WTF?

I guess you could call me a pointillist. I believe that every small dot, selected with intention, can connect to form a beautiful image. The world of marketing, branding and client experience is as vast as the ocean and feels like it requires huge budgets and endless hours – not small dots. Not necessarily true. We just have to choose our details wisely.

Over the past year, I’ve worked with a variety of financial advisors as their marketing coach. For three hours—alongside their wholesaler—we dive deep into their marketing and branding concerns and questions. What’s working right now, where they want to be in the future and what I’d do if I were their Chief Marketing Officer.

Surprisingly, these Rent My Brain consulting sessions are never the same; advisors’ challenges, marketplace, growth plans and team capacity are all quite varied. Not to mention what they’ve selected as a focus for our time together—from pitch books to websites and everything in between.

But no matter what our focus, we have to start with the dots.

In one of my recent three-hour coaching sessions, we spent two hours reviewing their 18-page pitch book and focusing on the small stuff. I reviewed one page at a time and pointed out areas where there were inconsistencies in the details. Really simple ones—like their fonts—that, when changed, create a significantly more professional book.

The Trouble with Fonts

What font do you use for your pitch book? Do you use Calibri, the default font for PowerPoint? While it is a perfectly fine font, it feels too casual, too regular and most importantly, not unique in any way. Anyone can have Calibri, so, everyone does. What does that communicate about your practice? You’re fine being like everyone else?

Or maybe some days you use Calibri and then the next you use Times New Roman. You do this because you get bored—or possibly because someone else built the deck this time. These random decisions can send a message of inconsistency.

Yes, even a font has the power to make a bad impression. It may seem like such a small detail. But, in the world of financial services, details matter. Details matter all day long.

I’m a typography geek, and will spare you the rules of Serif and San Serif for now. However, here is a quick checklist for your pitch book.

  • Your font? Use ABC. (Anything but Calibri, Comic Sans or Courier.) Pick one (or two) and stick with them. Check out Google Fonts for free, open source fonts. I like Karma and Open Sans Condensed together. At ShoeFitts, I use Avenir for printed materials such as proposals, pitch books and presentations. It has classic roots from the 1920s but is modern, crisp and clean. Oh, the history of Avenir. Apple uses Avenir for its Maps app and some Siri screens; Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has used Avenir and Avenir Next for its mobile apps and websites since 2012.
  • Look at the size of the font from page to page. I opt to have one size headline (32 pt or so) and one size for the body copy (24 pt or so). And, don’t reduce the size when indented or bulleted. That’s letting PowerPoint push you around. It looks horrible. Indeed, there are some cases when you’ll need a smaller option. That’s fine, just create a rule and stick to it. (Speaking of PowerPoint: Just say no to clipart. Just say no to word art.)
  • How do you “treat” your words? Are your headers consistent? Are they ALL CAPS, Sentence case, Title Case, etc.?
  • BTW, stop with the underlining. Underlining is old school, a remnant of the typewriter when folks couldn’t bold. If you want to signify a heading or title or important point, bold them. (Use bold and italics sparingly, if not then nothing is important.) More importantly an underline might be misconstrued as a hyperlink.
  • Speaking of bold. If for some reason you opt for the Arial family of fonts and take a liking to Arial Black, do NOT bold it. It’s already bolded. (Told you I was a geek.)
  • Ditto for two spaces after a period, exclamation point, question mark and every other punctuation mark. Yep. Only one space is correct. Short explanation: No typewriter, no monospaced fonts. Need the details? Read more here.
  • Need more ideas for consistency in word selection and punctuation? Download my AP Style Guide cheat sheet.
  • Want to do a deep dive into the Oxford comma?

 

Feeling commoditized? Show some love!

Business printing isn’t necessarily a hip industry. It’s really just paper and ink.

Think printing, think commodity. Right?

Even worse, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, pundits have been pointing to the death of the printing industry. (We all have digital screens. Who needs paper anyway?) Combine this with increased global competition and skinny margins and you’ve got an old, declining, boring industry.

Who’d jump into that?

Someone did: MOO.com. And, if you ask me, they’re really not printers. They’re customer experience masters. They’re a serious disruptor to that old, declining, boring industry. Their materials are impeccably printed, their website is bright and helpful, and much like some of the high-tech toys folks, they’ve made packaging part of the whole experience. It’s evident they love what they do.

One of my favorite keynote sessions I deliver is Your Brand. Your Business. Your Bottom Line. During that talk, I hand out superpower cards: mini cards with a well-Googled superpower such as invincibility, elasticity, force field, etc. Superpowers are handed out by the hundreds each time I speak, several thousand over the past year. All printed by MOO.

All of this got me thinking about how advisors can take a cue from MOO and improve their customer experience game, too. Are you making customer experience an important part of your business model?

The best way to set your firm apart in the financial services industry is to create a culture of intentional customer experience. Start with the moment you pick up the phone and list out all the little ways you could up the ante on that experience. Some examples:

  • Is your voicemail the standard your-message-is-important-to-me bologna? Why sound like everyone else?
  • When you welcome someone as a new client, can you add in creative packaging?
  • Are there particular ways you celebrate key milestones in your clients’ lives or the lives of their families?
  • Walker suggests there are three components of excelling in the experience economy: personalization, ease and speed. Pick one area of focus when reviewing your practice. How easy do you make things for your clients?

Need more? Read The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Tons of inspiration and ideas about conscientiously creating remarkable moments.

Feeling commoditized? No problem! Just love your clients and create an unforgettable experience. Then do it over and over again. You’ll be fine.

And, Happy Valentines Day!