Writing a letter to clients struggling through a financial crisis and health scare is hard. Really hard.
You need to cover the right talking points. You need to manage clients’ emotional response. You have to strike the right tone and use words and imagery people understand so they’ll hear your message.
And you need to get it out quickly because there are a whole lot of other things to do.
So, here are seven messages that worried clients need to hear. And if you don’t have time to write your own letter, swipe what you need from the sample email below.
7 messages to convey to clients
1. You’ve already made smart, responsible decisions in managing your money, and those wise decisions are protecting you now
Clients get anchored in the present. They forget the early work you both did to allocate assets, diversify risk, and build a plan.
Remind them that their portfolio is based on proven investment protocols designed to manage risk and protect them from market headwinds. Asset allocation isn’t some new academic construct; it’s a working strategy that has protected investors for over 60 years, and it will protect them, too.
2. You have a financial/investment/retirement plan to follow in good times and bad
Clients forget that their investment plan is a blueprint for not only investing their money but managing assets in a downturn.
A long-range plan protects them from market fluctuations. It shelters them from short-term volatility. It saves them from making bad decisions in the heat of the moment.
Remind them that their plan—based on their stated goals and risk tolerance—was carefully constructed to withstand market storms. Their plan purposefully outlines the steps to take in extreme situations and protects them from making rash decisions and emotional mistakes.
3. You have invested in high-quality companies for all the right reasons
Anxious clients need to separate their feelings from investment decisions.
One way to tamp down any market timing is to get them thinking in specifics about the sell decision. Remind them of what they own. Review the rationale for buying those names in the first place. Ask if they think these firms are going out of business now or will turn around after the downturn.
4. The only metric that matters is the progress towards your goal.
Volatile markets can send clients on an emotional rollercoaster. One moment they’re all-in on SPCE and the next, they’re selling everything for cash.
Remind them that’s not how good investors operate. As Warren Buffett said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because they planted a tree a long time ago.”
Investing is a life-long, step-by-step process designed to reach a goal they set for themselves when they first started working with you. That end goal doesn’t change with market volatility. It doesn’t change when markets crash.
Success is not based on the level of the Dow or doubling their money on Tesla. Those are temporary victories, won today and lost tomorrow.
Clients’ success depends on only one achievement—they’ve reached their end goal. That’s the only metric that really matters.
5. Yes, the market is scary, but you still have control
Stressed clients can get caught in negative thought patterns that amplify their fears and often lead to knee-jerk reactions and risky moves.
To break them out of these emotional loops, acknowledge their fears. They have suffered major disruptions. The life they knew a month ago has significantly changed.
Then offer alternative views and possibilities. Redirect their focus to positive events happening now and in the future: The market downturn has revealed new investment opportunities they couldn’t previously afford. Or they are perfectly positioned to participate in the coming turnaround.
It also helps to give worried people something to do. Send them to your website to look at different materials that address their concerns. Ask for feedback on an article you’ve mentioned. Invite them to follow you on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
Taking some kind of action—even a small one—can give people a sense of control that helps them manage their fears.
6. We are all in this together
In many cases, clients are home alone, cut off from their usual support networks and experiencing a growing sense of calamity and concern.
Show clients they are not alone. Talk about your personal concerns and how you’re handling them. Discuss what other investors are doing to stay safe and capitalize on opportunities.
Most importantly, use language clients can relate to. Your letter should be conversational in tone and avoid a lot of financial jargon. Tell stories where possible that position you as the wise and experienced guide who can lead them through dark times.
Of course, all of your messaging should end on a positive note that’s authentic. Promise too much and you’re selling, not comforting. Focus on realistic positives clients can expect in the short-term while re-directing their attention back to their long-term goals.
7. You are stronger, smarter, and wealthier than you think, and you will get through this
Even the best of us need inspiration after days and weeks of market shocks and health concerns. Clients, in particular, need a coach who can motivate them to stay calm and carry on.
You’re their money coach, so remind clients—frequently—that they can and will get through this. They have the strength, fortitude, and character they need to manage this downturn successfully. They’ve done the right things. Invested in the right companies. Hired you to watch over their wealth and health, and you’re making the adjustments needed.
Think of your reassurance emails as mini pep-talks designed to spread hope and positive thinking. Hope creates optimism, and optimism creates an energy that will see clients through the dark days and health scares.
A sample reassurance letter
Each of these seven messages are important for clients to hear and internalize. You could write a long letter on each filled with graphs, charts, and inspiring messages.
But to save you time, we wrote an email you can send to clients right now that touches on most of these points. You can use the whole letter or any portion that works for you.
Send these letters out before statements are due or anytime you feel clients need to hear from you.
And then schedule another communication of some sort for the next week. Pick one of these messages and drill deeper into what you think clients should know.
Ongoing communication with clients is critical to keeping them in the market and functioning rationally. Sending out positive messages by letter or email lets you talk to your entire client list at once and gives them something to hold on to when they need support in the middle of the night.
Your sample email
Download a Word doc of the sample email here.
One of the hardest aspects of this crisis is this social distancing required between you, me, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even our families!
I don’t know about you, but the photos of people trying to visit their loved ones through hospital windows just tears at my soul.
In difficult times, America’s greatest strength has come from pulling together—working shoulder to shoulder—to generate the ingenuity, resilience and tenacity that solves problems and creates opportunities.
We’ll overcome this crisis, too, I have no doubt. From six feet apart, if necessary.
But we have to stay connected…even as we socially isolate. That’s why you’ll be hearing regularly from me and my team while this volatility lasts—by phone, email, online meetings, more phone calls…it’s critical we stay in touch. And you’ll find some valuable resources on both your health and the markets at our website, updated as events occur.
One thing I want you to remember as you watch the markets and the news: You have the strength and the intestinal fortitude to survive this market storm.
Because this is a market storm…a temporary event you and I have long prepared for by making smart, responsible decisions about allocating assets and diversifying holdings. We based your portfolio on Nobel prize-winning investment strategies that have protected investors for the last 60+ years, and they are protecting you now.
Given the strength of the economy before the health crisis, some experts believe a recovery could be fairly fast and strong. No one knows, of course, and I am monitoring the markets and your investments with extreme diligence to keep us well-positioned for positive days ahead.
Because prosperous days will come again. They always do. This time is no different.
Let me leave you with a story that illustrates how I view market downturns. You may have heard this before, but it perfectly explains my mission in managing your portfolio:
Years ago a farmer, whose fields stretched along the eastern seaboard, was looking for hired hands. It wasn’t easy to find help. People were reluctant to work on the Atlantic coast. They dreaded the regular raging storms that wreaked havoc on buildings and crops.
Interviewing applicants for the job, the farmer received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached him. “Are you a good farmhand?” the farmer asked. “Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the desperate farmer hired him.
The little man worked well around the farm, keeping himself busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer was satisfied with his new hire. Then, late one night, the Atlantic wind began howling in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man, yelling, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!” The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No, sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”
Enraged, the farmer was tempted to fire the old man on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens in their coops, the doors barred, the shutters tightly secured. Everything was tied down; nothing would blow away. The farmer returned to his bed, and the sound of the storm wind lulled him to sleep.
I like to think that I’m the hired hand who keeps you safe while the wind blows. I hope you think so, too, and if there is anything more I can do to “lull you to sleep,” please let me know.
I’ll be in touch soon. Let me hear from you!
P.S. Here are all the ways to contact me and the team. Keep these handy!
Office: (999) 555-1214
My Mobile: (999) 555-1215
Client Service Rep: