Financial Marketing Writing
If you are writing copy to sell a financial product, you are up against two significant obstacles: Financial services is a highly regulated industry so you need to be aware of what you can and can't say; one obvious no-no is promissory claims-you can't make them.. The other problem you have is that your product is probably pretty much the same as everybody else's. Maybe, this year your mutual fund is be having a good run and you can point proudly to your returns as a reason for investors to buy. But more than likely this won't last and next year you won't be able to tell the same story. Financial products all boil down to numbers and the truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to say something warm and fuzzy about a number. But you have to try.
The key to effective financial marketing writing
But like everybody else, financial services companies need to sell their products and need to write that gives readers a reason to buy. If you read the marketing materials and ads that come from the financial sector you will notice that the writers use similar approaches in their attempts to market their products. The following writing samples are taken from financial companies whose names you would recognize. I'm not going to tell you who they are because it really doesn't matter. All financial companies want to put their best foot forward in their written messages. Some do a better job than others but it all comes down to fnding something good to say and saying it in a dignified and serious way.
Follow the lead of these financial services giants
Here is a company that wants to sell you mutual funds:
Helping people reach their financial goals is at the core of everything we do at (company name). That's why we offer a wide variety of funds to suit the diverse needs of investors. From stock funds to bond funds to international funds, (Our company) uses an active management approach with a focus on long-term results. Helping people reach their goals is the core of everything we do at (our company).
The (our company) advantage, however, is much
more than performance. We're committed to giving you the tools,
resources, and personalized services you need - regardless of your
investing experience. We're proud to offer you:
This method used here is to make a number of positive sounding statements to inform the reader that your is a thoughtful and helpful company. Financial companies are supposed to tell the truth in their marketing but, of course, it is not really true that helping you reach your financial goals is their main mission. But here's the point, even though this statement is not true, it is very hard to prove it isn't true. If your grocer swears that what most interests him is seeing that you get your nutrition, whose going to argue with him? Financial marketing writing typically makes use of many of these high-minded but silly statements. The next message says that they have many products for you to buy. That one is absolutely true. The first paragraph ends with a plug for their "active management approach." This line works nicely to balance out the first paragraph but it really doesn't say much. If they did anything at all wouldn't that be active? But it is a good positive statement and if you don't think about too much it won't upset you.
The second paragraph opens by telling you that there are many more advantages to dealing with this company than performance. (Note that the introductory paragraph did not even mention performance. Doing so could be regarded as "promissory" by the regulators so the writer left it out completely. Notice that even when the copy talks about the importance of performance in the next paragraph they still never say that their funds will provide good performance. But this is a good paragraph because it provides a list of impressive sounding benefits that go beyond performance, namely "planning tools", "research tools", "fund ideas", and "Portfolio Advisory Services". It is safe to say that most investors will not avail themselves of any of these "advantages" but offering them looks good on paper and gives the writer something positive to talk about.
Here is how a well-known mortgage presents one of its products.
Looking for the money to replace your roof? Cover costs for a
wedding? Pay off college loans or life's other big expenses? Look no
further. At (our company) we understand that your home is a tremendous
accomplishment. That's why we'll work with you one-on-one to develop a
strong, flexible financial solution customized for your unique needs.
Planning to remodel a kitchen or add a bath? Many people use our second mortgage or home equity loan in place of home improvement loans. Or consider a home equity loan to pay for college or cover wedding costs. And the interest you pay is often tax-deductible. Talk to your tax advisor to find out more.
Get an estimate of how much money you could save each month by using our possibilities calculator on the right.
At (Our company), our loan specialists are trained to listen to your needs and carefully assess your financial situation. Only then will we recommend a customized solution that makes sense for you. Ready to get started? Begin our application process online or call 1-800-CHAMPION for a no obligation, free consultation.
Once again the approach is to emphasize the benefits to the prospect. Like the mutual fund company in the first example, this company positions itself as ready to help you solve your financial problems. Hard to argue with such a heartfelt approach.
Finally let's look at how another giant financial service provider talks up its line of annuities. Annuities are products that are characterized by their high commission structure. In fact, there are experts who believe that the only reason most people buy annuities is that sales people are so well paid to sell them. With that in mind, take a look at how this company introduces its line of annuity products:
As you work toward your retirement goals, you might wonder if you are doing all you can to ensure the type of retirement you want. Annuities may be a valuable addition to your plan because they offer the opportunity for tax-deferred growth. Annuities also offer various features that can help protect your assets, and you can contribute as much as you want, free of IRS contribution limits.
These low-cost annuities can help you meet your goals.
Once again, the company lets you know they are on your side, helping you to better plan for your retirement. The statements of tax-deferred growth and various special features are also true, as is the statement that there are different kinds of annuities. The statement that annuities are low-cost can also be true, but is not meaningful. If you make a bad investment but make it in small amounts is it any less bad? Once again the company presents the friendly smiling face of a friendly rich uncle, doing whatever he can to help.
Financial Marketing Writing Tips
Here are a few suggestions to help you present your financial products to clients:
- Know what you want to say. Think about the positive points of the product and find words to express them to your audience.
- Visualize your prospect. Think of a person you know who meets the profile. Think what you would say to influence that person. Make your profile as detailed as possible. Then write your copy to a single person you visualize.
- Concentrate on the problem that is solved by your product. Let the prospect know in words and style and you understand his/her needs and that your product is the solution.
- Build Credibility. Credibility and Stability are key in financial marketing writing. People take their money seriously and they don't want their financial companies to be too new or flashy. Talk about experience and expertise.
- Don't be afraid to use technical terms when necessary make sure to but tell you story in simple clear words.
- Write a strong call to action. The ultimate goal of the financial marketing writer is to get the prospect to call or fill out a form. If you are writing for a website make sure that your form is not too long. The more information you ask for the lower your response rate will be.
Good writing is important to keep financial customers. Not just land them.
There is an old joke that tells of a man who dies and travels to the pearly gates where he is informed by a shadowy fellow that he is being given a choice as to where to spend eternity. The shadowy man told him that he would get to spend on day in heaven and one day in hell and then decide forever after. The first day the man went to heaven, which was pretty much like Miami Beach, there were palm trees and beaches but it was quiet and the man decided to see what Hell was like before he made his choice. When he arrived in Hell, the man couldn't believe his eyes. It was an enormous party with the best music and food. There were beautiful woman paying attention to him and he had his choice of any luxury items and clothes that he liked. He told the gatekeeper that he decided to spend his days in Hell and was told to report next morning. But when he showed up next morning the Hell he found was smoky and desolate and run down. He was assigned to a flophouse and told to report to work at a repetitious soul-shrinking job. The man protested to the gatekeeper. "But when you showed me this place is was so wonderful." The gatekeeper explained: " Then you were a prospect. Today you are a customer."
From my observation, it does seem clear that while financial service providers are able do some effective writing when they are selling their products, they don't necessarily take the same time and effort when it comes to dealing with customers.
A few years ago I was hired by a big bank that had acquired several regional banks. The bank sent out letters from a central database. The problem was that most of the letters were so harsh and self-serving that they were scaring the customers who received them. It was my job to re-write them to make it sound that even though the new bank was doing something that might seem to disadvantage the customer, that the bank was still their pal. Last week I received a letter from my credit card company that indicated that financial services companies take much more care with getting new customers than appeasing old ones. Here's what my letter said:
"As your credit card company we value your
business. We are writing to share information with you about an upcoming
change in the terms associated with your account.
Effective May 24, 2005 your account may be assessed an over-limit fee whenever your account balance exceeds your credit limit.
If you have any questions please call us at the toll-free number noted on the back of your card. For your convenience, we are available 24 hours a day to assist you.
One bad experience can undo years of good will
Not exactly a letter to warm one's heart. The second paragraph is especially ominous as I didn't think that I was anywhere near my credit limit. I called the company and was told that this was just a notification of a change in the status of my account. They told me that I had $29,000 to borrow before I would be over my limit! While the letter tells me that the purpose is to share information, the message of the letter is much different. First of all it came in separately in an envelope indicating that it was important. It talked about assessing new fees-which is alarming. And after I am worried by the prospect of being charged new fees, who do I call? The letter is signed by "Cardmember Service"-- not very reassuring, even though the first sentence tells me they value my business.
I supposed that there was a legal reason why this company mailed me a special letter - as opposed to including the message in a statement-- but the letter they sent will not do much to build brand loyalty. How much effort would it have taken to find the words to explain the situation in a way that didn't send me scrambling for the phone?
Most companies pay much less attention to existing customers than to prospect customers but in financial services, the difference is particularly striking. And because it is much more difficult to land a new customers than to take are of an old one, it seems to me that it would be a good investment for financial companies to make their customer communications friendlier.