Have you got your communications right?

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A tool has been developed to help advisers figure out whether the communications methods they are using properly targets clients of different ages.

Zurich and the Association of Financial Advisers partnered to develop the interactive iPad and desktop app, which is available for use now for all Zurich-aligned advisers and through the AFA website for a fee.

The app was based on Zurich-sponsored research by the Beddoes Institute, which found evidence for advisers to optimise client relationships by tailoring communication to particular generations.

The researchers talked to 530 clients for the white paper ‘Connecting with clients – solving the communication matrix for financial advisers’. They discovered how each age group prefers to deal with their adviser, such as in a formal meeting in office or catch-up over coffee –which Gen Y likes – or just over the phone. 

Three key messages emerged from this white paper – the first being that advisers need to think about their communication mix in terms of one‑to‑one and one‑to‑many communication as each requires different methods of delivery.

Secondly, advisers must tailor their communication strategy to suit the needs of the generations they are working with as each generation has unique and different preferences, and finally, consider how many channels of communication are being used and how often.  

Zurich Life and Investments head of marketing, Richard Dunkerley, told Wealth Professional he is surprised at the high number of financial planners who say they do not tailor their communications mix to a particular segment of clients.

“They just believe in a one-size-fits-all. But the reality is FOFA has put a lot more pressure on advisers to articulate their value proposition, and we’ve seen advisers pay a lot more attention on aspects of their business they did not think was so important in the past.”

The “real beauty” of the app is that it is easy for busy advisers to use, Dunkerley said.
All advisers need to do is enter their current client mix – for example 20% Generation Y, 50% Generation X and 30% Baby Boomers – into the app, plus the communication method used, and the app will calculate how many clients are reached with that communication method.

The app also calculates relationship strength and whether the communications mix is likely to prompt clients to refer you on to others.

Advisers can then add the communications channels they are not using, and see the figures adjust.

One trend the researchers identified is that digital is the way to go across all generations. This does not have to mean a big shift to social media, but email communication and mobile phone apps should be high on advisers’ list of things to work on, Dunkerley said.

And if you have a website: “We see very few advisers who have optimised their website for mobile. No one wants to do the ‘pinch and zoom’ anymore,” said Dunkerley.

While Dunkerley did not want to go into exact figures, the app cost “tens of thousands” for Zurich to develop, plus the research sponsorship costs.

What’s in it for Zurich then?

“We’re in a market which is increasingly characterised by fairly homogenous product offerings on a fairly tight production schedule, where any advantage you might have disappears after a few weeks,” Dunkerley said.

“So the game these days is about working with advisers to truly assist them as business owners. We work with them to help create value for their clients.

“Ultimately there’s a higher purpose and that’s letting a greater proportion of the population access financial advice, and letting advisers deliver what their clients want.”

Dunkerley is confident advisers will get good use out of the app.

“I think this is a first for the industry, but based on interest levels so far I think it’s going to be very well received.”

AFA Adviser of the Year Jenny Brown put her practice under the microscope while the app was being tested.

“The simulator has broad applications across our business but has proved particularly valuable in tailoring a communications strategy for a new group of clients recently acquired from another business,” she said.

“It has also shown us which channels work best for events or campaigns with specific client segments, helping us maximise impact and minimise wastage.”