Marketing therapy: Just lie back and relaxArticle added by Michael Lovas on June 11, 2010
Michael Lovas

Michael Lovas

Colbert , WA

Joined: December 10, 2004

My Company


Imagine that you can hire a psychologist to analyze and fix your marketing messages so they hit your target market right between the eyes. What would that look like?

For example, let's say your work involves retirement planning. How would a marketing therapist fix your out-bound messages? First, he'd look closely at your intended target market and ask if it's actually a viable target market. In other words:
  • Do they need what you have?
  • Do they want what you have?
  • Are they able to afford what you have?
  • Are they willing to spend money to get it?
  • And most importantly, could they realistically be motivated to buy it from you?
Surprisingly, many retirees or people seeking to retire do not meet all of these criteria. Still, many advisors hammer away at them anyway, wasting priceless resources.

Second, a marketing therapist would look at your offering. Do the words and images attract the exact people you want to work with? Most financial and insurance messages fall on deaf ears. Why is that? Because they're the wrong messages sent to the wrong target markets. The most absurd reference we see is referring to boomers as seniors. Next, is approaching retirees in hopes of doing investment planning for them. Both of those tell retirees that your offer is off target.

Third, he'd look at you. Are you someone your intended target market would easily and quickly gravitate to? Do they find you immediately trustworthy and credible? Do they like you? After researching this for about 20 years, we've discovered that many advisors who work with retirees are indeed credible, but they are terrible at demonstrating their credibility. Thus, most people they meet don't trust them.

What the heck is marketing psychology? Marketing psychology is simply a scientific effort to match pegs and holes. When you get the square peg matched up with the square hole, you have far better potential for success. Unfortunately, very few people in the financial industry understand this point. As a result, they spend vast sums of money to publish and transmit the wrong messages to the wrong people. Square peg, round hole.

Psychological mismatches. The obvious mismatches include investment options with too much risk or not enough flexibility. However, the most important ones are emotional issues -- things that help your prospect feel safe with you. They include:
  • Photos of staff members on your Web site
  • A personal phone call from the advisor
  • Clear descriptions and directions
  • Relevant information, rather than a never-ending sales pitch
  • Content written in the language of the target market
The first phase in attracting a new client is safety. If you don't know how to make the prospect feel safe, chances are nil that you'll write new business with him/her.

What does this look like in real life?

Since we're focusing on retirement planning, let's look at some specific examples:

Business owners. If this is your target market, does the psychology imbedded in your marketing match up with business owners? Do the specific words in your marketing resonate with and attract business owners? In most examples that we've seen, the answer is "no," and here's why.

Business owners tend to be highly proactive people with a very deep understanding of their business processes, and with a sharp eye on whatever affects their bottom line. Agents, advisors, planners and analysts tend to be very different people. They might be proactive (though most are not). They might understand process (but not business processes). And, they might keep an eye on the bottom line (but only on their own bottom line, not the client's).

Research indicates that most high-net-worth people -- many of whom own businesses -- choose their financial advisors through referrals from personal friends, yet most advisors use traditional marketing when attempting to reach those people.

Engineers. Let's look at the psychology of your average engineer. They tend to be highly analytical and need resources and claims to be substantiated with lots of relevant research. They also communicate in compound-complex sentences, so if your marketing material contains "marketing speak," you'll turn them off. The words engineers respond to include: tool, process, resource, research, system, strategy, workable, and effective.

If your marketing effort towards engineers doesn't include that type of language, it will be off target. Wrong peg; wrong hole. Engineers are compulsive researchers and tend to trust conclusions drawn by other engineers. Match the right psychology to a couple of engineers and you will likely tap into an enormous referral network. But, most advisors don't like their advice being questioned, so they avoid engineers, thus missing out on one of the most affluent target markets in America.


A marketing therapist is a psychologist who specializes in business communication effectiveness. That includes both marketing and sales messages. In other words, every message transmitted to a stakeholder through Web sites, blogs, forums, brochures, white papers, letters, books, reports, Power Point presentations, seminars, keynotes, elevator statements and letterhead (to name a few).

The more you learn about how to apply psychology and perform therapy on your own messages, the more successful you can become. And, the more messages you deliver without the benefit of this help, the greater the probability of alienating your target market.

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