Email best practices for advisors

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Inbox overload? Five ways to improve your emails—so clients read them

In recent months, an industry that has thrived on personal relationships and face-to-face interactions has had to adapt rapidly to a more virtual environment. Email is likely an integral part of your communications toolkit. With less opportunity for traditional in-person meetings, it's more important than ever to fine-tune your email skills. 

Most emails fall into one of three categories: 

  1. Formal business communications or correspondence, such as following up after virtual or in-person meetings.
  2. Marketing communications intended to entice clients or prospects to engage with you. An example is an email providing updates on tax changes and their potential impacts on financial plans.
  3. Personal notes that give you an opportunity to check in with clients or congratulate their family members on occasions such as birthdays or graduations.

Keep the following email best practices in mind to ensure your message hits home:

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Strike the appropriate tone

Composing email messages that have just the right tone can be challenging. Your clients expect you to act professionally, but that doesn't mean you can't express your personality. As you write an email, consider the same things you would if you were meeting in person:  Strike a balance between professionalism and empathy to demonstrate your expertise while showing you understand your clients' needs. Avoid becoming overly promotional. Most importantly, review your email before you hit send. You might even read it out loud to ensure your words truly convey the tone you intend.

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Use clear, specific subject lines

A good subject line can be the difference between a message that spurs a response and one that gets immediately deleted. Keep subject lines short and relevant to your clients' needs. Many clients are likely to see your message on a mobile device, so keep subject lines at about seven words or 40 characters.1 Compare "Will new tax rules affect your heirs?" with "New tax legislation may have implications for some estate planning clients," and think about which you'd be more likely to open.

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Timing is everything

The ideal frequency for emailing clients is far from an exact science. It's important to contact them enough to stay in touch. But emailing too frequently could lead your clients to get email fatigue and ignore you. When in doubt, ask them directly—many clients prefer to be emailed no more than weekly or monthly. 

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Meet your clients where they are

While email is convenient, it's not universally appropriate. Discussions about sensitive personal information should always take place over a more secure platform, such as an encrypted video chat, a phone call or an in-person appointment. Even when content is appropriate for email, you might find your clients would prefer to read it in other places—industry statistics suggest they probably receive over 100 business-related emails per day2. Sharing content, such as commentary, through social media may reach clients when they're more receptive. 

You know your clients best, so pay attention to their individual preferences for how you communicate with them. If you you're not sure, ask them. They'll likely appreciate that you did. 

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Don't forget the details

Before you hit send, remember these quick tips:

  • Proofread. There's nothing professional about misspellings and grammatical errors—and your clients may even mistake your message for email fraud (fraudulent emails frequently include careless errors).
  • Tie up loose ends. Before you hit send on a reply, make sure you've addressed all your client's questions—nobody likes asking for three answers and only receiving two.
  • Include a call to action. Be clear and direct about what you want your clients to do and why it's important. 
  • Revisit your signature line. Make sure your signature includes up-to-date information about how your clients can contact you, including via social media channels or text. Be sure to remove any numbers you aren't currently using.
  • Personalize when possible. Email can feel impersonal, so ensure your email sounds like it's directed to the person who will read it, versus a one-size-fits-all message. 
  • Make the email easy to read. Organize your emails into bite-sized chunks. Use bullets or numbered lists when possible and try to keep things short, so your clients can see the contents at a glance without having to scroll. 
  • Use attachments sparingly—and securely. Attached materials can be easily overlooked—and recipients who are worried about malware might avoid them altogether. Limit the number and size of attachments as much as possible. 

What you can do next

  • Keep these best practices handy to help you craft even better emails and find more ways to help clients feel valued.
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.