How often have you looked at a fellow financial planner’s website, blog or other client communication, and responded with a silent “meh”, because it reads the same as everyone else’s? It’s dry. It’s corporate. And it’s a vacuum of personality.
I've long suspected one of the assessment criteria for obtaining a Diploma of Financial Services (Financial Planning), is to forfeit the use of your personality in all non-face-to-face client communication.
Like a weird ransom.
"We'll give you a highly inadequate qualification to provide financial advice. In return, please bottle your personality, dig a small hole, and bury it - along with your fear and dislike of anyone with 'compliance' in their job title."
It doesn't have to be that way.
You don't have to vomit a rainbow of cliched jargon and phrases that draw blank stares and eye-rolls from anyone not in the industry.
- peace of mind
- get your financial house in order
- trusted adviser
- your best interests
- combined 178 years of experience
You get the picture.
So it's always a bit of a delight to see people doing things a bit differently.
You’re not a robot
Financial planning is about more than just the numbers and analysis and “head” stuff.
It’s also about the “heart”. It’s about deep conversations and trusted relationships.
It’s not a monotone Bueller-style broadcast about “strategic advice” or “SMSFs” or “wealth management”.
It’s a little bit touchy feely. And the personality component, matters.
Without it, you just sound like everyone else out there.
So try to loosen up your words a little. Write the way you speak with your clients.
If your in-person style is respectful and relaxed, then try writing that way too.
Think head plus heart.
Phil Thompson from Thompson Financial Services, produces short weekly videos. In this one, he shares a goofy photo of his dad, and includes some bloopers at the end. It's a serious topic, but it's presented in a very "Phil" way.
It's signed, "lots of love".
The reader gets so much more information, simply through the injection of personality. Applicants know immediately whether it's the kind of business they want to work for, and will help them self-select. Win-win.
Now you might not be as bold as The Lang Cat, but can you see how that little bit extra makes a whole lot of difference?
Share your opinion
If you’ve come from a corporate background, you may have fallen into the “don’t make waves” mindset.
Head down. Do your job. Do the job of that one slacker colleague. Get paid.
You probably have ideas and opinions, but you don’t share them. You don’t want to rock the boat.
But one way to add some personality to your website and blog posts, is to do just that.
Get off the fence.
Stand for something.
Some of the independent advisers do this really well. And whether you agree with their views or not, at least they have the guts to not only have an opinion, but share it. Even when it's not popular.
Just look at some of the things Scott Pape says. Not only are you extremely clear about where he stands, but it's also not boring.
Firstly, a massive dig at the Commonwealth's attempt at being "the ethical bank".
He also gives a big middle finger to advisers charging asset-based fees.
And Tim Mackay from Quantum Financial, is never short of an opinion or two. He stands out, because he's not afraid to share what he thinks. And he gets positive media attention for his business as a result.
Life insurance commissions reduce competition, drive churn & increase price consumer pays. One solution for underinsurance = ban commissions
— Tim Mackay (@timqfadvice) February 5, 2015
So while FPA is now the proud defender of the discredited commission model, CPA Australia moves on to true professionalism #embarrassing
— Tim Mackay (@timqfadvice) June 7, 2015
Vanilla may be the tastiest flavour of ice cream.
It is not the most delicious for communicating.
Talking about yourself isn’t the answer
Oh, “I’ll just tell stories…about myself”, you think. “That’ll add a little bit of me”, you think.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
Banging on about yourself all the time is pretty arrogant. It shows a complete disregard for your audience.
"Look at me. Look at me."
Sure, drop in an anecdote to help spice up a blog post. Share a story or talk about an achievement you’re proud of.
But if you’re just talking about you and your business, you become like that awful first date that won’t shut-up about their semi-prestigious job and fancy car.
Ask questions. Be conversational. Be helpful and interested in your readers.
Share your experiences. And share what you've learned.
You can still write about yourself. Just switch the focus from "you", to using "you" to help your audience.
There are a couple of Canadian personal finance bloggers who are excellent at this.
In the first example, Desirae from Half-Banked talks through the expenses involved in having a dog (cute pictures included). It's a walk-through of her expectations and the reality of the numbers. If you're thinking about buying a dog, it's super useful stuff.
Along a similar "what I've learned" line, Bridget from Money After Graduation, shares what she learned about money in her 20s. Many of the items are counter to what the common viewpoint is, which makes it interesting and thought-provoking.
And next time you're introducing new team members to your clients - a style of content that is typically very inward focused - you can have a bit of fun with it, like Verse Wealth did.
More personality than a robo-adviser
So next time you're creating content or communicating in a non-face-to-face environment for your financial planning practice, don't forget your personality.
Remember, if a robo-adviser has more personality than you, it's time to say "hasta la vista" to boring.
I'll be back. *shuts self down*
— Robo Adviser (@Adviser2050) May 11, 2016