Scary Monsters, The Google Game and the art of Storytelling

Since the dawn of man one way of sharing ideas has been more effective than any other….

Storytelling.

From cave paintings, to fireside tales spreading from camp to camp, to the growth of storytelling with industrial printing, to the world we live today where stories are told in a huge variety of different styles, a bunch of different formats and virtually instantly through the inter-web.

We learn to tell stories at a young age. A day doesn’t go by without my little’un Sophie telling me about tales about her day, her desires and her dreams (which normally involve ice cream, scary monsters and Iron Man).

We then we got to school and learn about how to tell stories more effectively. Most of us read more stories than ever before and learn how to put the written word together more effectively than before….

and then we ‘grow up’.

As adults we still tell plenty of stories verbally. A day doesn’t go by when we share stories with our family, friends and colleagues in order to share our perspectives on entertain, life and as an opportunity to persuade.

However as I write this I find myself wondering if, and especially in the world of financial services, whether we avoid telling stories in much of our communication.

So you can see what I mean let’s play a game….

Go to Google.

Search for “Independent Financial Adviser (insert your local area)”.

Click on a few adviser websites.

Check on how many adviser websites on the first page ‘tells stories’.

Your experience might be different, but when I tried this little game and clicked through to a few sites I discovered something interesting.

There’s plenty of sites which tell me about the advisers (plenty about the advisers experience and professional qualifications but usually nothing personal), the business (again plenty about when the business started, the location and years of ‘collective experience’) and the areas the particular firm can help you with.

On a few of the sites you find there might be blogs. However most adviser blog articles seem to focus on the technical elements of our profession as opposed to the human.

What seems to be missing time and time again are the stories.

So here’s the question….

If stories are still the most powerful way we have to share ideas…..why don’t we do it more?

There might be a few reasons behind this.

It might be the perception that ‘adviser sites’ (or any other professional service website) need to be ‘professional’ and stories aren’t seen as fitting with this image. Personally I think this is nonsense! Surely if everyone is swimming away from telling stories and storytelling is a powerful way to deliver your message the intuitive thing to do is to swim against the tide and tell stories more!

It might be due to the perceived threat of regulation. However I believe telling stories allows you to express ideas and share concepts in ways which could potentially make your business more compliant, not less.

or

It might be due to the fact that storytelling takes time. Telling stories takes time and effort, Telling stories consistently enough to have a consistent commercial impact on your business takes even more. Maybe it’s the case that many advisory businesses feel that the effort they make telling stories might not deliver a commercial return. This might be true to justify the time and effort involved in storytelling in the short term, however in the long term I believe that storytelling as a medium to share ideas, provide insight and allows small advisory practices to build a brand personality which only a few short years ago would only have been possible in larger businesses.

As always writing an adviser lounge article leaves me with more questions than answers….one’s that I need your help answering….

In our profession do we use the power as storytelling as effectively as we should? and why don’t we use storytelling more?

Am I wrong about storytelling? Are more conventional approaches to promoting and marketing our businesses more effective?

Alternatively, and I love it if you could do this (as it might show the power of storytelling)….tell me a story!

 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

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4 thoughts on “Scary Monsters, The Google Game and the art of Storytelling

  • This is spot on Chris.

    I’ve been banging the storytelling drum for a while now.

    10 years ago the only way for an adviser to get a story out there without spending a fortune on video production or marketing was probably to write an article for a magazine.

    Now we all carry around high definition video and audio studios in our pockets. Every happy client. Every completed investment portfolio. Every critical illness claim. Every mortgage paid off is a potential video, audio podcast or webinar.

    By a Blue Mikey microphone for your iPhone (about £30) and you have the ability to tell stories people will love watching or listening to.

    Reply
    • Thanks Roger,

      Yep….it’s way easier now to tell stories than it ever was…..and in a variety of different ways too!

      Also, as you say, all the technology you need you probably carry around in your pocket!

      Which brings me back to my original question, and one where your view would be massively useful….

      If as a profession it’s now easier and cheaper to get stories ‘out there’…..why don’t we do it more?

      Reply
  • I can only echo your observations on IFA websites and their complete lack of content.

    When we first put our website together we thought long and hard about why we wanted one – ego ? – and what we wanted it to acheive- storytelling !.

    Our conclusion was that the best use would be as a silent salesman for our business and what we thought we had to offer as a service – service because back in 2003 we had changed abruptly from a succesful commission led sales business to a fledgling client funded service model.

    So we decided to lay out our business model- warts and all- including our charges for anyone – trade or public – to have a chance of deciding if we were orth paying to be a part of their financial arrangements.

    Our story had nothing about us personally and focussed only on what we did, how we did it and what we charged for doing it. History has proved our decision was a good one and over the years as we have updated the site we have kept strictly to our original theme of only decribing what you get as a client of our business.

    To this day despite having had millions of clicks from the trade we rarely find any copy cat sites as it seems the industry prefers to think that potential or exisiting clients actually find it interesting to read about how clever an adviser is or digest details of their personal lives and habits in a Linked In or Facebook style.

    We run a business and feel it important that we demonstrate that we know our business and can explain it clearly when we are not present and which can be usd by clients to expalin to their friends and associates why it is that they are prepared to pay to have us as apart of their financial arrangements.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Phil,

      Your approach makes sense….make the story focused on what the client achieves and how you can help them do it seems like a decent sensible approach.

      Your decision to not make your story about you is obviously working for you….however we find that whilst the highest priority of all of our clients (both with Cervello and AE in a Box) is to find a service which works for them having an understanding of the individuals behind the business helps the client understand if they want to work with us or not.

      We chose to weave both the personal and professional into our content and whilst I’m not sure whether just taking your approach (telling stories about the ‘service’) or our approach (telling stories about the ‘service’ together with telling prospective and existing clients a little about ourselves) is the better route I’d suggest that either way telling stories about something is better than none at all!

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Reply

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