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Miller’s Law for Financial Advisors: Why You Need to Make a Habit of Sending Follow Up Emails

Date: January 12, 2022

The advice you give as a financial advisor is perhaps the most valuable element of the service you provide. But if a client doesn’t understand your advice or forgets it within an hour of leaving the meeting they had with you, the value of that advice diminishes quickly. That’s the problem you have to contend with thanks to Miller’s Law. Let’s take a look at how Miller’s Law can affect the value of your advice and what steps you can take to make sure clients don’t forget.

What Is Miller’s Law?

American psychologist George A. Miller observed that the average person can hold about seven items (plus or minus two) in their working memory at any given moment. That limit on our short-term memory capacity is known as Miller’s Law

In other words, the more details you throw at a person, the harder it will be for them to keep track of them all and remember how they fit together. 

In a client meeting, this can create communication problems. If you’re diving deep into the weeds of a topic—especially a complicated financial topic that your client may not have a strong grasp of to begin with—that client might run into two problems. 

First, during the meeting itself, they might become too overwhelmed with details to really process and understand what you’re saying fully. Second, even if they do manage to follow along in the meeting, they’ll struggle to store every detail in their memory long enough to get home and act on your advice. 

Miller’s Law and the Forgetting Curve Can Become a Recipe for Lost Value

That second problem becomes even worse if you factor in the forgetting curve. The average person forgets more than half of what they learned within an hour of learning it. That’s why we take notes and review material when we’re trying to learn something. 

For financial advisors, these limits on human memory can become a serious problem when it comes to maintaining client satisfaction. After all, a client who doesn’t remember your advice can’t follow it. And a client who doesn’t remember what service you provided can’t easily recognize how much value you provided. 

Eventually, this can make a client feel like they aren’t getting very much value from you when, in reality, they just aren’t able to keep track of that value. 

How an Efficient Follow-Up Method Can Reinforce Your Value

As a financial advisor, it’s up to you to make sure you’re communicating your value and making it easy for clients to understand and keep track of your advice and your service. The key to doing that is making a habit of following up with every client after every meeting — and again at the end of every year. 

The key to a good follow up and summary is simplicity. Think bullet points, not essay. Again, Miller’s law states that a person can only store about seven things in their working memory. So, making your follow up as simple and easy to skim as possible will ensure that your client can easily process everything in that email. You already met with the client so you don’t need to dive into the details here. Just provide a simplified summary of what you covered and a list of any next steps they need to take. 

You can do all of that easily (and in seconds) if you have the right tools to automate as much of the process as possible. 

With Pulse360, for example, prewritten email templates and tagging functions cut the time it takes to send a follow up email down to minutes. Instead of writing the same basic email over and over for each client after each meeting, you write the general follow up template once and save it. 

As your taking notes during your meetings, just make sure to tag individual items in your notes with “follow up” using the software’s tagging feature. Then, when it’s time to send that follow up email, you just need to open up that follow up template you created and automatically pull all the notes tagged with “follow up” from that meeting into it. Quickly review to make sure it looks good and send. That’s it!

You can follow a similar process for creating annual summaries by writing out your general template and then populating it with notes tagged “follow up” from all your meeting notes for the year. That annual summary can serve as a friendly reminder of all the value you created for your client in the past year.

If you want to take that annual summary opportunity a step further, you can add a goal or bucket list summary that lays the groundwork for what milestones you’ll help them achieve in the coming year. 

Whether you use automation tools like Pulse360 or not, making a habit of consistently sending out these follow up emails and annual summaries is an important part of communicating your value as a financial advisor. Following up helps clients remember what services you provided and remember what steps they need to take to follow through on your advice.

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