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Telling a story

Advisers can learn a lot from the way brands like John Lewis and Edward Jones use storytelling in their marketing, says Jon Pittham, managing director, ClientsFirst

There was an advert on TV recently that caught my attention every time it was on. It was for John Lewis, who have been leaders at this sort of thing for some time now, and it pulled off the very clever marketing trick of telling you your own story.

There might be omissions or things included that you don’t remember but, broadly, it is all there. Your child’s first crawl, that yoyo you used to have when you were at grammar school, winter sledging on the one local hill tall enough to build up just the right amount of speed to throw you off.

John Lewis are experts at telling stories in their marketing. On the whole, financial advisers are not.

Like retail, financial services can appear to be a cold, faceless, boring world if you let it. People don’t relate to cold figures, product pushes, discounts or communication that focuses on how good you are. They do relate to stories where they can see just a little bit of themselves.

For a more relevant example of someone doing it well, search YouTube for ‘Edward Jones Commercials’. In 15 and 30 second versions, Edward Jones draw on small experiences common to clients in the modern world and show how they make them better. The adverts maybe a bit over-sweet for some, but they’re also effective, quick and laden with things clients 
can latch on to. Again, like John Lewis, they tell clients a story they can relate to and then insert their brand into the narrative.

Use your client stories

The strange thing is that advisers have plenty of this sort of story and some of them are even better than those on offer elsewhere already, but how many of those stories make it to clients?

Just over the course of the last few weeks I’ve seen mention by an adviser of a client who walked in to their offices thinking they could not afford to take a career break and walked out knowing that they could. Another adviser I know has a story so good that part of it made it into a national newspaper. A company we work with has an employee who raises so much money for charity she is now a world record holder.

There appear to be two barriers to advisers harnessing these stories to a better degree within their marketing.

Firstly, we all need to
 get better at recognising a marketing-ready story when 
we see it. This is not easy.
Even seasoned journalists 
pass up stories that could have been front page news. Several publishers ignored Harry Potter. There’s no hard and fast rule for spotting a story but it is good practice to get into the habit of writing down ideas, concepts or just general notes; every time a client relays their story to you, every time someone in your firm ‘goes the extra mile’. Remember that a story can be anything: the John Lewis example is constructed solely from fairly innocuous moments.

Secondly, think about how
 you might be able to frame 
your story. This is a complicated process but a good way to begin is to consider if you need to 
tell it literally or weave it into
 an illustrative narrative. A case study is a common way of telling a story literally, whereas John Lewis would probably struggle to tell you the exact client who went sledding, having purchased a coat from them.

None of this process is easy and your stories may fail to
 hit the mark on numerous occasions, your first drafts may be thrown into the bin frequently. Telling a story though, just like we already do to each other every day, can help you to connect with clients, giving them a sense of what advice can mean when it’s not hiding behind the cold words of finance.

To watch the John Lewis advert click here

Click here to watch the Edward Jones videos

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