Eight opportunities for advisors to pick up a pen

How actually writing to clients can make you stand out and provide 'high-touch' service

Eight opportunities for advisors to pick up a pen
Bryce Sanders

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. and provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. In this article for WP, he takes a look at how advisors can take advantage of a neglected communication channel – the letter.

“Talk is cheap.”  Years ago, an advisor’s primary communication channel with clients was the telephone.  Today, advisors can interact through many channels including Skype, texting, social media, e-mails and phone calls. Here’s why financial advisors should pick up a pen and actually write to clients.

Years ago, people wrote letters. They had pen pals. Overseas military personnel looked forward to mail call. Today, almost everything in your mailbox is junk mail or bills. OK, magazines too. An overused communication channel has become neglected. This presents an opportunity to bond with your client and get onto their radar screen. Here’s the logic: if everything in their mail is usually bills and junk mail, personal letters, notes or cards really stand out.

Unconvinced? Don’t you pay attention when a formal invitation arrives? It’s likely a wedding. How about holiday cards in December? If you got a birthday card, you would remember it.

Words of warning

Talk to Compliance. Letters and notes are correspondence. There are rules governing them. They might insist on firm branded notecards. Fine. You probably have notepads with your name, title and firm on the top. Whichever ideas you like, check them out with Compliance.

Eight times you should pick up a pen

You will need three types of “stationery".  Your branded office memo pad, probably about 6x7 inches. Hard cardstock notecards with matching envelopes and a third category, travel postcards, birthday, anniversary, holiday and sympathy cards.

Here’s where you have the opportunity to pick up a pen:

1, Your client sends a referral

Take out a cardstock notecard. Compose a note thanking them for referring their friend. You are following up. This acknowledges you are acting on the referral, which should encourage them to send another. The note shows you made an effort. You can never thank people enough.

2, News article about one of their stock

Read the financial papers daily. When you see an article about a stock held by a client, cut out the entire article. Write a note on your office memo pad: “Thought you might find this interesting” is pretty vague. It’s not a recommendation or written advice. Put both items in an envelope. Hand address it and carry it to the mailroom. If several clients own the stock, collect other advisor’s newspapers and cut out more clippings. Do not run off copies because of copyright rules. The actual clipped article is unusual in size. It stands out. The clipping subtly says “Of all the clients I could send this to, I chose you.”  They feel special.

3, Holiday cards

Lots of people send Christmas cards.  Get yours out early.  A manager once explained: “People remember the first card they get every season.”  People display them on their fireplace mantle.  Do everything possible by hand. Handwrite the card. Sign it legibly. If you have a team, they should sign too. Hand address the envelope. Try to use actual stamps. They have staying power.

4, Birthday, anniversary, get well and sympathy cards

Keep a collection of cards. Build a database of birthdays and anniversaries. Check the list a week early. Handwrite everything. Clients are impressed when you remember important dates. They will appreciate the respect shown by a sympathy card.

5, Your non-profit work

You serve on a board. The organization has a gala. They mail out fancy invitations. Pull the envelopes for people you know. Write “Hope you can come” or something similar on the actual invitation. Sign your first name. (They’ll see your name on the board list.) FYI:  It’s tedious, but if it’s done by typed letter, a bunch of board members all writing and signing a note delivers the message “lots of your friends are going.” You’ve signed a few get well cards in the office. You know how impressive it looks. The personal touch should boost ticket sales.

6, Vacation postcards

The categories of friend, prospect and client blend together.  A Northern California advisor would bring a list of addresses on vacation.  He would sit down with a stack of postcards, sending to the entire list. Postcards take no effort to read. It puts your name in front of the friend or client. It makes them feel special.

7, Getting contact information

After meeting someone interesting socially I would like to keep in touch. Offering a business card might put them on edge. You would still like to get your name and profession out there. I like asking: “I would like to keep in touch. How do I do that?”  They might offer a card or write something on a cocktail napkin. I take my business card, write “Bryce and Jane” on the back with our home number.  Often, I write something like “We talked about wine.”  I present the business card handwritten side first, indicating it’s a personal connection.  They have a reminder about why I was interesting, but if they flip the card over, they know what I do.

8, Business letters

A business letter on good quality stationary makes an impression. In addition to hand signing each one, I like to draw a callout line from the salutation and write “Happy New Year” or something else appropriate, signing my first name.  These little extra steps tell the recipient (and anyone opening their mail and screening it) there’s a personal relationship.

You’ve heard the expression “high touch.”  It’s what luxury hotels and high-end stores do. It builds brand loyalty. These are simple techniques you can use to strengthen the relationship.  In this world of texting and posting, it’s unlikely your competitors are penning off notes.