Answers and insights

The Financial Advisor's Guide to Being Normal

June 27, 2017

Financial advisor
Most financial advisors have a hard time being normal - at least in their marketing messaging.

Here are a few examples from real financial advisor websites:

"We offer a range of comprehensive planning services paired with a conservative investment philosophy personalized to both the near- and long-term future you envision."

"We help you get organized, develop sound financial strategies aligned with your personal values and goals, and then show you how to implement these strategies in a cost-effective manner."

"We make specific investment recommendations based on your individual needs, circumstances and goals, not based upon the commissions that a particular financial product might pay."

Um. Okay...but people don't normally speak this way.

It's important to point out here that these lines were pulled from About or Services pages - often the very first paragraph. So this is the introductory stuff. This is hello! A potential client still has yet to hear about the firm's history, expertise, financial strategy, investment options, asset classes, risk profiles, and all the accompanying disclosures. It's only going to get (a lot) more complicated from here!

So why do so many financial firms overcomplicate their message?

There's really just one reason: They think it makes them sound more professional.

In fact, it's likely less about trying to attain some high-brow feel, and more about trying very hard to avoid casual language. They feel that clients won't take them seriously unless they use copious amounts of 'serious' language.

That's completely understandable. And it's also not unique to financial services. Many professional services industries are plagued with this disease. For example in our industry, web design, the rampant problem is overuse of technical web jargon or 'geek speak'. We all know how frustrating and confusing it can be to have someone bury you in tech language, especially right out of the gate. Makes you feel pretty inept - lost before you even begin.

That's exactly how a potential financial services client feels when a website greets them with language like "comprehensive investment management strategies".

The result: many people simply avoid financial advisors/planners altogether, citing a lack of understanding and general mistrust. They simply don't like what they're hearing. And many more find it nearly impossible to choose between advisors because the messaging is so - for lack of a better word - normalized. Advisors are all saying the same things, and talking 'way up here'.

But wait, we use this language and our firm is doing just fine

No one says you can't make all kinds of mistakes in business and still be successful. In fact, a lot of what being successful is about - in life and in business - is learning from and eliminating mistakes.

A financial firm can absolutely be successful and still use this kind of language. However, it's simply not an effective way to communicate with clients or market a business. It's an area where most firms need improvement. It's also easy to fix, and can translate into real, immediate gains in the form of more leads and revenue.

This is simply a common mistake that, when fixed, has the power to turn a big minus into a big plus.

So how do we change our language without sounding unprofessional?

First of all, recognize that talking over someone does not come off as 'professional'. It comes off as aloof at best, and often sounds pompous or even deceptive. It feels like doublespeak.

Talking in a 'normal' way doesn't mean becoming sloppy or unprofessional. Normal means what's expected, what people are accustomed to. Changing tone to fit your reader makes your messaging more well received, not unprofessional.

The easy way to do this is to simply pretend you're speaking with the person face to face, and write your marketing that way. Be honest. Be casual. Be normal.

"Put a plan in place" instead of "implementing a strategy".

"Fit what the client is looking for" rather than "aligning with targets".

"Put together a roadmap" instead of a "comprehensive investment philosophy".

Remember that people tend to "imagine their future", and rarely "envision fiscal goals".

Normal includes emotion

Lastly, and most importantly, keep in mind what you're really doing as an advisor. The number-crunching and analysis may require cold calculation, but your service is actually quite touchy-feely. An advisor helps another human being live their life better. Period. You are in the happiness business!

Therefore, it's perfectly appropriate to include enthusiasm, emotion and even outright joy in your messaging. Connect with your clients as people. And hey, if you're not good at that sort of thing, no worries, simply find a financial marketing firm or copywriter who is.

But it's really not that hard to do. Let's use an example from the lines at the beginning.

"We offer a range of comprehensive planning services paired with a conservative investment philosophy personalized to both the near- and long-term future you envision."

"Share with us the future you imagine for yourself and your family, and trust our careful expertise to help get you there. We'll be with you every step of the way."

WOW. Now I feel like I'm about to hire a partner in my journey, not some firm with 'personalized investment strategies'.

That's the power of normal. Normal is casual, not technical. Normal is clear, not complicated. Normal uses emotion, not jargon. Normal connects. Normal converts.

Be normal, and watch the difference it makes in your bottom line.