Staying in touch. It's what we do with our family and friends ... the people we care most about. So wouldn't it make sense that we also stay in touch with our clients?
The good news is that it's easier to stay in touch today than ever before. With social media vehicles such as Constant Contact, Facebook and LinkedIn, we can communicate with clients with the stroke of a few keys.
Let's say a broker has 25 group clients. She also has three children, a husband, a seat on a board of directors for a local charity, and a volunteer job as assistant coach of her daughter's soccer team. This broker needs to maintain communication with her clients on a monthly basis. However, calling all 25 clients every month is a daunting task. Sometimes the calls are short and sweet, but more often than not, the clients are prompted to ask questions they've been pondering, and the phone calls last 20 minutes or more. Multiply that 20 minutes by 25, and she is spending more than eight hours a month chatting and not enough time writing new business. Certainly, this kind of relationship with her clients will help ensure they remain with her forever, and refer new business her way. But there is an easier way to achieve the same goal.
Clients want to keep in contact with you, but they don't necessarily want to hear your voice every month. They also don't want to hear from you just once a year. Here is where social media comes into play. Constant Contact is my personal favorite. I have been using it for quite some time now to send out a monthly newsletter to all of my clients. This way, I can passively inform them of any new products or services I can offer without sounding "sales-y." It also means they feel as though I am making an effort to stay in touch with them. And while the newsletter might prompt a call from four or five clients that may have otherwise forgotten to call with their questions, it eliminates hours of chatting, and narrows these conversations down to the really important ones that were urgent enough to warrant a phone call.
Facebook is another great form of communication, but be careful not to mix business and pleasure with this one. While you may be friends with some of your clients, I have a feeling at least a few of them won't appreciate the pictures of you at your best friend's bachelorette party in Vegas. You either need to make 100% certain that your posts are always representative of things you want your clients to see - and the same goes for anyone else who is posting on your wall - or you should have a separate Facebook page that is strictly for clients and colleagues. If you do have a public page with a mix of friends, family and clients, make sure to check your wall for inappropriate posts from friends and family several times each day.
But the most important part of utilizing social media in your business is to continue face-to-face and phone contact as well. I use the six-month rule with my clients when it comes to actual verbal communication. I know they hear from me at least monthly via Constant Contact or Facebook, but if I haven't actually spoken with them in six months, I give them a call. There is something about hearing a voice, laughing together, or letting them sense the concern in your tone if there is a problem, that cannot be replaced by typed words on a screen. It is the human element. We crave it from one another, yet in this age of technology we have lost so much of it. Technology is here to help us. It seems to make everything so much easier. Just remember to use technology as an assistant, not as a replacement of who you are as a person. Each of us has gotten to where we are because of our unique qualities and abilities. These attributes cannot be fully recognized and appreciated when we are hiding behind the keyboard 24 hours a day.
Carst is a self-employed broker and consultant. She is the co-founder of Women Insurance Professionals, a non-profit organization that helps women with the licensing process and career support. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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