Financial services professionals — and anyone who engages with them — take note: Real language is defining the value of your relationships.
Today’s clients no longer tolerate monolithic brands that dictate how they’ll relate to them. Thanks in part to Millennials — who value personal connections and conversations with brands — we now expect symbiotic relationships with the businesses we engage in.
And just like any relationship, real conversations based in real language play a huge role in how we connect. But the financial services industry has some catching up to do.
In a live Twitter chat hosted by Content Marketing Institute about the unique content challenges financial services face, “content lacking a human voice” was a top takeaway.
The majority of financial services language lacks authenticity.
Real Language, Real Meaning
According to the Wall Street Journal, independent financial management firm Invesco conducted a financial-services study and found that investors are no longer impressed with jargon — and they’re tired of having to look up definitions to understand their advisors’ messages. They want real language, not platitudes or overly complicated content.
Take the phrase “institutional-quality money management.” Most financial advisors would use this language to convey a feeling of sophistication and exclusivity. But when Invesco tested the phrase, one focus-group member responded by asking why prisoners are handling the money.
Obviously, “institutional-quality” in this context isn’t referring to inmates — but unless you’re in the financial services industry, the term “institutional” will probably evoke other imagery. While many people won’t confuse “institutional” with “prisons,” they will always emotionally react — because you’ve failed to authentically convey what you mean. And when people don’t understand messages relating to their most important decisions — like managing their life’s savings — brain chemicals trigger powerful reactions, ranging from addictive behavior to anxiety and fear.
That’s why big brands are willing to invest significant time and money into finding just the right words to reach their audiences and drive them to act.
“Talk to Chuck”
Take financial services firm, Charles Schwab. When they first gained competition in the online brokerage space from companies like E*Trade and Ameritrade, Charles Schwab had to find a new way to drive profits.
At first, they increased their fees, which failed quickly — because hitting your customers’ pockets is never easy. So, they changed their focus away from fees and completely revamped their brand communications. The result was the extremely informal, conversational voice to support the “Talk to Chuck” campaign, which CEO Chuck Schwab explained as “a straight talking [sic] voice who can guide you, advise you and support you.”
Seventeen months after launching their revamped, humanized verbal brand, new net assets rose 28% against the previous period. Or in dollar terms, per month, Schwab averaged $937 million afterward versus $723 million prior to campaign.
That’s an additional $2.57 billion under management in one year — just by changing their brand voice.
Unfortunately, most companies tend to focus primarily on their visual brand, overlooking the importance of building out an equally unique and compelling verbal brand. But, as Charles Schwab shows, words are powerful, and how they connect you to your audiences matters.
Your Verbal Brand Matters
So, as you serve your clients, will you keep using jargon and stilted language that only frustrate us?
Or, will you choose to follow the human voice and deliver meaningful value with the words you share? Because when you take away all the industry jargon, catch phrase, and boilerplate messages, your audiences are paying attention if genuine meaning drives your conversation — and they truly care.
And when they care, their loyalty (and business) will follow.