Date: December 3, 2015

Does Your Financial Advisory Practice Need an Extreme Makeover?

“When E.F.Hutton Talks, People Listen.” Those of us over a certain age can’t help but remember old Wall Street tag lines like that one, along with the accompanying stuffy image. Back then, image makers wanted us to think that financial advisors were practically all-seeing and all-knowing. Today, some advisors continue to carry that torch, with their websites filled with economic forecasts, recommendations and endless lists of accomplishments and credentials.

However, studies show that consumers today are looking for the opposite; they want someone they can relate to, someone who will listen to what they have to say. Your firm’s list of credentials is fine, but there’s other things they want to know about your practice first.  According to Barry Glassman of Glassman Wealth Services, advisors do amazing things in meetings to describe how they can help clients, but that rarely translates to their websites.  In today’s digital age, that’s an expensive mistake.

You need to get through to prospective clients digitally in a way that they’ll hear you, on their terms.   Interesting new research has gotten very specific that to maximize your chances of success, you should choose your words very carefully.  Apparently people are sick of many of the old industry catchphrases, which simply reinforce reasons they already have not to trust financial advisors.  So you want to make sure you don’t sound like those old E.F. Hutton commercials and turn off visitors to your website in the process.

Here are some simple tips to prevent them from running and instead, reel them in with your digital presence and content:

Avoid Overused Terms.  According to corporate language guru Frank Luntz, there are clear, tangible ways to speak to today’s consumers. He recommends staying away from overused words like “certified” and “groundbreaking”, which are now mistrusted by most.  Instead, he suggests using fresher, more relatable words such as “creative” and “exceptional.”  Other examples of phrases that reflect today’s straightforward mode of thinking are the “simple truth” and “no excuses.”

Choose Straight Talk over Jargon.  Not surprisingly, focus groups continue to show a desire to move away from any and all technical talk and jargon.    Consumers today want their brands to be real and down to earth, and financial services is no exception.   So, we need to learn to keep word choices simple and straightforward. For example, consumers don’t want to read about ‘non-correlated strategies to manage certain types of risk’; they’d rather hear that you’ll diversify their money to help protect them from losses. The more they understand what you’re doing and how it helps them, the more you’ll be developing a bond of trust, which is a critical component for today’s consumers in picking an advisor.

Pick Your Images Carefully.  Investors today also have changed perceptions of images when it comes to wealth management. Gone are the days when photos of wealthy, jewel-decked tycoons on expensive yachts attracted clients. Even the older generations, who were that market just a few decades ago, have apparently moved on. These icons don’t play well anymore even with the wealthy, who probably equate both the yacht and the participants on it as high maintenance headaches. Instead, research has found that simpler pictures, such as an old couple in casual jeans holding hands, played out far better in engaging consumers.

Include Images that Evoke Emotion.   Many of today’s consumers are more concerned about quality of life than money, so according to Luntz, images that attract consumers now are ones that evoke emotion. An image of a celebration, for example, scores highly (maybe as long as it’s not on that yacht…) Anything that brings out feelings or compassion, such as pictures of a caring person or a child with a pet, holds more appeal to visitors than the standard Wall Street images of bulls, bears and everything in between.

Rethink your Color Scheme.  Consumers are sensitive to color, so be careful how you paint your vision as well. Consider these colors, which according to Luntz play well with younger consumers: yellow, which casts a warm glow, and blue and green, which are down to earth.   Very different from the conservative navy blue and white websites of the past.

Engage with Effective and Educational Content.  Finally, consumers today expect more than an online brochure from your firm. They are looking to be engaged and informed, and they want insights into what it’s like to work with you. So instead of the “We’re the smartest guys in the room” approach, be sure your website includes original articles, videos and other media to help educate your potential clients with examples of how you can help them address their concerns about money.

Times have changed and today’s consumers expect more.  Smart advisors will want to prioritize their firm’s makeover, extreme or otherwise, so they’re not left behind.

To learn more about Jeanne Klimowski, visit


Susan Bishop