The Message That Wins Clients

August 11, 2015

by Dan Richards

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As an advisor, you want to deliver a message that sets you apart and makes prospects walk away wanting to work with you. But many advisors go wrong by focusing on their backgrounds, credentials, firms, processes and teams.

Research shows that what makes all but the most analytical of prospects select advisors isn’t facts and figures that appeal at a rational level. Rather, the best way to motivate and connect with most prospects is using a simple, relevant and memorable story to strike an emotional chord. For most prospects, the main role of performance and process is simply as backup to a message that resonates at an emotional level.

Appealing to the head versus the heart

There’s growing evidence on the powerful impact of an emotional appeal. As one example, in “Charities should appeal to the heart, not the head,” Wharton’s Deborah Star points to research on two ways that a charity working in Africa can frame a request for support:

Approach One: Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than three million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated three million Zambians face hunger. Four million Angolans — one-third of the population — have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.

Approach Two: Any money that you donate will go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl who lives in Mali in Africa. Rokia is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger, even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed and educate her, and provide her with basic medical care.

The first appeal is much more substantive, with facts and figures that make the case. But the second appeal that focuses on just one young girl in need draws significantly more support. Charities need to hone their stories to focus on emotions. In this same way, advisors need to translate their work into how individual clients are better off as a result. Here’s more on Deborah Star’s findings on how charities should tell their stories:

It’s all about putting together a simple, emotionally compelling message. The best way to do that is in the form of a picture or a story, something that purely engages the emotional system. The mistake that many charities make is trying to appeal both to emotion and to reason. They assume this would be more effective than appealing to only one or the other, but it isn’t.

Harnessing the power of stories

Jennifer Aaker of the Stanford Graduate School of Business has done extensive research on the power of the right stories. In her video, Harnessing the Power of Stories, she explains why “stories are up to 22 times more powerful than facts alone.”

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The Message That Wins Clients