We’re now firmly in the age of Zoom and Webex meetings. More and more advisors are using these technologies in different ways to reach out to their clients. Take the town hall meeting, for example. I love this format in concept, but I usually come away from them with a deep sense of frustration. Too often the execution is lacking, and the potential of this tool isn’t used to its fullest. In almost every instance, the mindset of the client isn’t addressed.

Get the look right

Before we get to the mindset part, let’s get out of the way the video logistics — the “set” if you will. These are visual meetings, which mean the look of the set is important. Yet, I still find many advisors look unprofessional.  In any showcase for your firm, the visual cues are almost as important as the words. Bad lighting, low camera positions, distorted sound and your background are the first things your clients and prospects will notice. This nonverbal communication shows your attention to detail and your professionalism.

Say something your clients care about

I see two types of town halls most often:

  1. Talking head: The lead advisor or head of the firm discusses the firm’s positioning and answers questions from the clients. He/she may start with an economic update, then explain how they see current allocations and trends, followed by what they are doing about it. Typically there aren’t many questions so the advisor rambles on and on.
  2. The panel discussion: A member of the firm hosts a panel made up of other planners. While more visually appealing, the host usually asks the same questions to everyone with very similar answers given by each. The focus is how “we are doing things here at XYZ firm,” with very little client input.

Just showing up and speaking isn’t enough. They’re missing the voice or concerns of the clients — the “why should I care?” 

raised handsHere is an example of what I mean. Last week I watched an “interview” panel town hall. The planner and two of his partners led the discussion via Zoom, focusing on the firm’s commitment to planning, yet 80% of the call was about asset allocation and a belief in diversification. See the disconnect? This is a planning firm, but a majority of the call was on generic investment principals.

These partners shared how they made changes in March because “we plan for volatility in the markets,” and "we routinely reach out to our clients to let them know we were there if they needed us." All nice sentiments, but wouldn’t it be nicer if they had tied the volatility to the planning process with specifics, such as making sure there was enough cash flow to cover downturns? Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had shared details of how they helped clients in March and April?  

Template it. Script it. Prepare for it.

To do the town hall format right, you have to think of yourselves as producing a show instead of getting a group together on the phone. As the producer, all the small details are on you.

  1. Get the visuals right. We are now almost 6 months into the work from home environment.  There are no more excuses for unprofessional-looking video calls. You can fix this now. Last week, I shared a post that discussed growing your business in a virtual and hybrid world. The first section is video basics.  
  2. Focus on your client, not you. What are your clients thinking right now? What questions are they asking? What emotions do they have? What should they be focusing on? Start with understanding their concerns, and then decide how you want to address them. Create a persona, convene a focus group or just call clients in your book. Ask them what they want to hear.
  3. Put together an outline or flow. What do you want to emphasize? What makes you unique, what have you done for clients and how you have helped them? Figure out exactly how and where you’ll make sure that comes out in the meeting
  4. Ask yourself, “so what” after each section. Why should a client care about what you are telling them? What do you want the clients to take away from the conversation? What do you want them to feel?
  5. Create 3 or 4 canned questions for each speaker. These will emphasize the points you want to make, but more importantly it makes the attendees feel more comfortable asking questions if they think others are asking too. 
  6. Rehearse. Ask each other the “so what” question, and give pointers. Do a run-through using the record function of Zoom or whatever system you are using to review your performance. Does it look, feel and sound right?

Using today’s technology to share ideas and hand hold clients in volatile times can be a great way to leverage your time. It’s a great way to invite prospects to see what it is like to work with you. The one-to-many approach shows leadership and a command of your processes and capabilities. Do it wrong however, and you risk your clients tuning you out and ignoring your messaging. Let’s do it right.

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