How to create a MORE effective client report
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Strategic Issues

How to create a MORE effective client report

June 13, 2014

by Tony Vidler

The typical financial planning report or statement of advice produced for clients is ineffective.

Being effective means getting the key points across as quickly and as simply as possible, so that the reader understands them, and is then able to make decisions relatively quickly and easily.

Part of the reason for the written reports being ineffective is the “compliance” hurdle, where we include sections and wording that confuse many clients in order to met regulatory requirements.  But that is only part of the reason to be fair.

The bigger problem is that there is a tendency to try and impress with technical prowess, or data that require code-breakers to decipher, or graphs that take 3 minutes of concentrated finger-tracing to follow.  That is not effective communication.

To create an effective report it is best to pretend you were preparing it for a group such as a presentation to a conference, or a group of company executives in a boardroom.  After all, most of the time we ARE preparing a client report for a group….a group consisting of a husband and wife, or a group of 2 or 3 business partners….but that is a group nevertheless.

If we were preparing for a boardroom presentation or a conference we know the following to be true:

  • Too much data is dull, and the audience will be overwhelmed
  • Graphics and charts have to be simple enough to be understood in 10-15 seconds
  • No waffling….The presentation time is limited, but more impotently, attention spans are limited.  Everyone has somewhere else to be, and important things to do.
  • Be direct and clear about your objectives and the purpose of the presentation
  • The audience will probably be diverse, and people learn in different ways so you have to make and support key points in a variety of styles.
  • Prepare for the lowest level of knowledge (of OUR area of expertise).
  • Try and tailor the “language” to their industry or business. Use analogies and language that makes sense to the audience because it is familiar territory.
  • Eliminate our industry jargon wherever possible, and avoid buzzwords.
  • Use visuals that support key points, and which are memorable. A picture paints a thousand words, right?
  • Pre-empt questions and concerns, and address them up-front.
  • Make as compelling a case as you can for why your recommendation or information is right.
  • The recommendation, or next steps to be taken, will be absolutely clear.  There will be no doubt at the end of the presentation what you are asking for a decision upon.

Now, consider this typical financial plan graphic in light of that little checklist.

Can your Financial Plan or Statement of Advice be made more effective without pages and pages and pages of this sort of thing?

I am willing to bet that 9 out of 10 consumers would answer “yes”.  The other 10% probably fell asleep while trying to read through it all…


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Comments (3)

  • My auto mechanic :-

    Over the years I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting various auto mechanics. I’m Fred Flintstone when it comes to understanding anything about cars. All I know is I put the key in the ignition, turn this key, and drive. Thats as far as my expertise goes.

    Regrettably, all the mechanics I’ve worked with speak a foreign language. High tech automotive gibberish. Way over my head and they don’t even try to use 3rd grade explanations with me. Can’t they obviously see I am a deer in headlights?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to find a mechanic that sees I’m lost and then baby-step me through what they are doing (in laymen terms). It’d not only put me at ease, being involved in the process of what they are doing to my car, but it would probably encourage me to refer other clients to them.

    Auto mechanics, Financial Advisors or anyone in the service industry should realize not every customer speaks their language.

    Great insights (as usual) Tony!


    Marty Morua

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