September 19, 2011

Top Tips for Effective Client Newsletters

It’s another touch point for advisors and their clients, so it should be done right

“When it comes to staying in touch with clients, many financial advisors swear by the simple, age-old dictum: publish or perish,” writes Charles Passy in The Wall Street Journal.

Passy notes an increasing number of advisors publish reports or bulletins for clients and prospects delivered via email or snail mail.

“Each report tends to have some basic points in common,” he explains. “They all share a few investing or planning ideas, and offer some perspective on what the markets have done of late. They also try to forge something of a personal connection with readers. Some will do this by passing along a good recipe, others by telling a (hopefully) funny tale.”

The goal is to use the newsletter as a marketing tool, to cement your expertise in the client’s mind and therefore gain “wallet share” or referrals.

Passy identifies a few from around the country that are doing it well:

1). Dunavant Wealth Group

dunavantwealth.com

Mandeville, La.

The newsletter: Dunavant Dialog published quarterly and sent by regular mail to about 270 clients and prospects (also posted on the company's Web site). Each report typically runs four pages and includes an E-Insight column by firm principal Eric Dunavant.

Time/cost to produce: It takes two to three weeks to research, write and create an issue, he says, working in tandem with the firm's public-relations agency. The last issue ran about $1,000 in production and mailing costs.

Publishing lessons learned: The newsletter "has been an effective way to introduce new staff members to our clients. They may not actually see the team members regularly, but they [become] familiar with them," says Dunavant.

The lighter side: Sudoku puzzles and recipes are sometimes included. The last Dialog featured tips on how to make a pizza on the grill.

2). Absolute Investment Management

www.absolute-im.com

Bethesda, Md.

The newsletter: The Absolute View, published quarterly, is sent by email to about 1,500 clients and "anyone that wants it," says firm principal Michael Lebowitz. Each issue runs eight to 10 pages and focuses on a topic, such as Japan, gold, agriculture. Plus, "we always end with a summary of the markets and major asset classes," he says.

Time/cost to produce: One to two weeks. Costs are minimal. Electronic publishing is cost- and time-effective, Lebowitz says. "At times, our ad hoc messages are time-sensitive, which is another reason snail mail would be tough," he says.

Publishing lessons learned: It pays to create your own content and offer a singular point of view. "We do not believe in canned reports," Lebowitz says. "Clients come to us for our views and opinion, and we believe that giving them less would be wrong."

The lighter side: The firm also sends out intermittent short missives and calls them "A Shot of Absolute," playing off the name of a popular vodka brand.

3). Mark J. Snyder Financial Services

markjsnyder.com

Medford, N.Y.

The newsletter: The Synder Report is published quarterly and sent by regular mail to 1,000 recipients, including clients. It runs eight pages in color and includes a Quarterly Market Review and "Dear Friend" letter from Snyder, plus stories on various investment and planning topics, from commercial real estate to long-term care insurance.

Time/cost to produce: The time required varies (the company works with both a writer and a graphic artist). The cost averages $1,700 for each newsletter, including postage.

Publishing lessons learned: The paper you use says a lot about your firm. "We use 100-pound, gloss paper because it lasts long, is durable and retains color and shine very well. A poorly assembled newsletter will give the recipient a poor impression about you," Snyder says.

The lighter side: Each report includes personal news about staff members (and their families) and clients alike.

4). Milestones Financial Planning

www.milestonesfp.com

Mayfield, Ky.

The newsletter: Headlined by the firm's name and the tagline "Serving up financial planning and investment advice with a dash of fun," this monthly newsletter is emailed to 2,000-plus recipients. Regular features include an introductory column from firm owner Johanna Fox Turner, a "Fund Find of the Month" and a "Tip of the Month," plus market commentary from independent financial writer Nick Murray.

Time/cost to produce: It takes up to two days to produce. Costs are minimal, but she offers a $50 Amazon.com gift card if readers find an incorrect link (so far, no one has claimed the prize).

Publishing lessons learned: Design, an eye for detail and humor are key, says Turner. "I don't consider myself a talented writer," she says. But, "I do think my creativity makes up for it."

The lighter side: More recipes. Among the latest: slow-roasted bruschetta, which she says came about from too many gardening friends supplying her with extra tomatoes over the summer.

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