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July 16, 2020

Can You Hear Me Now? 7 Tips for Consistent Financial Services Messaging

Today’s post is by Joseph D. Kringdon, Principal, Kringdon & Associates/HMC. Joe spent several decades in the Wealth and Asset Management business, managing and leading both Advisors and Wholesaler Investment Consultants.

“Just Do It.” “Finger lickin’ good.” “Can you hear me now?” “Where’s the beef?” “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” “Breakfast of Champions.” “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”

You can recognize these slogans, and name the companies who are behind them, instantly. That’s the power of a great slogan. These messages are audible representations of brands—mini-mission statements that promise the customer that they’ll get what they expect. They’re simple to understand and remember.

Over time, slogans get to be memorable through repetition and consistency. These leading brands make sure that every ad on TV, radio, print, or online says the same thing. While your organization’s slogan may not rank among these brand giants (and few do), it does share one goal: to help your customers understand your value proposition. This consistency of messaging makes you, your products, and your company memorable and relevant.

Messaging consistency has many benefits. It’s one of the most important ways to build a brand and support sales. Ensuring that salespeople are delivering approved wording—and certifying that they’ve been trained properly—is also a requirement in regulated industries. But verifying that all the branches of an organization are consistently delivering the same version can be almost impossible. The larger the company, the more challenging it becomes.

And that’s certainly the case now. The pandemic has disrupted even the most smoothly run companies. Although some organizations have resumed operations, our work life is now mostly virtual. And when teams are spread around the globe, it can be a challenge to share information and work collaboratively. Meetings may not always be possible, nevermind in-person conversations.

For example, if your salespeople are presenting a Strategic Income fund to someone at Morgan Stanley, you want to make sure that they’re saying the same thing to someone in New York, Maryland, and California. Your brand resonates when the story is repeated enough so that it becomes your “national anthem.” This only happens if all your people are saying the same things in the same way during every client interaction in the field or at the home offices of your clients.

View from the Field

As with many organizations, when I joined Columbia Threadneedle Investments, I found that people were telling the product story very differently in different places. If ten people were telling the story, there were nine different versions, none of them wrong, but none of them the same.  The struggle to have the story be repetitive and synchronous was not unique to us, but needed to be addressed if we wanted our brand/products to resonate.

The first thing we did was implement Allego to make it easy to share examples of what a good presentation for each product looked like. Working across the organization—Distribution, Marketing, Product Management, Investments—we developed scripts and got people to rehearse them, then asked the best people to record a video to share with the team. People started to realize that ‘Hey, this is a good way for me to learn the story.’

Before Allego, product managers would just send out emails and flyers and say, ‘Here’s what my product looks like. Here’s how you sell it.’ With Allego, in addition to having a presentation, they could also share a video with information about the competitors in the space: ‘Here’s how we stack up against them. Here’s what we do differently.’ This provided footnotes so that salespeople could tell the story, and they had factual background information that helped them respond if somebody raised an objection.

7 Best Practices for Consistent Messaging

From my experience at Columbia Threadneedle and Pioneer Investments, I’ve gathered seven ways you can improve messaging rollout and consistency.

1. Clearly define product messaging.

Make sure the value proposition and pitch for every new product is well-defined. Share product messaging with your team along with guidelines for how to introduce new products and pointers for how to open up the conversation.

Tip: Pre-record examples of how salespeople have used an opening successfully or worked a product into the conversation.

2. Facilitate conversations with clients and between salespeople.

You want to enable wholesalers and other salespeople to have conversations with their clients but also with one another. Zoom, Slack, and other tools have become a big thing and teams are becoming more facile with using those. But there is also value in having casual conversations without having to sync up calendars.

Tip: Instead of scheduling meetings, record a video of yourself asking for input or to brainstorm ideas for an account.

3. Respond quickly to breaking news.

In financial services, the markets move quickly and you often don’t have time to wait for a weekly team call or email recap to act.

Tip: Use a tool that gives you the ability to collaborate across teams in real-time and stay aligned on messaging.

4. Make better use of face-to-face time.

Because face-to-face is limited, and precious, you want to make sure meeting participants have all the information they need to make the best use of it. Give your team a proposal to react to and any background instead of starting with a blank slate. You’ll use the time together more efficiently, and get to the meat of the issue faster when you get together live.

Tip: Before a meeting with a client or colleague, share a short video describing the agenda or topics to be discussed so that everyone can start on the same page.

5. Harvest expert knowledge.

Don’t let the experience of your seasoned salespeople go to waste. Get them to talk about their interactions with clients and initial reactions to products so that others are well-equipped to have that conversation.

Tip: Record your salespeople explaining: Here’s how I introduced a product, initial objections, and common FAQs.

6. Give salespeople the answers to the test.

When you walk into a conversation with a client, there’s only a finite number of things they can ask you about the product. That works in your favor if you study ahead of time. You can have the answers to the test.

Tip: Prepare salespeople with responses for two types of common objections. Questions about the product can be overcome with insightful information and competitive analysis. Run through “trust builders”—what some of their colleagues and competitors are doing in the same space—to fend off emotional objections.

7. Share competitive intel.

Clients may compare your products to a competitor’s. Equip your salespeople with an analysis of major players in the space. Show how you either complement or compete with their offerings.

Tip: Embed a video or slide from your product management team in your presentation that shows the common risk perception of your products versus others.

The Importance of Consistency During Uncertain Times

Now more than ever, it’s important for organizations to offer clear, consistent messaging. A memorable “story” creates confidence among clients and client-facing teams, which allows them to add value to every interaction. Traditional approaches to capturing and sharing information aren’t agile or flexible enough for today’s ever-changing world.

Leveraging a platform such as Allego can help you stay aligned. Use mobile, video and peer-to-peer networking technology to give your team the best chance to stay on message and overcome today’s challenges. Creating, rehearsing and delivering your “national anthem” consistently allows you and your teams to invite others to join in the chorus and applaud you with increased business.

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