It’s fair to say that I’ve been in the advisor world for a good while now and, in that time I’ve seen the way advisory firms communicate with clients evolve considerably. That progression hasn’t been a linear one and we may be on the cusp of another quantum leap.
But in order to understand where things are going, it’s helpful to look at that path....from where we started to what is possible in future. That may help you not only identify where you are on the path, but your next best step.
If you were a historian looking back at a client communications timeline, I think it would come out something like this:
In the beginning…..
At this stage we shared (or share) communications that were, no doubt, well-written and clever and reflected topics that most clients should be interested in... because they are our clients, and we assumed to know what would interest them.
These communications typically focused on topics related to the work you do, including investments, the markets or planning topics. They were appreciated and, very likely, read by clients. And they reminded clients that you were there between formal reviews.
These communications were good - but not great. While they reflected topics of general interest to most clients, they rarely reflected topics of real interest to many clients.
And then things started to change…
Next we applied a healthy dose of informed assumption to tailor our communications, based on what we believed would be of interest to clients.
These communications were a little better because they were tailored to life stage. Rather than sending communications related, for example, to 'planning for retirement' to everyone, we would share that content with those clients within five years of retirement. Seems reasonable.
The communications were similarly appreciated and read by clients and they let clients know you took the time to send them the information you thought they would enjoy.
These communications were better – but not great. They were still based on underlying assumptions about what would be of value to clients.
And better still….
At this point we're at a cross-roads. Many advisors are in one of the previous two stages and some are starting to walk a new path.
Client communications are getting better. Rather than using assumption, we began to let client data speak. Some advisors are starting to gather input on client interests and use that data to focus communications on the topics that are of greatest interest.
This is a big step forward because the communications (at a minimum) reflect the interests of the majority.
Crucially, the topics advisors are pushing out are beginning to extend beyond the purely financial. Once we start to use real input from real clients to drive the content strategy, everything starts to change.
The communications mix starts to focus on the things that are on the minds of clients and those things are often 'non-financial'. Therefore the focus of client communications is increasingly a more direct reflection of some clients’ needs, concerns and aspirations.
This process not only changed the focus of client communications, but the intent. Rather than using communications to stay top of mind with clients, the focus is on demonstrating leadership.
The result: communications become more valuable and are more likely to be shared with friends and family. This leads to more referrals and greater engagement - a big step forward.
But what’s the next stage in this evolution?
This brings us to today. It brings us to a world of more data and contextual communications, where the most innovative firms are taking personalization to a whole new level.
Enter the age of ‘hyper-personalization’, made possible and driven by targeted client data.
A small number of advisory firms are not only capturing input on the needs, interests and aspirations of clients (and even prospects) but directly responding with relevant communications.
Now, client communications not only add significant value but demonstrate that you are listening, that you care and that your client experience is designed to support clients – based on what matters to them, and what matters to them now. Not as a group, but as individuals.
Hyper-personalization is possible when we have good data on clients and the technology to support more segmented client communications.
By connecting data on client needs with marketing automation tools, advisory firms are able to create deep, meaningful and truly personalized campaigns and automations that will resonate with clients’ feelings at that moment in time.
At its core, it’s about using technology to make good on a commitment to actively support clients based on their unique needs and goals. By using client input to inform deeply tailored campaigns and automations, firms are able to do this at a scale and that just isn’t possible without using automation to do the heavy lifting.
How will this new approach affect the landscape of our industry going forward? Right now, it’s hard to say, but watching some of the most impressive firms increasingly investing time and resources into hyper-personalization - I can’t help but think it might be the next big thing…
Thanks for stopping by.
Related: Client Signals: Creating an Early Warning System in Your Business