Tag Archive for: client communication

My big newsletter mistake’s lesson for you

When’s the best day and time to send your e-newsletters? My January mistake upset my beliefs about this topic.

My usual routine and its rationale

I usually send out my monthly newsletter around 8:15 a.m. on the first non-holiday Tuesday of the month. I send it early in the day because my Constant Contact statistics indicate that many people open it before 9 a.m. I figure they get to work early. I’m happy to make it easy for them to read before they’re distracted by work.

I picked Tuesday because I’ve read that people are distracted on Mondays and Fridays as they start and end their workweeks.

I publish on a consistent schedule because I’ve read that your audience values consistency. They want to rely on receiving your content regularly.

However, I skip holiday Tuesdays because I figure my audience reads me at work. I hope you’re not checking email on holidays.

My mistake: Sunday delivery

I made my mistake in haste after proofreading my letter the Sunday before my usual Tuesday in January 2013. I forgot to schedule my newsletter instead of letting it default to sending immediately.

Oh horror! I imagined my newsletter languishing unopened in hundreds of email inboxes. I was extra mad at myself because this newsletter was most of my subscribers’ last reminder about registering for my blogging class. I probably cursed out loud that afternoon.

The surprising results

But lo and behold! Over the following days, my newsletter hit its usual level of subscribers opening it. I didn’t suffer at all for sending it at the “wrong” time.

What a relief! I don’t need to freak out the next time my newsletter deviates from its usual schedule. However, I plan to return to my usual schedule because it’s good discipline for me.

What’s the point?

My experience convinced me that Scott Stratten, who tweets as @unmarketing, was right when he said in “The best time never to send email” that “The best time to never send email is when someone else told you to” because what matters is what recipients do when they receive your emails.

On the other hand, Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development may be right that there are bad times, but no best times to send your emails, as he suggested in “Why Today is a Bad Day to Publish Your Newsletter.”

What works for you?

I’m curious about your results from sending e-newsletters at different times. Do some times work better than others for you?

Looks matter: Pick your fonts wisely

Even though I’m a word nerd, I believe that their visual appearance matters to how effectively words communicate. The section on fonts in Improve Your Global Business English by Fiona Talbot and Sudakshina Bhattacharjee reminded me of this.

Fonts matter because the right choice of font makes your material easier to read.

Fonts also convey a message. For example, the authors note that “Times New Roman is readable but can seem old-fashioned these days.” That must be why my friendly presentation pro suggested I switch my PowerPoint slides from Times New Roman to Verdana.

To learn more about what your fonts say about you, check out:

What fonts do YOU favor?

If you know what fonts you use in your communications, please comment. If you’re knowledgeable about fonts, I’d like to learn from you.

Quantitative easing for regular folks: 3 lessons from The New York Times

“Quantitative easing” pops up regularly in economic and market commentary. The term conveys a lot to financial professionals who know the fine points of QE3 vs. QE1. However, it’s likely to make the average American say, “Huh?”

This is why I suggest that you learn from newspapers when you discuss quantitative easing—or other technical terms—in your communications aimed at ordinary folks. I found three techniques in recent articles.

Technique 1: Avoid the topic entirely

Sometimes newspapers avoid the topic entirely, even when it’s relevant. For an example of this, see “U.S. Economy Grew 1.7% During the 2nd Quarter, Topping Forecasts” in The New York Times, which simply refers to the Fed’s “huge stimulus efforts,” which, of course, include more than just quantitative easing. You should consider this technique, too, if the details of the Fed’s bond purchases aren’t important to your discussion.

Technique 2: Discuss the topic, but skip the technical term

Another technique is to describe quantitative easing in general terms, as in the following New York Times headline: “Bond Purchases by Fed Will Continue, at Least for Another Month.” The article described the Fed’s adding “$85 billion a month to its holdings of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities.”

Other references in the article included:

  • “Asset purchase program”
  • “Monthly asset purchases”
  • “Bond-buying program”

In many cases, these descriptions provide enough detail for your readers.

Technique 3: Use the term, but explain it

The term “quantitative easing” didn’t surface until close to the end of the Times‘ “Bond Purchases” article, with the following sentence:

Other economists, including Lawrence H. Summers, a leading candidate to succeed Mr. Bernanke, have expressed similar concerns about the purchases, which go under the label “quantitative easing.”

Because the article had described the purchases earlier, it didn’t explain them in detail in the sentence above. If this sentence were the article’s first reference, the author could have included an explanation something like the following:

quantitative easing, the Fed’s purchase of long-term bonds to help stimulate the economy by lowering long-term interest rates

What’s right for you?

Ask yourself whether your readers need to see the term “quantitative easing.” Perhaps it’s enough for them to be aware of “the Fed’s bond-buying program.

If you’re writing for a mixed audience of regular folks and investment professionals, you may choose to use “quantitative easing.” However, I suggest in that case that you define it on first use and put the term in context, as I did in my discussion of “Technique 3.”

What’s YOUR approach?

Do you use “quantitative easing” everywhere, avoid it entirely, or mix it up?

Need hands-on help with your commentary?

I can write your commentary based on interviews with your investment professionals or based on attribution analysis and other materials provided by you. I also edit commentary you’ve written to make it more compelling and reader-friendly.

If your budget is limited, hire me to evaluate your newsletter and suggest improvements that you can implement yourself.

Financial advisor email tip: Fit it in your subject line EOM

Your email recipients are busy, so they’ll thank you for saving them time by summarizing your message in your subject line.

It could be something like “Need to meet; pls reply by Friday” or “4 ways to save on taxes.”

Informative subject lines let your readers quickly assess whether they should open your email. They can even create a sense of urgency in those readers when you include deadlines or potential benefits to the readers.

If you regularly exchange messages that can be communicated completely in the subject line, consider using EOM at the end of such subject lines with people who know what EOM means. EOM stands for “end of message.” It means that your message is contained in your subject line, so there’s no need to click to read more. If recipients open the email, they’ll find it’s empty. For example, a message might consist solely of “Confirming 4 p.m. meeting at your office today EOM.”

However, EOM will confuse people who haven’t learned about it. That’s why I used EOM only in messages to my employees when I ran an asset management firm’s investment communications group. You may also find it helpful for your firm’s internal communications. Today I use EOM with my husband because both of us like saving the time it takes to click open an email.

I’d like to thank the participants in my Accelus Partners’ Expert Series Interview about email on June 25. Our Q&A session prompted this blog post.

How to help your clients help their aging parents

Your clients’ communications with their aging parents can have a big impact on their peace of mind as well as their financial plan. A family meeting is one way to improve communications, as described by Bob Mauterstock of Gift of Communication in “Breaking Down the Barriers: Helping Your Clients Help Their Parents” at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts on May 16, 2013. As a financial advisor, you can help clients by suggesting they organize a meeting. You can even facilitate the meeting, said Mauterstock.

The family meeting can break down the generation gap and the communication gap, said Mauterstock. Your clients and their parents may not find it easy to talk. Parents belong to a generation where emotions or money weren’t discussed. They may also shun the online communications favored by younger generations. Face-to-face communication may work best for them.

Family meeting participants

The family meeting should take place face-to-face and involve both aging parents and all of their children, said Mauterstock. Don’t leave out anyone. You’ll probably find that one child is the alpha child, most trusted by the parent. In an interesting twist, Mauterstock, who is an only child, looked to his wife as their “alpha child,” needing her endorsement of his suggestions.

Also involve a facilitator as a neutral party. When financial advisors act as facilitators, they can be heroes to their clients, said Mauterstock.

Family meeting agenda

Start with values, not valuables, in your family meeting, advised Mauterstock.

Be aware that aging parents want to maintain control over their lives. Tread carefully. Anything that threatens control will cause parents to shut down.

Start with the parents’ emotional issues. They are wondering:

  • How will I maintain control over my life?
  • How will I be remembered by my children and grandchildren?
  • What do I want to get done whether I’m alive or not?

Other topics for discussion include legal, healthcare, and financial issues as well as the details and location of other key information.

Other resources

Mauterstock is the author of Can We Talk? A Financial Guide for Baby Boomers Assisting Their Elderly Parents. He blogs at www.parentcareplanning.wordpress.com. Among the books in his extensive resource list was David Solie’s How to Say It to Seniors.

Instructions for a bad wife

I’m a bad wife. I confess that I don’t always give my husband 100% of my attention. Maybe not even 75%. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. But in the meantime, you may learn something about communication from my failure to accurately follow my husband’s parking instructions.

Lesson 1: Don’t over-explain

As a financial advisor, you’ve probably given instructions to people—clients, employees, vendors, and fellow professionals—who are distracted as they listen to you. If you give them too many details, they may zero in on the wrong points and make mistakes.

In my case, my husband gave me very detailed instructions about where he wanted me to park my car and why I should park there. It involved our shed, his tires, the garage, and the patio. Since I wasn’t listening closely, I imagined a mistaken scenario in which his tires were in the shed, so he needed me to park far back in the driveway.

If only my husband had said, “Please park in the driveway like you usually do when I need to park on the patio. You can’t park in the garage because…”

Lesson 2: Listen and ask questions

My husband forgave me for messing up, but you may not be as lucky if you don’t listen to the folks giving you instructions.

If you can’t concentrate on the conversation, maybe you should wait until another time to get instructions. Or ask questions to confirm that you’ve understood the instructions properly.

I plan to try one of these two methods the next time my husband asks me to do something for him.


Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shortmail.com: Inspiration, but poor choice for advisors


Financial advisors can learn something useful from Shortmail.com, a service that lets people refuse to receive emails more than 500 words in length.

The lesson? Keep your emails short because that’s what your recipients prefer.

Here’s an exercise you may find useful: copy-paste all of your outgoing emails for one day into a word processing file. Then, calculate the length of each message. If your emails run much longer than 500 words, you may wish to revisit my tips in “How can I keep my emails short?”

However, I don’t suggest that you subscribe to Shortmail yourself. Insisting your long-winded clients cut their emails won’t make a good impression, even if it would lighten your load

Image courtesy of Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Email vs. call vs. meeting with clients

Should you email clients or use some other form of communication?

In my opinion, it depends on client preferences, the nature of your communications, your strengths as a communicator, and your schedule. My thanks go to @Tbmanning who raised this issue in response to my question about email challenges for advisors.

Ask for client preferences

Ask your clients what type of communication they prefer. It’s great service to provide information in the manner they desire. Of course, if you have many phone-loving clients, this may not always be practical.

Consider the nature of the communication

The flurry of advisor phone calls during the 2008-2009 market downturn reflected the importance of “live” interactive communications about serious topics. On the other hand, you can’t get a form signed on a voice call, so send the form electronically or pull it out in person.

Play to your strengths

If you’re a smooth talker with horrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills, then you should favor the phone. On the other hand, if it’s hard to raise your voice above a whisper, go for written communications.

Work with your schedule

I know advisors who have 300+ clients or are so highly scheduled they can’t communicate until late at night. If you’re one of those advisors, you’ll need to favor emails or U.S. mail more than your peers.

YOUR tips?

If you have tips on picking the right form of communication, please share them in the comments.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Outlook Social Connector: A cool email helper

Outlook Social Connector

You can see multiple categories of information using Outlook Social Connector

Better email communication results from a better understanding of the person with whom you’re exchanging messages. It’s hard to keep all of the relevant information in your head, or even to collect it in one place. This is why I like Outlook Social Connector, which I learned about in consultant Bill Winterberg’s presentation on “Transformative Technology You Can Implement Today” at FPA Experience 2012. While Winterberg highlighted the tool as an aggregator of social media activity, I especially like its email function.

Email history display

When I write anything more than a simple email, it helps to see an overview of my recent emails with the recipient. Sure, I can get that by doing a search, but Outlook Social Connector automatically presents that information to me.

Eyeballing this history may remind me of something that will strengthen my email. Another tab shows me attachments we’ve traded recently, which is handy if I want to confirm that I’ve sent the latest draft or invoice.

Social media information

I’ve connected Social Media Connector to my LinkedIn account. When I click on an email, I see my contact’s LinkedIn

  • Photo
  • Recent activity (New connections)
  • Status updates

This helps me to personalize emails to the recipient. For example, I may comment on a blog post link posted by the recipient.

Facebook is also an option

Outlook Social Connector connects to more than just LinkedIn. The most noteworthy other option is Facebook. I wish they’d add Twitter. However, LinkedIn, in my opinion, is the most helpful option for business.

If you’re using Outlook Social Connector, I’d love to hear how it has helped your emails, client relationships, or marketing.

Your investment performance reports are failing you

Sending inadequate performance reports to your firm’s clients can hurt your client retention, says Philip Lawton in Middle Office: Managing Financial Institutions in Turbulent Times

Too many numbers is a common flaw. Clients also need narrative explanations, says Lawton. In my experience, some people can quickly grasp the significance of a chart or table. Most people will benefit from explanation, especially an explanation that highlights the most important data.

Charts that are “busy and unattractive” are also a problem, Lawton says. He suggests that you hire a graphic designer to work with your performance analysis to fix this.

“…over time, ill-designed reports and poorly delivered explanations may damage relationships and erode trust,” concludes Lawton.

Jan. 22 comment by Philip Lawton:

It’s hard to get performance reporting right, but seeing it—and helping compliance officers see it—in the context of client relations can make a difference. Retail clients may be relatively unsophisticated, but institutional clients are typically very busy, and both need clear, meaningful communications. Performance reports must, of course, be complete enough not to be misleading, but too many numbers tend to elicit too many words of explanation; the result may be frustration and, ironically, incomprehension. That’s not the desired outcome!