One of the most effective contributors to a compelling investment management marketing message is a well-demonstrated client service function.
Perhaps the most important way firms can demonstrate value-added client service is with a great year-end letter. This is a timely discussion, because right now most in the investment management industry are busily conducting their year-end performance and attribution analyses for 2015. As a result, the investment management client service function is as busy now as it will be all year, working to explain what happened last year and why.
Before sending that letter out to clients, take a few minutes to ensure that you’re offering clients, and thus prospects, something fresh and interesting for the new year.
Some ideas include:
Optimize your Title. “2015 Year in Review” is about as bland and uninviting as it gets. Find a quote that encapsulates the year. Cite a statistic. In a few words, describe the year from your firm’s viewpoint. Do something that says to the audience, “This will be worth your while to read.”
Create an engaging email subject line. Most year-end letters are sent out via email these days. Be sure the email subject line is one that will capture the attention of your clients; in other words, one that does not shout, "DELETE ME!" Best practices include:
- Keep it under 70 characters.
- Don't just describe what it is, try to suggest the value to opening the email and reading its contents: "Oil, Elections, & China: What's in Store for 2016."
- Avoid passive words and phrases.
Sending the letter electronically? Know that PDFs and other documents that will be read on a computer, tablet, or phone should follow the same rules as website content:
- Get to the point quickly by writing in an inverted pyramid style;
- Write shorter, skimmable paragraphs, with no more than one idea per paragraph;
- Employ a simple sentence structure, with few, if any, compound sentences;
- Use bullet points, headers, and subheaders to break up large blocks of text.
Respect your audience. Remember – the vast majority of your clients haven’t been waiting for your letter like they’ve been waiting for the new Star Wars movie.
In other words, make sure that you account for the fact that your audience is busy, and whose predisposition is to simply skip right to the performance numbers.
Thus, be sure to give them a reason to actually READ the contents of your letter. As such, it must provide conext for the year's performance, as well as provide concrete support for your firm's claims of differentiation. Do so by:
- Create a narrative. Tell a story. Begin at the beginning, and write with the end in mind. Explain. Educate. Enlighten. Delight. Be different and better than you’ve been in the past about rehashing the events of the year. 2015 was an interesting one, and 2016 looks to be even more unpredictable.
- Show you understand. In other words, make sure the letter isn’t entirely firm-centric. Every point made, every argument offered, should be in the context of one simple set of ideas: “What are my clients worried about? What keeps them up at night? How can my letter assuage those concerns?"
When you account for your audience in ways such as this, it decreases the possibility of your leaving out information that’s important to them. Conversely, it also helps you to…
Be a ruthless editor. Respect your audience’s time. Understand they are busy and reading your letter is more likely to be done in haste than leisure. So don’t use four sentences when two will suffice. Tighten up your prose. Be as succinct as possible, but…
Connect the dots. Explain what you did in the past, how it played out into 2015, and what it means for YOUR CLIENTS in 2016.
Tell a self-deprecating joke. You aren’t curing cancer or solving the problems of global warming. It’s investing and is often as much an art as it is a science. Acknowledging that fact and having a bit of fun at your own expense humanizes your firm and makes you more relatable.
Good luck with your annual reporting and I hope 2016 marks another positive step forward for everybody!