Right this minute, we are watching the collision of two forces that are shaking advisor firms to their foundations.

The first is the commoditization of advice, driven in part by technology. Face it: investment performance is no longer a credible differentiator. Between the popularity of passive investing and the convenience of robo-advisors, few prospects are likely to be persuaded that your firm is really, truly, reliably a better stock-picker than your competitors. Most advisors recognize this fact, even if they aren’t sure what to do about it.

The second trend is the mass personalization of communications—also driven by technology. Every day, each of us receives a unique stream of banner ads, search results, even videos and news stories, all tailored to our individual characteristics.

We’re lucky. Just when one technology is threatening the advisor business, another technology is arriving just in time to save it.

To put it another way: With performance a dead issue, it’s never been more critical for your firm to tell a unique, personal, and profoundly human story that makes a connection with your prospects. At the same time, it’s never been easier to tell it.

Digital marketing gives us an amazing opportunity to reach each client on a personal level. Gone are the days where you have to press the flesh or sit down at a kitchen-table meeting. Now, once you have a story to tell, you can automate it. Each visitor to your website, every Twitter follower, every person who follows a link to your blog can be led into an automated communications stream to keep them engaged and move them through your sales funnel.

You don’t have to start off fancy. The trick is just getting the story right.

Look at our home page right now (obviously, it may have changed if you’re reading this in the future). It’s just a regular home page. Nothing complicated. We could have used it to rattle off all of our credentials. Maybe showcase our work. Or brag about our clients. Instead, we devote a significant amount of digital real estate to one single statement:

“Like people, no two businesses are ever the same.”

Why? Because our prospects read those words and think, “Yes!  That’s exactly how I feel.” They are tired of cookie-cutter approaches thrown at them by people who aren’t very invested in their business. Our statement shows we understand what their single greatest marketing challenge, and gives them hope that they actually do provide a differentiated service.

That’s a genuine personal connection—between people who have never met or spoken. That’s what automated storytelling can do, even on the simplest level.

So why isn’t every advisor doing it? I don’t think the technology is the problem. It’s the lack of a story. You can’t automate your message if you don’t know what to say. Don’t get me wrong. I think advisors do have stories to tell—great stories, in fact. But they’re afraid to try. When you can’t talk about performance anymore, what is left to say? Can you craft a story that will make people sit up and listen? Do you have the guts to tell it?

Over the next few posts, I want to talk a little more about storytelling, because it goes to heart of everything we do here at FiComm. Stay tuned.