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What to do with Internet Johnny

What to do with Internet Johnny

Isn’t the internet wonderful?  20 years ago, when you wanted the answer to something, you had to ask someone or go to the library and find a book in the hope that it had the answer.  Now we just type things into Google and we get a thousand answers – or opinions, dressed up as answers.  And this is why we have to know what to do with Internet Johnny.  Let me explain.

Who is Internet Johnny?

As a Financial Planner, I bet you’ve had to deal with an Internet Johnny.  An Internet Johnny is someone who attends an advice session and presents you with a wealth of knowledge that they have gleaned from Google.  In fact, they’ll tell you exactly how they’ve diagnosed their problem (and what their answer is) and dump it on your desk saying, “what do you think about that?”

It’s quite frustrating.  The obvious question is “why are you here?”  If they know that’s the right way to do it, why have they come to see me?  The fact is, they must have some doubts – otherwise they wouldn’t be meeting with me.  And they do indeed have doubts.  Google often gives conflicting answers so they aren’t quite sure.  What they’d really like you to do is fill in the gaps for them.

What I often ask them is, “do you want me to actually advise you?  Or do you want me to validate what you’ve already decided?”  But I don’t want to fall into the trap of giving technical answers, especially as I know I’m giving answers to the wrong questions.  Instead, I want to get my client onto the right questions – the big questions about financial planning and life and the outcome of it all.  What I don’t want to do is argue over a technical point that Google has given them conflicting information about.

How to deal with Internet Johnny

To deal with an Internet Johnny, you need to knock them off their stride a little.  Google gives a sense of confidence that often outweighs their knowledge.  We want to introduce a little bit of doubt.  We want them to start to wonder if you might actually be able to add some value.

When I notice that Internet Johnny has gleaned a bit of wrong information, I often casually say, “actually, that’s not correct.”  But, then I move on because I want to talk about my process and my way of doing things (that I’ve spent the past 20 years of my professional life trying to perfect).

How does this help?

Putting an Internet Johnny off their stride begins to change your relationship a little.  It makes them wonder if you might actually have the right answer.  But because I know they are asking the wrong sort of question, I’m still not going to give them the answer.

What they don’t realise is, there are things they aren’t even aware they don’t know – things that are more likely to hurt them.  And having the correct answer to one element (in isolation) might just lead to poor financial planning outcomes because they haven’t considered everything else.

So, we need to work really hard to change the relationship and demonstrate value – something we can’t do by simply filling in the gaps that Google has missed.

How do we add value?

With Internet Johnny, we can add value by showing the limitations of what they have come up with and, more importantly, the limitations of not knowing the broader scope of what needs to be considered – the bigger picture.

And this is why I have sympathy with doctors.  I’m certain that, along with Financial Planners, they are the profession that most has to deal with Internet Johnnys.  How many of us go to the GP, having Googled our symptoms, and then tell our GP what we think is wrong with us?  Last time I went to see my GP, I spotted the mug on her desk.  On the side of the mug, it said the following:

“Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” 

I think that pretty much sums up an Internet Johnny.

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