What Should Financial Planners Sell To Women? Independence

The financial service industry acknowledges that it needs to gain the trust and business of the Boomer women who are taking control over their assets and investments. But the ads and messages it sends to these women suggest that financial planners are not getting them right.

In a recent survey we conducted with marketing-to-women expert Holly Buchanan, co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth and frequent consultant to financial service firms, Boomer women told us what their personal finance goals and needs are, and what they want to see in ads for financial services -- things they aren't seeing now.

What Boomer Women Want from Financial Planners

What does financial security mean to Boomer Women? Independence.

Seventy-five percent of our respondents told us that financial security means things like self-reliance, independence, and the ability to plan their own future. Less than 15% described it in terms of being able to support others.



The Boomer woman is focused on her own future and does not want to depend on others as she ages.

What's more, she knows that her financial future depends on herself, not her husband.

Almost half of our Boomer woman respondents (46%) told us that they had been raised to believe that a husband would take care of her financially.

Only 3% agree with that proposition today.

Ninety-seven percent of Boomer women told us that they have to take control of their own financial futures. That means by themselves. Financial service firms need to talk to Boomer women directly, as independent decision-makers in charge of their own financial futures.

The Recession Has Scared Them

The Boomer woman's primary goal is easy to support (because so many share it). So are her emotions around financial planning.

The key emotion that Boomer women feel today about their financial future is fear. 52% used words like "fear," or "scared" or "anxiety" to describe their feelings about their financial future. Another 39% used words like "uncertainty" and "worry."

Only 10% expressed a sense of calmness or security about their financial futures.

While these responses are discouraging (who wants 90% of any demographic to be scared about the future?), they also offer a giant opportunity for financial planners. Boomer women don't want to hear about your past performance; they simply want a realistic plan that will reduce their fears and offer them some confidence about their financial future.

What Are Financial Planners Doing Wrong?

We also asked Boomer women to evaluate the ads that financial service firms were using to engage them.

The most common complaint? Showing women in a dependent posture towards men. These images may be the most common among financial service firms, yet none bother Boomer women more. Remember that only 3% of women expect to depend on their husbands or other men in their lives for their financial security. Too many financial service ads show women in the arms of men, standing behind men, or embraced by men.

I suppose that marketers assume such images will remind women how much their husbands love and support them.

Those marketers are wrong. Seventy-eight percent of Boomer women told us they don't respond to such images. They do not want to depend on someone else for their financial security. Only 12% said that these images made them feel loved and supported.

What images do Boomer women prefer? They do like images of families (more than images of couples), but only if they present no clear image of hierarchy. Don't show the women standing behind others; but don't show them standing in front of others, either.

The Opportunity

Our survey's best news for financial planners is that 88% of those who have financial advisors are satisfied with the service they receive (and its cost).

But it also revealed a great opportunity: only 51% have some kind of financial advisor. Which means that at least half of all Boomer women are available customers, and they are happy to tell financial service firms what they want and need:

  • Don't portray (or talk to them) as wives financially dependent on the men in their lives.
  • Address them as decision-makers who want an independent financial future.
  • Help them plan a financial future in which they can meet their own needs.

Can anyone point to a financial service firm that is getting this right?

3 comments about "What Should Financial Planners Sell To Women? Independence ".
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  1. Kat Gordon from Maternal Instinct, November 1, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.

    Great article, Stephen. To answer your closing question, I suppose the only financial services company doing it remotely well is Citi, with its Women & Co. campaign.

    My husband is a financial adviser and another key takeaway he's shared with me is this: "Don't tell clients you will make them rich. Assure them you won't let them be poor."

  2. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, November 2, 2010 at 3:39 a.m.

    Do financial planners warn men not to get married? ;)

    Seriously, do they warn men not to have kids in certain states with insane child support laws?

    I've never done either, but the message is out there that financial planners could get a bit more effective if they dropped their political correctness when serving male clients.

  3. Stephen Reily from IMC/Vibrant Nation, November 2, 2010 at 10:34 a.m.

    Thanks, Kat Gordon, for mentioning the Women & Co. campaign. I'm a fan, and our survey confirms that Citi's imagery is good because it shows women in a non-hierarchical setting, among peers. But our survey also suggests that Citi should consider alternating this with showing women with their extended family members as well. They clearly respond to images that connect them with their daughters, granddaughters, and even in the men in their lives - as long as the men don't stand in front! I'm not sure it's always clear why the women in Women & Co. ads are in the same room together. Thanks for the comments!

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