Duct Tape Metaphors for Financial Planners: How to Make Your Message Stick

Financial planning is like the Antique Road Show. It's real value, but people don't realize it at first.

Many masterful communicators such as Einstein and Aristotle have harnessed the power of metaphor to effectively persuade and inform.

Metaphors allow you to make the complex simple and the controversial palatable. Conversely, metaphors allow you to create extraordinary meaning out of the seemingly mundane.

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor ~ Aristotle

Financial planners are often natural left-brainers. That’s why they almost always associate metaphor with poetry, literature, and art.

And that’s a bit fuzzy. That may be true, but it can work to our advantage. Consider the following:

  • Financial planning is the gateway to success
  • Financial planners are like doctors who diagnose problems and provide remedies using a financial roadmap
  • Financial planners are architects designing and building towers of wealth

Unfortunately, it can also work the other way around.

Since Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford people like to call us used car salesmen or Ponzi Schemers ...

What metaphors do

Metaphors work extremely well in client interviews.

It’s like hitting a home run. 

Creating metaphors is almost always client-centered since it’s starting point is the client’s current perception.

Metaphors help clients see possibilities he didn’t see before and they help him make the best decision.

By packaging an idea in highly vivid language, they help him pitch it internally. They help a client feel good about an idea or decision.

It’s like pushing an emotional button. 

And that keeps a client coming back.

A financial planner is like an air traffic controller. He leads you to your destination and prevents problems on the way.

So, I hear you think…give me some metaphors that I can use. But it’s not as easy as riding a bike. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Are you using the wrong metaphor?

What most financial planners do is that we try to influence how people think by using the facts of our business.

Such as wealth management, estate planning, fee-only, CFP or other features.

And we create metaphors based on those facts. Such as: “Retirement planning is a lot like gardening, You need to plan ahead, start early and be flexible when things don’t work out as planned.”

Why doesn’t this work?

Because it’s not client-centered.

Its starting point is retirement planning. While it should be the client’s perception or emotion.

Another reason why it doesn’t work is that it’s appealing to a ‘need’ of the client. That’s also not client-centered.

There was only one person in the world that could create a need. And that was Steve Jobs.

That’s why you don’t want to use the facts and ‘the client’s needs’ when making a metaphor.

It’s as hopeless as telling a teenager to clean up his room.

Today, your clients have more choices than they need and they can simply ignore the things they don’t care about.

Like the features of your business. Changing how people think and getting them to do business with you is not so easy anymore. That’s why you don’t want to make your clients think.

It’s as pointless as a hook without bait.

People are tired of thinking what to choose. You have to make so many choices every day.

Are You a Financial Planner? Do You Want to Know Why People Don't Buy Financial Planning?

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Are you using the right metaphor?

Don’t make clients think. Make them feel great about themselves.

People want to be touched by you. They want to believe in what you do and a reason to care. You have to give them that reason. To change how they feel. Not just what they think and do. Do it by selling the emotion. Not the facts.

Imagine a fortune cookie. Your service, wealth management, and your financial planning is the cookie. The story, the emotion and how you make your client feel about themselves is the fortune.

Don’t sell the cookie, sell the fortune.

It will have an impact like a tsunami.

What are you selling?

When you’re selling the fortune, it’s quite relevant which fortune you want to influence.

Is it hope, control, status, independence, guidance, relief, surprise?

Do you know which emotion you are selling to your clients? Before using metaphors, know which emotion your clients are appealing to. So that you can make metaphors that relate to that.

Here are some examples:

  • When you sell status, the metaphor can be: Our service is what Nike is to sneakers
  • When you sell relief, the metaphor can be: Our service is like water in the desert
  • When you sell surprise, the metaphor can be: Our service is like winning the lottery

When you use metaphors in this way, it will work like a magnet that pulls out the needles you want from the general population-haystack.

Now, I’d like to ask you:

For which emotion do you want a financial planning metaphor?

Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field and I’ll help you with an answer.

With your comment, you’re helping me and other readers of this blog with insights. So that we can inspire each other and think together to improve and innovate our financial planning business.

Let’s make financial planning matter,

Ronald Sier

Are You a Financial Planner? Do You Want to Know Why People Don't Buy Financial Planning?

If you want to boost your financial planning sales kills, you might want to check out this free email course.

Just fill in your best email here below, and you'll receive the first lesson right into your inbox.



Leave a Reply 13 comments

anil Reply

Hi Ronald
Thank you so much for the insight. But I am still confused and not able to get a story of financial planning in today crises using story metaphor. Request to kindly help me by sharing any story of financial planning using metaphor

Felipe Reply

Sometimes I think it is difficult to get clients to talk about risk, or risk management. It is a relevant part of the planning… and most tend to think about (the risk of) death only. Would it help to use metaphors here?

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Here’s one: “Most DIY-investors treat asset management like playing with a chemistry set without reading the directions. Don’t. Risk management will protect you from danger.”

Michael Tan Reply

How about a metaphor for certainty

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Great one Michael!
    I guess the most popular metaphor is: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

    Regarding financial planning, I’d suggest this one: “Our service will transform your financial future like the way penicillin transformed medicine: It’s going to ensure your survival”

Ben McLennan Reply

A metaphor I heard recently from a colleague I greatly respect is that:
“Our role is to be the pilot, and we pick the flight crew. It’s your (the client’s) destination. We can ‘course correct’, but we can’t control the weather – there will be ‘turbulence’.
Our role is not to stop turbulence – it’s to be there for you when it comes, making sure you get to your destination”

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Thanks Ben, you nailed it!

Alison McCarthy Reply

I like your analogy Marty. Evergreen tree vs. Apple tree – I like it for the transition from saving for retirement to living off those savings while in retirement. It resonates I think.

I would like help with finding a good metaphor for “selling security”

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Good one Alison.
    It’s close to “certainty”, so you, therefore, you might want to use this one: “Our service will guarantee your financial future like the way penicillin transformed medicine: It’s going to ensure your survival”

Michal Bodi Reply

Another great piece Ronald and again, you hit the spot. It\’s mainly all about story telling and metaphors. FPs are often in a position where they have to engage someone in a very limited time. In order to make things relevant to prospect\’s everyday life we need to tell stories and refer to something familiar, something they already know, and methaphors work magic. MB

karen vogelsang Reply

Ron, great article.
Sometimes we make this business more difficult than it really is. Our goal is to provide counseling so that our clients “don’t shoot themselves in the foot.” We work with many single women who have recently gone through a divorce or who have lost their spouse. One of our goals is to provide them with the tools and confidence to handle their own finances and their financial future. One of my team members reminds her clients that “A man is not a Plan!” so that they will understand that they can be independent as long as they make smart financial decisions. Looking forward to more suggestive articles.

Marty Morua Reply

I love the doctor (how’s your financial health) analogy. I first heard it from a small RIA I worked with in the late 90’s.

Really great Ron, how you’re inspiring the financial advisor community to think (like a magnet).

Here is one I recently heard – “you need to shift from the evergreen tree to apple trees”

So, the evergreen just grows, provides no nutrition, but the apple tree provides fruit, something you can eat to grow strong & healthy (just like your portfolio and retirement account).

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