Storytelling has been a part of human nature since the very beginning.
Pre-dating even texts like the Old Testament and the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh is considered the oldest known work of great literature. The oldest versions date back to around 2,000 BC.
Now, why are we talking about an ancient Sumerian poem in a blog about financial advisor marketing? Other than the fact that I love talking about literature and will use any excuse to do so, it’s because being able to trace stories back so far tells us something about human nature.
Humans love storytelling. Stories connect us, show us the commonalities in our hopes and dreams, and bind us together across cultures and across centuries. They help us make sense of our world when our world doesn’t make sense.
And storytelling isn’t limited to fiction and the great writers of the world.
Each one of us has a story to tell. Your life is your story (and your story is what creates your personal brand).
When people experience a collective crisis, sharing our stories becomes more important, not less. In the moment we’re in right now, you have to be able to tell your story and tell it effectively if you want to continue connecting with and positively impacting the people you care about.
In Show Your Work, a book about developing the creative process and how to share art at each step of its progression from infancy to completion, Austin Kleon writes this: “The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work.”
In the context of the book, Kleon is talking more directly to artists, writers, and creative folks. But the advice is no less relevant for financial advisors who are in the business of building personal relationships.
In a crisis, the way you tell your story may need to adjust. Your story itself will stay true, but where you focus your attention will shift.
Here are 5 quick ideas for how to tell your story in a crisis.
Show Clients Your Human Side
You’re a real person (I hope). Be real.
You have the same fears and concerns many of your clients do. Speak to those fears head on instead of ignoring them.
Deliver content that talks about how to think about the psychological impact of the yo-yo markets, or send your clients a link to an article that helped you better understand PPP loans for their small business. Let them know you’re also going through the application; share in the process with them.
As you share that content, share it with purpose. Add a message that shows you care and you’re thinking about how they’re doing. It takes time to get it right, but all relationships require investment. You can’t automate caring.
Don’t be afraid to show your new normal. You’re working from home just like a lot of your clients. Randy Lambert, present of Orion Advisor Solutions, did a great job of this recently when he posted a video to YouTube walking through his new “home office” (disclosure: Orion is a client).
If you’ve got kids or pets running around while you're on a video conference, that’s okay. Embrace the new normal and let your human side show. This is the story of your life right now. Share it.
You are a source of confidence, but clients should also understand you’re not a marble statue. More often than not, they’ll appreciate those glances behind the curtain.
Lead with Empathy
As you share anything, you have to lead with empathy.
Your story is intertwined with your clients’ stories. Once you decide to work together, the pieces of their life that you advise on are tied to the work that you do.
So understand where your clients are at, and pivot your message and your content to speak into the situations they find themselves in right now.
It can be as simple as sending an email that asks “How are you doing?” and nothing else.
Leave room to listen so you can better understand them so that when you share your story with them, it’s something they can receive because it reaches into their experiences.
Right now is also a great time to directly ask your clients what type of content would be helpful to them. So go ahead and ask. You may be surprised by some of the responses, but they will give you a map to follow for how to add more relevant value to their life.
Get More Personal
You can go deeper from the starting point of a personal email that asks “How are you doing?”
If most of your clients are local, drop notes to them about restaurants that are still open so they’re aware of how they can continue to support the local economy and business owners.
You may even have clients who are small business owners or restaurant owners who need help—make sure they aren’t left off a list you circulate of those who need support.
How is your city coming together to better your community? Find these stories and share them.
Focus on the Positives
One of the favorite sentences I have ever heard uttered by another human being is this one by Fred Rogers (the great Mr. Rogers, who I credit for my love of cardigans). He said this: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
This quote has become something of a cliche with the rate at which it gets shared whenever something goes wrong these days; but I believe the message behind it is real.
If you’ve been an advisor for a while and you worked through the 2008 recession or the dot-com bubble even earlier, then you have a great story to share with your clients about perseverance through those times. Those were rough times, but you made it through. That’s a positive story to tell.
You can be positive while also being realistic. Don’t sugarcoat the bad news you sometimes have to deliver; positivity is more of a way to approach life than a band-aid you slap over the bad parts.
Bad times don’t mean everything has to get deadly serious, either. If part of telling your story means that you like to let clients know about things you’re enjoying in life, you don’t have to necessarily tuck that part of yourself into a drawer.
In Show Your Work, Kleon also writes this: “Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.”
That is sound advice for an advisor marketing their firm in the best of times, but it’s also a reminder that your clients were attracted to you because of who you are and the personality you displayed, in addition to the expertise you bring to their investments and financial plan.
Be true to yourself as you look for bright spots to share.
Use More Video
Video is the best way to connect with clients you can’t see in person. It gets your face in front of them and creates a way to create a dialogue even if a true dialogue where you’re actively speaking to each other in real-time isn’t possible.
These can be recorded videos, or video conference meetings. The method doesn’t matter.
What matters is getting your face in front of people so you can create a digital client experience that’s as close to your traditional client experience as possible. And if your traditional client experience is already highly digital (as I believe it should be) then you’re ahead of the curve here.
And with video, remember: Imperfection is okay. You’re looking for ways to authentically share yourself, not create a glossed-up version of your life.
Share Your Life to Tell Your Story
Continue to live life as best as you can and share it with your clients. As they respond, go deeper and create that shared experience.
As you invest in their individual stories, you’ll build more trust and loyalty now because they will remember feeling valued by you during a tough time in their life.