Human Behavior Hacks Every Financial Services Marketer Should Know

Human Behavior Hacks Every Financial Services Marketer Should Know

Written by: Danielle Stitt

Email. The cornerstone of any financial services marketer’s kit bag. Not the shiny object it once was after Digital Equipment Corp marketing manager Gary Thuerk sent the first “mass” email in 1978.

However, a quick look at Google Trends and the term “email marketing” has stood the test of time, showing steady interest over the last five years while other marketing channels have ebbed and flowed.

So, if you are going to use email in your marketing mix in 2017, then let’s make sure it’s as effective as possible.

One of the presenters at Inbound16 was Nancy Harhut, who’s won over 150 awards for direct marketing effectiveness (with creds like that she got my attention!), presenting “10 Human Behavior Hacks that Will Change the Way You Create Email”.

Here’s what I learnt.

We all use decision making shortcuts as a way to conserve energy and speed through our waking day. Marketers can use this to our advantage by leveraging the following human behavior hacks to improve the chances your readers notice, open and act upon your email communications. 

Tip 1: Magic words in subject lines
 

A boring subject line is not going to perform as well as a subject line that compels you to click through, right? However, the finance sector is not an industry that can indulge in blatant click-bait subject lines. This is where “magic” words or “eye magnet” words are your friend.

  1. NEW – one of the top 5 most persuasive words (synonyms also include now, introducing, discover, announcing etc.). It appeals to the human brain’s need for novelty, news and newness
  2. FREE – spam filters can catch this so test but Nancy posited the use of FREE can lift open rates by 10%
  3. RECIPENT’S NAME – apparently we all like the look of our own name and Nancy has seen open rates increase by 29% when the recipient’s name was included in the subject line
  4. SECRET – making your readers feel they have information that isn’t widely available saw open rates increase 11% (think “confessions of” too) but check with Compliance first!
  5. ALERT – humans are hard wired to look out for danger… and breaking news… and could lift your open rates by 33% according to Nancy
     

We also have to remember that a lot of email is read on mobile so word length is important - think 35 words or less, and front-loading your “eye magnet” words to avoid them being truncated.

Tip 2: Position your message for a fast response
 

Humans respond to two action-inducing principals: scarcity and exclusivity. We hate to miss out (we didn’t call our newsletter FOMO Friday for nothing!). If your reader feels time-pressed or special, they are more likely to respond. This is where Nancy saw a 17% increase in click-through rates from the inclusion of a countdown clock. 

Tip 3: Ripple effect of the scarcity principal
 

Garnering the first “yes” is the hardest but once your reader has taken that first positive action, it’s easier to encourage them to say “yes” again. The trick to activating the first yes is to make it a small ask. Subsequent yeses are made easier if the first “yes” was public (for instance on social – see Tip 4) and if you remind them they said yes before. You can ask for larger commitments as you go.

Tip 4: The benefit of social proof
 

Decision makers, both personally and professionally, look to social proof prior to making a purchase decision. We trust the opinions of others, particularly if they’re like us. If you can show your reader how others like them have taken up your offer, they are more likely to make a purchase decision.

Tip 5: Negativity can deliver positive results 
 

People are twice as motivated to avoid pain as they are to achieve gain. This is why cash investments paying almost zero interest are so popular after major economic downturns or times of uncertainty. By highlighting the potential pain, e.g. “Don’t let inflation destroy your investment returns”, they open themselves to a solution that helps them avoid a negative outcome.

Tip 6: Availability bias turns doubters into buyers
 

We use our past experiences and memories to decide the likelihood of an event occurring. For example, if your client had a bad experience when dealing with your customer service team, they are expecting they’ll have a similar experience next time. To use this to your advantage, stir your readers’ memories or imaginations before you ask them for a response.

Tip 7: The authority principle to make you look better than your competition
 

Children are taught to respect and respond to authority from the get-go ensuring by adulthood this is well ingrained, making us hard-wired to listen and follow anyone that presents authority. In business, we position brands and spokespeople as leading experts through commentary in the media, releasing research reports, securing ratings and so on. We’re all familiar with the term thought leader, I expect. And your clients respond to hearing from the leading expert. 

Tip 8: The power of “because”
 

This is one of my favourite tips. Nancy referred to psychologist Ellen Langer’s experiment where an office worker jumped the photocopier queue. When the worker asked if they could go ahead of the person in front, the probability of the person agreeing was increased from 60% to 94% if they used the word “because”. It didn’t matter what the reason was, “… because I’m in a hurry” was about as successful as “… because I have to make some copies”. Perhaps try that in the coffee queue tomorrow!

Tip 9: The journalists’ secret that boosts readership
 

The information gap theory is that humans will act to close the gap between what we know and what we want to know. Journalists are taught to answer the 5 Ws + the 1 H i.e. who, what, when, why, where + how to ensure their article leaves no question unanswered. And marketers can encourage action by highlighting an information gap with subject lines like “How to boost your savings”, “Why under-insurance can leave you stranded” or “When using a fund manager makes sense”. 

It’s also worth noting that numbers stand out in a sea of words because they promise ease and order. And if including numbers in your subject line, Outbrain’s study of 150,000 article headlines found that odd numbers are perceived as more credible than even numbers. The exception is 10 and its multiples which also work because they are cognitively fluent.

Tip 10: The Von Restorff Effect
 

In 1933 Hedwig von Restorff’s experiments on memory found that if you want people to notice, make it distinctive. For marketers, Nancy recommended piggybacking on holidays and celebrations, customer birthdays, and anniversaries. People notice and remember things that standout and special days clearly fit into that category. E-commerce and retailers have mastered this with sales around the end of financial year, Boxing Day, Black Friday, Easter etc etc.

However, the major holidays or events can be crowded from a marketing message point of view so Nancy suggested leveraging minor holidays or even inventing your own celebration/ remembrance day which works too (I’ve scheduled in World Compliment Day on 1 March, have you?!).

Carden Calder
Marketing
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Carden Calder is a consultant, marketing commentator, and passionate advocate about the importance of financial decisions in Australians’ lives. Since 2004, she has grown Bl ... Click for full bio

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Written by: 

You’ve read my other posts:

Related: Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, or Neither?

Related: There's No Point in Paying for Outside Advice If You Have No Intention of Listening to It

And you’re finally ready to talk to a marketing or PR agency.

Or are you?

I’m amazed how many prospects contact an agency without any advance preparation whatsoever. It’s not just that they don’t know what services the agency offers. The real issue is, they can’t even explain why they’re calling in the first place.

You might be raising an eyebrow at my suggestion that you actually need to prepare before calling a vendor. Don’t. I want to help you maximize your time, and potential investment.

Here’s why: The best way to use a vendor’s time during an initial call is to conduct a mini-discovery session. At FiComm, we will ask: What is your vision for your business? How do your services address your market’s needs? Where are you headed as a company? What will get you to the next level? What marketing obstacles do you face? That information shapes our remarks, ensuring that everything we say will be directly relevant to you.

Many advisors find those initial conversations enormously valuable in their own right. They help clarify their thinking. But others feel put on the spot. They freeze. They respond in standard brochure-speak: “We were founded in 1984, we have four advisors, we serve 200 households with an average account size of $400,000.”

Or they say, “We were hoping you would tell us the answers to those questions.”

Well, that’s helpful.

Imagine you’re meeting a potential wealth management client for the first time. They have $700,000 in a brokerage account, $400,000 in a retirement account, two kids, a dog and a house in L.A. Great. You start by asking their goals for themselves, their money, and their family.

Puzzled, they tilt their heads and say, “We were hoping you would tell us.”

See what I mean? How can you possibly come up with a solution for clients who can’t even articulate their goals, or speak to their financial pain points?

The same is true for us vendors. Before we can help you, we need to know where your business is going and how you think marketing can help you get there. The answers don’t have to be “right” (and we’ll help you get there), but it you come prepared to participate, our conversations can be very fruitful. If you don’t—well, it’s hard to deliver value for you. We know we’ll constantly have to prove ourselves and remind you why you hired us.

“But, Megan,” some advisors say, “we’re not ready for that. We’re just trying to understand the basics. How will we learn if you don’t tell us?”

If you’re calling an agency just to get a general marketing education, then that’s what you’ll get—general information, most of it irrelevant to you, and lacking the specifics you’re really looking for.

So, don’t call an agency to be your marketing tutor. Instead, read. Advisors have never had better access to self-help insights and information—through trade pubs, custodian relationships, blogs, podcasts, other advisors and industry pundits. Be curious. Be inquisitive. If you hear something on a podcast that intrigues you, follow the host back to LinkedIn. Read what they write there. Email your questions. Attend a webinar. Be an active participant at industry events.

At some point, you’ll understand the basics. You’ll have identified your own issues. And narrowed down your questions. Then, finally, you’ll be ready to call an agency.

Instead of saying, “Tell us what we need,” you’ll say, “We need help with this.

Megan Carpenter
Marketing
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Megan is CEO & Co-Founder at FiComm Partners, LLC. Her team develops winning communications strategies for entrepreneurs in the independent advisory community, and busines ... Click for full bio