🚀 The Fast-Start Guide to Crafting Compelling Financial Advice Case Studies

In the personal finance space, few marketing assets pack as much selling punch as a case study:

  • The ability for prospects buy-into and relate to a story. 
  • Details and specifics that make it super believable. 
  • A clear journey from the before state to after state.
  • Social proof from people just like them. 
  • The ability for you to demonstrate your expertise.

Case studies have it all. 

And case studies can be incredible lead-generation and nurturing tools when used further down your Client Journey, for example, when paired up with remarketing ads or your lead nurture automation program. 

They can also help prospects ‘on the fence’ to decide to work with you. 

In this article I’m going to give you everything you need to develop high performing case studies: 

Our process for developing case studies

As part of our monthly Insight Interviews, I encourage clients to focus on at least one case study a month. 

Why? 

Because they’re so damn powerful.

Over a casual phone call, I run through the below questions and extract all the detail we can to craft the case study. 

If you’re worried about your client’s privacy, don’t be. 

The client’s name can be changed (as you’ll see in the example below).

Caveat: a case study with the client’s real name and photo will always be more believable. 

But a case study with the name changed, is better than no case study at all!

In terms of format, they can be published in: 

  • Written format: as a blog post, social post, web page, email or PDF report.
  • Audio format: as an interview with you and/or your client.
  • Video format: again, as an interview with you and/or your client.

The written format is the most versatile, so if you do create a video for example, you should always create the written version, too. 

Audio is more personal and a step up in relatability. 

And video when done right, has an emotional edge and a trust building ability that’s second to none. 

So if you have the sort of relationship with clients who would be willing to jump on a quick video, I’d highly recommend making use of it. 

Ok so let’s dive into how to capture case study material.

Remember, your purpose as a business (and financial services provider) is to get your clients from where they are now to where they want to be: 

And we’re going to use the case study to really bring this journey to life:

Part 1: The before background

We start with the background story. 

This is where we dig into where the client was before they worked with you.

Ask these questions: 

  • Why did the client come to you?
  • What issues were they experiencing? Go into as much detail as you can with numbers, dates, times etc.
  • What did they want to experience or achieve? This is their dream outcome or goal.
  • How was it affecting the rest of their life?

We want details and specifics. 

Numbers don’t lie so use specific numbers when you can.

For example, shaving $153,907 and 7.5 years off their mortgage is more believable than writing we saved this client $150k off their mortgage.

Dig into the emotions and drama. 

  • Was it impacting their health?
  • Was it putting a strain on their marriage?
  • Was their business suffering?
  • Was their financial situation about to implode?

You can ask questions like: 

  • And how was that impacting your personal life?
  • And how did that make you feel?

The more detailed you can express the before state, the more effectively you’ll connect with other prospects who are going through those issues right now. 

Part 2: The strategy or solution

Here’s where you explain what you did. 

What strategies or services did you put in place?

If you implemented several strategies, outline them in bullet points. 

Where you can, demonstrate with images, charts or other proof elements.

If you did something unique, be sure to point out how that makes your service offering different from anybody else. 

Part 3: The after result

Now we switch to the results of your services. 

Ask these questions: 

  • What were the results? Go into as much detail as you can with numbers, dates, times etc.
  • How did it impact other areas of their life? 

You can dig into not only the financial impact of what they now have in their lives, but also how that made them feel, the impact to their day to day lives, and how that changed who they are.  

Example #1: Short form social posts

Here’s a simple example of how you could use a client success story in your social media:

This social post would then link to your web page where you go into more details around the services and strategies you put into place.

If you are able to share hard numbers, then you can try a post that’s shorter and more curiousity driven: 

In both example, we’re using the social post to capture attention, then bring readers to the website so that they can read the more in-depth case study. 

Next, let’s look an an example of what a case study article might look like on your website:

Example #2: Long form article

Here I want to feature a published case study, which is an excellent example of: 

  • Going into depth outlining the specifics
  • Using numbers effectively to illustrate the problem, strategy and outcomes
  • Digging into the impact to their lives, both day-to-day and emotionally

You can bet that anyone reading this case study in a similar position would now be far more likely to work with this firm. 

Here it is: 

👉 Background 

Mr and Mrs X were a retired, wealthy couple, aged 76 and 78.  They have one grown up daughter, Miss X who is not dependent on Mr and Mrs X but helps organise their finances. Unfortunately, Mr X had recently suffered a stroke which meant he would need ongoing care. Their income was mainly derived from rental properties and pension and totalled £100,000 per annum. Capital assets of approx. £15 million were spread across various businesses, farmland, properties and investments. Their main property consisted of a family estate and farm.

Mr X’s illness had focused the family’s mind on the future, in particular ensuring the best possible care for Mr X and passing on their wealth to future generations.

Their tax team had completed Mr X’s tax returns for a number of years but this was the first time the family had approached us for a more in depth advice review of their finances.  

👉 Why Mr & Mrs X Came To Us For Advice 

We met with Mrs X and her adult daughter Miss X to talk through their concerns regarding their lack of IHT planning. We were already aware from a previous brief meeting that given their relatively complex existing arrangements, health and age, their advice needs could only be met by both a tax and financial planning professional.  

That’s where being part of an accountancy practice really sets us apart as we can offer a clients access to a higher level of private client service. 

Mrs X explained that she and her husband, Mr X, were a retired, wealthy couple but that Mr X had recently suffered a stroke which meant he initially had been admitted to a care home however was now being cared for at home. 

  • Their income was mainly derived from rental properties and pension and totalled £100,000 per annum. 
  • Capital assets of approx. £15 Million were spread across various businesses, farmland, properties and investments. 
  • Their main property consisted of a family estate and farm. 
  • Additionally, Mr X’s brother and sister both collectively owned all of the land and buildings around the estate. 
  • Mr X’s brother had exercised his power of attorney for Mr X and therefore took an active role in Mr X’s finances. 

As an initial exercise we attempted to frame the questions to help Mrs X discover what her financial plans were, what was important to her and the family, what she hoped to achieve and the lifestyle she wanted for everyone. 

Mr X had previously employed a number of different professional advisers who were all giving Mrs X conflicting advice but this was the first time Mrs X felt someone was actually listening to what she wanted. 

From this, Mrs X identified that she was particularly keen to ensure that the overall estate remain owned by the wider family group and was therefore looking for ways in which property can be passed down to Miss X during her lifetime.

In addition Mrs X was concerned about the on-going costs of Mr X’s care and wanted to ensure that they have sufficient income/liquid assets to ensure that those costs can be met.

👉 Objectives We Uncovered

Overall, in agreement with Mrs and Miss X, we identified the following objectives: 

  • To reduce the potential IHT liability of approximately £3.8m at present if both were to die immediately.
  • To remain living in their main property until the death of Mr X, where upon it is envisaged that Mrs X will move in to a smaller property.
  • To pass assets down to their daughter during lifetime wherever possible, and insure against the risk of not surviving seven years.
  • Ultimately, they wanted to get their finances into such a position that the overall main property can be kept within the wider family (including Mr X’s brother and sister) following the death of Mr and Mrs X.
  • To ensure financial security throughout the rest of their lives, giving consideration to the possibility of continuing care fees for them both 

It was clear that the most immediate needs was to calculate the IHT liability. Our tax team discussed their existing land, property and share holdings and uncovered some holdings and trust arrangements that were unaccounted for. 

Overall, the team calculated a £3.8 million IHT liability with insufficient liquid assets to meet this liability which was far in excess of what Mrs X had anticipated

👉 Strategies We Recommended

Our financial planning team then undertook a cashflow modelling exercise, discussing with Mrs X her income and expenditure needs now and in the future. 

This concluded that the couple were having to draw down on cash reserves to fund Mr X’s care costs resulting in depletion of their liquid cash reserves by approximately £65,000 per annum. Again Mrs X had not appreciated the effect on cash reserves of their actions.

Once in receipt of this information both our tax and financial planning team sat down with Mrs and Miss X to talk through the possible options.

Given the number of different advice areas and other complexities, we broke our advice down into stages according to the priorities discussed to help keep things simple. 

Our primary recommendation was to gift the estate to Miss X to mitigate the significant IHT liability. Clearly as this gift would be classed as a potentially exempt transfer (PET) and to avoid the risk that Mr X would not survive for seven years after making the gift thus incurring an IHT liability, we also recommended establishing five separate gift inter vivos insurance policies for a total of £1.2m of cover (£3m at 40% IHT) and place each into the appropriate trusts to ensure that any sum assureds paid will fall outside of Mr X’s estate.

Additionally, for Mr and Mrs X to remain living in the estate, an appropriate market rent would need to be paid to Miss X to ensure that the gift is not caught by the gift with reservation of benefit rules. If it was deemed that the gift was made with reservation of benefit then the gift would not be effective for IHT purposes and the asset would remain in Mr X’s estate.  Therefore, a market rent of £30,000 per annum was needed to be paid to Miss X to ensure that the gift was not caught by the gift with reservation of benefit rules.

To fund the payment of the premiums for the gift inter vivos, we recommended that Mr X elect for Flexible Drawdown from his SIPP which was valued at £165,000 which could then provide income to be drawn out each year to fund sufficient income to meet the costs of the gift inter vivos premiums.

From the modelling we undertook, we identified that Mr & Mrs X were highly unlikely to ever need the entire £2.9m that they currently held in liquid investments and savings. We recommended that these should be removed from Mr & Mrs X’s estate in an attempt to reduce the IHT that would become payable on second death and invest in a Discretionary Gift Trust (DGT).  

We felt a discretionary Discounted Gift Trust was most appropriate (as it gave flexibility over the potential future beneficiaries of the trust) and would allow Mrs X to pass approximately £600,000 – £620,000 into the trust without triggering a tax charge (i.e. because the gift will be deemed to fall within her £325,000 nil rate band). 

Using the 5% allowance, the DGT could then provide Miss X with £30,000 of income to meet the market rent.

Our wealth managers also provided an investment strategy based on the couple’s attitude to risk and income requirements.

👉 Outcomes of Our Advice

 As a result of our joined up advice, the couple were able to: 

  • Lower the IHT liability on second death to a level that could potentially be funded without having to break up their main property and land.
  • Remove the concerns over Mr X not surviving seven years which would lessen the IHT impact of the planning undertaken.
  • Provide a regular income from the Discounted Gift Trust that can fund/part fund the payment of rent to their daughter.
  • Utilise Mr X’s SIPP fund, which was not currently being used, to fund the required gift inter-vivos arrangements.

Mr X’s illness had placed on Mrs and Miss X not only an emotional strain but also worries over what the future held financially. Neither has a great deal of experience in dealing with the family finances as Mr X had been “in charge of the finances”. 

By working with Mrs and Miss X, we were able to empower them for the first time to put plans in place that guaranteed their families long term future and tested their aspirations against their financial reality. 

We were able to agree how best to structure their asset base, tax and income position, both now and throughout the rest of their life, and presented a strategy and methodology that is flexible enough to be revisited as their circumstances change.

By taking an integrated approach, we were able to provide them with solutions that met their identified needs and uncovered some they had not realised existed. The interaction of the financial planning recommendations and the tax implications were key in meeting their objectives and providing peace of mind.  

👉 What Happened Next

Our review of Mr & Mrs X’s finances covered so many different areas that the above advice is just the first in a number of advice stages. However, we have already been able to ease Mrs X’s fears over the fate of the estate and significantly reduce any potential IHT bill, meaning Mr and Mrs X can pass more of their wealth to the family. 

We are now turning our attention to the care fees issue and how best to pay for these and as a result of our initial advice, further objectives are coming to light, such as funding school fees for their grandchildren and further generational planning involving the other properties. Mrs X has also reviewed her Will and has encouraged other family members to do so also.  

When we first met Mrs X she was very distressed at her husband’s situation and at being left in charge of the finances and was receiving advice from a number of sources. Six months on, Mr X is slowly improving and Mrs X feels firmly in control of the family’s complex arrangements, viewing us as her “Go To” adviser.

 

Ok so I hope that you can see how the humble case study can be an incredibly effective marketing tool to demonstrate your expertise by ‘showing’ instead of ‘selling’.

Would you like help in creating compelling case studies for your marketing arsenal?

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