Solid investment performance isn't always enough. In fact, clients consider their relationship with financial professionals to be four times more important than investment performance when gauging overall satisfaction, according to research conducted by Russ Alan Prince, a leading authority on affluent investors.

That's where personal relationship cultivation comes in. It's the practice of building and maintaining personal bonds with long-term clients.

And practicing it well can pay off well for everyone involved.

Practicing it poorly - or not at all - exacts another kind of price. According to Prince, 87 percent of affluent clients who fired their advisor say they did so because of a poor relationship. In fact, 96 percent of those clients who fired their advisor based on the quality of the relationship, were actually 'very happy' with their investment performance.

But few financial professionals have an effective strategy to consistently meet their clients' expectations of a solid relationship. If 87 percent of clients find a new rep because of poor relationships with their existing rep, financial professionals must find a way to stay connected at the personal level with all clients, if they wish to remain competitive and successful.

Communicate personally

as well as


There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all the things you know you should to maintain and build the quality of your client relationships. Fortunately, there is a simple solution.

One highly effective tool for connecting with all clients at the personal level, while keeping communication costs down, is the personal update note. The better clients feel they know you, the longer the relationship may last.

This kind of personal update note doesn’t have to be any longer than five to eight sentences. The key is that the note should be about you or the client — not about business. You can either revisit some of the subjects you touched on in your introductory meeting with the client — whether it was hobby or family related — or introduce some new element about yourself that is likely to intrigue him. For instance, one advisor likes to give updates on the adventures of his slightly crazy dog. Twice a year is an ideal pace to let your clients hear from you at the personal level, in addition to the client birthday card.

The personal note can now be printed for all clients simultaneously, and inexpensively, using modern greeting card services which employ variable data printing technology. This service allows each card’s note to be individually personalized to each client – including even birthdates.

Replace canned

sentiment with your real voice

Client newsletters may look professional, but they are essentially free of your personality. Clients will respond much better when they hear from the real you, in your real voice. (Put the thesaurus away and use your own vocabulary.) That’s why a greeting card can better connect you; it’s more personal.

A personal note can inspire referrals.

Remember, in the eyes of the client, the relationship is four times more important than portfolio performance. Let the real you come through — that’s the person the client is likely to think of when asked to make a referral. He knows you more than simply as a professional. It’s a simple win-win approach that gives clients what they want most, while helping you to strengthen your relationships and build your business.

Frank Grisdale runs LongTermClients .com, a greeting card service for advisors, which emphasizes the use of personal and personalized notes inside client greeting cards as a way to build personal bonds with all clients, simultaneously.