Those pesky emotions: The role of feelings in investment marketing

People ultimately make buying (investing) and selling (cashing out) decisions for emotional reasons. Writing to assuage negative emotions, such as mistrust, fear of loss, lack of confidence, while engendering positive emotions, such as trust, belief and desire for investment gain, requires a benefits focus.

Each and every time you write something, tie it back to a client benefit, i.e. an emotion. If it has no client benefit, it’s irrelevant to the client—leave it out.

What’s in it for them?

This entry could have easily had a title about benefits vs. features, but you might have skipped it. After all, everybody knows the difference between benefits and features, right?

Despite risk of seeming to patronise you, let’s review the topic, just to make sure.

Writing about benefits departs sharply from the usual approach of writing an exhaustive list of a fund or investment strategy’s detailed features. Writing about the features of your firm’s investment funds comes naturally. And, doubtless, many of these details are important to certain client types. But to win business, you need to highlight the benefits first. Benefits drive buying decisions, not features.

Feature or benefit?

What’s a feature then, and what’s a benefit?

Feature—an attribute of a fund, strategy or investment management company. For example, ‘the fund’s benchmark is the FTSE All-Share + 2% over a rolling 12-month time period’, or ‘ . . .has been AAA Rated by Stanley & Poole’s’.

Benefit—directly addresses a client need, usually by solving a problem or appealing to an emotion. For example, ‘the fund offers you exposure to the performance of the FTSE 100, with a target of delivering 2% return over and above that index’.

In focus groups I’ve run or observed, simple, but ‘real’, evidence-based lists of benefits had the greatest impact and generated the most reader engagement. Speaking about benefits in a general high-level way had less impact, but much more than lists of features where the writer expects the reader to figure out the benefit for themselves.

Anything that asks the target audience to make the connection between a feature and a benefit nearly always has little or no positive influence on buying decisions.

Sales research variously shows that a large majority of readers can’t get from a feature to a benefit, not because they’re stupid, but because they’re busy, overworked and bombarded with information. Thus, they simply filter out anything that doesn’t immediately and obviously imply a benefit.

You have to make it easy for your reader and spell it out. If you make them work to get to the benefit, you will lose, especially if your competitor makes the effort.

The most powerful benefits relate to the client’s emotions. The main emotions at play include:

  • Fear of loss.
  • Desire for gain.
  • Trust or distrust of the fund management company, firm or industry.
  • Confidence, or lack thereof, in the manager.

Your marketing should address at least one of these emotions.

Let’s look at an example. While not perfect, this excerpt from an investment bank/wealth manager advert offers an excellent illustration of emotional marketing in practice. The entire advertisement has been written to address the emotions of confidence and trust, while addressing the basic fear that investors felt during the financial crisis.

What can you be sure about in times like these? As a client of XXX, you can be sure that we remain committed to being one of the best-capitalised banks in the world. That we remain focused on building the capabilities our clients demand. You can be sure about our knowledge and experience. The kind that comes from over 140 years in the industry, seeing clients through every twist and turn in the market.

Messages that address clients’ desire for gain usually discuss performance or the firm’s track record.

For example:

Since its launch a year ago, a buzz has surrounded the Nifty Supercool Bond Fund. The award-winning structure and sector-busting performance has resulted in net investment in the fund reaching £xxx million in less than 12 months. The Fund returned xx.x% in the second half of 2010, finishing the year as the top ranked Fund in its sector.

However, these types of messages have come under severe regulatory and compliance scrutiny, and probably rightly so. This makes it much more important that you can differentiate yourself with careful and research-driven marketing messages.

….   Part II coming soon!

(Excerpted from: Writing for Financial Services and Investments: How to build trust and communicate clearly and fairly with your clients. ©2016 Andrew Mark Skeen, All rights reserved. Kindle version available, print version pending)

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