One of the traditions of modern schools that totally escaped me when I was growing up is “Back to School” night. For those of you my age (or older), “Back to School” night is an evening near the start of the school year when parents go to their children’s school and talk to their teachers. It is a great way to have our expectations set, get a better insight into the school environment, and build a relationship with our children’s teachers. So last week, I was firmly squeezed into my 4th grade son’s seat, listening to his teachers describe a typical day and week. I struggled in his chair, but I smiled and pressed on, knowing that my wife was across the hall sitting in our 2nd grader’s much smaller chair.

Don’t know much about history…

As I was listening to conversations about “Just Right” reading materials and math homework, my mind started to drift (just like my entire school experience). If “Back to School” night is good for our kids’ success, it would be great for an advisor’s practice.

Think about it. When is the last time you had a back to school night for your clients – when is the last time you tried to reset their expectations? With the markets up over the last six years, when is the last time you tried to disassociate yourself with performance and focus your clients’ attention on planning?

Raise their expectations

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Staying Seaworthy: How lifeboat drills prepare clients for market downturns. While the premise for that post is just as important now as it was then (if not more important), that’s not what I am talking about here. (I think those life boat drills are best served in a one-on-one discussion.) What I am suggesting here is that that clients need to be reminded of who you are, what you do and what they can expect in their relationship with you. They need to hear what services you offer, and what types of communications you send out, as well as hear about your client service process. In short, you need to set (or re-set) their expectations and they need to hear it now, instead of when the markets are correcting. They need to realize that while the markets are good, that is not the only thing that you do. And we all know it’s better time to set expectations with a client, when things are relatively good, not when they are rocky.

Some ideas to get you started

Here are some ideas about how you can create a back to school night for your clients:

  • Create a one page list of services or put them into a slide presentation. Highlight services or processes beyond money management to show the depth of your organization.
  • Try a “town hall meeting.” Set a date in the next few weeks for clients to stop by and hear from you (and your staff) about services, processes and what you are doing to behind the scenes in your business.
  • What about a webinar? Similar to the “town hall,” this format allows clients to dial in and hear from you and your staff. The best part is that you may be able to record it and share with clients who could not make it.
  • Snail mail – while not as powerful as in person, you can make sure (by following up) that everyone has seen or heard from you about what you are doing for them.

No matter what format you use, make sure clients have a clear understating of the value that you add to their lives. They are going to want to associate you with the markets; your job is to show them you do so much more! My only suggestion is that you use adult size chairs… you don’t want your clients thinking about their business, instead of yours!

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