Simple Sells

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The financial industry overcomplicates things.

Marketers across the industry will sympathize with me, we’ve all seen firms take more than a year to approve one 12-page brochure. It is not unusual for firms to appoint committees who meet to go over every single word of marketing copy with a fine-toothed comb. Of course, every part of the firm has to be involved, each contributing its own two cents. Every competing vision of the firm goes to war with every other—debating whom it serves, what its unique value proposition is, and even how it works. The brochure turns into a battleground where good ideas wind up dead and buried.

Add up the hourly rates for all the senior partners in those review meetings, and the cost is enormous. Thanks to all their fiddling, the end result isn’t as powerful as originally intended. Everyone is familiar with the concept of “value added.” Well, there’s also such a thing as “value deleted,” and frankly, the longer a committee works on something, the more value it destroys. You are essentially inviting your most expensive people to sit in a room and burn money.

In any case, the entire effort is pointless. The traditional leave-behind is dead. Nobody sits down to read a 12-page brochure start to finish anymore. That is not how consumers use information. At best, they’ll skim headlines, subheads and captions. Maybe they’ll read more about a particular topic that interests them. Not one single person will care what you say on the bottom of page 9. But they will care if your brochure is too long to read, isn’t interactive, and doesn’t address their specific concern.

Today, people want snackable content. Information that’s quick and easy to consume—and fun to forward or tweet out to their friends. They like well-designed infographics. Short articles. Blog posts. Self-help quizzes. Comparison charts. Graphs.

There’s an advisor I know whose entire deliverable is a one-page financial plan. It’s the simplest plan you could possibly imagine, with everything reduced to its core elements. It’s genius. Think about it. You can’t use a traditional, 25-page financial plan as a sales tool. Each one is custom tailored, and typically so complicated it provokes panicked, confused stares. But a one-pager is easy to understand.

Just keep it simple. Simple sells.