(This blog can also be found at the FPA Practice Management site: http://practicemanagementblog.onefpa.org/2014/10/16/performance-reporting-the-plans-tangible-evidence/)
As humans, we have five senses allowing us to have a first-hand, physical experience with this world. The more tangibility in our relationships, the more connected we become as our brains write memories of an experience’s sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches. The converse is true too, the fewer senses engaged, the less memorable (or meaningful) the experience.
A client is much more able to recall details of a face-to-face meeting than the words written in an email or heard in a phone conversation. Making lasting memories has a high ROI shown through clients’ satisfaction and loyalty.
While professional services are inherently intangible—advice/counsel/wisdom—we transform this intangibility into a physical or tangible experience when we meet a client face to face, send a handwritten note or produce a document. Think of it this way: the more an experience is tangible, the more lasting the memory.
“I Want to Meet with You”
The Oechsli Institute and Cetera report, “The Practice of the Future,” listed clients’ expectations for meeting frequency.
In a world growing accustomed to arms-length, digital relationships, the wonder of the advisory business is almost 70 percent of clients expect to meet with you at least twice per year. This is a marvelous invitation to create tangible memories.
“Here’s What I’d Like to Talk about When We Meet”
What do clients most want to hear at these meetings? Investment performance. But, more specific to this question: “How’s the investment solution working to solve my needs, anxieties and aspirations?”
Many pundits express discomfort with a focus on short-term investment performance, but this concern misses the point that the investment program (defined in all forms from taxable and tax-deferred portfolios, to trusts, to insurance products) is the execution element of the wealth plan itself. In other words, without execution, the plan—in all its potential influence—is meaningless. While the race is a marathon, a runner takes the first step and then monitors the pace beginning with the first mile.
In my previous post (Neutralizing a Client’s Negative External Influences), I highlighted a couple studies that identified investment performance as the most common reason why clients stay with an adviser. Whether misdirected or not, clients expect to hear about investment performance at every client meeting.
Meetings Are Memory Makers
In the same Oechsli/Cetera study, 63 percent of clients said they preferred face-to-face meetings (33 percent wanted phone calls; only 4.7 percent wanted e-mail). Clients want you to be personally and physically engaged, and when you do so, you produce a richer sensory experience. These meetings are memory-making opportunities, pure and simple.
Making Memories with Performance Reporting
As investment performance is an expected topic at these meetings, the performance report is the tangible delivery tool. Too often performance reporting is treated as an accounting task and not the relationship-building tool it truly is. Consider these tactics to make performance content memorable.
- Report presentation. Make sure your performance reports are attractively visual (sense: sight) with quality paper (sense: touch). The presentation of colors, graphics and text represents your firm (and the money a client is paying).
- The plan summary. The financial plan directs the meeting’s agenda and a one-page summary of the plan’s key elements is always the foundation for talking about performance (sense: hearing). By reviewing the plan at each meeting, you continually reinforce this point: “Your needs are the focus of my attention.” It’s really a simple formula: A. (focus on the client’s needs) + B. (illustrate the investment solution’s connection) = C. (understanding and satisfaction result).
- Performance summary. The “planning with execution” linkage guides a performance summary. People primarily understand dollars, and while statistics matter in assessing relative performance, this is a secondary focus to always answering a core yearning: “Am I on track to having enough money to do what I need and want?”
- Investment performance content. Each performance page must have a purpose that draws a clear line from the content: “This page matters to you because … ” If you can’t draw such a conclusion from the page’s headings, text and graphics, then it should be excluded.
Performance reporting isn’t really about investing’s mechanics. It’s actually a reflective process on the plan’s execution. Each time you tangibly connect to this construct, in conjunction with your physical presence and high-quality reports, the client’s mind imprints these thoughts: “My needs are understood.” “Results are happening.” “I’m on my way.” Any meeting with such outcomes creates reinforcing memories.