People love stories.
We can tell because every year the New York Times publishes the most popular books of the week, and lots of them are stories. None of them are almanacs.
Facts and figures are nice, but they don't draw people in. You have to create a storyline around them. And that’s where an intriguing sample case study for financial planning comes in.
A 2013 study from the Content Marketing Institute and the Direct Marketing Association UK found that marketers in the United Kingdom believed that case studies were the most effective form of content marketing – beating out research reports and e-newsletters, which ran a close second and third. If you’re posting blog articles and creating newsletters full of facts and figures, but you aren’t including actual stories involving people your readers can relate to, you’ve got a gaping hole in your financial advisor marketing plan.
The judicious use of a case study about a financial problem and resolution in your financial advisor blog or newsletter can help fill that gap.
The elements of a great case study are similar to the elements of a good story: a strong, relatable sympathetic character, a problem (conflict), and a resolution.
A case study can show your prospective clients how you and your product or service helps people just like them. And that’s a powerful marketing message.
Case studies provide a number of important advantages to the financial planner:
- Case studies connect with the emotional side of the brain – the side of the brain that actually gets people to call and make an appointment to help them solve a financial problem or challenge.
- Case studies are relevant to your market by definition.
- Case studies can show how painless and beneficial the financial planning process can be.
- Case studies highlight the financial planning process and readily enable you to differentiate between your role as a fiduciary, emphasizing your consultative approach, an approach too often taken by the product-focused salespeople who compete with you.
- Case studies are fully customizable for your business niche. In fact, because people respond to stories that involve people like themselves, focusing on case study marketing can help you establish dominance in your chosen niche or niches.
Put clients first
The first thing to remember about generating case studies is to stay focused on how the process benefits the client, not the planner. As the old sales proverb goes, readers are constantly tuned in to radio station WII-FM – What’s In It For Me?
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. A case study is all about the client’s experience, and the benefits to the client.
“A good case study puts a human face on both a common problem and a solution,” says Jack Waymire, CEO of Paladin Digital Marketing. “You can feed people facts and figures all day long, but often times it doesn’t stick until you humanize the problem and its benefit, and engage the reader’s emotional brain along with the analytic side.”
Fire on multiple cylinders
Not everybody learns best by reading a wall of text. Many people learn best from graphs and charts. Others need to hear the information spoken out loud. Look for multiple ways to present the same message:
- Bar charts
- Video chats and presentations
- Audio chats and podcasts
- In-person presentations.
Case studies should quantify as much as possible. The more you can tie the benefit to numbers the better. Many people won’t jump without seeing the numbers.
People who are at the stage at which they are reading case studies are open to a solution or they wouldn’t be reading the case study. But they are still from Missouri, as they say: “Show me.”
Quantifying your message can also help you sell your message to another critical audience: The silent spouse or partner.
You never know whether your first contact will be with the emotional partner or the number-cruncher partner in a relationship. Telling a story, and buttressing the story with cold, hard facts, can help set you up for success in reaching both of them.
You also may need to provide ammunition for your reader to bring to his or her spouse or boss.
Find the angle unique to you
Case studies can help set you apart in the crowded market by focusing on your strengths. For example, a planner with particular experience or insight in working with doctors might highlight a financial planning problem that many doctors can relate to, such as student loan management issues, or protecting assets from the claims of malpractice creditors.
This does two important things: It establishes you as a subject matter expert in a field of close interest to your target market (without you having to actually claim it, which can potentially lead to compliance scrutiny). It also helps differentiate you from competitors who don’t bother making this connection with your niche audience.
Include a call to action
If they read to the end of the case study, get them to take action. It’s all for naught until the reader picks up the phone, downloads your e-book, signs up for your newsletter, or emails to make an appointment. Tell the reader what you want them to do – take the next step in your sales journey – and tell them how to do it.
Of course, regulatory compliance is a critical factor. There are a number of considerations specific to the RIA/financial planning industry you should be aware of.
For example, Rule 206(4)-1 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the so-called “Advertising Rule,” restricts what you’re able to say in marketing materials. For example, you can’t market investments in a way that a regulator may construe as “promissory,” or that future clients are likely to experience the same results as the people in the case study.
But this dovetails nicely into the financial planning profession: Most planners are selling a process, and a relationship, rather than a security. As long as your marketing material focuses on the process, and the benefits of the process itself in a way that’s provable and replicable, you should pass compliance muster.
However, because financial services is a regulated field, financial planning case studies are not something you want to outsource to a generalist marketing firm or copywriter. No, most of you shouldn’t be doing this writing yourself. You should be making phone calls and meeting prospects and clients, not hiding behind your word processor!
But when you do outsource this work, you want writers who are already familiar with RIA compliance issues and how the financial planning profession is regulated, both by FINRA and the SEC as well as by state regulators. That’s why it makes sense to hire Paladin Digital Marketing, an expert in the field of content marketing for financial advisors.
Work your case studies into an overall content marketing plan
Turn case studies into blog and newsletter posts. Each successful case study is an excuse to double down on your content marketing, and get more content into the hands of your prospects and clients that shows the breadth and depth of the services you provide, and the value you are able to bring. Put your successful case studies front and center in blog posts, social media, newsletters, video chats and any other form of marketing you can think of.