4 Ways to Wow Your Clients in their First 90 Days

We've compiled some top practices that can help you craft a delightful experience for new clients, every time.

woman walking forward through door

We've compiled some top practices that can help you craft a delightful experience for new clients, every time.

Onboarding is a critical moment in your advisor-client relationship. It’s the time for you to ensure that your new client feels comfortable and confident in their decision to work with you.

It’s also a key inflection point for ensuring long term client retention. Advisors often lose the trust of their clients by overpromising during onboarding and, over time, advisors’ communication style impacts whether clients stick around. Post-pandemic, nearly 9 out of every 10 clients consider their advisors’ communication frequency and style when deciding whether to retain their services (and when making referrals to friends and family).

We've compiled some best practices for firms looking to better communicate with clients and create a delightfully smooth onboarding experience, every time.

#1: Lead with your clients' values.

At the very beginning of your relationship, it’s essential that you take time to understand your client’s unique financial goals. 

Building a goals-based financial plan is now an industry standard practice. In fact, helping “maximize a client’s potential for meeting life goals” is at the core of the CFP® Board’s definition of financial planning.

It can be critical, though, to also put in extra work to understand your client’s individual values. Whether it’s prioritizing environmental sustainability, supporting extended family, or charitable giving, financial decisions can be incredibly emotional. Communicate to your client that you’re there to help guide them and to make sure their money is aligned with their core principles and beliefs.

Taking the extra time necessary to discuss and nail down your client’s values—and what they hope to get out of their work with you—can help you foster a deeper relationship early on.

Clients can often have a difficult time identifying their financial goals, let alone clearly defining, prioritizing, and saving towards them. Nick Holeman, Director of Financial Planning at Betterment, recommends doing a little research about your clients in advance: “Having these data points on hand will help you get your clients thinking in the right direction. It also demonstrates to your clients the personalized experience of working with you.” 

#2: Prioritize transparency.

Committing to transparency can help you impress new customers and drive brand loyalty in the long run. According to recent consumer surveys, 88 percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they support, and 46 percent of consumers say that they would pay more to purchase from brands they trust. 

Companies may shy away from being transparent to achieve some perceived benefit in the short-term. If you hope to earn long-term client loyalty though, it’s important to pursue transparency with your clients as often and early as possible.

Of course, as a business offering paid services, you should make sure the following information is clear and readily accessible:

  • Your fees (What you charge): Whether you leverage an asset-based, tiered, or fixed fee pricing model, your client should have a solid understanding of your service fees. In any conversation around fees, it’s important to first make sure your value proposition is clear and that your clients understand what you bring to the table.
  • Your billing cadence: Communicate what payment schedule your client can expect (monthly, quarterly, etc.).

But don't overlook these other key questions:

  • How often will you meet or check in with your client?
  • What communication methods do you and your clients prefer? Between video calls, text, and email, define what works best for this relationship.
  • What services will you offer (and what will you not offer)? It’s important to provide an accurate summary of the scope of your services upfront. Outline areas where you and your team might not be spending time to avoid creating false service expectations.

By setting clear expectations from the start, you can ease client skepticism and start to build credibility.

#3: Cut out paper and manual workflows.

It’s 2023 and clients expect seamless experiences across digital channels. (In fact, 40% of investors say digital access has become a greater priority following COVID-19.) Paper-heavy processes requiring wet ink, multiple rounds of back-and-forth, and hand-carried mail no longer cut it.

Going paperless becomes particularly relevant at the onboarding moment. 

If your firm is taking advantage of software to handle sending and collecting electronic agreements during the account opening process, that’s a great first step. Too often, though, these services still involve multiple email touchpoints that can feel disjointed and overwhelming to a new client.

Explore solutions that can help you open new accounts across channels as possible. At Betterment, our technology offers built-in digital client onboarding to help advisors open accounts completely online, with minimal lift required from your client. At account opening, clients receive one email touchpoint with all information they need to approve your firm’s set up—a process that takes just minutes. 

Firms can leverage digital onboarding to impress clients who otherwise may be used to clunky or paper-heavy experiences with other wealth managers. 

Digital, minimal effort account opening can even help firms reach entirely new client segments. Matt Lohrius, lead advisor at Ritholz’s Liftoff Invest business, believes going paperless is critical to meeting demand from accumulation phase investors: “For Liftoff, it’s just huge from a technology standpoint: opening accounts, transferring money from other custodians, depositing money, linking a bank account. Everything is so easy and intuitive for the client.” 

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The bottom line: Replacing manual onboarding tasks can help you spend less time on routine logistics and more time personalizing advice. When you free up more mental energy to focus on better service, your clients will take note.

#4: Over communicate.

Onboarding a client is more than a one-and-done touchpoint.

For many clients, onboarding presents a lot of change and uncertainty—especially if this is their first time working with an advisor. Over the course of your client’s first 90 days, consider setting up a series of onboarding meetings. A schedule can help create structure, demonstrate your confidence, and convey to your client that you value their input. (Tip: As you hire and expand your team, it can be helpful to standardize this client onboarding meeting framework across your firm). 

The series might look like:

  1. Initial get to know you: Time for you to learn about your client and their family, likes/dislikes, values, and ambitions. The end of this introductory meeting is a great time to send a client questionnaire.
  2. A deeper evaluation of their financial state: Time for you to collect more detailed information on the clients savings, current investments, debts, income, risk tolerance.
  3. The financial plan: A meeting to present your proposal for your client’s unique financial plan.
  4. Follow up meeting: Check in with your client 30 to 45 days after the initial plan conversation.
  5. Progress meetings: After the initial follow-up, set a couple future dates to discuss progress made toward goals.

The importance of the fifth step above cannot be overstated. In fact, the key to growing a loyal client base is consistent communication.

Staying connected regularly can help you gain a more thorough understanding of how your client’s objectives may have shifted over time. Conversely, lack of communication sends the wrong signal to clients—and, overtime, might lead to losing the client relationship as their perception of your service value declines.

When it comes to effective communication, attitude is everything. Make sure you bring positivity to each interaction and illustrate why you love what you do. Being genuine and ready to engage in small talk beyond finances (and, of course, listening more than you speak) can help you and your client get the most out of these meetings.

Frequent communication is not limited to in-person interactions. Your firm’s online presence and branding are also an important arena for exceeding customer expectations and rivaling your competitors. Some steps to consider taking:

  • Connect with new clients on social media.
  • If you have a newsletter program, set up a system to routinely add new customers to the list.
  • Invest in a website that speaks to both prospective and existing clients. Writing a weekly blog is a great way to distribute updates and market commentary regularly.
  • Consider hosting webinars or an annual virtual event.
  • Come holiday time, make sure you have a budget for a client gift or handwritten happy new year card—it’ll be a great cue to get them thinking about the year to come and your goals together.


By following these practices, you can work towards a better onboarding experience and impress your clients from the start.

To learn more about how you can streamline client onboarding with Betterment’s platform, book a demo today.