Every financial advisor needs to have a sharp marketing message in order to attract new clients. The strongest message can emerge from a relatable narrative that portrays you as the guide who provides your clients with the tools they need to solve their money woes. How can you find your story, and what’s the best way to portray it?

I recently learned some worthy tips on storytelling from author and public speaker Donald Miller, who led a conference I attended. One key session at the conference spoke directly to business owners about how weaving a compelling tale into their marketing material would help them grow.

Here’s what Miller has to say about how the marketing message should be structured:

“A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy or tragedy.”


Advisors can use this simple outline to produce promotional videos, redesign part of their website or develop a successful marketing campaign from scratch.

Just consider how the above-noted story structure almost perfectly describes the relationship clients should have with their advisors.

They come to you with a problem, you become their guide, then you give them a plan and action points to follow. Depending on how successful the plan is, or how diligent a client is in follow-through, the end result will either be happy or relatively “tragic.”

But why doesn’t more marketing in the planning space focus on the entire process? Advisors like to note how they are different from the competition, or highlight the problems that clients may have. But we don’t typically tell the story from beginning to end.

Rarely do advisor campaigns focus on the real differences that advisors can make in a client’s life.


So how can you change your marketing to get more engagement from prospective clients?

You have to orchestrate a message that starts with the characters (your prospects) who are introduced to an advisor (you) who helps them understand their financial problems. This advisor provides the characters with some solutions but also encourages them to consider ways to handle their own issues.

If you want prospects to react to your marketing, the characters in the story must be relatable but posed with a problem that is outside of their comfort zone. And in order for the story to be compelling, the financial problem probably needs three layers to it — external, internal and philosophical.

Here’s an example: Your clients are struggling to figure out if they have enough money for retirement (external problem), but they also want to ensure their retirement is meaningful (internal). They may also be trying to figure out whether their money could possibly make a greater impact in the world through philanthropy (philosophical).


Once your prospects see themselves in the story, they need to witness the guide listening to the problems of the main character. They will then have a greater understanding of how you will do the same for them.

The characters in each story cannot solve their problems alone — they need the guide to assist them. However, once they understand the solution, they also need to feel they have the power to solve their problems. And once they have a plan and the confidence that they can master the challenge, they may still need a call to action from the guide.

This is how a compelling story is constructed: Will they take the guide’s advice and solve their problems? Or will they continue in confusion?

At this point in your marketing message, you can give a call to action to your own viewers.
Ask them, for instance, if they’re going to contact you to resolve their questions or if they will carry on without finding a meaningful solution to their problem.

The most important part to illustrate in the story is the outcome. Once the main characters choose to follow the plan given by the guide, there is no longer any confusion, and there is a happy ending to the story. If they don’t follow the plan, however, then there is a gloomy ending to the story.


How does this play out in an advisor marketing campaign? Here’s an example:

Pete and Judy are sitting around the dining room table with their daughter, discussing her college plans. Tensions are high, and it’s clear that this conversation isn’t resulting in the solutions anyone wants.

The scene cuts to one of your advisors walking into a conference room where the family is present. The advisor is seen listening to the family discussing their concerns; the confusion and worry are still apparent on their faces.

The screen then fades to black, and the next scene shows the advisor and the family sitting around the same dining room table where the family was arguing earlier.

As the advisor discusses the report they have on the table, the family looks calmer; the daughter is smiling, and there’s a sense of unity in the scene. The family continues to discuss their plans as the advisor leaves their home.

The final scene shows the smiling daughter on her bucolic college campus, saying goodbye to her proud parents as she begins an important new stage in her life.

The happy faces shown here can help potential clients understand just how great financial success can feel.


So how can you share this story?

One of the most powerful ways to tell your marketing story is through a narrative video. Because you’ll need it to show prospects your best side, and may also need voice-over narration, I suggest that you hire a professional videographer, who will be able to capture the best lighting and angles, and deliver a high-end final product.

You can feature this video on your website’s home page, and use it as a standalone promotion. As always, you should publish your video to a social platform such as YouTube, so it can found by users who are not already looking for your website, and post the link to social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to enable the public to find it there.

If you aren’t comfortable using video on your site, however, each of these scenes can also be illustrated through a series of photographs. Visitors to your site can scroll through these images and perhaps hear a narrator tell the story, or they can put the tale together for themselves.

You can also devote a full page on your website to highlighting several client case studies. Because I work specifically with educators, I have featured teachers in three phases of their careers on my website, highlighting how I have helped them with their unique concerns.

These stories can allow prospects to imagine how you might help them in a variety of situations. Case studies are also a great way of profiling your ideal clients so that those who find themselves resonating with those stories will get in touch.

Based on the success of the consultant who put this framework together, I would encourage you to follow this outline when you put your next campaign together. 

Dave Grant, a Financial Planning columnist, is founder of Finance for Teachers, a planning firm in Cary, Ill. He is also the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for young, fee-only planners. Follow him on Twitter at @davegrant82.

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