The art of storytelling

01 August 2017 Metropolitan

What is effective communication, if not marketing itself but the dark art of storytelling?

Some of the most powerful brands use their extensive advertising weight to weave emotional narratives rather than to bombard consumers with detail and product. Coca-Cola and Volkswagen, for example, are just two of many classic exponents of this art.

Client’s financial journey
It is time for the financial services advice narrative to change – the client’s financial journey should be at the centre of communication. As with all great stories, this road has many different routes.

In the past, companies were experts at collecting and analysing data, but now they are becoming experts at learning about the motivations, impulses and circumstances that lie behind that data. Some people call this behavioural economics, but it is called being client-centric.

It is important to embark on a journey to create financial solutions that can be individualised to meet each and every customer’s needs based on where they find themselves in their own story.

A company should set out on a mission to create customer experiences with their brand – whether it is through advisers, in the branch, on the phone or online – that connect with the customers’ needs rather than the company’s needs when those needs manifest. To do this companies have to listen to their customers’ stories and deliver to their realities.

Understand the stories of clients
An adviser plays a fundamental role in this journey by listening carefully to the stories of his or her clients. Assembling the facts about a client’s finances is important, however, truly listening about/to the client’s journey and picking up the essential cues as to what really matters to this client and what they are fearful of.

Great financial advice is about matching life goals with realistic and effective solutions which help to achieve those goals. That is not possible without the ability and time, to hear and understand the stories of clients.

Advisers’ stories build trust
When advisers share their own stories, and are open about life journeys, mistakes and learnings, they move the financial process from pushing products to finding solutions. This kind of honesty builds trust in a relationship.

Metropolitan Chief Executive, Khanyi Nzukuma, has for example become a strong public voice about the urgent need to tackle the personal debt crisis in the country through decent educational programmes.

His opinion carries far more weight because he is always willing to talk about his early days as an adviser in the Eastern Cape when he over-committed to a new vehicle after he received his first significant payment. He was able to manage his way out of that personal debt crisis but many do not and, through that story, he demonstrates that he truly understands why.

Thirdly, advisers still play the role of an expert and mentor, using genuine examples to explain financial concepts. Forms and facts have a role to play in ensuring compliance with essential regulations but the means of conveying this critical information changes to help the client gain an understanding.

As part of this process it is important to understand what modern African financial wellness looks like. Try to acknowledge individual success stories and try to discover more of them. It is an approach that says that a financial solution is only relevant in the context of one person’s journey. It must make clients life goals achievable.

We hope that every financial adviser will take this to heart, and that right across the industry, we will see individual South Africans with life goals and hear their stories before we think of products and policies.


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