For years, David Haas has prepared a quarterly 10-page market commentary and sent it to all his clients. Took about 20 hours to write.
Haas, a certified financial planner at Ceres Financial Advisors in Franklin Lakes, NJ, began to wonder if he should put so much time and effort into these reports. So in 2020, he put a sentence at the end: “For anyone reading this, if you contact me I’ll give you a $25 Amazon gift card.”
“All I had to do was give away a gift card,” said Haas. “That’s why I stopped writing these comments.”
He has realized that most clients are not particularly interested in reading his extensive analysis of economics and markets. They trust their advisors to know this, “so you don’t have to prove it” by writing lengthy comments, he says.
Still, many advisors are market experts who are happy to share their thoughts on everything from hot and cold supply areas to the Federal Reserve’s latest moves. They believe that providing customers with regular market updates sets them apart from their peers.
If you’re going to write market commentary, how can you make sure they rank well? Will customers – and other recipients – find them useful or just throw them away?
To attract readers, generate excitement with a clever headline and eye-catching graphics. Arouse their curiosity from the start so they’re more motivated to dive in rather than just turn the pages and throw them away.
“The key is a catchy title and image that draws the reader in,” says certified financial planner Tom Balcom of 1650 Wealth Management in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla.
sort out the fluff
Through experience, advisors know how to fine-tune the process of preparing market commentary to provide more value to readers. The irony is that even the most gullible advisors with a mastery of arcane market principles are most at risk of wasting their time.
Their passion for the subject may lead them to use technical jargon. Readers who don’t share his passion tend to ignore the updates.
“Over time, I’ve learned to keep them short,” says Ken Waltzer, a certified financial planner at Los Angeles-based KCS Wealth Advisory. In 2004 he started writing quarterly market reports.
His last quarterly report was about 2,750 words with about 250 words of year-end comments. While some customers read it thoroughly, others read it through, he says.
As the first step in writing each report, Waltzer and his colleagues ask themselves, “What are our customers concerned about?”
“We’re starting with something they might be confused about,” he said. “It’s a way to keep our customers engaged and help them understand what’s happening with their money.”
To limit the word count, Waltzer reread the draft twice. First he looks for ways to modify the material to make it flow better. Then he looks at the text again a few hours later—or the next day—with the sole intention of leaving out foreign words and phrases.
“You don’t have to write a dissertation on any subject,” he said. He and his colleagues resist the urge to add details when an overview works just as well.
Choose the right headings to organize your content
Writing market updates becomes easier when you apply the same organizational structure to each. That is why some consultants develop a template and then fit the content into it.
For example, Waltzer divides his market commentary into four parts: an overview of what’s happened in the markets since last quarter’s report, what factors have influenced recent market movements, and what he and his colleagues think. What will happen in the coming quarter and how do they manage customer money as a result.
Mike Caligiuri has a similar approach. A certified financial planner at Caliguri Financial in Dublin, Ohio, he divides his quarterly market commentary into four sections: Stocks, Bonds, Precious Metals/Bitcoin, and Monetary Policy/Fiscal Policy.
“During the quarter, I collect articles (on financial topics) that I feel are important to share with my clients,” said Caligiuri. “Once I had this big list of articles, I put them in one of these four sections.”
To improve his writing, Caligiuri says he likes to vary his sentence structure to avoid stringing together too many long sentences. He also tries to anticipate what his customers – mostly doctors – want to know.
“I put myself in their shoes,” he said. “They want to know what the Federal Reserve is doing and what the implications are. I try to focus on teaching important fundamental concepts.”
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