12 reasons to offer Financial Education

and one reason not to.

12 reasons for financial education

If you offer financial services (FS) (financial planning/advice, products or both) or you provide:

  1. Marketing
  2. Website Design
  3. Videography or
  4. Speaker training services

to this sector, then this Insight is for you

Creating (or helping others to create) a financial education programme – offers enormous (proven) potential for your business. And you’ll be helping to make the world a better place too 🙂

So, let’s get right into it.

Make your business the ‘go-to’ place

Why would you invest in educational materials (articles, videos, guides) for your target market – or anyone else?

Well, I’ll list 12 specific business benefits in a moment, but in a nutshell…

These programmes, if delivered well (and quality delivery is critical) will help you to enhance your reputation, build your business and retain more of your clients for longer.

What’s not to like about becoming, (or enhancing your position as) a ‘go-to’ provider for guidance around money?

Go to place for money ideas you can trust

It has served Martyn Lewis extremely well, right? … and he’s not even an expert on investment, tax or pensions matters.

Build resilience now while you have time?

Some advisers I talk to say they don’t need (or want) to invest in educational materials (or any other marketing for that matter) because they don’t need to build their business any further – at least right now.

“Things are fine as they are”

is a story we all hear in business, whatever sector we work in and, after ten years of strong (and relatively stable) growth in asset markets, I can understand why some advisers might think that way.

The rate at which clients change their adviser has probably been much lower than in more normal, bumpier, times, and asset price growth has also driven (fund based) fees a lot higher too.

However, the only constant is change – in life, or any business environment.

Heraclitus, same river twice

Markets fall hard sometimes; the competition gets better and clients do get itchy feet if they sense an advice offering is falling behind – on price or value add.

So, ignoring this trend to offer more educational materials to your clients might not be a great move.

In any event, as we all know… it’s best to prepare for a change-storm before the storm hits.

Protect from storm

I know, some say,

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

but the winners in most games tend to say,

‘If it ain’t broke, there’s still time to fix it’

Build trust; your industry needs it.

You know, despite all the regulatory interventions of recent years, that the FS industry gets consistently low scores for Trust. The evidence is in Edelman’s excellent annual trust ‘barometer’ – from which this image is taken.

Edelman FS least trustedThe issue of Trust is one I explored in a previous Insight (not to mention a whole book!) so I won’t go over it all again here, although there is one shocking finding from that Edelman report which bears a repeat mention, and it’s this…

When it comes to Financial Services, compared to the world’s other large economies, the UK has the widest gap in trust between ‘informed’ and ‘mass population’ groups.

Why is that?

Well, I think it’s because we don’t have enough relationships between advisers and consumers in the UK, and without relationships, you can’t have trust.

Only one in six UK advisers are happy to take on clients from the wider public; those with less than £100,000 to invest (Source: Canada Life. August 2019) – a ‘disinterest’ problem that’s been getting worse too. Five years ago, three times as many advisers were happy to advise such clients.

The reasons are many and include the following:

  • UK Financial Services regulation is complex and costly to cope with.
  • The UK’s tax rules are now so complicated (esp. on pensions – e.g. the NHS taper tax issue) that advice takes more time per client.
  • The recent decade-long boom in asset prices has boosted the incomes of advisers without them taking on more clients.
  • There’s a crisis in the supply of advisers too – with many retiring but few younger people entering the profession to replace them; an issue made worse by the low trust scores.

You can be different and change this

Lone dog with the sheep

No good adviser wants to refuse people access to financial advice and leave them vulnerable to bad advice or scammers.

So, a growing number of financial firms are finding ways to offer financial information and guidance to the wider public – without necessarily offering advice in all cases.

These companies are out there, clearly demonstrating their desire to help and support, where they can. The best firms, offering high-quality education as an integral part of their proposition, are finding that these programmes help them grow their core business too.

Putting your trust in othersIs there a better way to build trust with your existing and prospective clients than by:

  • Giving people a regular flow of engaging, solid and insightful ideas?
  • Helping people, and their family and friends, to make better decisions about money?
  • Demonstrating your desire to help and support people – without asking for anything in return?

I honestly can’t think of any.

Boost your image – and your income

Doing your bit to make the planet a better place is bound to make you feel good.

And you can point to the fact that Education sits top centre on the UN’s sustainable development goals too.

UN Sustainable Goals

That said, I suspect you might feel even better if your investment (in time, money or both) offers some real prospect of driving higher numbers of more suitable (and more enthusiastic) advice enquiries into your business, yes?

Well, a well-executed educational programme can do this for you too.

Just ask Pete Matthew (great website BTW, Pete)

Let’s look at 12 more ‘reasons why’

12 reasons for financial education

1 – You’ll reinforce your existing client relationships

strong relationshipsSolid educational content shows off your expertise and commitment to client wellbeing.

It also reminds clients where to come when they need additional advice on past work or advice in a NEW area, and nudges them to send their family and friends to you too.

You know that financial advice clients can forget the detail of your value-added services. And often, not long after they implement their plan!

Most of your work (and the future value you could add) will go unseen unless you share the secrets (the smart processes you use) to help your clients map out their plan… and you explain the extraordinary way they benefit from your work.

Just be careful if you outsource this educational writing.

You need to work with someone who’s both proven at writing and qualified in this area. If you don’t, you could end up pulling your hair out with frustration and re-writing most of the work you pay for.

I know, I’ve done this myself, in my former life as a Product Development Manager, at Clerical Medical… and just look at my hair! 😊

2. You’ll attract new clients to your business

Attract clients

By sharing valuable ideas, you’ll make the value of your services clear to all.

So, the benefits of building an educational programme, extend well beyond your existing client relationships.

3. You’ll attract clients to NEW services and offers

New ServiceYou’ll get much more interest in any new services you launch (or offers you make) if you adopt a subtle communications approach.

Develop a reputation for sharing solid, generic solution ideas to common financial planning challenges, and you can simply drop a mention of your services into regular helpful posts in passing.

That’s much better than a spammy hard sell.

No one wants to be ‘sold to’ but most of us are up for learning smart tips and tricks for solving life’s challenges – especially if they come from competent people.

So, go ahead and explain your solution ideas; you’re more likely to be asked for help.

Do this well enough and you might never need to ‘sell’ again.

Just be sure your communications are clear and engaging.

Frankly, not all of what sits on adviser websites today is that. Sorry guys but it’s true.

You might need help to plan what to write about, to structure and format the content, or to write each post from scratch.

You may only need that help until you’ve got a high-quality production line up and running. But the thing is, just as you tell your clients to get expert help, this is an area where you might need to take your own advice.

So, just ask for help if you need it.

4. You’ll deliver more consistent client messages

Trust and Consistency

How often do you explain basic concepts around financial planning?

Concepts around investing, pensions, estate planning (and so on) – either face to face or via e-mail?

Perhaps you enjoy writing up all those repeated explanations – and if so, don’t let me stand in your way. You will, however, find that job a lot easier when you have your own library of (evergreen and fundamental) lessons in place.

At that point, you can just link your clients to the relevant Insight to read in their own time.

And in any business of multiple advisers – you’ll get a significant message consistency benefit here too.

5. You’ll save LOTS of adviser time

High quality financial adviceBuilding on the previous point, you’ll save on costly adviser time if you help your clients get to the first base of understanding with your educational materials.

Face to face teaching within a financial planning (or advice) process can be fun, for sure. However, it’s also very time-consuming (which means expensive) and, as already mentioned, it poses big risks to your business unless your core messages are consistent, and written down.

So, build a robust set of materials to explain the key areas you regularly talk about with your clients – and save your advisers a lot of costly time.

6- Your clients will get more value-added advice

Grow your moneyOnce you have your core educational materials in place, you (or your advisers) can focus on higher-value client conversations.

Now you can build on improved client knowledge around the core financial planning concepts.

You can send your clients links to these Insights, to improve their understanding, a few days before your meetings. So, the essential points will be fresh in their minds and your meetings will be more valuable.

Your clients will spend less time relearning basics and more time discussing the finer points of their particular situation.

More importantly, you’ll get to spend more time outlining how your services will help your prospective clients solve their financial life challenges.

7 – Your sales conversion rates will increase

Grow your business

When you reassure your prospects about your knowledge and skills up front, more of them will convert, faster to clients.

We can argue about the statistics, and they will vary by industry, but in our information-rich, digital world, it’s thought that as much as 70% of a buying decision takes place before a customer contacts you.

It’s how most of us go about choosing a new service supplier these days. First, we check to see what they have to say online, right?

And that’s what your prospective (and existing) customers are doing right now, so your digital presence needs to be smart and informative.

Of course, higher conversion rates also mean higher referral rates. People want to like and share clear and engaging Insights with their friends and family too.

That’s just how it is.

8 – Your staff training might be more engaging

Staff training

No offence intended but with more engaging educational content, those often-dull, training sessions could be more engaging…

Learning new concepts and skills is never easy but we don’t need to make it a grisly experience.

Starting a conversation with ‘why’ is not only the best way to motivate clients, it’s also the best way to engage the thoughts and ideas of your team.

So, if you start more of your training sessions with fundamental benefit-focused, client-facing messages, your staff will almost certainly engage more.

And that means more effective, more consistent – and lower-cost training.

Simply re-use your new educational content in your training.

9 – You’ll retain your best (and recruit better) staff too

retain and recruit the bestOK, I know what you’re thinking… I’m ‘over-egging’ the benefits here now.

Well, no, the evidence is right here: 

Millennials (and that’s everyone less than nearly 40 years old, now) put corporate learning and company purpose right at the top of their feature list when searching for jobs.

This is not just about millennials, either…

Who doesn’t want to work in a business that understands the value of client and staff education, and does great work in that space?

10- Your professional introducers will find it easier to send you clients

Grumpy Professional

Sorry, yes, I know that’s a grumpy face but let’s be honest, not all of your most valuable Solicitor and Accountant introducers are always all smiles, are they?

Anyway, the point here is about making it easy for these professionals (smiley or otherwise) to refer clients to you.

You can make their life easier by offering them links to your educational Insights on various topics.

These materials need to demonstrate your command of key subjects and your ability to communicate them clearly.

Do that and you’ll find it easier to impress new introducers about your business services too.

11 – You could also improve your client reports

Financial ReportHow long are your, typical client reports?

How long? 😉

Well, by developing high-quality educational materials, your business proposition could be helped in this area too.

The phrases (or whole lessons) that you, or your writer, create – to explain all the key financial planning concepts – can be drawn into your client reports, to refresh those standard paragraphs.

You might also find you can shorten the main body of the reports, by referring to your educational materials for explanations of evergreen concepts.

Message consistency is important here too, isn’t it?

12 – You’ll save time in engaging other suppliers

Eye on the timeThe final reason (that I can think of – you might have more) to focus more on financial education is that it’s easier and quicker to engage with other marketing suppliers.

You’ll make the job of your Website or brochure designer (or a videographer if you take that route) much easier if you provide them with clear and helpful content.

Your marketing people might be great at helping you create client testimonials and posts about you and your team. But many struggle to help financial services businesses with educational content because, like the general public, they’re not qualified in (and don’t understand the benefits of) solid financial planning and advice.

However, if you provide your marketing team with the words you want to use, written in the style you want to say them (in text, audio or video) then they should be able to help you convert those words into engaging, technicolour marketing assets.

Just ask, if you’d like to see some examples of what I mean.

The key points here are to approach your content writing carefully, to use good writers, if you outsource part or all of the work.

You also need to employ great quality web developers and videographers – who don’t need to cost the earth.

Get this right up front and you’ll save a ton of time and money down the line.

Do you have questions?

QuestionsI said at the top that I’d outline 12 reasons to develop educational materials and one reason not to.

So what’s the reason not to?

No prizes for guessing… it’s cost.

All unique and valuable works have a cost, don’t they?

If you wanted to write a book (perhaps you have already) it would cost you a great deal of time – perhaps 6 to 12 months of solid, full-time work to create something of substance.

So, it’s worth thinking of the earnings you’d lose if you spent a year writing your educational programme.

What might that cost you – £75,000, £150,000… £250,000?

Sure, if you outsourced the writing of your educational programme, it might not be cheap, but it should not cost you anything like the lowest of those numbers.

In any event, you’ll want to build your programme over time, to build a reputation for consistent delivery of great new ideas. So, you’ll pay for the creative writing monthly, not all in one go – and the best writers won’t charge you any (percentage of the project) upfront fees either.

Plan this carefully and you can minimise your initial costs. What’s more, you could CUT your ongoing costs (to maintain the content) to next to nothing – and that’s not a pricing structure you’ll get on most services!

Your planning approach to your educational project, especially around the content you ‘go for’, is critical.

Whether you want to develop a brand NEW educational programme, add to, or improve the materials you already have, you’ll get a lot more value from your investment if you’re clear upfront on some key questions; here are some of the main ones:

Do you have a good website platform for these lessons?

Is the design, user-friendliness (navigability) and load speed of your website up to the job? Visitors to your site will read great content – if it loads fast and looks OK on both laptop and phone. They won’t if they have to wait 30 seconds for it to load.

Does your web platform help you optimise your presence on search engines (that SEO thing)

WordPress.org is the platform of choice in this regard but there’s a lot more than this to think about. So, get a good designer and developer (they’re different roles, by the way) if you don’t already have them.

Are you clear about who you want to help through your educational works?

This might sound like a daft question but it’s easily (and often) overlooked.

If you write to someone in a post (like this) you need an idea of who they are.

This is not just about their knowledge or experience of financial planning or investments or their personal financial circumstances. You should also have a sense of their interests and values – and about the topics that might engage them most.

And you need to decide whether your educational programme will include lessons (I call them Insights) for those who can’t (yet) afford your services?

If you want to do your bit, to help a wider section of society – and protect more people from being misled by others, the answer is YES!

What lesson areas do you want to include?

It’s easy for us (who’ve studied financial planning) to forget just what an enormous range of topics there are under the ‘money questions’ umbrella.

If you’re not sure where you might focus your educational efforts, initially, drop me a line at hello@paulclaireaux.com with the message line, ‘What can I teach people about?’ and I’ll send you a simple list of 20+ topic areas to help your thinking.

I generally divide these topics into three broad areas:

  1. Money basics/Getting started
  2. Financial planning concepts and
  3. Money Psychology/behavioural science

I see a lot of adviser firms writing occasional posts across a wide, and unconnected, range of topics and that’s not a great way to engage an audience – of any type.

So, if you’re interested in developing a programme of lessons, ask someone who’s done this before.

I’d be happy to help.

How complex do you want to make the content?

Anyone qualified in the various aspects of Financial Planning can write complex content.

The trouble is, complex content doesn’t sell.

It won’t help you sell your financial planning services or your financial products – and it won’t win you, followers, on Social Media either!

You need to show your communication skills – and your competence on complex issues without making things complicated. 

And that balance is tricky to get right.

Just right. GoldilocksIn general, where complex issues come up (e.g. optimising profit extraction for company directors or tax considerations for non-UK residents), I suggest that the ‘call to action’ in your lessons should always be to take advice.

There’s a ton of educational value you can add on all 20+ of the topics on my lists without going into grisly detail.

No one wants to hear that.

Indeed if your lessons are complicated and boring, you’ll just put people off financial planning altogether – and you don’t want to do that.

So, focus your writing on high-level ideas to help people approach their financial life challenges.

You can help your prospective clients sort out their finances, if they like what you write about – and decide to work with you.

What style of writing is best?

This is a big subject and one I might come back to another time but in a nutshell…

When I help others create content, I tend to focus on one style which, I’m told, is engaging and conversational.

Moira O'Neill TestimonialAnd using that style offers two benefits to you:

First, almost everyone who reads your materials will understand what you’re saying.

Second, you can reuse the content (with little or no editing) to record audio or ‘piece to camera’ video lessons, if you want to work in those formats – and the value of your work is vastly increased if you do.

You can even get others to do the presenting or voiceovers for you – provided that your content is easy to read.

The truth is that a lot of people are nervous about presenting and, trust me, video recording can be a bit daunting.

Although for some, like Jason Butler, video presenting seems to be a breeze.

Here’s Jason introducing a series of lessons I wrote for Salary Finance a little while back.

I also think it’s worth aiming for a David Attenborough style of writing lessons – whether you record them or just leave them as text on the page.

What’s a David Attenborough style?

Well, if you’ve watched his documentaries, you’ll probably already know his secret.

Attenborough uses short paragraphs of short sentences.

And he does not use smart-arse words.

He also avoids TLAs… sorry, I mean three-letter acronyms which, as we know, too often pepper the content and confuse what’s written on various Financial Planning matters!

Conclusion

Yes, there’s a lot to think about if you want to create great educational ‘works’… but nothing worthwhile is easy is it?

And if you get the right team on board – this can be relatively pain-free.

Just drop me a line, if you’d like to chat through ideas in this area.

I’ll certainly help if I can.

Thanks for dropping in

Paul

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