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What’s trending in financial communications

What’s trending in financial communications

By Nicole Iman, Chief Writer/Founder of Etymon

There are few sections of the population that don’t use at least some form of financial services – that’s why the industry’s ability to effectively communicate with customers is crucial. But the inconvenient truth is, while marketing trends in the financial sector have evolved due to new technologies, communications have taken a backseat.

In some ways this is understandable. There is a much-needed focus on new technology and the changing user experience, but because of that, effective financial communications are rarer than it should be. This is unfortunate because the words we use are actually a key part of the customer experience. When we lose sight of this fact, negative communication trends undermine a companies’ ability to communicate effectively and inadvertently compromise the brand image.

There are three ways these negative communications trends are infiltrating the financial services sector:

Trend #1: A lack of consistency

A lack of consistency is arguably the number one misstep. It’s important because repetition is critical for brand recall and word of mouth – something that has been forgotten in the digital age. The reason why word of mouth tends to be discounted is because it’s less visible but if you look beyond the social media engagement metrics, you’ll discover that word of mouth holds far more weight than “digital chatter”.

However, achieving consistency is no easy feat. Especially in the financial services sector where it is common to have multiple departments sending out communications. Naturally each department will have a slightly different way of wording things. On the surface, this seems fine, but when people read varying descriptions of the same product or company, it is easy to get confused and for brand recall to take a nosedive.

For example, one department might say, “globally renowned products”, while another might say “highly reputable products”, “world-class products” or “top-tier products”. Yes, the core message might be the same, but the different wording dilutes it and confuses the audience.

Trend #2: An overuse of hyperbole and jargon

At times it seems there is a perception by the “knowledge owners” in the financial sector that using plain and simple language is “dumbing down” the product. This especially apparent if it is something that leans more toward the technical side or for a B2B audience. They somehow feel that simplifying their product messaging will devalue their brand or product and this leads to unnecessarily complex and hyperbolic language riddled with jargon.

There are two problems with this. The first is that most companies out there, including their competitors, are doing the same thing which stops them from achieving a point of difference. The second is that it turns the reader off. Even if the audience is one that can understand all that jargon, this kind of dense writing is off-putting. And the message that it conveys, as opposed to the message the company thinks it is conveying, usually harms the brand or product perception.

Trend #3: Oversimplifying

On the other side of the coin is oversimplifying. Communications, just like life, is all about balance. While most financial services and tech companies tend to err on the side of unnecessary complexity, there are those who go too far in the opposite direction – oversimplifying their message until it comes across as patronising and condescending.

Companies tend to do it because they think it’s what is needed to connect with the mass audiences, who lack financial or technical knowledge. Others oversimplify to stand out from the competition. But remember, a lack of specific knowledge does not mean lack of intelligence and insulting your audience’s intelligence is not the way to effectively communicate with them. It’s also possible to stand out in a bad way as well as a good one. The balance for B2B companies can be a little more delicate, which is why using skilled communications or content specialists is vital.

Every tech geek needs a word geek

At the end of the day, words matter, and they matter because it is the words that give meaning. This might seem obvious, but the impact of the words we choose is significant. Words have the power to catalyse change and leave lasting impressions, not just consciously but also unconsciously. When companies use words that don’t connect, the reader may not register their dissatisfaction on a conscious level. Rather, it happens on an unconscious level which has a disastrous effect on conversions. The worst part is these subconscious negative perceptions will not immediately show up in the data. Companies may thus not even realise the adverse impact of their choice of words, which begs the question – how can we solve a problem when we don’t even know what the problem is?

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The most efficient move for financial services and tech companies is to ensure they hire a writer who deeply understands these communication issues, so they never crop up in the first place. Problem avoided.

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