If we’ve all learnt one thing this year, it’s that there’s no substitute for talking to people. Not through a screen where split second delays can make everything feel ‘calculated’, but face-to-face with nothing between you and the ability to comprehend every nuance in a person’s tone, physical demeanour and facial expression. A conversation over a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate if you’re like me) has gained much more significance not only in our personal lives but also in business.

For businesses, especially in industries where personal connections have historically been the way to gain clients, the lack of face-to-face possibilities has seen them struggle to engage new and existing clients. Those so used to this personal method are focused on how to replicate this digitally. But the task isn’t to replicate the method, just the results. It is here where many companies are letting digital ‘frighten’ them and not embracing new approaches to gaining an audience.

The question for many of these companies recently has been: how does a company that has previously relied so heavily on face-to-face sales adapt to meet its digital audience? How can it compete in a space it has barely entered into? What is wrong with the old ways?

I certainly won’t be winning any awards for originality here, this is a point that may have been repeated many times before, but sharing my experience might in some small way help it sink in.

Keep being you

The first key factor to bear in mind is to keep being you. Becoming more focused on digital output doesn’t mean you have to start making TikTok videos and using hashtags in all your correspondence (#bandwagon!). A company will have spent many years building a brand and reputation so it would be ridiculous to throw that away. Maintain your company identity, keep its ideology and what you are willing to say and do, simply change the format of how you do it. Don’t be scared to try a different format because you know what you have done before works and people like it so why change it. That is not the approach that drives innovation.

Match your language to your audience

It is no surprise to see that the language used in investment and financial marketing is usually more complex than it needs to be. Discussing some of the issues does admittedly need certain industry-specific vocabulary to be used, but it is frequently overdone, especially online, to the point where it doesn’t meet the needs of its audience.

A recent survey from FinText showed that investment content contains 25% more complex language than financial news articles published on the same topic. Furthermore, it found that investment managers communicate to audiences in a language that is on average 60% more complex relative to how investors actually converse. This is where the disconnect comes between those believing they cannot achieve the same goals digitally. Without the opportunity to speak face-to-face and naturally lower that language ‘wall’, they are deterring audiences with overly complex language or overly lengthy formats.

The approach of mirroring language use is, as FinTech discuss further, a difficult task. Aim too low, and readers will consider your content facile; use overly-complex language, and readers will ignore your content in favour of more coherent sources.

I would be quick, as would colleagues of mine, to reject the idea that investment managers love whitepapers. Most surveys done on this subject are flawed as the audience they reach out to receive little else!

A website isn’t a digital brochure

Readers will not be surprised to hear that many companies in this space, relying heavily on face-to-face sales, formerly used their website almost exactly as they would a billboard outside a train station. A dire waste.

A website is your shop window, it is the person welcoming you in, the team member that asks how they can help today, the magazine on the table that peaks your interest in a related subject, and the employee that says “let us know if we can help with anything else” on your way out. I might be killing this analogy but you get the point.

Reaching out to those internet users at the top of your funnel is the hardest part. You are trying to catch the eye of those ‘passing by’ and it is where the diversity and detail in the content of your site will pay dividends.

Diversify content away from sales

There is more to content than sales material and that is especially true with digital content. Provide the varying levels of content for your potential audience that brings them to your website, social pages or an article in a magazine that links back to your website. People will take different paths before they arrive at the same spot.

When it is done properly, content creation isn’t an arduous task (though blogs can become that!). Think smart, use that one long piece of content you spent a few days on and break it down into four smaller more detailed articles on specific topics that arise within the original. It can also have its format changed from consistently wordy articles to instantly recognisable points in an infographic. That infographic could inspire you to transfer it into a 15 second video perfect for grabbing attention across social media.  If it’s an opinion piece ask a competitor or an industry idol to have a recorded discussion on a topic raised in the original piece. Without stepping too far away from the original concept you’ve created 12 different pieces of content that can be used to engage your varying audience types and satisfy different appetites for detail in many different ways.

My experience working with brands across multiple industries on campaigns of this nature has only confirmed my views on the matter. Digitally-focused consumers need digitally-focused content. There are different subjects and format that will meet different audiences’ needs no matter the industry. Just because selling investments is typically face-to-face via agents (advisers), don’t become caught up in focusing on what used to be the thing to do.