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Dan Richards

Ask advisors whether they value their clients especially top clients and care about their future success, and you’ll get a funny look wondering what you’ve been smoking. The answer is so obvious that the question isn’t worth asking.

But ask clients the corresponding question and the response is often quite different. Yes, their advisor would regret the loss of revenue should they leave, but beyond that many do feel taken for granted at least a little bit. Ask how much their advisor cares about the relationship and their success beyond the profits they represent and even more uncertainty creeps in.

The message is clear: Just caring about clients and valuing relationships isn’t enough.

Clients have to know you care and know that you value relationships. To the extent that clients don’t perceive this, in the words of Paul Newman in the Oscar-winning 1980’s movie Cool Hand Luke: What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

I’ll describe what my experience has shown to be the best approach, but first here are two traps that advisors typically fall into when attempting to create value in the eyes of their clients.

Trap one: Doing more of the same

The first trap is relying on doing an outstanding job to make clients feel appreciated.

One approach is by focusing on the deliverables you’re paid for –developing better financial plans, researching investment alternatives, reading and attending conferences, finding better ways to rebalance portfolios. 

A second approach is to ramp up client communication – increase the frequency of reviews, call to check in more often, host more breakfasts or send more newsletters.

The challenge with both these approaches is that by focusing your efforts here, you’re generally delivering what clients expect for the fees they pay - Of course you’re going to do a great job of researching investments, building portfolios and communicating .

Forget the fact that you do a far better job on these than most other advisors; all too often by doing more of the same, clients may feel reassured they’re getting what they pay for, but they don’t feel they’re getting more than what they pay for.

And it’s getting more than what they pay for that makes clients feel appreciated and valued.  Don’t stop doing an outstanding job on delivering value in your day-to-day process and in your client communication; in fact these may be a core part of your value proposition in keeping existing clients and attracting new ones. It’s just that for many clients, this isn’t sufficient for them to feel truly valued.