Quarterly investment newsletters used to bring dread to my heart. They were my responsibility at my practice, but they weren’t my favorite thing to do. The deadline made everything more difficult, if not impossible.

Over the past few years, we’ve changed our approach to newsletters. The introduction of a blog boosted content available for the missive and multiplied one newsletter into two with plans for a third. We send clients a monthly email with financial planning topics and practice news, a quarterly investment newsletter, and have plans for a semiannual piece for centers of influence.

So how did we do it? I suggest you break things down by addressing the areas below.

  1. Update your plans for newsletters at least annually. Year-end is the perfect time to gear up for next year. Are you satisfied with your client communications today? If you’re like me, you recognize some success but there is always more that can be done. I’m adjusting my plan now for a successful 2016.
  2. Choose a voice: Is the newsletter written from the perspective of the singular rainmaker of the firm, intended to build your brand, or written as collaboration from multiple individuals? Almost everyone in our office writes blog posts which are used as content for our newsletter. Our health and wellness committee chairperson shares healthy lifestyle tips while our young associates write about financial planning for millennials. Everyone is able to display their strength and develop their voice around financial planning and topics they are passionate about.
  3. Determine your target audience: Is this newsletter for clients, leads, centers of influence, a specific niche demographic, or all of the above? Your audience matters a lot. Identifying them will help you understand the tone, language and appropriate subject matter.
  4. Plan to regularly distribute your newsletter: Set an achievable target for how often you’ll send things out. There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a monthly newsletter four times a year or checking a firm’s news section on its website and seeing it was last updated two years ago. It doesn’t seem professional and you lose credibility. Have your team assist you with staying accountable. Assign tasks like maintaining the subscription list and sending to compliance and work together to hold each other accountable. College interns are also great helpers on the nuts and bolts of newsletter logistics.
  5. Select a delivery method: Over the years we’ve converted from a paper newsletter to an electronic version. Work with your compliance department to see your options for electronic delivery. We’ve been able to grow our reach and frequency to more than 1,500 clients, leads and friends of our firm.
  6. Choose content that works best for your practice:  There are advantages to both self-created and third-party content. It may depend on you and your team and your capacity to generate new material. You should check with your broker/dealer, which may have great content that can be used to support your endeavors. Some firms provide reminders of key topics throughout the year and supply great content to share with clients. At The Center for Financial Planning, where I serve as director of wealth management, we’ve made a conscious decision to create original content. In the past, we subscribed to newsletter services that helped kick-start ideas. We also made adjustments to speak in our voice, which were reviewed by compliance. In either case, both approaches may benefit your most valuable resource, your clients.
  7. Don’t be afraid to get personal and/or visual. Clients love to hear about you and your life. Personal events and experiences are often the most popular content in our newsletters. And if you’re able to link a personal story with a great picture of you or your team, that’s a double-bonus!
  8. Be social.In today’s age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, your subscriber list can be expanded through well-planned “shares” to your business social pages. We regularly post blogs and newsletter content directly to these pages and that expands our footprint.
  9. Measure success. If you’re able to use a newsletter service, you’ll likely get metrics that tell you how many people have read your newsletter. You can see which articles might be the big winners. If you’ve included links to your website, you can see how often your readers follow the links. Ask your clients or target audience what they think of your newsletter. They’ll want you to succeed and likely have some good ideas for you to incorporate in the future.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to have a successful newsletter. The right formula includes some creativity, time and a lot of follow-through. And there’s no time like the present with a new year on the way.
Melissa Joy, CFP, is partner and director of wealth management at the Center for Financial Planning, an independent Raymond James-affiliated firm in Southfield, Mich.

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