In the 1980s I realized that professional credibility determined if a person or firm would be successful. Credibility relies on communication, and that means: 1) writing content that is relevant to your target market; and 2) using words/phrases they relate to.
A few years ago, I started noticing the term "content marketing" and thought, "What's the big deal? We've been doing that for 20 years!"
Stop Reading! Today's content is judged by a very different standard. That's because (in a business context) people no longer read. They skim. If your content cannot be skimmed, it most likely won't reach the target. Additionally, a world of other content is just a click away.
- You need quality content to attract your target market.
- You need new content to keep people coming back to your site.
- You need to format the content for easy skimming.
- You need to edit to add active verbs.
- You need to imbed the target's values.
- You need to identify points of relevance before starting.
If you can't do that, you need to get help.
For example… In the financial industry, the sellers always want to sell a product. "Do you have LTC coverage?" That's insane. The target market doesn't care about the products. They have concerns or problems. If the firms can't talk to the target about those concerns and problems, they're demonstrating irrelevance. When you talk about products, you're essentially approaching the world backwards.
Turn that around. All the company has to do is re-frame the content and approach it from the target's perspective. Then, follow the other points in that list above.
– Mike Lovas
For the past twenty years, I've been researching how to use psychology in marketing for financial advisors. The most important marketing tool today is your website. I say that for three reasons:
- That is where most people go to check you out and determine if they want to contact you.
- That's where you can show them your professionalism and humanity.
- It's safe for visitors. They don't have to worry about getting a sales pitch.
The point is, if you do not already have a dynamic and psychologically-effective website, your business is going to suffer.
I've already written several articles on how to capture people's attention on your home page. So, today, we're going to look at how to get people to keep coming back to your site. The more often they return, the higher your chances of getting a new client. Here are some guidelines:
- People do not return to see the same stuff. Meaning, if you don't up-date your content on a regular (weekly) basis, why would anyone go back there? Most sites have a little line near the bottom of the page that says, "Last updated" and the date. You would be amazed at how many financial sites have not been updated in years – or, at all, ever.
- People do not place value in duplication. Meaning, they don't want to see a site that is a duplicate of other sites, with the same tools, same calculators, and same generic content. If you have not toured other advisor sites, you owe it to your firm to do so. What you'll see is that nearly every one is basically the same. If you follow that model, you'll be showing that you have nothing fresh to provide.
- People look for relevant information. What's relevant to them? Well, it's not your products. It's solutions to their problems. Meaning, they don't go to your website when everything is going great. They go when they have a question or puzzle that needs to be solved. You can probably name of six to ten topics most of your clients ask you about: retirement income, taxes, long term care, estate planning, investing, etc. In other words, you need to provide them with guidance in those topics. The guidance cannot be generic! People see through the generic for what it is.
Advice. If you do not already have a blog on your website. Get one. Start writing blog comments. They should be only about 100 words long. Each one should focus on one aspect of those topics above. Start by explaining what the problem is, then begin to solve the problem. Do not offer investment advice or name specific products. Simply explain the steps that consumers can take on their own to start to solve their problem. In this way, you become a resource.
For example, one of the blogs I recently wrote for a client explains estate planning in consumer-friendly language. I explained what it is and why a middle-class consumer might need to get one. Another focused on long term care and women. Others look at elder fraud, social security maximization, and what to do if you don't have enough money to retire. The point is, make your content relevant to the people you want to do business with.
SIDEBAR: After reviewing hundreds of financial sites, I can safely say that most are absolutely terrible. Amazingly, nearly every one of them makes the same mistakes. In September, my good friends at Advisor's Assistant asked me to deliver a webinar on "Little Disasters – the accidental blunders that keep people from trusting your website." In the program, I showed about two dozen financial web pages. All but two or three of those pages chased people away and made the same mistakes. They were examples of what NOT to do in a website.
If you want help with your website, just give us a call: 509.465.5599.
Innovators often look into areas outside their own expertise to find “out of the box” solutions. That’s why I read a research paper titled: “Appearance Matters: Neural Correlates of Food Choice and Packaging Aesthetics.” The benefit is greater insight into the specific colors that influence consumer perceptions and likelihood of buying.
The distilled and simplified version of the results are:
- Attractiveness trumps everything else in packaging.
- The colors blue, green and white (bright colors) give a package a healthy appearance, but these are also the colors that are liked most, even across cultures.
How can you use this information?
- Look at the colors used in your marketing. Are they bright colors (blue, green and white)? If not, perhaps it’s time to rethink the colors that represent you and your organization.
- Look at the colors that dominate your website. Ditto from above.
In every area of business (with the exception of fashion), color choice is driven by research into consumer preference. Today, bright colors are more popular with consumers than primary colors. Personally, I prefer primary colors, but the colors Pam and I use are not about us; the colors are chosen for their ability to
reach out to and please visitors to our site.
* If you care to read the actual research, here's the link:
A paper published by John Wiley & Sons in 2012 reports the results of their research into how consumers perceive marketing. Not good. According to the paper, consumers see marketing as manipulative.
Marketers can use that knowledge to position themselves against competitors. This requires that they understand how to: 1) use psychological language to show themselves as relevant to their target market, and 2) enthusiastic about a 2-way conversation with consumers, rather than focused solely on one-way transmissions.
Here is the abstract of the paper:
In this article, we explore consumers' perceptions of marketing and the extent to which they believe that marketing can play a positive transformative role in society. Findings from 36 semistructured interviews indicate that consumers typically perceive marketing as having a traditional short-term, transactional, and ‘company-focused’ orientation rather than a transformative one.
This was reflected in participants' views of marketing, as well as in their choices and comments when they were given two academic definitions of marketing and one description of unethical marketing and asked to choose the one they thought best described marketing. In addition, participants viewed marketing as manipulative, and most held one-sidedly negative opinions of its transformative potential.
The majority did not feel autonomous in their purchase decisions, calling into question marketers' usual defence that consumers are sovereign. In a similar vein, they expressed concerns about the effects of marketing's manipulative and deceptive techniques on vulnerable consumers.
These findings are rather worrying given that enhancing the transformative potential of marketing requires a more nuanced understanding of its role and function within society. Accordingly, we argue that successful transformative marketing interventions need to take into account and address consumers' disbelief as to the capacity of marketing to improve social welfare. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
I recently found myself stressing over not being "out there" enough – not doing regular blog posts and tweets, not getting Likes for our Facebook page, not participating in Linked In group discussions, never mind the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the website and newsletter fresh. I reached out to my friend Kelly Hewitt, marketing and advertising maven of nearly 40 years to ask how she handled it. Her response was brilliant. Here's what she said:
"When everyone else is busy talking, I choose to focus on listening. That's what's made us successful all these years. If we lose sight of what that's all about and get caught up in rattling on about how smart we are or what we know, we won't have any time left to really listen and serve our clients."
I couldn't have said it better. Thanks Kelly! Find more about Kelly at Merge Marketing.
According to an article in Harvard Business Review: "Most marketing and sales efforts focus on the wrong messaging and therefore do not stimulate the correct part of a prospect's brain. This idea is supported by Forrester Research, which found that 65% of high-level decision makers give their business to the company that creates the 'buying vision.'" The "buying vision" is a presentation directed to the buyer's mind.
What do executives (your prospects) want? They want companies to come in and tell them something they don't already know about a problem or missed opportunity — but instead, most only talk about themselves.
Click here for the article: http://tinyurl.com/bsdhlnw
Humans have a built-in ability to recognize unfairness. Many people think of this as trusting their "gut" or a "sixth sense." Then again, other people can't do it at all. Why the discrepancy? Research findings were recently reported in the journal of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioural Neuroscience. It showed that people who are "more in tune with their bodies are more likely to be led by their 'gut feelings'." It's certainly not news that people rely on their "gut," but what I found interesting in this research was how the researchers determined which of their test subjects were in tune with their bodies. They simply had them count the number of their own heartbeats. Then, their answers were compared to their actual heart rate recording. You might consider these gut responses as the "red flags" some people feel when they recognize something is not right. For marketers, this indicates that congruence and consumer-friendly language are two vital elements to making the prospect feel comfortable with you and your offer. For sales people, ditto. Here is a link to the article in Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521213649.htm
Back Story – The foundations of psychological marketing
In the 80s and 90s, Michael was writing advertising and marketing in Dallas and Austin, Texas. He always asked a logical question: “Who buys this stuff?” The answers were always disappointing. It seemed that no one really knew who bought their own “stuff.” They knew zip codes and home value, but they never knew anything about the target market’s psychology. Since psychology makes all decisions, that was a pretty important flaw in those business strategies.
Annoyed and challenged by the lack of usable information on target market psychology, Michael began to research who buys stuff, and why. Now, nearly 25 years later, he has discovered (or developed) many of the answers. We can explain them simply in these Guidelines:
1. People use their emotions to buy everything.
2. They use their logic to substantiate their purchase.
3. To find the right provider, they unconsciously look for Comfort Points. Such as:
- A values match
- A personal connection
- Real photos, rather than generic stock ones
- Real stories, rather than resumes
- Gender-friendly colors
- Skimmable content
- Content that focuses on them, rather than on a sales pitch
- Proactive verbs
- More verbs than adjectives and adverbs
So What? Use those guidelinesto grade your own marketing and sales efforts. Chances are, your marketing and sales will fail on nearly every point. Why? Because very few marketers and sales professionals understand how to use the psychology in their work. And, that is exactly why About People was created.
Successful marketing depends enormously on the first impression. Well, consider that people are too busy today to actually READ your marketing. That means they glance and skim. It’s like looking at a stranger and getting that quick burst of impression. Good? Bad? Attractive? Trustworthy? Dangerous? It all happens in about half a second.
So, how do you create a positive first impression? Two things: design and content. If the design and content are not presented (in the right way), your message will very likely fall on deaf eyes. (There is a tremendous amount of research to substantiate this point.) This goes for ALL marketing, but especially for your website. After all, that is where people go to check out your credibility. So, let’s look at design in the context of your website…
The design has value only if it is effective at making the visitor feel comfortable and secure, and guiding the his/her eyes to relevant information. Consider where that person looks first? If that position is not inviting and compelling – game over. The visitor will abort the site. The look needs to be guided by psychology, but very few designers understand psychology. Thus, they tend to make a catastrophic blunder.
They build the top of the marketing page around a generic image that is irrelevant to the visitor (your prospect). An image of a horse or tall buildings might look pretty, but prospects are not looking at marketing hoping to find something pretty.
Research into the eye-movement patterns of people viewing websites clearly shows that those generic photos are a negative, adding zero value to your site. Imagine I walk into your office and say, “I’m looking for a good advisor to handle all my family’s finances,” and you respond by showing me a photo of a horse. How long will I stay in your office?
In the next post, we’ll look at the content and how you should approach what you say in order to attract people and engage them.
Credibility Marketing is similar to corportate PR, but where PR often serves as the company cheerleader, turning lemons into zesty lemonade, Credibility Marketing serves as a researcher and gives an objective eye.
If I’m your firm’s Credibility Marketing person, I would look for every possible relevant connection between the company and the various target markets. Then, I’d create white papers and reports teaching the target markets about those areas, of course also showing how the company is a pioneer or thought leader in that area. If the company does not fit that role, then the claims cannot be made.
The risk is significant. As soon as the content of the reports moves away from objectivity and takes a step toward marketing, BS or PR fluff, the company loses its credibility. So, the people doing the Credibility Marketing can’t report to any other team or department with a different agenda.
Find a ton of information about Credibility Marketing at: http://www.aboutpeople.com/CredibilityMarketing.php