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The ABCs of building effective online client relationships

The ABCs of building effective online client relationships
05-09-23 / Chris Smit

The ABCs of building effective online client relationships

Cape Town - A recent Putnam Investments social media survey found that 21% of financial advisers using social media for business use TikTok, and they gained an average of $6.9 million in client assets. These findings highlight the seismic shift in clients’ growing preference for digital engagements and the opportunity for intermediaries to connect with these clients online. 

Heinrich Punt, General Manager for Intermediaries at Sanlam, and Jacques Coetzer, General Manager at Sanlam Broker Distribution, discuss how intermediaries can pivot from traditional face-to-face interactions to digital communication platforms. 

Punt says, “Covid-19 created a necessity for digital communication tools, from WhatsApp to LinkedIn or even Microsoft Teams, to bridge the communication gap between intermediaries and their clients. In today’s world, your digital presence as an intermediary can be the difference between whether you land a client – or not.”

Here’s how to leverage digital communication tools and effective online strategies for digital client relationship management that reaches a broader audience and extends geographical boundaries. 

Expand your focus to multiple platforms

Punt says in today's digital era, multi-platform communication has become integral in relationship building. He says clients want the freedom to choose their preferred communication channel, from email, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn, to Facebook. So, intermediaries shouldn’t view these platforms as standalone entities or focus entirely on one platform but rather view them as part of an interconnected ecosystem. 

"An effective digital strategy should incorporate multiple channels, from email and website queries to communication on LinkedIn and Facebook. Intermediaries must know where clients congregate and where they can establish connections. Not only does tapping into numerous platforms allow intermediaries to build numerous relationships with countless people simultaneously, but they can convert more digital connections into long-term relationships." 

Digitise operations but maintain authenticity

The shift from paper-based to digital operations is essential for efficiency and relationship building. After all, a digital presence is perceived as competent and modern and attracts and retains clients who value such attributes. However, Coetzer says as much as digital operations are crucial, maintaining authenticity is equally important. 

“Intermediaries must ensure that digital communication retains the personal touch typically associated with face-to-face interactions. They must avoid impersonal and generic messages that could disengage clients. For example, using a chatbot to write your client messages or keeping your camera turned off in video calls isn’t going to cut it.” 

Leverage CRM data for personalised communication

In a world where data is king, intermediaries with digital data and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms stand at an advantage. Coetzer says these platforms allow intermediaries to gain insights into their clients, product preferences, and behaviours. 

“Intermediaries can use CRM data to tailor communication for each client's needs. These insights allow intermediaries to distinguish between a client's personality and preferences.” 

Be intentional and strategic in adopting technology

While it's essential to keep up with digital trends, Coetzer says intermediaries must be careful not to get overwhelmed by the wave of technology. “Not all digital platforms may be beneficial or suitable for your needs. It's crucial to be intentional and strategic when adopting digital tools - determine the value proposition of each platform and how it fits into your overall strategy.”

Digital platforms have opened new avenues for intermediaries to establish and build relationships. However, the fundamental principles of relationship building – authenticity, personalisation, and strategic communication – remain the same. By adopting a strategic and intentional approach to digital communication, intermediaries can address the unique challenges clients face and empower their financial confidence by offering product solutions that are affordable and reflect their needs.

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