When was the last time you saw a customer’s eyes light up over interest rates or amortization?
I’m going to guess never. One of the challenges for financial brands is that consumers find our products and services incredibly boring. It makes our job as marketers very difficult, but stories can help.
Stories capture our attention and stick in our brain in a way that other forms of information don’t. You probably don’t remember all the geometry theorems you learned in school, but I bet you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.
With a good story, you can grab the consumer’s attention, form an emotional connection, and encourage them to take action—namely, purchase your product or service.
Not just any story will do, though. You need a carefully crafted story designed to invoke certain reactions in the consumer. By following the seven-step StorySelling Method I’ll lay out in this article, your financial brand can confidently and consistently tell stories that sell, as woven throughout your marketing communication, from video ads, to blog posts, to your website, to one-on-one meetings with consumers.
#1: Create a Consumer Persona (the Hero)
Human beings connect with stories about people like them. So the hero of your story should be a consumer persona: a semi-fictional representation of your ideal account holder, based on market research and real-world data.
When you use a consumer persona, the ideal consumers you hope to reach with the story will be more likely to emotionally connect with the hero. That emotional connection will be easier to achieve if you tell the story visually, through images and video. When we see people’s faces and their expressions—especially if they look like us—our brains release oxytocin, the “feel-good chemical” that promotes connection and empathy.
Pro tip: Focus is your friend here. If you try to be all things to all people, you will end up being nothing to no one.
#2: The Hero Has a Specific Question or Concern
This is where you lean into the consumer persona’s pain as you establish conflict other people will be able to connect with. For example, what’s keeping people up at night? How are they feeling about money?
You want to stir up negative emotion here—but only just a bit—because conflict causes the brain to release cortisol, increasing focus. Conflict captures consumers’ attention as they realize they, too, need a cure to the pain they’ve now related to.
#3: The Hero Meets an Empathetic Guide
Enter: your financial brand as an empathetic guide.
This is where many financial brands go wrong. They are stuck in the old narcissistic marketing model, where the story is all about them: their “great rates,” “amazing service,” and commoditized laundry list of look-alike product features.
This is why the empathetic portion is so important, because empathy is the antithesis of narcissism. Instead of focusing on the products or services you offer, focus on what the consumer persona—the hero of the story—needs.
To present yourself as an empathetic guide, communicate your financial brand’s purpose. People don’t buy what you do or how you do it; those are easily commoditized. People buy why you do it.
#4: The Guide First Must Build Trust through Content
Just like Luke didn’t trust Obi-Wan—a weird, old hermit living alone in the desert of Tatooine—at first in Star Wars, why should a consumer trust you pushing your commoditized products on them?
Trust must be built over time and is founded on two things: communication (what you say) and action (what you do). The best way to build trust digitally is through the production and promotion of content that helps first and sells second. Financial services are often inherently complex, so consumers are desperate for content that helps to simplify and guide their decisions.
#5: The Guide Then Offers a Solution
Once, and only once, you’ve established enough trust with a consumer through the content you produce and promote—content that, again, helps first and sells second—can you finally offer them a solution.
The solution is a prescription to cure the consumer persona’s problems and pain. Just as consumers are desperate for content that simplifies the complexity of financial services, they’re also desperate for simple, clear solutions. When they see a solution offered to the consumer persona, they will feel hopeful that there is a solution for them too.
#6: The Guide Calls the Hero to Action
The consumer will only take action once they have built up enough courage to commit to move forward with confidence. A call to action (CTA) can be the catalyst.
The CTAs in your story will differ based on the medium in which you are telling your story. Take your website, for example. To keep things simple, there are three types of website CTAs that build up consumer courage over time at every stage of their buying journey.
Clarity CTAs provide insight, guidance, and help early and often in the beginning stage of a consumer’s buying journey where they are first becoming aware of your financial brand (e.g., “Download the home-buying guidebook”).
Transitional CTAs are ideal for when a consumer is considering buying your product or service but needs to first talk to someone before they have enough courage and confidence to commit and click “apply” (e.g., “Request a call back to talk to someone”).
Direct CTAs are only offered at the very end of the consumer buying journey, once they’ve compared all their options and built up enough courage and confidence to commit to move forward and apply with your financial brand (e.g., “Apply for your loan in less than five minutes”).
#7: The Guide Leads the Hero to a Brighter Future
It is here the hero has finally broken free from their past and has arrived at their new state of being. These happy endings cause the brain to release dopamine, which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic. When consumers see the hero achieve a bigger, better, and brighter future, it gives them hope that they can have a similar future, with your help.
To highlight these happy endings, consider the power of testimonials communicated via videos and podcasts, or even ratings and reviews embedded on the product pages of your website.
At the end of the day, all people truly want are two things: help and hope. And hope must often come before help, especially when a consumer is looking for someone they can trust to guide them beyond their questions and concerns.
Tell Stories That Sell
For a story to sell, it doesn’t need to be flashy or elaborate. It just needs to tap into your consumers’ real problems and show them how you can guide them to a solution.
For example, let’s say a couple is looking to buy their first home. Instead of just talking about the product features, the mortgage loan officer could share a story about a previous couple she helped. She might recount how the couple before, just like the one she’s helping now, came to her with such-and-such specific questions and concerns, and how she listened to them and guided them every step of the way through these problems. Ultimately, she helped the couple buy the house they loved so that they could live the life they had always dreamed of.
Real people, real problems, real solutions. That’s how you tell stories that sell. So follow this seven-step StorySelling Method, and show consumers how you can guide them to the bigger, better, brighter future they desire.