5 Useful Movie Quotes for Financial Agents

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In 2012, movie theaters sold just under 1.2 billion movie tickets. Those tickets resulted in over $11.4 billion in revenue for the film industry. People enjoy movies, and they should, as movies are one of the most efficient storytelling mediums.

If you watch movies with a keen eye, you will notice pieces of wisdom that apply to a variety of situations. Quotes spoken by characters (in nearly every movie) contain those nuggets of wisdom. We have already examined quotes by athletes that can apply to your business, Harry Potter quotes, and Star Wars quotes that can apply to financial agents, but this time around we will look at something more general.

Today, we are looking at 5 Useful Movie Quotes for Financial Agents:

  • “There is nothing cheap about loyalty.” – Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air (2009)

Gaining customer loyalty is one of the most important tasks for any financial services organization. If you work hard to engender loyalty among your client base, they will be less likely to leave your business for that of a competitor’s. It costs between four and ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one and some experts estimate the costs are even higher than that. With such a high cost associated with acquiring new customers, it is unlikely that financial services professionals want to have to replace customers to maintain their revenue on a regular basis. There is nothing cheap about loyalty.

  • “Normally, it takes years to work your way up to the 27th floor, but it only takes 30 seconds to be out on the street again.” – Mr. Sheldrake, The Apartment (1960)

Customers are challenging and expensive to acquire, especially in financial services. One bad experience can send your customers running for the hills. “Working your way up to the 27th floor” can be seen as a metaphor for nurturing a relationship and building trust with your customers.

Building those relationships involves working hard to show your level of commitment to your client base. A financial agent needs to consistently maintain a positive attitude, focus on adhering to exceptional communication standards, acknowledge the individuality of the customer and exceed customer expectations. Even if you are regularly showing your warmth and competence to clients (and potential clients), it will take time to nurture those relationships.

Despite the time and effort, it takes to build a relationship with your clients; one mistake can swiftly end any relationship you built with your clients. Be careful to always act in your customer’s best interest, while communicating your intentions, so you don’t end up “out on the street again.”

  • “I’m washing lettuce. Soon, I’ll be on fries. In a few years, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.” –Maurice, Coming to America (1988)

This quote from 1988’s Coming to America represents the qualities of hard work and patience, two essential characteristics for success in financial services. From the perspective of a financial agent, hard work and patience usually pay benefits for their clients.

For financial service professionals, hard work is, of course, necessary. Having the information and skill set to make responsible decisions for your clients requires a great deal of hard work. Research, consultations and eventually assuring your client that your plan of action will work out for them all require hard work. Patience is another requirement for financial agents. You need to be patient enough to stick with a plan through the dramatic peaks and valleys of an economic cycle. If you make hasty decisions, your clients may suffer in some way.

  • “The key to this business is personal relationships.” – Dicky Fox, Jerry Maguire (1996)

This quote is straight on the nose for financial services, especially outside of the personal banking sector. Consumers want some form of personal relationship when making the difficult decisions about who to trust with their finances. The average consumer is more likely to trust their financial advisor than the monolithic financial institution behind that advisor. As the graph from Edelman (below) shows, employees are the most trusted bank spokespersons to communicate information about key topics.

Why are the most trusted spokespeople in financial services employees? Employees are most trusted because consumers can build relationships with them. The more a customer interacts with the person managing their finances, the more they will grow to trust them. For more information on developing trust with consumers, check out our article on how warmth and competence affect customer perceptions.

Useful Movie Quotes (employees)

  • “Trying is having the intention to fail. You’ve got to scrap that word from your vocab. Say you’re gonna do it and you will.” – Sydney Fife, I Love You, Man (2009)

In I Love You, Man, Sydney, played by Jason Segel, helps his new friend Peter develop confidence in himself. The goal of those actions was to help Peter reach his goals and dreams. A large part of that process involved introducing Peter to the benefits of maintaining a positive mindset. As a financial agent, you should keep the same positive mindset that Sydney would want you to have.

You are a capable, well-trained financial agent, ready to manage, grow or ensure your client’s assets. You should not “try” to reach your goal, “trying” should not even be a part of your vocabulary. By maintaining a “will accomplish” mindset, your productivity will increase dramatically. The Mayo Clinic found that by thinking in positive terms (such as “I WILL do it”) will lower stress, reduce your level of depression and increase your lifespan.

With those benefits available, why would you allow yourself to think negatively? Just go out and do it!

As always, thank you for reading! Movies can entertain us, but they can also teach us lessons about life if we listen carefully. If you enjoyed this article, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn here.

Branding, Investing and Emotions: What Financial Agents can Learn from Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series is the highest selling book series of all time, selling over 500 million combined copies. The books and the movies based on those books contain several quotes that can apply to various aspects of the financial services industry. Today we will examine how 7 Harry Potter quotes can help you become a better financial agent.

  • “I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!” – Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

The evilest wizard in the entire Harry Potter Universe is an expert in personal branding. He was once known simply as “Tom Riddle.” But at an early age he realized that if he wanted to achieve his goals, he would need a new, more evil-sounding name: Voldemort. The new brand was so powerful that people in the Harry Potter world would say “he who must not be named” in place of Voldemort. But, of course, people still knew who they were discussing. He was the first thing associated with evil.

When you’re trying to establish your personal brand, you need to have an understanding of what that brand will represent. Voldemort wanted his brand to convey great evil because he is evil. Your personal brand needs to express who you are, which, hopefully, isn’t evil. Perhaps you want to be seen as “the best advisor for divorced women under the age of 30 in Mesa, Arizona” or “The advisor in Bozeman, Montana that specializes in planning retirement for high net worth individuals.”

Regardless of how you want to be seen by the public, you need to ensure your personal brand fits that view.

  • “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” – Arthur Weasley, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Proprietary technology solutions exist for many problems in the world. There are proprietary software solutions for payroll processing, scheduling communications and much more. These solutions should be viewed with caution because they are typically “black-box” solutions.

A “black-box” solution is defined as a:

Device, process, or system, whose inputs and outputs (and the relationships between them) are known, but whose internal structure is not.

If you don’t know how the technology works, how it handles workflows, or where it stores information, you should be cautious about trusting it. Fully understanding technology solutions is a requirement to maintain adequate control over your data. The proprietary nature of many “black-box” solutions means you will never be able to understand how that solution works fully.

Open source solutions offer greater transparency, allowing you to gain a more in-depth understanding of the technology. This added transparency can give you greater control of your data and workflows, which allows you to understand how and where your data is being stored and gives you the option to change aspects of your technology solution.  

  • “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”— Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

With the rate at which the world moves, you cannot dwell on dreams; you must constantly be “living.” That general idea has been promoted throughout history, used many times in pop culture and is the focus of several books.

In business, people always want more. More business, more money, more clients, and more success are goals of nearly every professional. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you need to take your focus off where you’re going, and show appreciation to those that helped you get to where you are.

Take some of your clients out for lunch or do something else that shows your appreciation. Building and keeping a customer base is hard work. Show your clients that you appreciate them. They will notice and appreciate what you do for them even more. By adding a personal touch and building strong connections with your clients, you will ensure that you can continue to reach for your dreams knowing you have a committed, loyal client base to build on.

  • “No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” –Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

This quote from the Hogwarts gamekeeper goes hand-in-hand with the last quote on this list. The last quote can be taken as a warning not to worry about “seeing the future” and not being discouraged from missed opportunities. This quote can be viewed as a call for patience and also as a call to action.

There is no need to rush into buying a growth stock, adopting the newest technology solution or doing anything. Your actions will not change the way things play out in a market. Rushing into things is a recipe for disaster. “What’s comin’ will come,” be patient and don’t expose yourself to undue risk.  

At the same time, when “what’s coming” finally arrives, you will have to meet it. That can mean many things in different situations, perhaps it’s finally time to adopt social media as a marketing channel. Perhaps it’s time to abandon a stock you believed would be successful. Regardless of the situation, it’s important not to rush, but also to react when necessary. Always move at the pace you feel comfortable with and adapt to change when you have to.

  • ‘It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Choices are a big part of defining who you are. Every aspect of your life involves making decisions. Do I wear blue or black today? Should I have eggs or cereal for breakfast? What time should I leave for work? These choices may be minor, but every choice affects your life. Decisions have consequences, regardless of how small the decision seems.

As a financial agent, you have made decisions that defined your client base. Am I better at making investments or planning for retirements? Should I focus on millionaire Millennials or working-class baby boomers? Should I become a fiduciary or sell branded-investments?

These decisions impact how your brand is perceived by clients and the public at large. How do you want to be viewed? Your choices define who you are, not your abilities. How do you choose to market your services to clients? Are you going to rely on word-of-mouth referrals to grow your business? Are you going to advertise online? Or are you going to adopt content marketing as your tactic of choice?

The choice of whether or not to use digital marketing practices, is perhaps the biggest decision you need to make. Consumers want an “always on” omnichannel experience. Can you provide that without a strong digital presence?

Your choices define who you are more than your abilities do. Even if you aren’t the most digitally savvy person around, you can choose to build a strong digital presence. It will help your business and provide potential clients with a more convenient purchase path.

  • “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” — Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Financial agents often have to deal with sensitive, personal issues with their clients. People will come to you for a number of reasons, some happy, others sad. You need to understand your client’s emotions and act accordingly.

When someone loses their job, they will be distraught, but still, require financial advice. When somebody’s parents pass away, they will need a financial agent to help guide them through the transition period. Situations, where loss has occurred, can be very emotional. To build a personal connection with your clients, acknowledge their emotions and help them understand that you’re there to help guide them through hard times with unwavering financial advice.

If your client has a child, gets a promotion, wins the lottery, or experience any number of other fantastic events that occur in life, they will be happy. As their financial agent, you should be jovial and celebrate with them. By showing your clients you genuinely care about their personal victories, you can build a strong connection and become part of their life, not just a part of their finances.

By harnessing the power of emotions and empathizing with your clients, you will be able to build a stronger connection with your client base. Leading to an increase in engagement and loyalty. In addition to providing a better customer experience, treating clients the way they would like to be treated can generate a positive return on investment for your business. The Harvard Business Review found that emotional connections are the best way to build loyalty with customers.

Dog Harry Potter

Harry Potter, a story about young wizards and witches, has become a cultural touchstone for many people worldwide. Are there any lessons that Harry Potter (or any other series) taught you? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ!

If you like quote-based articles, check out: Michael Jordan, Mohammed Ali & Serena Williams: What They Can Teach You About Business .

How to Project Warmth and Competence

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In a previous article, How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions, we discussed how warmth and competence play a major role in how people perceive other people and businesses. Because of this, a brand (or person) must project warmth and competence to be seen as trustworthy.

In financial services, warmth and competence are especially important because a person’s financial situation is a sensitive subject. They need to be able to trust their financial advisor to manage their finances responsibly. 

Once people learn about the importance of these two characteristics they often ask “How can I project my warmth and competence to clients?” The question has no definitive answer due to a lack of focused research on how to project warmth and competence in a business setting. Luckily nonverbal behaviors (NVB), a more common research subject, may provide insights on the topic.

Nonverbal Behaviors Convey Warmth and Competence

Nonverbal behaviors include any actions other than the words used in verbal communication. It’s not just body posture and smiling. NVBs include the tone of your voice, whether you make eye contact and literally any other action you take to communicate.

This definition is very broad and includes every aspect of communication that cannot be conveyed in a transcript. The listed nonverbal behaviors all play a role in how you are perceived by others. Research shows, only 5% of communication is expressed through the spoken word, 45% by the tone, inflection, and other elements of voice, and the other 50% by body language, movements, eye contact, etc. Nonverbal behaviors constantly, subtly project your characteristics throughout a variety of social interactions, with the two most obvious being body language and overt behaviors.

It’s important to be aware of what exactly your nonverbal behaviors project to others.

Body Language

Body language conveys a lot of information about an individual. For example, slouching or leaning back in a chair during a meeting with clients can project a lack of confidence or laziness. That may undermine the message you are trying to sell. In order to be seen as competent, people must see you as confident.

Body language needs to be controlled in every social interaction to stay “on message.” To project warmth, one should be sitting up straight, making eye contact, nodding, smiling and using open gestures when interacting with others. These actions will project warmth to clients, indicating to them that they have your full attention.

Tone

How you speak with customers will also affect how warm you are perceived. Whether the conversation takes place in person, over the phone or via Skype, the customer will notice and (subconsciously) react to your tone of voice. To project warmth, your tone needs to be consistent. Dramatic shifts in your tone of voice can put off customers for a number of reasons. Your goal should be to sound upbeat, confident, under control and very clear in all your communications.

Using an inconsistent tone of voice can undo any gains in warmth made by other NVB’s.

Projecting competence is more difficult than projecting warmth, especially if you are trying to project competence in a specific skill, such as financial planning. Some level of competence can be inferred from NVB’s. However, to best project competence, you will need to utilize overt behaviors.

Overt Behaviors

The overt behavior of a person can be generalized to describe each and every action a person takes. For example, walking is an overt behavior. Making a phone call is an overt behavior. Determining these types of behaviors is very simple.

While non-verbal behaviors subtlety display warmth and competence, overt behaviors directly project your level of competence to your audience.

It doesn’t matter that you had good posture in your meeting if you completely mishandled someone’s finances afterward. Do what you say, say what you do.

Other overt behaviors you can employ to project competence include:

  • Taking notes to show your attention to detail
  • Speaking confidently
  • Showing respect for your clients time

Projecting warmth and competence is, without a doubt, a challenging task for even the most socially adept individuals. You need to be careful to monitor how you behave if you wish to project competence throughout your financial services organization.

Considerations

Even if you’ve done well to project your warmth and competence, one mistake could harm a person’s perception forever. If even one time you seemed disinterested in them, didn’t project warmth or did something wrong will affect the way people see you. It’s important to be vigilant and focused when dealing with clients. Treat every meeting like it’s the most important one of your career.

Something to consider when trying to project warmth and competence is that actions can only change your perception to a certain extent. People will judge you based on stereotypes about your ingroup, how you look, and a variety of subtle factors that you have no control over. While projecting warmth and competence is important, especially for financial professionals (people need to be able to trust you with their assets), there is only so much any one person can do.

Financial Services Takeaways

Financial services professionals need to project both warmth and competence when interacting with clients (or prospects). This is needed in order to reassure them that their wealth is in good hands. Finances are a very sensitive subject for many people. Those people need to be constantly reassured that they can trust their financial service professional. To nurture and grow that trust, you need to be both warm and competent.

Financial agents should consider being mindful of their body language and overt behavior, especially in front of clients. As we have learned from The Human Brand, a book about the personification of marketing, how others perceive you is a huge factor in determining the success of your business.

Do you believe projecting warmth and competence to clients is important for financial service professionals? Does the average wealth management professional or financial advisor project warmth that can generate trust? Is that what separates good financial agents from great financial agents? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ and follow us on Linkedin here.

Worthy Intentions: How Customers View Your Actions

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How can financial service brands improve the quality of their relationships with customers? It’s a question asked by many leaders in financial services and is the major theme of a book called The Human Brand. The Human Brand, by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske, examines how customers perceive the actions of brands and how those perceptions influence relationships.

The book examines several strategies that brands can employ to improve the quality of their customer relationships. One such strategy involves something called the principle of worthy intentions. Acting with worthy intentions involves putting your customers’ best interests ahead of your own. Some businesses today struggle because they are viewed as greedy and untrustworthy. But, when a brand acts with worthy intentions, consumers notice and appreciate the efforts.

In previous articles focusing on The Human Brand, we examined the importance of warmth and competence. We will now discuss a brand that acts with worthy intentions, and as a result has grown a community around their brand. We’ll also see what your brand can do to demonstrate your worthy intentions to clients.

Worthy Intentions: A Lululemon Case Study

Lululemon is a yoga lifestyle and clothing brand founded in 2000 in Vancouver, Canada. In just 17 years, the brand has grown dramatically. It boasts more than 200 stores across North America and Australia; generating almost $1 billion of profit in 2016. How does a clothing company, in a very competitive industry, do so well? By acting with worthy intentions.

How has Lululemon acted with worthy intentions?

Firstly, they act with competence. They sell high-quality products (with high-quality fabrics) that their customers like to wear. Even in 2013, when the company had to issue a recall on some of their yoga pants for being too see-through, they took immediate action to rectify the situation. That action ensured that customers still saw them as the same competent brand.

Another major factor that contributes to Lululemon’s perceived worthy intentions, is that customers perceive the brand to be very warm and welcoming. Their brick-and-mortar stores are designed to be intimate and slightly messy to project a relaxed, lived-in look. They will also hem yoga pants for their customers right in the store because they want to give the customer the best experience possible. They’re demonstrating their commitment to putting the customer first by taking that extra step to satisfy customers while making them feel at home.

Building a community around each store is another essential part of their brand strategy, and helps project that warmth. They build loyalty by ingratiating themselves within their customer base. In this case, it’s local yoga influencers (yoga studios, instructors, etc.). By getting in with the studios and instructors, it brings more eyes to the product. Potential and current clients know who they are, and what they are about. And, if they’ve been treated well by the company, they will recommend it to others. They’ve established a trusting relationship.

What do these actions bring Lululemon?

Fierce loyalty from their customer base. Here are just a few examples of the success Lululemon has had thanks to their loyal communities of customers:

  • 95% of all purchases are made at full price.
  • Ranked 4th among retailers in revenue-per-square-foot in 2014
  • Increase in gross income of 42.9% since 2014.
  • Brand valued at $3.05 billion

Lululemon has done an excellent job nurturing their relationships with clients, and as a result has grown into an iconic brand with loyal, fanatical customers.

So what can you do?

1) Become more self-aware

Self-awareness is arguably the most important aspect of projecting worthy intentions to your customers. What do my clients need the most? What actions can be taken that will benefit clients? Are you treating my clients the way they want to be treated? What can you do to offer a better client experience? These are questions that, if regularly pondered, will empower your business to offer better experiences to clients.

Constantly considering how your actions, words, and decisions affect your customer’s experience ensures that your intentions are seen as positive by others.

2) Embrace change

If you aren’t willing to embrace change, your customers will question your intentions. Someone who acts with worthy intentions is willing to change if it is in the best interest of their customers. Change is a constant facet in today’s rapidly moving world. People expect change. A company that refuses to change will be seen as a relic of the past. Brands need to become comfortable with their customers being in control of the relationship.

If you can convey a willingness to embrace change that benefits your customers, your brand will be seen as having worthy intentions.

3) Look out for your customers best interests

Always look out for your client’s best interests, and they will appreciate it. Here’s a personal example:

When replacing my internet provider, the job of setting up a new modem took far longer than expected. However, the installer stayed at my house and finished the job, despite the fact that his shift was over before he was done.

The installer made decisions based on what would be in my best interests. Even though he had every right to say “I couldn’t get it set up” and leave, he didn’t. He ate into his own Friday evening to help me and my family set up our internet, and it was greatly appreciated.

By looking out for our best interests, this internet installer showed my family his worthy intentions (and developed some loyalty for his brand).

4) Project warmth

To show that you have worthy intentions, you absolutely have to project warmth to the client. Without warmth, your intentions will most likely not be trusted. More information about projecting warmth (and competence) can be found in our article: Projecting Warmth & Competence.

Takeaways for Financial Service Professionals

In financial services, having worthy intentions might just be more important than in any other industry. Due to the sensitive nature of a person’s finances, they often require an additional level of trust in their financial agent. People need to trust their financial service provider more than they trust the person selling them pants.

Financial services professionals need to be very self-aware as to how they are perceived by clients. If you project anything except concern for their financial situation, acceptance of their decisions, and confidence in your ability, you may lose the trust your clients have placed in you. Be willing to change your plans to accommodate the needs of your clients. If you constantly survey how you can provide better services to your clients, they will see that your intentions are good. 

Operating with worthy intentions should be as important to financial services professionals as projecting warmth and competence to your clients. It plays a huge role in how you are perceived by your client base and in turn, how loyal your customers are.

Thank you for reading! Acting with worthy intentions is an exercise in treating people the way they want to be treated by brands. If you want to see more articles like this one, follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ!  

How to Write an “About Me” for Financial Agents

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An “About Me” page is one of the most important pages on your website. Behind the homepage, it’s usually the second most viewed page. People will go to that page expecting to find out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your business. Your “About Me” page should answer those questions in a way that’s easy to understand.

You should keep these 7 things in mind when writing the perfect bio:

1) Know Your Audience

Whether you’re in finance or another industry, you most likely already have a niche that you service. Customers are too different to focus on attracting everybody, so you should have a specific type of person in mind for your services. The most important thing when writing an “About Me” page is knowing who your audience is. You will want to use language and imagery that will speak directly to your niche. Always have this group in mind when crafting any digital experience, especially your website.

You will need to understand the prospective customer before you even begin to describe yourself. How can you even begin to tell them who you are and how you can meet their needs if you don’t know who they are and what they need?

Once you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get started on the why and the what. Why would this customer choose me? What can I do for them? Give your audience an insight into why you are the right person for them.

2) Show the Real You

Your “About Me” page should show the reader the “real you”. Give them insight into your personality, how you got to where you are now, your likes and dislikes, and your motivation for doing what you do. By explaining to your audience what your motivations are, you stand a better chance of connecting with them on an emotional level.

Your goal should be to explain who you are as a person and as a professional as honestly as possible. People are far more likely to do business with someone that they trust and empathize with. The process of developing that connection begins with showing those potential customers exactly who you are.

While facts such as where you went to school, what qualifications you have, and how long you have been in the industry are important, they are not the most important thing to many people. Try to pepper these “essential facts” throughout the description of yourself, but don’t focus on them. It will take away from your ability to tell your story. Don’t focus on what you’ve done, focus on why you did it.

3) Tell Your Story

When writing your “About Me” page, you should attempt to tell your audience an engaging story about who you are. Tell the story of how and why you entered the industry, why you want to help people, and what your strengths are. Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone according to a Stanford study. Not only should your bio be factually accurate, it should tell the audience an engaging story.

A secondary benefit of telling a story in your bio is that it shows off your personality. What you choose to highlight, what cultural touchstones are mentioned, the tone you choose to present yourself with, and how you describe your niche itself says a lot about you.

Framing your bio as a story will make you seem approachable, hopefully drawing similarities between you and your audience. You want to show the audience that you are a person, as well as an advisor. Telling your story is a fantastic way to do that.

4) Tell Your Audience How You Can Help Them

Another important part of your “About Me” page is showing what you can do to help your audience. You can describe yourself all you want, but if the reader cannot see the value you can provide them, they will simply move on to somebody who’s value they can see.

Tell your readers exactly what services you can provide them. Describe what it is you do for your clients, what value you provide, and the specific niche that your services can benefit. If you’re an advisor, whose niche is former CEO’s looking to maintain or grow their current wealth to pass on to the next generation you could say:

“I help retired CEO’s build a strong investment portfolio with the intention of preserving their wealth for their children and grandchildren. My goal is to help families be prepared financially for when a loved one passes on. I will do my best to assemble the perfect portfolio for you, so your children will keep as much of the nest egg that you built for them as possible.”

By explaining your value in your “About Me” page, people who fit within your niche will felt personally spoken to, increasing the likelihood that they will contact you, at least exploring your services.

5) Use of Images

A picture is worth a thousand words. With one image you can convey a lot of information about how you carry yourself, how confident you are, and how professional you are. Images are a very important part of any website, not only because of the information they can convey but also for the aesthetic enhancement they bring a page.

A high-quality photo can serve as a way to draw the reader’s eye across your page. Use images to guide the reader through your bio, down to your contact form. Without images, your page will look boring, potentially causing people to abandon their search.

Remember, the first time somebody meets you, they should be able to recognize you from the picture in your bio. Some things to ensure when choosing your main bio picture include:

  • You are dressed professionally
  • You are well lit in the photo
  • The picture is recent
  • The photo is a headshot

You may include multiple pictures on the “About Me” Page. If you do choose to include multiple pictures, ensure that they are diverse. For example, you could include your main bio picture, a group shot of your team, a picture of you with your family (to show you’re human) and one that highlights one of your passions. This will give the reader insight as to who you are (or at least who you perceive yourself to be).

6) Write the Way You Speak

When writing a bio, write from a first-person perspective. Use words like “I” and “We” to show your audience that you wrote it yourself. If you write from the third-person, it will sound awkward and forced, as if somebody from a marketing department wrote it for you.

Your bio should sound like you are introducing yourself to your client at an event. You want it to be professional, yet informal. Take a look at the example below:

“My name is Advisor Jones, I was born right here in Advisorville. For over twenty years I’ve helped retired farmers with over a million dollars net worth maintain their assets for the rest of their lives. I first developed an interest in helping farmers while attending the University of Guelph. I really enjoy…”

That description of Advisor Jones, a financial advisor from Advisorville, sounds a lot more approachable than this one:

“Advisor Jones has twenty years of experience in the financial services industry. Mr. Jones works with farmers with net worth’s of over one million dollars. Advisor Jones is a member of the ‘82 class from the University of Guelph.”

Writing in the first person will make you seem friendlier, more approachable and less “corporate.” It will help the audience see you as a real person, increasing the likelihood that they will contact you.

7)  Include Clear Contact Information

The final thing you need to include on your bio page is a clear call-to-action inviting the audience to contact you. This can be a form that records their contact information, a button that takes them to another page, or a direct link to your email address.

Regardless of which method you choose, including a way for the reader to contact you is essential to any “About Me” page. If you have followed the previous steps and wrote about who you are, what you do, and why people should trust you, readers looking for more information will be ready to contact you.

If they weren’t already thinking about contacting you; offering a clear, easy way for your audience to get in touch with you can motivate action. It’s possible at first they will just have a question or two that you can answer. As time moves on, and they move towards a purchase decision, they will remember who you are, remember your helpfulness, and potentially contact you ahead of others.

With no way for the audience to contact you, the effort you put into your bio may go to waste.

“About Me”: Conclusion

There you have it. Seven things you need to know to write an awesome “About Me” page. Your bio has several purposes, all of which are interconnected and related to gaining the audience’s trust. Tell an engaging story, explain who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Relate that to the needs and wants of your niche, and you will differentiate yourself from the competition.

What other tips do you use when writing bios? If you do, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or on LinkedIn! Differentiate yourself from other advisors by telling an engaging story about yourself and your business on your “About Me” page.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

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Warmth and Competence

Whether we recognize it or not, humans judge things and other people as soon as we come into contact with them. Immediate judgments, inaccurate as they may be, set the tone for how we interact with others throughout the course of our relationships.

When we survived as hunter-gatherers, this judgmental attitude allowed us to gauge threats and the intentions of others. Lions, tigers, and bears look menacing, and we immediately judge them as a threat, sending us into a fight or flight response. Rabbits and other fluffy woodland creatures do not invoke such feelings because they are cute and appear to be harmless. These animals seem like they can be trusted.

Those same judgments affect how we view other people. A baby-faced individual with a smile will be less threatening than a slim-faced stranger with a scar across their face. Humans are predisposed to trust people who convey warmth and good intentions, and it has served us well (as a species) over time.

Without the ability to accurately judge outside agents, including other people, animals, plants and miscellaneous threats, early humans would not have survived long enough to pass on their genes. The ability to make accurate judgments is a survival tool. Understanding the intentions of others allowed early humans to surround themselves with people they could trust, mostly based off of first impressions.

So, how do first impressions affect how consumers view businesses? Dramatically. There are two main characteristics that are most impactful on their perceptions: warmth and competence. These characteristics are the same ones that people use to judge outside agents and their intentions. For all intents and purposes, when discussing warmth and competence, other people are treated the same as businesses.

Competence and warmth are such fundamental judgments that even babies are able to recognize the warmth and competence of animated characters.

Warmth

Warmth refers to how trustworthy one seems. People immediately judge warmth based on a person’s facial features and how they carry themselves. It is one of the first criteria that people judge you on. Soft facial features, slightly surprised or happy expressions, and baby-faced individuals tend to quickly gain trust.  People also associate members of their particular ingroup with warmth. They are much more likely to view someone similar to them as having warm intentions.

In business, warmth reflects a company’s intentions. Warmer companies are seen as caring about the social consequences of their actions and are more trusted by the public. Hospitals, charities and most public services (such as the postal service) are seen as having warm intentions. Consumers are willing to give businesses that project warmth a chance to earn their business, but they must also show competence.

Competence

Competence is more difficult to judge than warmth, yet humans still make judgments on competence in around one second. Judging competence is based off a variety of factors.

Those with strong, dominant faces are immediately seen as competent, while those who appear weak and submissive are seen as incompetent. Other factors such as size, gender and ethnicity are also considered when judging for competence. It is important to note that these judgments are often wrong because they are made instinctively in a very short period of time and are based on stereotypes.

In business, you will be judged for competence based on how you have performed in the past. Any previous experiences a customer has with your business will be considered when judging your competence. Online reviews and ratings will also affect how competent your business is perceived.

Warmth-Competence Matrix

The combination of warmth and competence has a dramatic effect on how others view you or your business. Different combinations elicit different responses, fitting together in something called “the warmth-competence matrix. It is important to note that judgments are made from stereotypes, and while the judgment may be wrong, they still affect how individuals see those around them.

One’s place on this matrix has very little to do with how warm and competent they actually are. Your placement on the warmth-competence matrix focuses entirely on how you are perceived by those around you. You may be the single most competent person on the planet, but if you do not project that to others, then for all intents and purposes, your competence does not matter.

Warm-Competent

If an individual is seen as warm and competent, they are often admired. They are seen as trustworthy, carrying good intentions and able to achieve their desired results. Individuals in this segment of the matrix often become leaders, as they are both liked and trusted by others.

People will stereotype others as warm and competent if they are part of their particular ingroup, or are seen as close allies of the person who is doing the judging. People who fall in this group are often admired because they have positive (warm) intentions, and seem competent enough to execute on those intentions.

A warm-competent business is one that has trustworthy intentions and has proven in the past that they have the ability to perform. Companies that fall within this sector of the matrix are extremely successful, usually growing to capture a large share of their market. Companies viewed as warm and competent include Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola. They have shown that they have respectable intentions and have the ability to deliver a positive customer experience.

Warm-Incompetent

If an individual is seen as warm and incompetent, they will be pitied. These are individuals who, while trustworthy, are seen as completely incapable of actually accomplishing anything of note.

The elderly, people with disabilities and women have historically been stereotyped as warm, yet incompetent. As a result, they have been treated with paternalistic behavior. Warm-incompetent individuals will be accepted as part of the ingroup, but not given any responsibility due to their perceived lack of competence.

Companies seen as warm yet incompetent have good intentions, but for some reason cannot deliver to their customers. Often these businesses are government funded, provide some sort of public service, and suffer from a lack of resources. Businesses in this sector include postal services, public transport and, veterans hospitals. People view these businesses as trustworthy, but unable to meet their goals.

Cold-Competent

People in this segment are looked at with envy because while they seem very capable, their intentions are viewed as cold. This elicits a negative response in people because they are jealous of the competence, but would use it to accomplish warmer goals.

People viewed as cold yet competent are usually associated with high-status, competitive outgroups perceived as high on competence but low on warmth. This leads to feelings of admiration and resentment.

Luxury brands are the most stereotypical cold yet competent brands. People see them as competent because they provide a high-quality product that people clamor for. They are seen as having less-than-positive intentions, but very capable of seeing out their goals.

Cold-Incompetent

Individuals in this segment are not well liked, and often held in contempt. Their intentions are seen as less than honorable and they are completely incapable of achieving their desired results. This is the worst segment of the matrix to grouped in with because people will not respect or trust you.

Immigrants, homeless people and poor people are often stereotyped as cold and incompetent because they are part of the outgroup and seen as having low competence. People seen as belonging to this group are often easily dismissed because the person judging believes they are wholly inferior.

Brands that are viewed as cold and incompetent should be concerned. It means that consumers don’t trust them in any capacity. Usually, it takes a colossal failure to end up in this section. After the 2008 recession, many consumers lost a great deal of trust for investment banks. The BP oil spill caused the company to lose consumer trust (especially because of the fallout from the spill). Brands also make appearances in this sector include well-known, profit chasing drug companies and tobacco producers. You do not want your brand to fall into this sector.

How Warmth and Competence Affect Customer Perceptions

Applications for Financial Services Professionals

The way that people judge individuals is the same way that people judge businesses. Your brand has human characteristics to your clients, with warmth and competence being two of the most impactful characteristics your business has. Businesses are judged on the same matrix that humans are judged on. However, there are differences between how businesses and people are judged, especially when it comes to financial service providers.

  1. You are the face of the brand

    While some financial institutions such as large banks and insurance agencies are seen as “faceless monoliths”, smaller, boutique institutions (such as advisory firms and credit unions), have a very tangible, human connection.

    An investment advisor, for example, is the main point of contact for their clients. People usually know their financial advisor on a first name basis. If you are a financial advisor, people will judge your warmth and competence and assign those values to your practice. Since you are the human face, you will need to project warmth and competence to your clients every time you meet them.

  2. Actions speak louder than words

    Projecting warmth is done by softening your facial features, smiling more and generally being amenable towards your clients. It is fairly simple but requires emotional intelligence to control what emotions you project outwards. Competence is far more difficult to project.

    Actions speak much louder than words. Don’t tell your clients what you will do with their finances, show them. Use case studies and projections to explain your abilities to clients. Be mindful of your actions, as they will be the ultimate indicator of both your warmth and your competence.

  3. Personalize everything

    By offering personalized content and communications you can show your client that you care about them, demonstrating your warmth. People prefer personal communications, so a handwritten note will garner more goodwill than a letter addressed to “Homeowner”. By pushing personal communications financial service providers can become part of their client’s ingroup, which we know will increase your perceived warmth.

By focusing on providing genuine experiences and solving client problems, your business can show clients that they are genuinely cared for. Respecting client’s time and providing tangible solutions to their problems are ways that financial service providers can show warmth and competence. 

The Human Brand

The Human Brand, a book by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske. Chris is a managing partner at a professional services firm with a focus on sustainable business growth and performance. Susan is a psychologist, focusing on how groups are perceived and the emotions they create at cultural, interpersonal and neuroscientific levels.

In the book, the authors explore a variety of topics, including how perceived warmth and competence impact how consumers view a business, how consumers view actions and intentions, and how brands can take actions to influence how they are perceived by the public.

The Human Brand is a must read for business owners and, C-level executives who want to take advantage of human nature to improve the perception of their brand. If you want to discuss the book, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

The Power of Storytelling in the Business World

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Storytelling is one of the most inherently human activities that exists. No other species has the documented ability to tell stories the way we do. Stories greatly affect how people view topics. Storytelling, as opposed to any other method of communication, has the capacity to plant thoughts, ideas, and emotions into the audience’s brain.

Science has shown that our brains react differently to stories than to information with no narrative elements. When we hear a story, many different areas of the brain are activated. When hearing a story, the entire brain lights up with activity but when information is presented in a non-story manner, only the brain’s language processing areas become engaged.

Information in a story stimulates the brain in a way that makes it feel as if it’s experiencing the story itself. If I was to describe someone with leathery hands or a velvet voice, the sensory cortex of your brain would react. If I described my movements in the thirty minutes after getting out of bed, the motor cortex of the brain would be stimulated. These are the same parts of the brain that would be activated if you touched leather, a velvet curtain or when you experience motion.

People are moved by stories in ways that other forms of communication simply cannot match. Stories create emotional and psychological connections that help information gain traction in the audience’s brain.

Businesses across all industries work to take advantage of people’s natural attraction to storytelling. By communicating relevant information in the form of the story, it will engage the audience in a way that simply detailing the relevant information never would.

There are 4 main areas to consider in order to tell the most effective stories about your brand:

1. Humanize your message

Conveying information in the form of a story has the effect of humanizing your message. Storytelling can convey feelings of trust, authenticity, and sincerity; traits often associated with other humans.

Authenticity enables feelings and emotions to be conveyed. Authenticity is a leading reason why content associated with individuals within an organization has become so important to how brands interact with their audiences. It is best practice in content marketing to attach a name to company emails, blog posts and other forms of content. Content created by a brand’s CEO, the users of a product, or a customer-facing employee is more successful than content labeled with just the brand name.

People relate to other people, and storytelling evokes that connection. The most successful brands create emotional attachments with their customers. Consumers want to trust brands, and it is far easier for consumers to trust another human than a faceless entity. Storytelling can create that human connection and increase the trust consumers have in your brand.

2. Be emotional

Stories are a fantastic way to convey emotions to an audience. If someone becomes emotionally attached to an idea, it will stay in their mind. By creating an emotional connection with an audience, you can draw their continued attention.

One way you can use emotions to create more effective content is by drawing on empathy to forge connections with the reader (or viewer). You can easily create more effective content by putting the audience at the heart of the story and explaining how the information affects them.

In the competitive market for people’s attention, a story without an emotional connection will be ignored and quickly forgotten. Perhaps the most important feature of a story is connecting the information within to a human lens. In some situations, emotion can be more important to a decision-maker than facts.

3. Framing context

Humans think in terms of cause and effect. Regardless of the activity, people think in narratives. People create short stories about every little thing that happens to them. They enjoy sharing personal conversations and anecdotes. People naturally communicate first and foremost through stories, and brands can take advantage of that fact.

Storytelling affords brands the chance to talk in terms of cause and effect, and explain how their message directly affects individuals. People want to relate information to their own experiences whenever possible. Storytelling gives brands an opportunity to explain why the information they are providing is relevant to their target audience. Framing your content in this fashion will allow you to retain the interest of your audience.

4. Retaining interest

Listing facts and figures is not an engaging way of communicating information. Powerpoints, academic papers, and lectures are jam-packed with information but are not as effective a medium for communicating information as storytelling. They do not engage audiences as much as stories because they can come across as “dry” to most of the intended audience.

Storytelling, unlike other methods of communicating information, can maintain audience interest in a world of information overload. By creating peaks and valleys in the “flow” of the story, brands can create suspense and stakes within their story. Consider your favorite novel, movie or play. It is very likely there are suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the content to create suspense.

Stories allow brands to retain their audience’s interest by motivating “action centers” within their brain. You can use various narrative techniques to engage audiences, peaking their interest and keeping their eyes on your content. No other form of communication has this benefit.

These facts about human psychology boil down to one lesson: People may forget facts, but they never forget great stories.

How to convey warmth through storytelling in financial services?

The financial services industry is no exception to the rule. Storytelling is still the most effective way to communicate relevant information to an audience. You can incorporate stories into all aspects of your marketing campaigns, client loyalty, and sales efforts.

Most people will say that they understand the importance of saving for retirement, but many do not invest enough in their 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you tell them “save more”, they might not listen to you. Provide that information in a narrative and the psychology of storytelling can help them understand the importance of the information you are providing.

Tell them a story of a family who did not save enough for retirement, and as a result suffered consequences, putting immense pressure on their loved ones. This story can help illustrate the importance of saving for retirement in a way that your audience can relate to.

You could explain how you would help a potential client plan for retirement, but that might not motivate people to make smarter decisions. Tell a story about a young couple who you met with the exact same mindset the audience has. Use the story to show how your advice made their life better. That story will resonate better and will influence their emotions to motivate action.

You can tell millennial audiences a story about one of their peers in a dire financial situation. Explain how with your services, you can help them save for their dream vacation. When you tell a story, your goal should be to have the audience empathize with the characters in the story. 

Any financial services professional can use storytelling to help their clients understand the importance of various financial situations. When pure information doesn’t motivate client action, a story can evoke emotions that may cause your client base to take action.

Does your business tell stories to better relate to your audience? We would love to hear the story of your brand. Let us know your story on Twitter @VeridayHQ or contact us on LinkedIn here.

The Human Brand: How Personal Connections Shaped the World

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At Veriday, our team has recently been reading The Human Brand, written by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske. The book looks at branding through the lens of a psychological scientist to see how branding can have an effect on customer loyalty and retention. We believe that personal branding is key to gaining and retaining customers by offering them personalized experiences that establish human relationships in an increasingly digital world. We are striving to facilitate those relationships in financial services through technology solutions that allow personalized marketing to remain compliant.

The introduction of the book is very informative and uses several engaging examples to explain the thesis of the book. Today, we are going to take a look at the first documented brands and why they were needed. We will also look at the status-quo before brands became commonplace and discuss the proliferation of branding, both corporate and personal, in the increasingly digital world.

Trademarks: Branding Post-Industrial Revolution

Brands have been around for a very long time. In 1882, French painter Édouard Manet painted the masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. On the right side of the painting, there is a bottle of ale with a trademark for the British brewer Bass & Co. It’s believed that this was the first commercial trademark in a piece of fine art.

It is fitting that the first use of a trademark in fine art took place during the industrial revolution; where for the first time, people were buying goods of unknown origins. Before industrialization, people purchased (or traded) goods from other members of the community. When you bought bread, you knew the baker personally. Maybe you even had a social relationship with them. That relationship meant that there was some level of trust behind the transaction. In the book, it’s framed as “buying the person behind the product along with the product itself.” 

Since the industrial revolution, we do not have relationships with the merchants and manufacturers of our goods. Before the advent of social media, there was no way to hold them accountable. If there is not a way to hold companies accountable, there is less incentive to treat your customers with respect. With no incentive to treat customers well, some businesses feel like they can employ predatory practices. 

Trademarks originated as a way for customers to know where their goods were coming from. They replaced the personal relationship with manufacturers that was the norm pre-industrial revolution.

Social Relationships: What Branding Replaced

Back when everybody knew the people who made their goods, an interesting practice took place. Commercial sales of bread needed to be at least a certain weight or the baker would face grave social consequences. To be safe, bakers would add an extra roll or two into every batch. This is where the term “baker’s dozen” comes from.

In the days when everybody knew their baker, if a baker shorted their customer, the information would be spread around the community, and their reputation would be ruined. The baker who undersold bread would face social humiliation and business consequences. The threat of these consequences provided enough social pressure to keep people honest. The authors of The Human Brand concluded that:

“Merchants accepted that the relationship they had with their customers were critical to survival, and they either learned to nurture those relationships or their business would fail.”

175 years ago, merchants could see the value in building relationships with their customers. Because of the industrial revolution and the rise in manufacturing centers, merchants and customers grew apart. Customer-merchant relationships are no longer as close as they once were.

The authors propose that social networks have made the world more closely connected. Social networks have reestablished the social consequences of providing a low-quality product. Social accountability is here to stay. Customers can now influence outcomes that used to be far beyond their control. Thanks to social networks, there is instant karma. If a company does something dishonest, the whole world will know almost immediately.

Humanization of Brands

The authors introduced a case study of when the Montgomery Ward company tried to humanize their mail-order catalogue. They included pictures of the company’s founders and other executives, with their signatures underneath the pictures. They were trying to humanize the brand by evoking a human connection with the readers. Their attempt to humanize the brand was meant to solve the “unknown hands” issue that was present since the industrial revolution. In the book, the authors showed this note from a Montgomery Ward customer:

“I suppose you wonder why we haven’t ordered anything from you since the fall. Well, the cow kicked my arm and broke it and besides my wife was sick, and there was the doctor bill. But now, thank God, that is paid, and we are all well again, and we have a fat new baby boy, and please send plush bonnet number 29d8077 . . . “

This note clearly illustrates that their efforts to humanize their brand were successful. The customer replied as if they were responding to their local shopkeeper despite the fact that the note was sent in a mass-selling situation. It would be the equivalent of sending a personalized letter to a mass retailer like Wal-Mart or Amazon today. Building relationships with your customers and evoking emotions by providing a human connection can increase customer loyalty.

There need to be consequences for brands when they misbehave. In the days before the industrial revolution, manufacturers had social relationships with their patrons. If they acted dishonestly, word would spread through the community and ruin the merchant’s reputation. In today’s digital world, social media has almost the same function.

Conclusion

A lot has changed since the industrial revolution. The world went from local sales and personal relationships with every merchant to mass-selling and no connection with merchants thanks to the increased manufacturing capacity brought by technological change. Since social networks have gained popularity, merchants have started to build relationships with their customers online. We have seen a revival in social accountability, meaning that bad customer experiences get shared across the web, resulting in bad publicity for the offending business.

This connectivity is not without its challenges. Brands now need to make special considerations on how to naturally engage with their customers online. Brands have to make plans for dealing with upset customers online or risk a media firestorm. Relationships in business are back to a new, never-before-seen level. You will need to nurture and grow your client relationships or be left behind in the increasingly social world.

The Human Brand discusses the challenges of humanizing your brand in today’s social age. It is a great read for any marketer. Have you read this book? What were your biggest takeaways? As always, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ

The Human Side of Digital Engagement

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Over the last decade, digital engagement has become an integral part of any marketing strategy. As the internet has grown from an academic and military repository to the hub for commerce, engagement, and content, people have changed their expectations about online experiences.

In fact, expectations have changed so much that, according to Gartner, 85% of customer interactions are predicted to happen without human contact by 2020. If you are rushing to automate your processes, hold your horses. There is still a human side of digital engagement; one that is absolutely critical to the success of your customer engagement strategy.

Here are four ways that humans can influence your digital engagement efforts:

1. Customers expect human interaction as an option

Human interaction is still a very important part of any customer service and engagement strategy. While there are many instances in which a consumer would like an automated experience there are still many where human interaction is still needed. 83% of U.S. consumers still prefer talking to a human instead of resolving issues over digital channels.

Are consumers willing to pay more for help from a real person? It appears that for the most part, they are. According to the Financial Brand, 38.2% of consumers are willing to pay more and 37% of consumers do not have an opinion on the matter.

Consumers Willing to Pay for Help: Digital Engagement

This fact can be taken advantage of by offering various levels of service. Consider an advisor that offers access to robo-advice for a small fee, but no in-person time with the advisor themself. That advisor can attract one niche to their business by offering robo-advice as a low-cost option, aimed at a certain type of investors. That same advisor could market their “full-service” package to more affluent investors and charge a higher fee. The “full service” option could include personal, in-person advice from the advisor themself along with other “premium” features. This would allow the financial advisor to market their services to two different niches, all at different price points.

While digital channels are very important there still needs to be a way to offer human interaction to every customer who wants it. Some are even willing to pay for it.

The need for human interaction is especially true for complex issues:

2. Complexity: Associated with Human Interaction

A Forrester study about self-service found the following statistics:

  • Use of the help/FAQ pages on a company’s website for customer service increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014 while phone interactions have remained constant at a 73% usage rate.
  • Online chat adoption continues to rise – from 38% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 to 58% in 2014.
  • The use of communities and virtual agents jumped by over 10 percentage points each.

These statistics show that while self-service problem solving is still growing in popularity, the option to talk to a real person is still very important. Self-service solutions such as FAQs can only solve basic problems. A real person, either over the phone or through some digital communication channel, can suss out more complex problems and help implement solutions.

Some customers prefer to ask their questions over the phone. 27% of consumers prefer to ask commercial questions over the phone (pre-sale) and 35% of post-sale customers prefer to do the same.

Regardless of the communication channel customers want the option for a personal touch.

3. Consumers prefer human context inside a brand

In the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Player Piano (1951), the world was mostly automated, with only engineers and doctors remaining employed. Everything in the world is operated by robots except for restaurants and barbershops. Waiters and barbers were able to stay employed because the working elite felt that replacing them would make dinner and haircuts become too “impersonal”.

Even in a dystopian novel written far before the age of customer engagement, some level of human interaction is absolutely necessary. The same idea goes in business today. When your customer comes into your office, you should greet them as if they were an old friend. They should be able to get to know the people that are providing their financial services.

Reach out to your customers. Start a conversation with them. Answer their questions. Provide human context by mentioning something about employees, customers, partners or thought leaders. Show the customer that your brand lives in the same world that they do.

For more information on the benefits of personifying your brand, check out our article on brand personification.

4. Improving Customer Experience (CX)

Providing human interaction is a way to ensure a balanced engagement strategy. Take, for example, this chart by the Financial Brand  that takes a look at what banks think the biggest opportunities for CX improvements were over the past year:

Biggest opportunities for CX improvements in the next year in Digital Engagement

While improving websites was the #1 priority, employee development and call centre improvements are the next two distinct options.

This shows that while a digital presence is important, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the quality of human interactions in banking. Human interactions are very important to consider when planning customer experiences. Financial institutions realize that employees are one of their biggest assets and they wish to develop them even further. Employees are not digital but they are one of the most effective ways to supplement digital channels through human-to-human interaction.

According to Gallup, retail banking customers who are fully engaged bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than actively disengaged customers. Just under a quarter of banks believe they can develop their employees to provide better experiences to their customers. Providing better experiences will increase customer engagement which will lead to more revenue for your business.

Conclusions

Humans play a critical part in digital engagement. People are not ready for a world in which there is no human interaction in business, in fact, the opposite may be true. Many people have had their fill of digital-only experiences and are looking for more human-to-human interaction. Some people want a combination of both. Regardless, you should ensure that you can offer human-to-human relationships to customers who want those experiences. From helping customers traverse complex situations, to dealing with complaints, to putting a smiling face on your brand, people can do a lot for your branding efforts. Your customers will have a better experience if a human is there to empathize with them while solving their problems. Banks and other financial service professionals have been putting forth the effort to bring higher quality interactions to their customers. 

Do you provide a human face to your digital engagement strategy? Let us know over on Twitter @VeridayHQ how human interaction has helped your customers get a better experience. Every brand can benefit from a little bit of humanization.

Brand Personification: Why Should You Care?

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The financial service industry has traditionally relied on word-of-mouth marketing to attract business. Financial advisors and other agents would rely on referrals from their current clients to gain new clients. These marketing methods are becoming antiquated, thanks in large part to a fundamental change in how people research and purchase services.  These days, people engage in online research to determine which service provider fits their needs. This change in the decision making process has lead to the proliferation of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing involves creating and sharing content in an attempt to gain visibility with search engines. You must earn your website traffic in an increasingly competitive landscape by focusing on SEO, creating quality content, and utilizing social media to spread your message. Brand personification is a method to help make your inbound marketing efforts feel more natural. A company and brand can feel like a faceless entity, which will discourage people from engaging with you. Thanks to this fundamental shift, we decided to learn a little bit more about brand personification in the financial service industry.

We sat down with the CEO of Veriday, Marc Lamoureux, to ask a few questions about brand personification in the financial service industry. Marc has years of experience helping financial service providers personify their brands and effectively engage with their customers while maintaining compliance.

During the course of our conversation, we asked Marc several questions regarding the benefits of brand personification in the financial service industry. From his experience, Marc discussed basic facets of personification and eventually progressed into the finer details and specific benefits of brand personification.  

Here is the transcript from our conversation:

Rob Glenn: What does brand personification mean to you?

Marc Lamoureux: Brand personification involves adding a human element to a brand. A brand on its own is inanimate, so we want to add a human element to the brand. We know humans want to connect with people, so if your brand has human qualities you can build a better connection with your customers.

Rob: Why should companies care about brand personification?

Marc: We should care because in the last twenty years, the way technology has gone, there has been a lack of human connection between brands and their customers. At the same time, social networks have seen a monumental surge in popularity. Those social networks represent the opposite of what has happened with technologies. As technology makes everyday experiences more impersonal, social networks are about connecting people. As a brand your goal is to figure how to connect with people using technology. That is the problem that lies at the heart of brand personification.

Rob: What benefits can be realized by associating real people with a brand?

Marc: The main benefit of associating people with your brand is that it creates a stronger connection with your customers. By associating real people with your brand you can develop trust between real people and your brand. When you build a stronger connection with your customers, you end up keeping more of the customers you already have, in addition to gain new customers.

Rob: How does personifying your brand effect where and how you deliver your messaging?

Marc:  I think personifying your brand brings you into the local community. The strategy we recommend, here at Veriday, involves aligning local representatives of your brand with a local customer. When you do that, you get a much stronger connection and you feel like you are part of the community, not just a large, faceless presence.

Rob: Do you think that engaging in brand personification opens new engagement channels for companies?

Marc: Yes. I think you have a lot more flexibility and capability when you add personification to your brand. Take email for example:

In an email world, a customer may receive an email from a generic brand. They may not recognize the brand, or they may not trust the email. They’re naturally going to suspect a generic sales email. Contrast that with an email from an individual associated with the brand, someone that the reader is familiar with. They are almost 3 times more likely to open that email and do something with it because it comes from someone they know and trust.

Rob: How does brand personification help drive real engagement?

Marc:  I think brand personification is a strategy that is going to provide a must stronger connection to customers. In the market today, when customers are looking at your website, the standard “contact us” option is a 1-800 number or a form you fill out and wait for a response. At Veriday, we would advocate for a “contact me” button, directing customers to a specific individual. They will know who they are speaking with, and sometimes they can be offered a choice of who they wish to contact. That will instill a level of trust in the customer, because they can research that person and make the engagement themselves. For an organization, it’s a more productive way to engage with the customer. You will experience a lot less abandonment with that strategy.

Rob: Which technology solutions can aid in the personification of a brand?

Marc: I think at a high level, you can employ this solution on social networks, on web, and in email. At Veriday, we have created a product called Digital Agent, which was designed expressly for brand personification. It organizes all your brand and marketing strategies and aligns them with your people, to create more trusted human connections across social, web and email.

Rob: Will brand personification add to compliance costs?

Marc: One of the perceived challenges of expanding your marketing programs out through individuals, is that it creates a very expensive burden on compliance reviews, especially in financial services. Regulators are asking financial service companies to review and approve every piece of content that is distributed to customers. The benefit of the compliance workflow that Veriday provides, is that we can increase the volume of personification in the engagement models without dramatically increasing compliance costs.

Rob: How will personifying my brand affect how I attract clients and grow my business?

Marc: The advantage you get as an organization (from personification), is that you can associate real people immediately with a customer inquiry. When a customer researches your company, they will immediately find a human connection. If they are engaging with 1-800 numbers, or online forms, where they don’t know who is going to call them back, they are less likely to take advantage of the engagement model.

Rob: From your experience, how do customers respond to a humanized brand?

Marc: Is a customer more likely to engage with Facebook.com directly or with their friends on Facebook? They are more likely to engage with friends. We view brand personification as evoking the same strategy. A customer is more likely to engage with somebody they know, compared to a brand or somebody they don’t know.

Rob: What happens when you activate the people within your organization to engage with customers?

Marc: When you activate your human resources in engaging with customer you do two things:

  1. You create stronger connections with customers and the customers have a comfortable place of trust to engage with your business. That is a very positive advantage.

2. Another thing you get to do (in terms of analytics) is making decisions about the success of your engagement efforts. You might see hotspots where there is great engagement. That information can be used to glean interesting insights to try to recreate those circumstances elsewhere. Therefore, you also may see some weak spots, where you may need to alter various aspects of your strategy.

That wraps up the conversation with Marc Lamoureux, CEO of Veriday. His insights on brand personification inspired the creation of our article: Being Yourself: Why Brand Personification Increases Customer Engagement.

Does your brand engage in personification? How have you enabled your human resources to offer a more personal experience? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or on LinkedIn.