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How Being Efficient Makes You Less Effective
By Dan Richards
January 22, 2013

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Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dan Richards

Technology allows us to communicate with existing and prospective clients more quickly and easily than ever before. All you have to do is put everyone’s email address in your system, craft your message, press the send button and you’re done.

The problem? While that communication is efficient, it isn’t necessarily effective. That’s because in the escalating volume of emails that we all get, anything that feels like an impersonal mass message risks being ignored.  The challenge is to meld efficient communication with personal touches that stand out and set you apart.

Here are three examples of how efficiency gets in the way of effective communication:

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Phone invites to client events

I recently spoke to an advisor let’s call her Liz who for years has hosted regular educational sessions for her clients, typically held over the lunch hour and after work. Feedback on those sessions has been consistently excellent and the format of the invitations hasn’t changed – a high quality “wedding style” invitation is mailed to clients.

Despite the positive response to these events, the turnout had been in a steady decline – especially among her top clients.  A couple of years ago, Liz surveyed clients to ensure the topics were ones that people were concerned about and began sending email follow-ups in addition to the mailed invitations. They got a bit of a lift as a result, but turnout still wasn’t what they’d been used to in the past. 

Then, early last year Liz made a couple of changes that led to a dramatic improvement in attendance, especially among her most important clients.  First, just before the invitations are mailed out, Liz and her team call as many clients as they can, with a special focus on top clients. If they don’t get their client, they leave a simple message:

“Dan, I’m calling because we’re just mailing out the invitations to our next lunch on February 18. The topic relates to new ways to make your charitable donations work harder, I know this is something you’ve expressed interest in before. Just calling to give you a heads-up on this and to say that we hope you can join us.”

Then on the invitation that goes to that client, whoever called the client will write a short personal note, along the lines of “Looking forward to seeing you on Feb 18”  or “Hope you can join us on Feb 18.”

In talking to Liz, she acknowledged the extra effort involved: “It was much quicker and easier when all we had to do was mail out invitations. But I’ve come to realize that if we want busy people to come out to our events, we have to work harder to attract them than in the past.”

If efficiency is your main goal, then calling clients and writing personal notes on invitations is a mistake; this certainly makes the process less efficient. But if effectiveness is your standard for success, then taking the extra time for personal contact in a less efficient manner is a sacrifice that’s well worth making.

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