How the Ostrich Effect Applies to Getting New Clients

“I’d like to set up a meeting and discuss with you your retirement plan and the challenges you should expect during retirement, given rising inflation”

“I want to set up a meeting to discuss how you may be overpaying fees”

“Your portfolio has some structural concerns that I’d like to discuss with you”

As applicable as this language may be to you and to your prospects, they are all breaking one of the most profound concepts in social and behavioral science, called information aversion. More commonly, it's called the Ostrich Effect, first introduced in 2009 by Carnegie Mellon University economists George Loewenstein and Duane Seppi; Columbia Business School’s Nachum Sicherman and Stephen Utkus at Vanguard. The term comes from the myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when faced with a dangerous situation.

Ostrich Effect states that our brains are inclined to avoid information that's painful — even if it's information that we need. Said in a different way, people want to “stick their heads in the sand!”

This form of thinking is attributed to the concept of selective exposure, which leads people to be selective in how they acquire information, by choosing which new information they want to process, and which information they prefer to avoid. Essentially, people are selective in the information that they choose to deal with, and they sometimes actively avoid dealing with unpleasant news, even if those news contain important information.

So how does this impact your reach-out to prospects, those who can really benefit from your services, but who may be avoiding any challenging or disturbing information they want to avoid (such as hidden fees, market correction, and more?) After all, those prospective clients are in most need of such information? How can financial advisors attract the attention of people who NEED to worry about their retirement planning or legacy planning, but keep avoiding and postponing the topic?

The answer, in our opinion, is to accept that psychology and behavioral science are not going away any time soon, and to grab the attention of those who need you most FIRST by offering them ideas and content that wakes them up in the morning. What excites them, what are they passionate about, what uplifting news or idea should they be hearing more about? After you have been able to get a seat at the table with enthusiasm, you can let them know about other matters that they SHOULD hear about.

We have a lot of that suggested content and language to get prospect’s attention in our Book of Emails, which may give you good insight into what language and format we believe counters the Ostrich Effect. What are some key words your message should have, how should you start your newsletter, how can you reframe your event invitation to get more attendees, and a lot more.