Three golden rules for a message that says it right

If one consistent request stands out in my line of work, it is this: business leaders seeking help powering up a staid or underperforming message. You may know the type of message I mean. It’s the elevator pitch that time forgot, stuck in the basement.

Gaining cut-through with vibrant, purposeful messages is one thing. Being on top of the dynamics of what is going on for your audience in the wider world – their context – is a whole other challenge. In fact, this is the first of my three golden rules:

Context, not content, is king

What I mean by this is, engage in a mindful process for getting up close and personal with your client, designing targeted content that is vibrant, engaging, smart, unique and, best of all, drives action.

Whether a self-licensed independent financial adviser or bank-owned vertical, or even a service provider to the financial advisory sector, the communication struggle is universal. How do we best articulate what it is that differentiates us, delivers actual not perceived value, and adds to the greater good, instead of detracting from it?

A recent entrant in the high-end game of wealth advisory approached our firm with this very challenge. He had everything ticked off, bar the firm’s key message. This, in turn, meant the website was not yet done, the introductory email to eager clients was unwritten and the social media strategy was #veryimpatientnow! And forget about the marketing plan.

To his credit, the client understood the reputation risk, and linked business risks, of going to market too soon with a half-baked message. What if we give the wrong impression? Attract the wrong client? Over-promise? Under promise? Worse still, we don’t want to be like every other high-net-worth advice business, repeating the same tired message.

This bloke was also at risk of falling into the same trap as so many other service professionals I speak to. It’s the ‘do-nothing, stunned mullet’ pit. And why wouldn’t he freeze up a bit? Risk is everywhere. Leaving aside the public perception and reputational issues, the broad financial sector has endured the impact of 15 or more major federal reviews (and reviews of reviews) since the global financial crisis circa 2008.

The cost of this crushing regulatory introspection, by the way, is estimated in Australia at about $3 billion. Nobody, it seems, can escape the reality of a global phenomenon of heightened consumer protection in the aftermath of Wall Street’s subprime lending corruption.

We are all aware of the many interesting opportunities present and looming for the advice sector, with heightened regulation being one of them. Technology, the sheer pace of change and global geopolitical instability also figure here. Change is as certain as a daily tweet from US president-elect Donald Trump.

In fact, in this environment of change, staying close to the client is a critical tool in any service professional’s kit bag. Even more important is being able to interpret the subtle nuances, fears, aspirations and hopes that, again, make up the context within which your audience lives.

The two remaining rules for message empowerment are relatively simple.

It’s not all about you

Call it the social influence of Instagram or YouTube, instant celebrity or even so-called reality television, but the trend of people talking too much about themselves is now a pervasive and sometimes frustrating feature of daily life. Remember, you are a financial advisory business, not a Kardashian. Many well-meaning businesses fall too readily into self-speak. Tweeting that you have just had a quick nine rounds of golf is lovely, well done. But really, how does that help my TTR strategy? Targeting your specific audience with messages about them, by showing how you help people just like them, is far better.

Show, don’t tell

Which leads us to the final rule: Where’s the proof? Show me how your business adds value, don’t tell me. Third-party advocates, evidence, testimonials, case studies and even the age-old white paper can be useful. It’s the power of being able to say: “Hey, dear client, when people just like you come to us, the one thing they consistently leave with is a sense of being sorted financially and in the right place. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at these real stories. Better still, call our client ambassadors on these numbers and have a chat about their own experience with our firm.”

People connect with people, not a bunch of clever words or marketing propaganda. Good luck for the coming year!