

Pro: It can, and should, take as little as a minute or two to compose and send. 

Con: It’s still email, which means that there is a high likelihood it will go unread, and if read it will probably be forgotten. Email is the easiest way to try to get something across, but the hardest way to actually get it across!

Who it’s appropriate for: Anyone – it is a legitimate, if basic, contact. It’s even better if you include invitations for follow up (such as “If you want to talk about this, then…”) or actually follow up yourself.


Mail, the old-fashioned kind. 

Pro: Relatively cheap; 2 quick personal sentences in legible handwriting plus a pretty picture on the card – what can go wrong? Most importantly – cards are attractive so they stay on the kitchen counter for a spouse, neighbor or wealthy relative to see and ask, “who sent this?”

Con: It is easy to do wrong. Mailing label instead of hand-addressed? Wrong. Corporate mail postmark instead of hand-attached stamp? Wrong. Just signing the card instead of writing something? Wrong.

Who it’s appropriate for? Anyone you care about impressing. If you don’t care about impressing someone, don’t send them a card.


Unscheduled or scheduled, either way it is a quantum leap up the hierarchy.

Pro: Undeniably personal, live, human contact. If you catch them at a bad time, you get full credit for the effort and can set a time for another call. Unlike an email, a call can be conclusive and get some business accomplished.

Con: Prep time (bringing up account information, thinking through conversation) is wasted if they don’t take your call. To prevent this – don’t do all the prep. You are better on your feet than you think (you bring up client info on demand all the time). 

Who it’s appropriate for: Every good client (A, B or C) every quarter or so. Never appropriate for proven jerks. They are the ones for whom science created email.


Standard, usually annual gifts. If they are not edible or beautiful, then they should be practical.

Pro: Easy to control who gets them and when. Good gifts tend to stay on the kitchen counter, even longer than a personal card, and elicit the same million-dollar question: “Who sent this?”

Con: Expensive, particularly since it becomes an expectation that you send a gift each year. It is standardized so clients think of it is a corporate perk, therefore appreciated but expected.

Who it’s appropriate for: Fewer clients than you think – basically any client who you like and would like to replicate. A turd who gets a box of chocolates from you is still a turd, so don’t cast your pearls before swine.


The best advisors I worked with in 2020 and early 2021 continued to meet with clients, even when it meant social distancing, Plexiglas barriers and masks. Conditions have improved since then.

Pro: Clients appreciate the time you are giving them. Face-to-face meetings are special. Scheduling a meeting or visit gets you double credit: once for the scheduling call, and once for the meeting

Con: Dealing with masks and distancing. The other con is that meetings are hard, they require preparation. Just like clients know when something is easy, they also know when it’s hard and they appreciate it.

Who it’s appropriate for: Those few clients who need or want it. Top clients should get the offer at least twice a year. It is also the decent, human thing to do when a client has lost a spouse or parent, gone through a divorce, etc. It is a joyous thing to do when people become empty nesters, ponder retirement, or meet a critical financial objective.


What? Better than a face-to-face meeting? Yep. These are the gifts like a crystal decanter for a wine-loving couple’s 25th anniversary, or an invitation to join you to see the  orchestra, a rock concert or a pro ball game.

Pro: This shows that you know them, you like them, and you care. Like other personal cards and gifts, this has HIGH “counter” factor and will get your clients talking about you to others in their circle.

Con: Expensive and hard to top, there is always the threat that they will expect you to take them to see the US Open every year. It’s worth the risk.

Who it appropriate for: Maybe a half dozen or so of your best clients every year. Also, do it for at least one “pro-bono” situation a year: treat a client who is in the dumps like a superstar for a day, or if you know someone who volunteers with needy schoolkids, take some of the kids to the a top grade cultural or sporting event.


  1. Send condolence cards (and go to funerals for clients and their family whenever possible)
  2. Send get-well cards when you hear someone is ill
  3. Send congratulations cards when a child or grandchild arrives

Related: 12 Advisor Conversation Starters for Holiday Parties