You’ve likely heard the phrase “it’s not what you say but how you say it.”
I bet you can just picture a parent reminding you of this fact after you sarcastically apologized to your sibling for stealing their clothes.
But this lesson extends beyond familial courtesy into the realm of blogging and content marketing.
When it comes to your brand’s communication, what you say is only half the battle—the more important part is how you frame and communicate your message to clients.
And what do you think is the best way to do that? Is it talking above them like they’re sitting in a lecture hall, pinching themselves to try and stay awake? Is it constantly pushing them to buy your product or service? Is it only talking about yourself?
As you may have guessed, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Writing in an approachable and conversational tone is an excellent way to create content that connects and converts your audience.
- What does it mean to be “approachable” in your business blog?
- Will being “approachable” make your clients think less of you?
- What do financial advisors need to consider when adopting an approachable angle?
- How can a tone shift totally transform your audience engagement and organic traffic?
Let’s dive in.
Your Audience Wants To Read Approachable Content
Before you can start writing stellar content, you have to understand what people want from your blog in the first place.
Hubspot’s research illustrates that there are two primary reasons people read blogs:
- To learn something new (33%)
- To be entertained (12%)
Approachable language helps you combine them! You can select topics and structure posts to educate your audience on areas that apply to them and communicate that information in a friendly, relatable fashion.
Harkening back to our original example,
It’s what you say—education content. And how you say it—with a human spark.
Your audience wants to be educated, but they don’t want your post to take them back to school. Thinking of your blog like school is probably turning your audience off in various ways.
One, unlike school, your audience doesn’t have to interact with you or your content. No law mandates they read your new blog every day from 8-3.
Two, there are no implicit stakes to them not reading your content. It’s up to you to communicate what your readers stand to gain or lose in the process.
Three, there’s no reason for them to attempt to parse the meaning and value of your content. It’s not their job to find it—this isn’t English class—it’s your job to communicate it.
Reading your content is optional; if it’s optional, it has to be exciting and relevant for them to want to do it.
And the best way to motivate your readers is to give them something relevant, authentic, interesting, engaging, and exciting.
It’s no secret that people don’t like being “sold.”
This sales aversion comes from predetermined ideas of what a sale looks, sounds, and feels like—aggressive, disingenuous, general.
But content marketing isn’t like that at all. Sure, the long-term goal is to attract and retain the right customers, but it flips the traditional script on its head. Good content marketing relies on quality education to help your ideal customer meet their needs and solve their problems.
One of the best ways to do that is via “real” communication.
Think about the last thing you purchased. Did you read a review? Do comparison shopping? Follow that brand on social media? Check out their online presence? Text a friend or family member for recommendations?
Odds are, you likely did a combination of those things, especially if the purchase was significant. All of those touchpoints invite a conversation, and conversations convert.
Say you write an engaging, in-depth blog post about what people who are about to retire should do with their money during a recession and blast it out to your client email list. One client could forward that email to a friend who sees it, connects with the material, and starts to follow your brand.
If your content feels like a two-sided conversation, you may achieve more emotional buy-in from readers, and emotions are a critical driver for purchasing decisions.
Foundational research on consumer behavior from Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman found that about 95% of people’s purchasing decisions come from their subconscious, and an effective way for marketers to tap into the subconscious is emotion.
Conversational marketing can be chock full of incredible emotion-driven campaigns, like helping your audience attain an aspirational identity and inspiring them to take action.
The bottom line?
You never know where a conversation will lead, and making your content conversational opens the door for fruitful and productive discussions with current clients, prospects, and new leads.
Why Complex Communication Doesn’t Work
So I’ve talked a lot about why approachable and conversational content better connects with clients. But why do over-technical or complex pieces have the inverse effect?
Let’s bring in some science.
It’s “Breaking” The Brain
Have you ever spent so much time trying to complete an extremely complex and challenging mental task?
You might have felt like you “broke” your brain or worked it to the point of exhaustion.
Hyperbole aside, you really don’t want to do that to your audience.
Approachable language makes it easier for your brain to process information. No matter your college GPA or speed at completing the NYT crossword puzzle, even the sharpest minds have a limit to the amount of new information they can process in a given time. This idea is known as cognitive load theory.
Cognitive load theory explains the demands of completing a set task—and a deluge of complex information can send the brain into cognitive overload. From an education perspective, which is where you’re likely coming from if you create content, cognitive overload is most likely to happen in these situations:
- You (incorrectly) assume your reader understands specific concepts or information. While you know what Roth conversions are, your audience may not. So before you jump into more technical topics, be sure you lay the foundation for what your reader is learning. Don’t be afraid to revisit these definitions as you build your content library—a one-sentence refresher could be all you need!
- You give them too much new information at one time. Remember, there’s only a set amount of information someone can process at once. And if they only spend a minute or two on your blog, you want to make it as digestible as possible.
- You didn’t organize and structure your content logically. You could confuse readers by jumping from various topics or applications throughout the piece. Try to keep things streamlined.
Implementing an approachable writing tone helps you actively avoid stressing your audience and forcing their brain to work harder to process your information.
Time Is Money, Literally
Another reason technical and academic tones rain on your audience’s parade is that it takes too much time to read!
Even if your complex topic didn’t send your reader’s brains into cognitive overload, they might not last long enough on the page to fully understand your point anyway. On average, you don’t have much time to demonstrate value.
Depending on your business, people spend about 52 to 82 seconds on any web page. Since they aren’t there long, you don’t want them to open up your blog and find the Great Wall of Text.
Instead, it’s best to add skim-friendly best practices, like descriptive headings, short paragraphs, key takeaways, bullet points, images, video, and other media to help them find the information they need and want more efficiently.
The more time your audience spends engaging with your brand—social media, blog, ebook, webinar, website quiz, etc.—the greater your opportunity to convert them into clients/customers. Plus, when reviewing your content analytics, how much time people spend on each page of your website is a critical metric.
Here are some other great content analytics metrics to keep an eye on.
The good news is that you set yourself up for more organic success by being more approachable.
What Approachable Content Isn’t
There are numerous fallacies to writing strong, approachable content. Let’s shed some light on some common misconceptions.
When you hear the words approachable, friendly, or conversational, your mind might conjure the following:
- Writing as you speak
But true approachable content is the antithesis of that list. Approachable content doesn’t use a ploy or trick to get readers in the door. Instead of being a gimmick, it’s a genuine and authentic way to approach a topic. The foundation of approachability is honesty and authenticity, allowing it to enhance your message.
If writing approachable is the best practice, doesn’t that mean it’s basic, and everyone will do the same thing, rendering it flat? Not at all. Approachable content isn’t one-note, nor is it the end-all, be-all of creating your content. It’s the foundation of a communication strategy that’s also informed by your brand’s values, goals, audience needs, niche, etc.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about friendly content is that you have to “write as you speak.” But, if we’re honest, unless you’re Oprah or a wildly incredible speaker, you probably don’t want to write exactly as you talk.
Just read an un-edited podcast transcript, and you’ll get the picture.
Approachable content doesn’t mean you have to include your “bad” speaking habits—likes, ums, pauses, and everything in between. Rather, think of it like a beautifully edited script.
You can include all the elements of a great conversation—two-sided, interesting, fresh, relevant, etc.—without writing just what you’d speak. It’s conversational, yes, but also deliberate, thoughtful, and polished.
Roadblocks To Achieving An Approachable Tone In Personal Finance
Look, I’m not about to pretend that writing approachable, conversational, engaging, and accurate content for personal finance is a walk in the park.
But when you get it right, all the effort is beyond worth it.
Let’s set the scene.
Financial planning is a niche industry, and it’s not short of competition. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 263,030 Personal Financial Advisors in the U.S.
That’s a lot of advice!
How can advisors stand out from the crowd?
An important way for financial advisors to carve out a healthy and profitable client base is with a holistic content marketing strategy that focuses on building a brand they love through custom, quality content.
Content marketing can be transformative for personal finance brands in several key ways, like,
- Attract the right leads
- Nurture existing clients
- Build deeper client relationships
- Cultivate brand recognition and trust
And perhaps the fastest and most effective way to achieve results is to adopt an approachable and conversational tone.
Nope, it ain’t no lie formality is going “bye, bye, bye,” and audiences are saying “hello” to approachability.
But taking the plunge isn’t always easy!
Advisors may be apprehensive about speaking more freely when they have to carefully choose their words for compliance, legal, clients, personal brand, etc.
That guardedness can often slide its way into creating formal and technical content that’s more for them than their clients, even if they don’t mean to be.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard advisors say the following types of things,
- I want to sound “smart.”
- I want to be an expert in my field.
- I have to sound like a professional figure to be taken seriously.
Notice there’s a lot of “I” in those phrases?
When creating a brand message, it’s vital to remove ego and realize that your content isn’t about you. Instead, it’s about connecting with and educating your audience. And the best way to do that is by speaking to them in an engaging and approachable manner.
No matter how smart you or your audience is, they don’t want your blog to speak to them like a dense research paper. That’s not the most effective way you show expertise.
You do show expertise by:
- Prioritizing content that educates and empowers your audience.
- Actively listen and understand your audience’s questions and concerns and address them throughout your messaging.
- Giving readers intentional information and resources to improve their lives.
Remember, it’s easier to make things more convoluted and harder to make them simple. Approachable content invites you to simplify and streamline your communications to the most relevant and important elements for your audience.
Approachable Content Can Accomplish A Lot, But Not Everything
As 80s rock legend Meatloaf would say, “I’d do anything…but I won’t do that.”
Approachable content mirrors that sentiment. This type of content can do so many incredible things, but it can’t accomplish everything.
So, before you loosen your tie and step out of your comfort zone, you must understand that creating more approachable content has some tradeoffs.
- The content might not be as nuanced.
- Your content shouldn’t consider every angle under the sun. Otherwise, it will turn into a book (we love those, too!). Instead, you want your blog to provide enough information to educate the reader on the topic and give examples of how it will affect them.
- You won’t be able to answer every question.
- While one piece won’t be the end of the conversation, it will encourage more questions and, by extension, blogging opportunities.
- It won’t deliver a hyper-technical analysis.
- People don’t need to know precisely how something works; they need to understand how it impacts their lives. For example, a blog about market recessions doesn’t have to be a research paper citing market trends, movements, and predictions. But it should directly answer your client’s questions like “what should I do?” “Will I be okay?” “Can I still retire on time?” “Do I still have enough to support my lifestyle?”
So, What Makes Content Conversational?
Now that you’re chomping at the bit to adopt more conversational elements into your writing, where should you start?
Let’s look at some elements to bring your conversational tone to life:
- Don’t be afraid of the second person. Addressing a reader as “you” may not have worked in an academic paper, but it’s an excellent way to start a conversation with the reader, whoever they may be.
- Ask questions. Questions are perhaps one of the most engaging tactics for approachable content. It shows that you understand your audience’s questions and provide quality answers.
- Tell a story. By now, you know that the PPC team loves a good story. Stories are a fantastic tool to connect audiences with technical information, like personal finance. Remember, it’s more about the personal than the finance.
- Use bullet points. Clarifying your main points, steps, or processes with bullet points makes the information clearer, draws the reader’s eye down the page, and keeps them there a little longer!
- Keep your paragraphs short and sweet. Remember, you don’t want to slam your audience with a great wall of text. Shorter paragraphs make it easier for your audience to skim and extract the most essential information.
- Play around with textual emphasis. If you bury your main point between long sentences, dense paragraphs, and never-ending sections, your audience probably won’t find it. An excellent way to highlight an important topic within the piece is using textual elements like italics, bold, underlying, crossing out, etc. It’s also fantastic for communicating tone and style.
Tapping each element appropriately will help you craft a conversational piece that gets your audience talking—engaging with the posts on social media, reading them for more than 60 seconds, telling a friend, taking action, etc.
Approachable content has the power to drive audience engagement, boost organic traffic, and help you cultivate loyal, energized customers.
Now that you know what to say, how will you plan to say it?
Our team of brand, marketing, and content experts would absolutely love to help you use language to your advantage and use words that both feel like you and connect with your target audience.
Let’s talk about it more together!