From the November 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Why Words Matter

Clients and prospects identify themselves in ways that might surprise you

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Michael Morgenstern/© theispot.com Michael Morgenstern/© theispot.com

Your mother was partly right: What you say is often less important than how you say it. But that's only half the story: What you say and how you say it often are different from the messages clients and prospects receive because of your choice of words.

Extensive research conducted recently by Chubb and language experts at Maslansky + Partners found certain common words and phrases to be actual turn-offs to the affluent, high-net-worth individuals and couples that many financial advisors serve and are trying to attract.

Some of what we found may surprise you. When advisors use the words “affluent” or “high net worth” — whether in spoken language, on their web site, or in print or electronic communications — those on the receiving end don't feel that advisors are talking to them.

Even if the audience is affluent or wealthy by any reasonable measure, most people who hear or read those descriptors of themselves feel the advisors using the terms don't really want to deal with them. They feel the advisors are sending messages that are not pertinent to their needs and, worse, they consider the advisors using such terms to be snobby and elitist.

Why do they feel that way and why does it matter to advisors? For one, those in income and wealth groups considered “affluent” generally know people with far more income and wealth than they have.

As a result, even if wealthy compared to the rest of the nation, they may not feel especially affluent compared to those with whom they associate — or to those they know with far bigger homes, who take more lavish vacations or who charter jets rather than fly first class. In fact, many nominally affluent people living in high-cost areas of the country feel they are barely able to maintain what in the past would have been a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle.

While they recognize they are better off than so much of the nation, most in the group feel successful or accomplished rather than affluent.

True Identity

They believe that “successful” and “accomplished” are better descriptors of their situation; variations of those words resonate with them when used by advisors and are more likely to get their attention when used in written, electronic and other communications.

Similarly, discussions or images of things usually associated with wealth, such as fine wines, antiques and expensive collectibles, are likely to make those you are trying to reach believe you are aiming at an even wealthier market.

We’ve found from research in insurance sales, for example, that this audience is far more receptive to discussions that touch on their custom cabinets and flooring, high-end kitchen appliances and state-of-the-art entertainment systems, for instance.

To reach today's upscale market, advisors should refocus their language and messaging so that an expanding emphasis is placed on how they can help “successful” and “accomplished” people protect the financial success they have already attained.

The better advisors understand their clients, the better they can help serve as a trusted resource in helping to manage and protect the wealth that their clients have worked so hard to achieve.

If you have any questions about this topic, please email me at AskFran@Chubb.com.

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