Client Engagement: How to Make the Most of Your Efforts During COVID-19
“Curveball” — there is not a more perfect word to describe the past 11 months. Businesses and employees across industries have been challenged to leave their comfort zones and adapt to a new way of working. Financial advisors were not excluded from those transformational shifts. For the first time in your career, you may have met with your clients over video conference as opposed to in-person. You may have dealt with a learning curve in conveying the value of your services without the connection that comes with face-to-face conversation.
One thing is clear: our “new normal” (whatever “normal” means) is likely here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Over the past year, you may have realized that a large part of your value as an advisor isn’t always finding the right product or solution to suit your clients’ needs; sometimes, the greatest value you can provide is peace of mind, personal support, a listening ear, and a steady sail through the storm. With respect to client engagement, this is new territory.
As many states see a rise in COVID-19 cases, you will likely need to seize more opportunities to engage your clients creatively in 2021. And unlike the dire days of March, when many of us were blindsided by the sharp course the pandemic took, you’ll be more prepared for unexpected turns of events before they happen.
Below, we dive into three basic strategies that can help you manage future crises and engage your clients in this new world.
Make social media a priority, if you haven’t already
In previous articles, we’ve talked about the importance of meeting your clients with educational, beneficial content in the spaces they frequent online. In the world of the 24-hour news cycle, being proactive on social media is more important than ever — and fortunately, there are tools you can use (think Hootsuite or Sprout Social) to manage and automate social content delivery.
However, it’s not enough to simply post the latest Small Business Administration (SBA) notice to your social sites; you should also personalize your content to engage more with clients and prospects on the issues and questions they care about most.
Whether it is through blog posts or providing your own commentary on an industry article, personal, authentic content drives much more engagement than content created for corporate marketing purposes. Additionally, audiences tend to engage more with personal narratives compared to content designed for generic financial education. This was true before the pandemic, and it is especially true today.
Here are some examples: Have you and your firm volunteered or helped raise money for communities that have been hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19? Be open about your efforts on social media, particularly if you have a strong local focus. Do you serve women in transition as a client segment? Use your social channels to talk about how women comprise the majority of front-line workers, and how they are contributing to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Do these topics directly connect to the product or service you provide? Not necessarily. But current events have changed the landscape — and the vast majority of your prospects are craving a human experience from the professionals they work with. What’s more, next-generation prospects want to see examples of corporate responsibility and foster a deeper connection with the professionals they’re entrusting to manage their finances. And since many people are spending more time on social media to capture updates on current events and the progress of the pandemic, these channels are a great way to engage your community with content that shows your core values and mission — and your true brand voice.
Of course, it’s always important to share content that reflects your ideal clients’ needs and concerns in the financial sphere. But when you plan your social calendar for 2021, make some space for pieces that provide more of a human, personal touch.
Fully embrace virtual communication
Before the pandemic, the idea of introducing virtual communication to financial services firms was prevalent, but many advisors seemed too hesitant to adopt it. After all, our industry is built on relationships, most of which are cultivated through face-to-face engagement.
But everything changed in March when many states started rolling out the first round of stay-at-home advisories. Online classes became the new norm for our children, and FaceTime and Zoom calls became the only way family members could communicate. In an interesting turn of events, virtual communication became the standard.
As financial advisors, you adapted readily, and so many of you have successfully maintained and driven community engagement amid this pandemic through virtual means. Flash forward to today, and the benefits of virtual communication are loud and clear. Not only are virtual meetings more convenient, but they’re also ideal for the busy client who craves flexibility and is always on-the-go. Once the pandemic becomes a thing of the past, you can bet virtual communication will be here to stay.
Now that you have transitioned all of your client and prospect meetings to this new medium, 2021 is an opportunity to get more creative with the capabilities a virtual setting can provide. Instead of canceling your annual client appreciation events, schedule 20- to 30-minute webinars on key questions your clients and prospects may be asking. Create short videos or host Facebook Live sessions to engage prospects and clients in their news feeds. Attend virtual networking events or happy hours with potential centers of influence (COIs) to tap new business opportunities in the new year.
The possibilities are endless; taking advantage of them only requires some out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness to try something new.
Spread joy to your clients — and stop solely focusing on business
One thing the pandemic has made abundantly clear is that we, as human beings, crave social interaction. We need emotional connection and support to thrive on a daily basis. Due to social-distancing measures, your clients — especially those who are older and at a higher risk of health complications from COVID-19 — may be feeling isolated.
Many advisors have upheld the belief that emotional matters should be separated from finance and investing. But the truth is that complex financial issues, such as estate planning or long-term care planning, have become exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. Many families have had to put life decisions on hold or have been forced to deal with matters like early retirement or unexpected death sooner than they anticipated.
As an advisor, your expertise — in both emotional and financial matters — is needed now more than ever. There are plenty of ways you can provide support to your clients who have fallen on hard times and create a rich community they can turn to for help. Consider connecting clients and prospects who are going through similar issues via virtual support groups, where you can discuss the emotional and financial effects of major, unexpected life events. Schedule Zoom social events with your clients to simply catch up and check in on how things are going.
When you bring the conversation away from strictly business and start exploring the real, personal challenges your clients are facing, you prove that you are a valuable and caring resource in their lives — and show that you are someone they can turn to in both good times and bad.
By following these three strategies, you will help your clients and prospects feel more connected to you than ever before, despite social-distancing protocols. And as an advisor, there’s truly nothing better than that.
Want to identify more creative ways to engage your clients and prospects during the COVID-19 era? Contact our team today.