The beginning, middle and end of storytelling in financial services
Putting together a book of financial advisors’ stories has reminded me – once again – of the immutable power of storytelling in financial marketing. Read on for the lowdown.
I’m nearing the end of quite an incredible project that will eventually culminate in a book containing the personal and business development stories of a group of very successful financial advisers in South Africa. When I agreed to the task, I had no idea of what I was in for!
It’s been a mammoth undertaking, but now – after endless flights around the country and intense two- to three-hour interviews with the advisers – I’m reassured of the irresistible value of storytelling. It isn’t just an excellent marketing tool; it is also an enriching conduit for deep personal development.
Storytelling is science
One of the most significant challenges in financial planning is to change how people behave around money. Fortunately, the solution to this complex conundrum is surprisingly simple. Neuroscience proves that storytelling has a significant effect on behaviour. Scientists have observed that a convincing tale with a dramatic narrative arc prompts a strong neurological response as our levels of the ‘feel-good’ hormone oxytocin rise. When we engage with a compelling story that captures our imagination and holds our attention, we feel like we’re actually taking part in proceedings. It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to figure out that this empathy leads to action.
Facts tell, stories sell
Mention the words ‘financial services’ to a random stranger and the chances are they’ll harp on about complexity and distrust. There are no two ways about it. Our industry is heavy on data and metrics that are meaningless to most clients – which is why we, more than almost any other industry, desperately need to make use of storytelling in marketing. Emotional narratives connect with people and differentiate businesses from each other. Storytelling is key to helping financial services move beyond data, to humanize our offerings and instil a sense of trust.
Gems are polished by friction
The financial advisers that I’ve interviewed for the book have much in common. Most notably, they’ve all overcome adversity in their personal and/or business lives. Adversity is humbling and it teaches us to empathise with others – an absolute must in financial services. Listeners (read clients) identify closely with adversity and form a connection with the storyteller (read advisor) by wondering how they would have behaved in similar circumstances.
Mirror mirror on the wall
Storytelling is all about reflection – which is always beneficial if it’s brutally honest. Scientists have shown that accurate reflection enhances our cognitive ability and allows us to truly learn. Deep reflection prompts us to fundamentally change the way we process information and, thus, to profit from past experiences. As advisors, changing our clients’ financial behaviour starts with telling meaningful stories that cause them to reflect.
Stories make the world go ’round
The need for a strong social media presence in financial services goes without saying. Currently, there’s a marked shift on all platforms towards businesses engaging with their customers in a more personal manner. Facebook’s own Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, has noted that stories stand to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends within the next year.
What’s your story?
It should, by now, have dawned on you how valuable your personal and business stories are and how much others will respect you for sharing them. The next time you need to come up with a marketing strategy, why not do the simplest thing in the world and get together with clients and colleagues to TELL YOUR STORY? (In case you were wondering, here’s OURS.)
Need some assistance telling your story? FinCommunications is on a mission to humanise the South African financial services industry and would love to help. Drop me a line on email@example.com.