The psychology of reading content in B2B financial services

Compass on a woodern table

Kem Etele

Senior Account Manager

Posted on December 21, 2018

Have you ever read a piece of content, got all the way to the end of it only to realise that you haven’t retained any of the information? If your answer is yes, it was most likely a result of your level of familiarity with the specific vocabulary used coupled with your interest and relevance in the topic.

When designing content as financial service marketers do we make it a priority to create content that is easy for our clients to understand, rather than trying to force them to think the way you do?

The way we interact with and understand the information around us can differ from person to person – but there are some similarities in the way we as a society read, that researchers believe link us together.

So, how can understanding what happens to our eyes when we look at words on a page, and how this triggers our brain into action help us to create better content so that we can connect with our readers on a higher level?

Can how we read affect our actions?

“Reading is the ability to extract visual information from the page and comprehend the meaning of the text” as defined by Keith Rayner and Alexander Pollatsek’s in the Psychology of Reading.

When our eyes initially land on a page, they begin to jump around that page scanning for anything recognisable. This involuntary skimming action is known as ‘saccade’ which is usually followed by ‘fixation’.

Fixation occurs when something on that page catches our attention, and we can start to make sense of what we see. Fixation usually happens when our brains recognise the first few characters of a word before automatically filling in the saccadic gaps – hence giving it meaning.

We also use our parafoveal vision to help guide us to the next point on the page to fixate our attention on. This inbuilt guidance system is designed to help us gain the specific information we are seeking in the most efficient way possible.

Most readers over the age of 9 will miss out up to 30% of the words on a page letting our brains predict the rest of the information.  The more familiar your reader is with the words on your page – the faster they can understand your message, attach meaning and take the required action.

Work with your clients: don’t make them work

Sometimes as marketers in the financial services industry we are used to dealing with the over complicated in our working lives. Being part of an industry which is inundated with many rules, regulations and specific, complex terminology, it’s easy to forget that our target audience might not always be as familiar with the vocabulary we rely on daily. Therefore we could be making it difficult for clients to form any real connection with our brand.

Of course, as financial marketers, we must ensure that the information we promote is accurate from a legal standpoint, but there are some instances where we should actively open up our vocabulary to be more accessible.

Speaking in plain English

Both B2B and B2C financial service marketers should integrate the use of more ‘plain English’ terms where possible when developing content by following the below steps.

  • Ask yourself – how does my audience prefer to communicate
  • Are they experts in my business and do they use the same vocabulary
  • Be conversational
  • Get straight to the point
  • Keep jargon to a minimum
  • Don’t use three words if one will do

Sticking with this format will benefit your audience by allowing them to understand what you are trying to communicate to them, quickly assess if you have what they are looking for and leave with a favourable experience of your brand.