We live in an incredibly noisy world.
I’m not referring to the decibels associated with everyday life; sitting in my office with the window open, the sound of crows, church bells and traffic sounds from the distant high street, background music from my Amazon Alexa, the tapping on keyboards and the occasional ringing phone.
No, the noise I’m talking about is the vast quantity of electronic noise in the form of news, social media posts, emails, videos and audio. It’s relentless.
Every second, on average around 6,000 tweets are posted on Twitter. Some 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram every day.
Against the backdrop of this colossal volume of online activity, how on earth can we expect to get our own messages heard?
As a financial planner, you need to stand out from the crowd in order to be heard and get your message across. This means doing things that others don’t, and treading where your competition fear to tread.
It starts with looking different. When we rebranded Informed Choice in 2014, after 20 years of using our existing brand, we looked at the logo designs for every financial firm within a 10-mile radius of our office. We copied and pasted all their logos onto a single page, to be presented with a sea of blue. So we decided to be different with our brand colours and use green instead.
There’s more to this story and deeper reasons for choosing green as a brand colour, which I’ll get into another time, but it now genuinely sets us apart from others and gives us an early advantage in terms of differentiation when a prospective client is comparing us superficially to others.
Another way to cut through the noise is to focus on the little touches that make people pause and consider you for a second or two longer than they might otherwise do.
When we rebranded, we made a conscious decision to beef up our business cards. We opted for a card stock of 810gsm with a coloured core running through the centre. Without exception, every single person I’ve handed a business card to since has commented positively on its thickness and quality. It’s a little thing, but every little helps.
You can cut through the noise by taking advantage of the spaces created for offline marketing when everyone is flooding the online space with their message.
Around 18 months ago we launched a printed client magazine, written and designed in house and then posted to each client and professional contact. There’s a digital version of the magazine too, but the tangible quality of a printed magazine gives our clients something they can touch, feel and pass on to a friend, family member or colleague.
We extend this perhaps counterintuitive move into the offline marketing space with an increased presence at events.
Despite having shelves full of the kit needed to produce videos and podcasts, nothing really beats getting some face-to-face time with existing and prospective clients. To this end, we sponsor events at our local arts centre and, most importantly, show up to every single one.
We also get involved with organising and promoting the events we choose to sponsor; nothing cuts through the noise better than putting in this level of effort to make things happen in a local community.
You can cut through the online noise using online methods too. One approach is to simply increase the quantity of your messages.
Assuming the core message remains consistent, it's worth adjusting each post you share to keep things fresh. If your competition tweets once a day, maybe you tweet 10 times a day. Scheduling tools like Hootsuite make this very easy. Yes, while this does add to the overall volume of noise, it does at least make your message more likely to be heard.
What financial planners can no longer do is rest on their laurels and assume their message will be heard, without some effort and original thinking involved.
A good way to approach this is to consider what is unique to you. What is that sets you apart from the rest, and how can you capitalise on that to boost the reach and appeal of your message?
The world is noisy and is only going to get noisier. Shouting the loudest probably won’t get you the results you want or need, but hopefully this demonstrates there are other (more effective) ways to cut through the noise.