Consumer Buying Process: Messaging Makes all the Difference

I always enjoy “analyzing” the consumer buying process in different industries. For instance it doesn’t take much effort to sell a candy bar at the grocery store checkout. But it takes a heck of a lot of work to get a country to buy a Boeing 747.

This past week I met with both an insurance guy and a financial services guy (sales calls basically). I don’t need either, and imagine a great number of their appointments are with people who don’t want to change insurance or need a new money manager. But they make sales – so how does that work? And can we translate that to the web?

According to the financial services guy, there’s no way to makes sales in the financial services sector without first establishing a personal relationship with the clients, basically over coffee to start. In his mind even when people are shopping for what you have, unless you have a relationship with them they’re not doing business with you. The insurance guy felt the same way.

So, why do Geico and TD Ameritrade seem to do so well?

The consumer buying process for financial services doesn’t have too many hoops to jump through. There’s nothing mandatory about having a money manager. And until you have a good sized savings its not traditionally something you’re even interested in pursuing. So the first step in the consumer buying process is having money you want to protect and grow.

The next step the consumer takes is deciding they want to invest their money. At this point some choose to do it themselves by opening up their own account, some seek out a professional and some continue “wanting” until the market rises enough they regret not getting in or it bottoms making it the perfect time.

At some point everyone who hires a money manager actively takes the steps to hire one. That becomes the only real moment when the professional can make the difference. ┬áThe two gentlemen I met with this week didn’t seem to understand the role that moment plays in the decision making process.


In these meetings and probably many others, the problem comes with messaging. While both gentlemen were nice and were interested in me doing the talking so they could get to know me – they failed to let me get to know them. And that seems to be the more important part of the process at this stage.

From a consumer buying process point of view, I can’t make a decision if I don’t know what the sales guy stands for. Besides “I’d love to help you with your insurance needs. . . ” what message is he giving me?

The problem I had with both the insurance guy and the financial services guy were their focus on messaging. Neither of them will stick in my mind as the “guy who’s good at _______”. Do they specialize? Are they fantastic with customer service? What is their unique selling proposition?

Just because you offer every type of insurance doesn’t mean you can’t market yourself as the “disability expert”. Just because you do estate planning, doesn’t mean you can become the expert when it comes to estate planning for Alzheimer’s Patients or something like that. BUT BE SOMEBODY.

Both asked for my business and told me they’d be eager to help but neither left me the impression they’d be better than what I had, would service the account more diligently or knew something other people didn’t. In the end they just melded into sea of sales guys I’ve met with in the past. Just another guy selling someone else’s products.

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