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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Do not read this!

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Creating strong, benefit-driven messaging is more art than science. It involves a series of interrelated decisions: Prioritizing customer needs and wants; matching consumer needs with product benefits; and, finally, deciding how to communicate these benefits in a way that will have the greatest market appeal. There is no doubt that messaging — with its ability to shape marketplace perceptions — is a major determinant of your sales success.

Unfortunately for financial services marketers, it is not enough to simply create strong, differentiated messaging. Success depends on making sure that those messages are heard or read. There is a significantly underutilized, time-proven concept that can help marketers create interest and readership — the power of NO.

Every one of us grew up with daily reprimands of what not to do, say, eat, touch or want. As a result, NO has become one of the most powerful words in the English language. It invariably evokes a natural curiosity to find out what we are being deprived of. Yet this power is seldom harnessed for financial promotion. Perhaps most marketers intuitively feel that people aren’t comfortable with a negative approach.

However, a properly positioned negative message will get more attention — and readership — than positive statements. Probably the most succinct, poignant and elegant example of negative messaging is the Ten Commandments, nine of which start with “Thou shall not…” A fundamental law of messaging is to first get the reader’s attention. Therefore, if you want to get your message across, don’t minimize the power of NO!

This article is adapted from a new book, The Professional’s Guide to Financial Services Marketing: Bite-Sized Insights for Creating Effective Approaches (Wiley Publishing), by Jay Nagdeman. For more information, visit