By Anthony O’Brien for Professional Planner August 28, 2017

Recently, the Financial Planning Association sent me a media release detailing its latest research on Australians’ attitudes to finance. It left me pondering the way we use research and statistics in marketing.

A valuable statistic can add punch to your marketing activities. An attention-catching figure is easy for people to digest and understand, and can give weight to a specific claim you’re making. For example, one of the stats from the FPA research reveals that: “80 per cent of working-age Australians are stressed about money and finances, with one in four indicating acute stress levels.”

As a financial planner, you could use this statistic to highlight the need for advice with a clear-cut call to action along the lines of: “If you are among the 80 per cent of working-age Australians stressed about money, click here to learn about how you can start to feel better.”

A simple example, perhaps, but the point is that independent research can be used to support your market offerings. Using the FPA’s research again, you could show that financial anguish is real and, as a financial planner, you can lighten the stress.

Not all stats are created equal

A colleague of mine attended a seminar where a keynote speaker claimed that: “Seventy per cent of all statistics quoted are made up”. Moreover, the majority of the audience nodded in agreement when presented with this gobsmacking disclosure. However, the rub was that the presenter himself had fabricated the statistic to emphasise his point.

Some argue statistics are overused and are often of dubious quality. It means there’s a trust deficit and I can hear the cries of “fake news” all the way from Washington. Therefore, it’s crucial only to use statistics from reputable sources such as an industry body like the FPA. Another trustworthy source of data is the Australian Bureau of Statistics (the ABS) or any alternative font of government-sanctioned research.

My preference is to use data from specialist research firms such as CoreData or a reputable brand such as a PwC or KPMG, who generally produce well-funded and tightly defined reports. If you take this approach, you’re more likely to discover that the average punter will find the research more convincing. It also means you’re less likely to experience a major brand disaster.

The way you use statistics is also central to your effectiveness. Avoid being too cute. In other words, don’t jam a statistic into your marketing if it is not immediately obvious how it supports your message. If the link is nebulous, the chances are your target audience won’t get your point.

Overall, I’m a committed fan of using a reputable statistic to support marketing claims. Just ensure it is relevant and well-researched. And at all costs give a wide berth to fake news!

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