crossing-the-line

Every time you reach out to clients, they judge the value of your service.

They're busy, so contacting them too often can get you labelled as a stalker; but how do you know how much communication is enough?

Many advisors say they call or email clients every three months without fail to review portfolios, but one advisor boldly told me those with more assets get about 50% more attention.

Another says he communicates with the same frequency, regardless of asset base. He argues clients are hit with financial news 24/7, so getting the real story from an informed professional helps calm nerves. Of course if a client explicitly says "back off," he does.

But instead of waiting to be told, you should try being proactive.

Ask clients how often they want to hear from you. And, unless they make comments clearly showing they don't understand their holdings, abide by those requests.

Of course, when markets make major shifts you'll have to contact everyone. Give clients the good (or bad) news immediately if it affects their portfolios.

Another area where you can make use of opt-ins is with e-newsletters and client appreciation events. Do you like being automatically added to email lists? Likely not, so don't do it to your clients.

Asking these questions teaches you about their interests, so you can segment your communications. Maybe a client wants to learn more about ETFs. If you publish a monthly e-newsletter on the subject, she's a perfect fit for that list.

Sometimes, in face-to-face meetings, clients may be too polite to tell you they've got the information they needed and are ready to leave. So be mindful of body language (see "Take a hint," right).

If you notice a client's eyes glazing over, or if she looks haggard or stressed, she's probably not paying attention. Maybe things at work are difficult or a sick parent kept her up all night. Pick up on cues and gently suggest scheduling another meeting so the review can really sink in.

While you're being courteous, give clients a heads-up on the next time you plan to get in touch. Try an appointment card or reminder email—much like a dentist does. A prepared client is in the best position to take in, and act on, your advice.

Learn more ways to provide great service. Read: Man or machine? >

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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