Client Communications and Current Crises: What’s an Advisor To Do?

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The New Year’s market volatility gives me an excellent opportunity to explore a question I am frequently asked by evidence-based advisors:

When the markets are having a bad day (or few), should I reach out to my clients right away, or hold off until the results are more clear?

I get that there are a number of reasons it may seem logical to pause and reflect before sending out client communications in the midst of a market crisis:

  • You might inadvertently generate anxiety where none existed. If you’ve done your job, they should already be remaining calm.
  • If your clients haven’t noticed the crisis or they don’t care about it, they already are best positioned to adhere to their long-term, evidence-based plan. Why mess it up?
  • Either making too light of breaking news or analyzing it too deeply could backfire on you if the markets render your comments obsolete or just plain wrong.
  • Reacting to breaking news may feel contrary to your evidence-based philosophy. Are you sending the wrong message by implying the news matters?

Go Ahead, Hit the Hero Key

So, yes, I can understand why you may be reluctant to be in touch with your clients during market crises. But here is why I believe that none of these bullet points should prevent you from doing so anyway.

Imagine you are in a relationship with someone you admire greatly. You value her opinion. You respect his advice. You enjoy speaking with this person about all sorts of subjects, because you always come away inspired and enlightened by the conversation. When the address or Caller ID indicates that this special person is reaching out to you, you can’t wait to open the e-mail or take the call – before you even know what it’s going to be about.

Isn’t that exactly how you want your clients to think about you and your advice? Under these circumstances, there would never be a bad or wrong time to be in touch with them. Every reach-out would only further strengthen your valuable and valued relationship.

So, rather than thinking of market crises as worrisome challenges that you must oh-so-carefully manage with or for your clients, I recommend thinking of each one as a huge opportunity to show your clients that you intend to be there for them, come what may. Just as there is never a bad time to say “thank you” to someone you appreciate, is there really ever a bad time to remind your clients that their well-being is your top priority?

Instead of focusing on when or how often to reach out to your clients, my advice is to reach out to them whenever you have even the most minor excuse to do so … and then make sure that what you have to say reconfirms what they hired you to provide them.  By focusing on the quality instead of the quantity of your communications, neither you nor your clients will ever be sorry that you’ve been in touch.

What does a relationship-strengthening, broadcast communication look like?

It’s clear and consistent.

No matter how many times you may have said it before, if you say it well, you can always expect it to be well-received.

It’s informative.

I don’t mean you have to knock anyone over with your probing economic analyses. A communication is informative when you are able to share one or two key points that recreate that “ah-ha!” moment – the one that sparked their commitment to evidence-based investing to begin with.

 It’s caring.

Recipients should feel as if you are engaging them in a thoughtful exchange versus lecturing or chiding them. It should acknowledge and empathize with the doubts or concerns they may be having, but also give them an upbeat way to resolve them – which is (hint hint) where you come in as their valued advisor.

It’s as personalized as possible.

When sending a broadcast e-mail, you may want to include a personalized salutation or follow up with individual phone calls as appropriate.

The final challenge to reaching out to your clients during a market crisis? That would be finding the hours in the day. I can empathize with that! Fortunately, I have a way to help you resolve this challenge. The Wendy J. Cook Communications Content-Sharing Library offers timely, customizable messaging to help you craft your special reach-out messages. And it’s available to you 24 x 7.