When I tell people about my background, I don’t talk about how I started my business, how I got my MBA in marketing, or how we conduct our research at The Oechsli Institute. I talk about how I started out as a counselor for emotionally disturbed boys at Children’s Village, a treatment facility outside of New York City. The abbreviated tale of how I got started sticks. People remember it.
What happens when you tell your “sticky story” is that you become more interesting, more personal and real, which then increases the likelihood that a prospect will open up and tell you about themselves.
I have found that having three “sticky stories” can be a big asset for financial advisors, especially in affluent social circles. These stories enable the advisor to brand themselves without selling their services.
What makes a story stick?
- It’s unexpected.
- It’s memorable.
- It leads to a point.
What defines a bad story?
- It rambles.
- It’s typical.
- You know where the story is going.
Sticky Story 1 – How Did You Get Into the Business?
Graduating from an Ivy League school with an advanced degree in economics speaks highly of your educational background, but it tends to come across as the typical “credential brag.” And it rarely sticks. But a real working-class story would be intriguing; your father owned a small landscaping business and dropped you off two blocks from school because you didn’t want anyone seeing his beat-up landscaping truck. In your mind, you were poor. So you became fascinated with money, how it worked, which led to studying investments. And by the time you were in high school, you were helping your father invest in the stock market — in effect becoming the family’s investment advisor. The rest is history.
Sticky Story 2 – How Did You Solve a Client Problem?
This is beyond getting an 8 percent return for the past decade and helping your client become financially independent. Even though that’s an admirable achievement, people in affluent circles rarely credit their advisor for financial independence.
But solving a problem that’s outside the norm speaks to the depth of relationship you maintain with clients. For example, an advisor organized the funeral arrangements for a grieving widow, including the financial arrangement with the funeral home and making sure she wasn’t taken advantage of in her time of mourning. A story like this is memorable and shows you care.
In another situation, an advisor insisted that long-term care was part of the wealth management plan for an affluent client, and two years later dementia strikes his wife. Her treatment costs were over $250,000 a year, but there were no out-of-pocket expenses for their family because of the insurance the advisor recommended.
Sticky Story 3 – Highlighting the Personal Nature of Your Service
This next type of story is all about high-level personalized service.
For instance, every week an advisor mowed the lawn of a client who was hospitalized for a month. On his way home from work every Friday, this advisor would take his elderly client’s old push lawnmower and cut her grass. When his client returned home, her neighbors began asking, “Who was that man cutting your grass?” They all wanted to meet him, and within the first week, he had one of her neighbors as a client.
Whether it’s role-playing interview skills with a client’s son who just graduated from college, or helping a client renew her passport so she could take the trip she planned to Paris, most advisors have their versions of personal service stories.
The challenge for advisors is in taking this sticky story concept seriously. The best way to get started is to have a team meeting, explain the sticky story concept and get everyone involved.