Investment commentary writers who lack direct access to clients may struggle to understand what’s on those clients’ minds. This makes it difficult for the writers to address those clients’ concerns in their commentary. What can you do in this situation?
I have some potential solutions to this challenge, which came up in a Q&A session for my presentation on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read.”
1. Ask for feedback from the people with client contact
“What questions are your clients asking you?” This is a great question to ask the people who enjoy direct contact with the investor who use your company’s products or services. Open-ended questions like this may uncover totally new areas of interest and concern.
On the other hand, the question may be too vague to spark a memory among individuals who don’t routinely note client questions. Try asking more specific questions, such as what are your clients asking you about
- Where to invest
- Investments that worry them
- Asset allocation
- The economy
- The effect of new taxes
When you get more specific, consider focusing on timely topics and your firm’s topical strengths.
2. Demonstrate the value of sharing information with you
What if the people in the middle aren’t communicative? A participant in one of my investment commentary programs said, “we ask our financial advisors but they won’t tell us.”
First, asking more specific questions, as I suggest above, may spur better responses.
Second, consider recruiting one person with client contact who can serve as an example of the value of sharing information. I imagine that you can find one person who’ll agree to help, especially when they understand that they’re not one of many people whom you’re asking for help. After all, they may have assumed that other people were feeding information to you.
Warning: If you take this approach, you should commit to following through on writing about at least one of your contact’s topics even if the client questions don’t seem worthy of incorporation in your next commentary.
For example, a client may ask a complex question about an investment strategy that accounts for a minuscule portion of your assets. Unless you can tie the answer to broader themes, it’s probably not worthy of incorporation in your commentary. However, the question rates an answer via phone or email. If the answer potentially has broader applications, you can share in on your website or a Q&A document.
Assuming you turn up a great client question, incorporate it in your commentary and give credit to the person who reported the question, assuming it’s okay with the reporter. Good behavior is contagious, as Chip Heath says in Switch. If you highlight and reward good behavior, more should follow.
3. Find opportunities to hear directly from clients
If you can sit in meetings with individual clients, that’s great. If that’s not possible, then look for opportunities to listen in group settings.
For example, you may send a strategist or asset class specialist to speak at events attended by users of your firm’s products or services. Ask if you can send a second person to attend the event. Observers can record client questions. They can also observe what parts of the presentation most intrigue or perplex the audience. That’s valuable information.
If you’ve successfully tackled this challenge, I’d like to hear from you. Please share your solution.
Image courtesy of sakhorn38 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net