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There are three cardinal sins when it comes to communicating with clients: being inaccurate and misleading; being inappropriate and offending; and being dull and boring.

Even if you don’t mislead or offend clients, if you bore them, the time and effort to communicate with clients is wasted. There are six components to doing a great job of communicating online. While some advisors get two or three of them right, almost no one nails all six … and as a result, you aren’t getting the return that you could.

The goals for client communication

Let’s start with the reasons for communicating with clients online. It’s not to inform them or educate. Nor is it to get clients to invest more or to buy a new product, although the right online communication can open the door to a conversation about that new product down the road.

The goal of online communication is to reassure clients between your phone calls and meetings that you’re on top of things, you’re thinking of them, they’re important to you, and finally to reassure them that when there are dramatic headlines, they don’t have to worry because you’re doing the worrying for them.

Of course, for clients to be reassured, they have to actually open your emails and then to read them. Clients will tune out your emails if any of these six elements are wrong:

1. length and frequency
2. format
3. language and tone
4. subject line
5. topics
6. source of content

Let’s look at each of these.

1. Length and frequency – Adapt to reality on the net

At first, most advisors were slow to move to the online newsletters that replaced the paper versions that had historically been mailed out, concerned about client acceptance of an online version. Today that has changed as almost every advisor has moved to the online format.

But here's the problem: If you look at many e-newsletters, the way they're delivered is all that's changed – the look and feel and text-heavy quality of most online newsletters is exactly the same as their paper-based predecessors. That misses the reality of our attention-challenged online world, which obeys distinct rules:

  • shorter communication beats longer communication
  • pictures beat words
  • more frequent beats less frequent

Another change to tap into the potential of the online medium is to build in interactive components, including instant polls that allow clients to compare their views or knowledge with other readers.