Are you using the right language with your clients?

Are we speaking our client's language?I received an email this morning from a gentleman who is a life coach.  He went into elaborate detail likening this learning experience to a basketball game, having Bobby Knight as a coach and something about jump shots.  There is one little problem with this.  I mean literally a little problem:  I’m 5’2″ and have no idea what in the world he is talking about.  Ironically, his whole sentiment was around drawing people near – ha!

I’ve never played basketball.  I’m not someone who watches the sport either.  If you came into my office today all you would see is St. Louis Cardinals memorabilia everywhere.  Had the story been about baseball vs. basketball – – we would have been ok.  He would have been using the right language with me.  Instead, I left the article knowing this person has no clue who I am or what I’m about.  #ByeFelicia [<== a shout out to Dana Plesia for that one!]

This got me to thinking about financial organizations and wondering why we are still using the same, meaningless language with our clients?  I feel confident this is a large part of the problem we are seeing in the under-served and under-insured markets.

And if you don’t believe me, at least believe LIMRA.  They have entered into a partnership with Maddock Douglas in communicating more effectively with consumers (see joint study from May 2014 here).

One of my first concerns about serving different markets was this notion that everyone would just change the pictures on their brochures to represent the client they are going after without consideration of the language styles used by that market.  Maria Ferrante-Schepis states it best, “Authentic communication is much more than a revamping of marketing materials and ad campaigns. It is a major innovation opportunity if internalized by the entire culture of an insurance company.”  This also goes for financial advisors too.

To give context to what I’m saying, one slide in the LIMRA presentation embodies this idea:

LIMRA and Maddock Douglas Study May 2014


We are so much in our own soda, we no longer realize what it tastes like or how much it has fizzled out.  These are financial organizational terms we ALL use ALL the time and probably have no idea that we are not speaking our clients’ language.  (Say what?)

“Agent” – I’ve said it a million times.  The one about “annuitize” and “premium” really got me.  I actually asked a 23-year-old colleague of mine what those words meant and he basically had the same answers in the slide you’re seeing.

We must embrace this new way of thinking.  Changing our language to that of our clients so we are most impactful and become invested in their planning, their futures and the promise of making a difference is the only way we can serve new markets in a constructive way.

I challenge all of us to look at our materials and ask people who are not in our community of professionals to read them – what do they think they say?  How do the materials make them feel?  There is no wrong answer here, just a different way of talking about what we do.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC this week!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite



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