News article

We’re wired for stories, so why are so few advisers and planners telling them?

Attracted by a fantastic line-up of speakers, plus the chance to network with some of our profession’s best minds, I attended the Nucleus annual conference, Deviate 2019, last week.

As we’ve all come to expect from Nucleus, everything was ‘just right’. All the presentations were fantastic, but for me, it was Sheri Fitts who stood out. Sheri delivered a great reminder about the importance of telling stories and why our brains are wired for storytelling.

I’m not the right person to explain the science but Sheri made a compelling case. Indeed, from birth, right the way through adulthood, we listen to stories.

Sheri also spoke about the lack of trust in our profession. That got me thinking about the reasons why only a minority of people benefit from financial planning.

Firstly, there’s the issue of trust. There are many reasons why some consumers have a hard time trusting our profession. You can go right back to the endowment mis-selling scandal (next-generation planners, ask your parents!) through to PPI, investment scams and now the problems with Defined Benefit transfers. Even though most financial advisers and planners would never dream of getting involved in such things, mud sticks.

Secondly, it’s not widely known what financial planning is, how it benefits consumers and how it differs from financial advice.

So, how do we solve these challenges?

Top of the list should be weeding out poor practice and calling out scams. While there’s only so much individual advisers and planners can do there, there’s one thing every firm can do; telling stories to showcase the outcomes and benefits of financial planning.

Right now, you will be able to think of clients whose lives you have changed as a result of financial planning:

  • That couple you’ve helped to retire early and are now enjoying the next phase of their life
  • The family who is financially secure despite one of the main earners suffering a serious illness
  • The couple who you’ve given the confidence to enjoy their retirement, safe in the knowledge they won’t run out of money.

Put simply, financial planning changes lives.

However, when was the last time someone called you up asking for a financial plan? I’d place a decent bet that it hardly ever happens.

Why? Because consumers don’t know what financial planning is, or how it will benefit them. Plus, there’s the ‘t’ issue; we need to overcome the general lack of trust in financial services.

So, what’s the answer?

Telling stories!

“I’ve got testimonials on my website, surely that’s enough?” I hear you say.

If only it was. Testimonials just don’t cut it anymore. As everyone has them, they no longer set you apart. And, many people just don’t trust testimonials – who can blame them? A few words ( for example, “Simon was great”) hardly look authentic and offer a potential client almost zero insight into the benefits of working with you.

The proof is in the pudding; only 1–2% of visitors to the websites of financial advisers and planners will ever look at a testimonial page.

That’s how much consumers trust them!

The alternative?

Instead, tell stories. We encourage all those we work with to show off their clients, tell their stories and explain the benefits of financial planning.

Ideally, stories should be filmed. They are more powerful than written case studies and the content can be repurposed in many ways:

  • Short videos showing the best bits of the full edits; to see examples of this, click here (the first two videos on this page)
  • Transcripts for people to read and Google to index
  • Testimonials

Sure, some might trot out the tired old excuses. Yes, some of your clients will agree to be filmed if you ask them. No, it isn’t too much work. And yes, you (probably) do have the money to invest in this if you really want to.

Once you have recorded the client stories, they need to be promoted to ensure as many people as possible watch the videos. There are many ways to do this (certainly too many for this blog). We’ll cover that over the next few weeks.

While our preference is always for telling your client stories on film they do require a greater investment than a written case study.

However, if your budget doesn’t allow, then a written client story works well. Just make sure you cover the types of story highlighted above, preferably supported by a genuine image of the client

You can see examples of written client stories on the new Black Swan Financial Planning website which we launched last week. Read them by clicking here.

Spreading the word

In the meantime, excuses aside (and if you want to hear more of the excuses we get, you can read them by clicking here), what’s holding you back from telling more stories?

Just think how doing so benefits both your business and the wider profession. You’ve got clients whose lives you’ve changed. How quickly could we build awareness of financial planning and rebuild trust if we all told these stories?

You can see some examples of the client stories we’ve created by clicking here and here.

If you’d like to talk more about how we can help you tell your client’s stories and showcase the benefits of working with you, please email or call 0115 8965 300.

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