Out of all the clients I’ve done business with over the years, the ones I’ve enjoyed working the most with have always been financial professionals.
“Financial professional” is the umbrella term I use to refer to people who work in the financial industry. This category includes financial planners, real estate agents, investment bankers and financial analysts.
Financial professionals, are some of the most prolific consumers of marketing services, and with good reason. The vast majority of consumers consider financial services an arcane and esoteric subject area; salespeople who can communicate the features and benefits of these services have an extremely valuable skill. And the data bears it out.
According to Forbes, the best paying sales jobs (not including management positions) in 2013 were…
1. Financial Services Sales Agents.
2. Sales Engineers.
3. Manufacturing Sales Reps.
4. Real Estate Brokers.
5. Non-Technical Manufacturing Sales Agents.
6. Insurance Sales Agents.
Of the top 6 items on that list, 3 of them (50%) are in the financial services space. Is it any wonder?
Finance & Marketing: Like Peas In A Pod
I’m not entirely sure why it is I’ve always had such an affinity for financial marketing gigs. It could be the part of me that watched too much Wolf Of Wall Street and dreams of a career in the marketing department of a major investment bank. Or perhaps it’s just the pleasure of working with clients who know the value of a dollar and how to invest their money wisely.
Either way, I’ve always found that financial professionals are some of the most active, informed and involved people I’ve ever worked with.
I’ve also found that many of them (even the ones who work in sales) can benefit tremendously from having a command of the written word.
I’m mostly talking about real estate agents, financial planners and mutual fund salespeople… The kinds of people we usually think of as “independent” and self-promoting quite a bit. The basic ideas of financial services copywriting can also obviously benefit those working with major institutions too, but I’m limiting this article to areas I have experience with.
I’ve always found that financial salespeople understand the value of written content–you can tell this by the thundredss of blogs and newsletters operated by financial salespeople in any given city-but often don’t quite understand how to make their writing work FOR them. It’s a shame because often, when looking through the marketing material they put out, it occurs to me “if only they’d done ‘X’ a little differently, they’d be closing a LOT more sales.”
Today, I want to share some of the BIGGEST secrets I’ve learned from over 3 years writing copy for financial services professionals.
Business Writing For Financial Salespeople 101
Rule #1: Go “High Leverage.”
Here’s a question:
What do you think is a better use of your time if you’re a financial planner who wants to market yourself through writing … A) cranking out blog posts every day for the rest of your life; or B) writing a book and sending it out for free?
If you answered B, you would be correct.
Some financial professionals get the idea that they need to be blogging and writing editorials all the time to reach out to their target market. It’s a good strategy, but it can become extremely time consuming. If you write a solid free report or ebook you can distribute it for free and achieve basically the same effect. The only difference is you spent only a little time or money up-front, giving you an asset that you can deploy over and over and over again. This is what we call “leverage”, a strategy that gets more results for less effort put in.
“Leverage” is really the key to the kingdom when it comes to marketing. It’s the difference between a single broadcast that’s seen by the entire world, and a door-to-door sales pitch that has to be repeated over and over again by trained professionals in real-time.
Rule #2: Write With Personality
Have you ever done a Google search for instructions on how to do something (e.g. fixing your TV), and come across one of those sites filled with articles that look like they were written by a computer?
The articles may describe how to do the task perfectly well… In some cases they may even feature decent English. But there’s something missing. There’s a dryness or a stiffness about these articles that bores you to tears and turns you off.
Naturally, when you’re writing copy that’s meant to persuade, you need to avoid this at ANY cost. In marketing, impersonality is literally the kiss of death. You can state benefits conscisely and clearly… You can write coherently… You can break out every persuasion trick in the book… But if you don’t come across in a human way, sales will suffer.
There’s no easy formula for writing with personality, but a few simple tips can help you achieve this important effect.
1. Post your picture at the top of every piece you write.
2. Use the word “you” a lot… Let the prospect know that you understand them, by referring to their feelings and desires constantly.
3. Tell stories. It doesn’t matter how long they are, use anecdotes from your past to illustrate the point you’re trying to make. This is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to to achieve a personal touch.
4. Close with a P.S. This is a standard tactic in personal letters and therefore it gives any message a more personal touch.
Rule #3: K.I.S.S.
Ah, the K.I.S.S. Rule…
… A million and one style guides have etched it indelibly into every writer’s mind.
But the idea of “keeping it simple” isn’t just for writers. It’s one of the most potent ideas in advertising and marketing as well… ESPECIALLY for financial products and services.
As I mentioned earlier, the financial world is a byzantine and confusing one for most people. The math… The ever volatile prices… The ever-present risk… The weird terminology. If you can simplify all this and make it accessible to people, you’re halfway to the goalpost.
The best example of this is Warren Buffett’s annual reports, which you can read here. Buffett is famous for making financial concepts so simple a 3rd grader could understand them, and it’s no surprise he’s able to do it… Those who REALLY know what they’re talking about don’t complicate matters, they simplify them. Adopting this attitude may require you to do more research and spend more time writing, but it will pay enormous dividends in the long run.
Rule #4: Target Your Audience
Who are you writing for?
Homeowners? Retirees? Institutional investors? Hedge funds?
Financial marketing encompasses a wide range of different industries, and each industry has to reach out to a different audience.
If you’re writing a real estate newsletter for regular homeowners and buyers, your best bet would be to follow my advice in rule #3 and keep it simple. On the other hand, if you’re writing sales brochure for a wealth management firm, a more technical tone might be adopted (while still keeping with the basic idea of simplicity).
If you work in financial sales, there’s no better investment you can make than in quality copywriting. Not only does good copy help to sell on its own, it also works to create a “first impression,” a kind of early image that predisposes clients toward you before you walk in the door. More than anything else though, good copy gets people to listen… And in a crowded market, there’s nothing in the world more valuable than that.
Til next time,