Guiding principles for virtual engagement
The rules of engagement with family, friends, business associates, customers and prospects have been dramatically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For how long is yet to be determined. But this uncertain period offers an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.
When it comes to personal finances, financial professionals become essential resources for clients and prospects in need of help. They want to engage with financial professionals who can share their expertise through meaningful and relevant communications and customer service.
Here are a few guiding principles to help you prepare for and remain productive with the new rules of virtual engagement.
Make Your Health a Priority
Now is the time to be vigilant and remain healthy for yourself, your family and your business. Heed the advice and guidance of medical professionals and encourage those around you to do the same. Eventually, we will get ahead of this pandemic and conquer it — if we choose to.
Harness the Power of Technology to Remain Engaged as an Office Team
Incorporate video conferencing technology when possible to add extra connectivity. Thanks to today’s technological capabilities, we have immediate access to information and people. Even when most of your team is working remotely, you should schedule regular virtual meetings to address concerns and business needs and lift morale. This includes weekly touchpoints with your direct team — both as a group and through one-on-one chats.
Check in on your colleagues’ life, health and overall situations. Remember to devote portions of your conversations to extend beyond work and clients and ask about life in general. We have seen innovative, fun examples from around the country of how teams are becoming more connected — virtual happy hours, yoga and more — and it has led to happier teams and business growth.
Set Up Virtual Client Meetings
Clients are anxious. The personal touch of seeing a face can help reassure them of your concern and your expertise. Many broker-dealers are offering services like Zoom and WebEx to facilitate virtual meetings. And many of these video conferencing companies are offering their services for free.
Address Risk Tolerance
During a crisis, there is a new normal for risk tolerance. Help clients by re-engaging with them and understanding how this pandemic is affecting them emotionally and financially. Help them reach conclusions that are consistent with reasonable expectations, not irrational and desperate ones.
Engage and Re-Engage
As people feel isolated and the markets swing up and down, now is the time to focus on your clients. The current circumstances can seem overwhelming, but your priority should be to continue engaging with your clients.
During times of crisis, you can never engage too much. Critical moments like this are the most memorable for your clients, as well as their friends and family who do not have an active, engaging advisor. This is the time to build and solidify relationships for a lifetime.
Check in with clients and prospects to let them know you and your team are available to help with anything they need. Be respectful of the challenges they are facing in this environment — be clear that you will be available when they are ready to re-engage.
Build check-in phone calls into your daily routines. Grab your earbuds before you take a walk; it’s the perfect time to call a couple of clients to ask about their health and family. You can keep the conversation light and connect as a friend.
Keep up with your existing pipeline by making calls to your prospects. You can keep it conversational by asking how they are doing, if their company has a plan for social distancing and how it has impacted their work. If there is an existing opportunity, respectfully ask how long the current situation will delay a decision to move forward.
Use a variety of communication channels. Quick notes via email, social media messages and mailed greeting cards are all effective ways to engage.
Adapt Your Communication Style
In urgent and upsetting times, your clients will have a specific communication preference, and you may find that it differs from their typical communication style. It may range from phone, to email, to video conferencing with individuals or even groups. Be sure to adapt accordingly, especially with your top-tier clients.
Keep in mind that much of the demand for your time will be transactional. Take time to create a process for your team and delegate transactional communications as much as possible.
Update Your Website Frequently
Your website is your marketing and informational hub, and one of the first places your clients and prospects will go to connect with you and critical members of your team. It’s important that your site is up-to-date and accurate, especially your contact information.
Add a message to your home page to address the current situation, including:
How you are currently handling appointments
Whom to contact with inquiries and the best way to contact that person
Weblinks to community resources such as school districts and city and county resources
Also add content that will resonate with your clients and prospects. This could include how the coronavirus is impacting the economy, investing in turbulent times, estate planning and business continuity planning.
You may also consider adding a COVID-19 page to your website, featuring information on market volatility and materials on virus updates. This will reassure your clients that you are engaged in the markets and confronting the situation head-on.
Embrace Social Media
Now more than ever before, your contacts will be checking social media channel(s) in search of current, compelling and credible information. Social media is also a communication channel for connecting one-on-one by sending a quick, personal message.
People are on social platforms looking for answers as well as distractions. Post educational, topical content from partners like Broadridge to demonstrate your expertise. You can also share relevant news articles and videos and write posts about what you and your team are doing during this time of social distancing. Make frequent posts, with a goal of posting daily or even several times a day.
Social media platforms have become a first stop for those who are looking for contact information. Take a moment to review your social media profiles to confirm they are up-to-date and provide visitors with a link to your website. Also check your website to make sure visitors can link to your social media profiles.
Continue Sending Emails
In times like these, emails remain an effective and efficient method to communicate with your clients. However, it’s important to be mindful of the frequency of messaging so you aren’t contributing to in-box clutter. Consider sending the following types of emails:
Messages reassuring clients that you are still open for business, along with the best ways to contact you and your team. Within the email, remind them of your website address and encourage them to check your site for future updates.
Thought leadership content, addressing topics such as managing investment strategies for volatile times, risk management and insurance optimization strategies, estate planning and tax planning. Sequence this type of email to go out once a week or when an alert signals immediate communication with your client and prospect base.
Quick check-in emails asking clients how their families are faring and letting them know you are thinking of them.
Work Harder Than Ever
This is an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships or restart challenged relationships and make an impression that will last a lifetime. Engaging at a personal level takes time and commitment but is well worth the time investment.
People feel isolated. They want to engage. Show empathy, check in on their well-being and provide updates of how you are available and ready to help.