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If The Medium is the Message, What Message Are You Sending?

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By David Mehlhorn, Redtail Technology

In 1964 Marshall McLuhan introduced the world to his famous formulation, “the medium is the message”. If you’re unfamiliar with McLuhan or his impact on the study of media theory, he argued that the technology (or the medium) used to transfer information changes us over time, as much as or more than the actual messages being transferred via those technologies.

Sound farfetched? Then think about this. One of McLuhan’s arguments in support of his theory was to encourage his audience to consider the transition from oral cultures to print-based ones. In oral cultures, the dominant sense organ (for receiving information) was the ear; once a society has transitioned to print-based, the dominant sense organ (for receiving information) has become the eye. This is a pretty radical transformation of human beings themselves, totally independent of the actual information being presented via either oral or print-based means. 

What does this have to do with client communications for advisors? Quite a lot, actually, as the mediums by which you attempt to communicate with your clients tell them a lot about you before they even digest the content of those communications. 

CHOOSE YOUR MEDIUM WITH TWO THINGS IN MIND

Successful advisors recognize staying connected with their clients is essential, and successful connections require they be equipped to communicate with clients using the channels their clients prefer. 

So, how is your office doing on this front? Which communication channels are you currently using? Could you create more successful communications with your clients by meeting them in the communications channels where they live? 

I’d argue there should be two primary considerations in regard to medium when reaching out to a client to share or request information:

  • Have they indicated a communication preference to you, either explicitly or by example (how they typically reach out to you)?
  • Which medium is best suited to the content to be delivered?

The above assumes, of course, you’ve established a way to use the communication channels under consideration in a compliant fashion. Outside of this concern though, client preference and a channel’s suitability in context of the message to be delivered are everything. 

As but one example of determining channel suitability, if you need a client to know something immediately, or need some information from them quickly, an email is probably not going to be the best way to go. Hint: a text is absolutely the best way to go in this situation. 

DON’T BRING POCKET CHANGE TO A HIGH STAKES POKER GAME 

Recent studies tell us 99% of texts get read and get a response within three minutes. According to Constant Contact’s February 2018 numbers, emails, by contrast, are only opened an average of 17.62% of the time across all industries and, if they are responded to at all, it’s highly unlikely to occur within this three-minute timeframe. 

Texting is not just the default medium with the young either. Even those in the 55+ age bracket are texting at a rate of around 500 messages a month, which should prompt the resounding conclusion that the time is NOW to incorporate texting into your communications arsenal in a way that meets regulatory and compliance requirements! 

If you don’t have a compliant means of texting with your clients, you’re going to increasingly find you don’t even have the ante to sit down at the table with them. 

WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT YOU IF YOU IGNORE CLIENT PREFERENCE AND CHANNEL SUITABILITY? 

A client’s preference for how you communicate with them should always be taken into consideration, first and foremost. If they’ve told you they always prefer a phone call first, then attempt to call them prior to reaching out using other mediums. To do otherwise is to create doubt in their mind that you’re listening to them about other things as well. 

If a client has indicated they are open to phone calls, emails and/or texts, dependent upon the situation, you should use the medium best suited to the message. Which medium conveys the necessary information in the least disruptive and most effective fashion, while also reaching the recipient via the channel reflective of the message’s urgency? This is the one you should use. And, for many of the types of communication that pass between advisors and clients today, a text works best, as it is both the quickest and the least disruptive method of conveying necessary information. 

In short, if you’re ignoring client preference and channel suitability for the message in question, you’re giving up ground to competing advisors who realize how you say something (the medium) is often just as important as the message itself. 

REDTAIL NOW OFFERS A COMPLIANCE-FRIENDLY TEXT SOLUTION FOR ADVISORS

To learn more about Redtail Speak and how your office can meet clients’ increasing expectation of real-time communication via texting with their advisor, see our video here.

Want to learn more about Redtail? Join us on one of our weekly webinars!

 

 

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