Discovering and finding the most crucial data insights for your clients is only the first part of your job as their accountant and financial advisor. Transforming those insights into understandable financial stories is the second, and I believe, the most critical part.
Poorly communicated insights or data that may mislead your clients can be more dangerous than not communicating the data at all.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
3 Must do’s for a Successful Financial Story
Know you audience
Who’s inbox is this report headed for? Tailor your message to that person or people. The CEO may need different or additional information than a department manager.
Make the report relevant to the recipient; this will help ensure your message is received and understood. Include how this information can solve a current problem or improve the bottom line.
Easy to Follow
Ever heard the phrase “A little goes a long way”? Resist the temptation to include absolutely every data point and piece of information (without leaving out the important stuff).
Creating and presenting an easy to follow, yet comprehensive financial report seems like a daunting task. The key is to focus on the story you are telling without getting distracted with offshoot data bites. Keep the message clear.
Use Best Practices
As you begin discovering the data bites to transform into a financial story for your client, remember always to use “Best Practices.” To each of us, this can mean something different, but as a whole, it means using “guidelines, ethics, or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action in a given business situation.”
Using best practices can be applied in your design choices, data choices, report creation, and much more.
3 Never Do’s in Financial Storytelling
Report what the Client Wants to Hear
Your responsibility is to report the data in a way your client will understand. It is not your responsibility to make the data or number fit what narrative the client desires. This should go without saying but is always essential to remember.
As financial advisors, you report the data, not embellishing or altering the data to tell the financial story your client wants to hear. Stick to the facts, even if they bring bad news or an unhappy client. Honestly is ALWAYS the best policy, and it is the best way to do your part to bring success to you and your clients’ business.
Tell the Wrong Story
Life is full of stories. So are your clients’ accounting books. Choosing the correct stories to tell can be challenging to decide.
The best place to start is with your clients themselves. Get to know both their long-term and short-term goals, their dreams, and their personalities. All of these things will help you narrow down what information is most relevant to their story right now.
You may create the most intriguing financial story, but if the wisdom gained doesn’t push your client closer to their goals, it is the wrong story.
Manipulate with Design Choices
We have talked before about the eye-to-brain connection and how visuals are the easiest way for the brain to collect information. The human brain is incredibly receptive to visual information.
When creating your visuals (i.e., charts, graphs, data lines), resist the temptation to manipulate this eye-to-brain connection.
Be concise and clear about your data scale, units, key, and labels. By doing so you are eliminating a place of confusion. Consistency is vital here!! Another opportunity to be consistent is with the color choices you use in your visuals. By using the same color combo throughout the report will allow for better understanding.
Helping your clients understand their finances, really truly see and understand them can be an overwhelming yet rewarding experience. Chances are your clients are not accountants, that is why they hired you to help them. You are in a unique position to translate data insights into financial stories.
By becoming a better financial storyteller you have the ability to change business’, turn struggling stories into success stories, and best of all help people reach their goals and dreams.