Summary: Smooth the Reading Experience
- Editing tricks can improve your articles and blogs.
- Comparing seven investment managers’ content – to peers and to financial news.
- Investment content is 25% more complex than news. We provide 2 easy hacks to reduce complexity.
- Investors use the first person far too much. For some, 1 in 4 sentences were about the authors!
Fund distribution needs content clients will want to read
Even back when you could go out to meet clients in person, staying top-of-mind was hard.
While clients may offer an hour-long meeting, getting their buy-in may take weeks or months.
In between, your investment marketing content is keeping that relationship alive.
Bound by compliance constraints, investment marketers can’t promise customers a positive outcome. Nor can they make a product appear to be something it’s not. But here’s the silver lining:
Many clients enjoy reading about financial markets. The only remaining question is, Will they choose to read your portfolio manager’s views?
To add new value, it helps to know what investors are already reading. Through comparative text analytics, FinText identifies both stylistic choices and emerging topics, to create measurably-better marketing content.
There are small changes you can make to your content to make it more appealing to clients. Even without changing your content strategy, you can apply data-driven insights to certain writing choices.
For this study, we analysed 255 articles published by seven investment managers during Q1 of 2020. These were articles shown to both intermediaries and retail investors.
We also benchmarked against 664 financial news stories published during the same period on City A.M., a widely-circulated UK financial daily paper. And, clear as day, the following two fixes emerged:
Fix #1: Specific ways to make investment content easy to read
Readers compare new content they come across to what they already know and trust.
To help marketers adjust content readability to match client preferences, FinText uses a variety of comparative measures. One of them is how loaded the content is with big words.
Here, to test article complexity, we looked at the average percentage of words within a text that had three syllables or more. With words like ‘economy’, ‘investment’ or ‘government’ pervasive in financial market coverage, a certain baseline is expected.
Still, despite often covering the same topics, most investment content is much too hard to read.
About 6% of the words in financial news stories contain three syllables. In investment managers’ market insights, that ratio is closer to 8%. A similar scale-up happens in the words that have four syllables or more.
Figure 1: Average percentage of words with
three syllables or more
This means that the investment content surveyed is 25% more complex compared with financial news, despite often covering the same topics.
But a closer look reveals a more intricate picture:
Mapping out the big words used in news stories and in investment content, we checked to see which complex words are used by investment managers but never appear in any of the news stories.
We were expecting to find lots of pompous, silly words.
But among the most pervasive complex words appearing in investment content were different variants of Outperform (outperforming, outperformance) and Correlate (correlation, correlating).
Portfolio managers and investment marketers would point out that such words are part of the standard way of talking about investments. You can’t just throw them out.
In other words, portfolio managers are bound to use similar words to those in financial news, (like ‘pandemic’, ‘unemployment’, and ‘elections’). Therefore, they’re using language that’s at least as complex. But, on top of that, they’re also using specific words to describe the business of investing.
The complexity deck is stacked against investment content.
To meet clients at a level they’re comfortable with, you have to make your text simpler where you can. And here, two specific areas stand out:
Watch out for these pitfalls
When considering the ten most common big words that did not appear in any of the news articles, each investment manager had a slightly different list. However, all of these lists included at least one adverb, often more:
Interestingly, meaningfully, incidentally, informally, selectively, appreciably, attractively…
This is not a debate on whether adverbs are good or bad. Given your text is probably already hard to read, they’re just not helping you keep clients engaged. For this reason, you’re probably better off without them.
There are many forms to this culprit. Any single one may rarely appear, but as a cohort, they’re both pervasive, and make your content very hard to read.
These are big words made EVEN BIGGER by prefixes: reexamination, unambiguously, deaccelerate, unintuitive, suboptimal…
Whether your audience can parse and understand these term is not quite the right question; they probably can.
But do they want to?
The trick with these is to replace them with two or three very short words that together say the same thing. For example:
suboptimal = less than ideal
reexamination = a fresh review
Fix #2: Talk less about yourself
To keep in touch with prospects, sales and client teams require timely content with a point of view.
However, our analysis points to excessive use of the first person (“We”, “I” and “Our”) in investment marketing. While still costly to produce, inward-focusing articles tends to appeal less to clients.
Figure 2 shows how often the first person is used in the same content. In some cases, one out of every four sentences is about the writers!
Figure 2: Average percentage of sentences using “We”, “I” or “Our”
Yet again, this is partly due to the demands of compliance. Saying “Tech stocks are likely to succeed in the current climate” can be seen as investment advice. Adding “We believe…” caveats this, so that it becomes a portfolio manager’s opinion.
In this case, comparative analysis shines a light on how, while all investment managers face the same regulatory setbacks, some are less self-centred than others.
In this case it’s both a semantic fix, and a switch in perspective: whenever you can, move away from the first person and into the second or third person. Switch to talk about the reader, the client, the investor.
One way this can be done is by linking a viewpoint to a current concern clients have. Such information can be sourced either through direct client conversations or through social listening efforts.
Comparing investment managers delivers actionable insights
“All asset management content looks the same!” is a common concern among the industry’s marketers.
But our data shows that different problems can plague companies’ marketing material.
These two metrics alone show you can see how companies’ profiles differ. Revisiting the earlier charts side by side reveals company-specific weaknesses relative to competitors, not easily evident without text analytics:
For example, investment manager B writes in very clear language, but talks about itself in a way that stands out as self-centred, when compared to its competitors.
By contrast, investment manager G doesn’t refer to itself that much, but uses excessively complicated language. Faced with multiple options, readers will simply prefer the insights of a more plainspoken asset manager.
There are other metrics that can add to this understanding. Processing large amounts of text and uncovers measurable insights that would otherwise be hard to spot.
This type of information empowers marketers and sales teams to adapt their outbound efforts, so that content can stands out among competition and wins clients’ trust.
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