It’s about the client, stupid

Investment management companies tend to write about themselves, their own interests and the nifty features of their amazing investment funds. But, to win and retain business you need to learn to write about what really interests clients.

First you must learn to think like a client and write from their perspective, not that of your firm. Second you must write directly to clients using ‘you’ and ‘your’. The marketing research concerning client focus and direct use of language leaves no room for doubt—it’s time to move on from the indirect academic style.

Putting clients first

Building trust comes near the top of any list of objectives for a fund management firm’s communications effort, be it advertising, branding or investment writing. Demonstrating a keen client focus with the careful use of language can have enormous benefits in terms of trust and relationship building. Projecting a client focus comes a lot easier if you actually have such a focus, but using appropriate language is an important first step.

By this I mean writing to, for and about your clients’ wants, needs and priorities. To do this, you have to master two related but separate techniques:

  • Thinking like clients.
  • Writing to—and for—clients.

Thinking like a client

Before you can write from a client point of view, you have to think like a client. Who are they? What motivates them? What do they need and want to know? What will generate a buying impulse? What will reassure them?

I’ve seen a number of marketing briefs that start with ‘What is the purpose of this project’ as a way of giving a piece of writing a unifying purpose. You could do worse by, for example, not having a brief at all. But if you really want to focus your writing, begin by asking, ‘who is it for?’ and ‘what do they care about?’. If you write from the point of view of your firm, which is what nearly everyone in the industry does, you end up sounding completely self-centred, arrogant and triumphal—exactly like the great majority of investment houses in the UK.

For example, many investment brochures begin with a bloated and self-congratulatory company profile, which catalogues the successes and awards the firm has won by being simply groovy.

News flash: No one outside the firm cares.

No one cares and almost no one reads the self-indulgent drivel at the beginning of most corporate brochures. For example, waxing lyrical about your plans to grow your assets under management by 10% over the next year will simply make people think you’re more interested in getting your dirty hands on their money than meeting their investment needs.

If you want to capture your prospective clients’ attention, and ultimately win business, start with what the client wants to know about, not what you or your firm wants to tell them. The company profile, for example, does serve a purpose, which is to reassure the client that they’re buying into a solid and successful investment firm. But it’s a hygiene factor, not a selling factor. Put it in at the end or tuck it inside the front cover, a spot few people notice when flipping through a brochure, but which will make it easy for you to get the brochure signed off by the business because they think you’ve given it prominence.

Here’s a worked example of how not to write a company profile—smug, self-centred and self-congratulatory waffle. These types of message might play well internally, but they have no use externally.

We are a leading global investment firm, offering a comprehensive and global approach to gathering and managing assets. Our talented investment teams, clear philosophy and presence in key world markets are a powerful combination. Our success means that we now manage worldwide assets of £334.4 billion, a 10% increase in just two years.

You can easily imagine the brief that spawned this particular piece of pompous and flabby writing—something along the lines of ‘increase awareness of our global success’. Unfortunately, it just leaves the reader with the impression that as a firm, you’re either insecure and trying too hard, or you’re smug and self-satisfied.

This text has no client in it at all. At best, it simply doesn’t work hard enough to engage the readers’ interest. There are no benefits and no recognition of the buying motivations of potential clients. This sounds like the type of messages that you might read in a ‘New Starters’ Induction Pack’ written by a bored HR or internal comms exec. In other words, it’s an internal, inwardly focused set of messages.

So how do you fix it? Start by asking yourself what’s important to the client. Put yourself in their shoes, and then start to write. Omit or revise anything that’s not related to a specific client interest or benefit.

With J. Bloggs Asset Management you gain access to a leading investment manager, offering a truly client-centred approach to meeting your investment requirements. World-class, talented investment teams, guided by a clear philosophy, will tend your investments. Collectively they drive the investment process that helps us exceed your expectations.

Next time I’ll write about to write directly to your readers …

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