Staying social at a distance: The next normal

The global pandemic has tragically impacted lives, jobs, and retirement savings. Add social distancing, an unfortunate, yet necessary, protocol here for the foreseeable future, and the panic increases. How can advisers still offer empathy, insights, and opportunities to their clients? Virtually.

Some advisers have long been adept with video conferencing and social media. For those who have been hesitant, there’s a sense they now must accept virtual communication as a short-term inconvenience. Most realize a phone call just won’t do at times like this. So where to begin?

Mine your resources

Have to get up to speed quickly? Consult your firm for suggestions and limitations. Ask peers what they’re using. Most video conferencing platforms offer free trials, quick-start guides and how-to videos.

Master the outlets

Most advisers use LinkedIn for prospecting (helpful when you can’t network in person) and Facebook or Instagram for personal touches. Wondering how else to stay in consistent contact? There’s an ever-growing number of video conferencing options available. On-demand videos, blog articles and podcasts can complement emails and text messages, which more firms now allow if done properly.

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Make it an option

Think older clients won’t be open to virtual meetings or social media? Why not ask? It’s a great time to start, given that many clients now have kids home more — there’s live-in IT help. Why not poll clients on their tech comfort level and desire to learn more? Then set them up for success with tips like joining virtual meetings on their computer or tablet versus their iPhone 1.

Mind the bandwidth

With so many people now working virtually, some video conference users are experiencing bandwidth issues. Avoid the temptation to use all the video platform’s bells and whistles and keep it simple. Have a back-up plan, such as emailing files if screen-sharing doesn’t work. Remember clients’ minds may also have bandwidth issues, given stress and lack of sleep. Keep meetings shorter and don’t overwhelm them.

Multiply the uses.

Hold a client review online? Of course. How about a virtual coffee or happy hour? Online dinner with a client who’s on his or her own? Once you master one-on-one meetings, why not one-to-many? Hold online educational events with a business partner. Unlike in-person seminars, many clients will bring a friend.

Muster your humor

At some point, things will go wrong. Kids will barge in, dogs will bark, calls will drop or worse—you’ll get “Zoom-bombed.” (Unfamiliar? Google it and prevent that.) It’s a challenging time and we need to laugh when we can. If the kids storm in, laugh and then introduce them to deepen the client relationship.

Magnify your reach

Instead of merely accepting this as the new normal, why not encourage it as the next normal? Teach clients tech tools that help them while they’re stuck at home. Once they’re comfortable with video chats, encourage clients to use those to connect with family and friends — and perhaps introduce you to their family and friends. It’s a win-win-win.

Instead of being limiting, embracing virtual tech can be freeing. Clients can be freed from feeling isolated as they age. (There’s a limit to how long we can be on the road, but not to how long we can be online.) Advisers can be freed from their office.

Yes, we need to manage privacy issues and stay in compliance. It’s also not a permanent replacement for in-person visits. But by making virtual meetings the next normal, we can stay more connected as we age and be more prepared for whatever life — or nature — throws our way.

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Ryan Sullivan is managing director of applied insights at

Written by Investors Wallets

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