Clarifying your message means to speak to the needs of your prospective client by creating comfort and confidence by talking about long-term goals, participant and company owner outcomes, and what life looks like for clients who work with you, rather than reciting your years of experience and exhaustive knowledge about retirement plans.
You might think that a suggestion to clarify and simplify your primary marketing message would be straightforward advice. You might think it means to take your existing message and revoice it with fewer words and less jargon. True, but it really means to be open to rewriting it to reflect your customer’s aspirations rather than your experience, credentials, and list of services. The difference is more than being concise. It is an opportunity to be clear in a way many of your peers are not. And that could translate to a real competitive advantage.
It is unfortunately common. Company names are generic. Tag lines often are descriptors that read more like explanations than marketing ideas. Primary messages that should answer “Why choose you” are instead bulleted lists of products and services and credentials and experience. It is, of course, understandable. We are technical professionals; creatures of habit, and we tend to talk more naturally about what we do than about the problems we solve. The result is a landscape of highly capable, technically competent firms that tend to look and sound more alike than not. In a highly competitive, somewhat commoditized market, this does not work if your goal is to stand out.
When potential customers listen to your presentation, visit your Website, or read your collateral they are asking themselves: Do you understand me and my goals?; Are you the right fit for me? Given the choice between relatively comparable competitors, each of whom have the requisite experience, credentials, and services, they are more likely to connect emotionally and consider the one that tells them stories that speak to their personal experience and who communicates without jargon, Federal code references, or complicated plan design scenarios. These things do matter in the design and delivery of your professional work, but they tend not to speak to the needs of your prospect or help them make a decision to hire you over others. That is what clarifying and simplifying your message is all about.
Every organization is a combination of people, process, and passion. And when it comes to retirement plans, that gets expressed in many different ways. From boutique, high-touch service models to automated, highly scalable ones, our industry presents a number of different solutions that are voiced many different ways. It is not a simple niche to master. It also is not the easiest to explain. Things get complicated. That is the challenge, but also the opportunity. While others may continue to lead with their esoteric retirement plan knowledge and years of experience, you can separate from the pack by focusing your primary messaging squarely on creating comfort and confidence by talking about long-term goals, participant and company owner outcomes, and what life looks like for clients who work with you. Painting a picture of a relationship with you and the benefits this yields may pay serious dividends over a formal recitation of your
team’s pedigree and experience.
“Simplifying” means choosing words that are immediately clear to the reader and speak to something they value. Words like “innovative” and “solution” reflect a professional dialogue, but to your prospect, they are vague and are disconnected from what they need and what problems they are trying to solve. Think about the words that appear first on your Website’s home page or on the first page of your firm overview brochure. What does it really say about how you understand your buyer? Does it speak their language? Does it speak to their success? Does it tell them why you are here before what services you offer?
The internal exercise to revisit your messaging requires a true willingness to look at it with fresh eyes and imagine it as others may. One good way to test this is to ask people who are not clients today to tell you what they think your message says to them. Is it really clear? Is it as understandable as you would like? Does it give them a reason to hire you?
Consider your company name, your tag line, your primary messages. You may or may not be open to putting all of these on the table, but it is important to recognize where your messaging is or is not an advantage in the public sphere. Review all of the places you express this: your Website, marketing collateral, videos, pitch decks, email letters, social posts. Then make a commitment to updating this to reflect your brand and your mission. It could make the difference in someone visiting your Website and engaging to learn more versus leaving without a trace. It could mean the difference between someone requesting a meeting or not. Ultimately, it could make the difference between them hiring your firm versus another. And that is the best reason of all to do it.
This article was first published by Wolters Kluwer in the Journal of Pension Benefits, Winter 2020