Identifying and Communicating Your Key Differentiators
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Many advisors struggle to explain to prospects what really makes them different from other firms.
In September, Bob Veres wrote an excellent article for Advisor Perspectives titled “Ranking the Top 10 ‘Differentiators’ for Advisory Firms.” His article provided a comprehensive list of the factors that help clients and prospects perceive how a firm is different from the competition.
Let’s look at how advisors can communicate the ways in which they are different – a common struggle for many firms.
Whenever I speak to advisors, I ask, “How are you different from other independent firms?” I receive the same general answers:
We truly care about our clients
We provide great service
We actually do financial planning (unlike firms that just say they do it)
We follow through on our commitments
We act in our clients’ best interest
While these all may be true and may help clients perceive you as different once they are in a working relationship with you, they won’t help prospects differentiate you. Every prospect is going to assume that you care, provide good service, do what you say you are going to do and are ethical. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be talking to you in the first place.
Identifying what really makes you different
So, how do you truly differentiate yourself from your competition? The answer is not just in your marketing, but in all areas of your business, including your vision, service model, ideal client profile, investment philosophy, client service process and organizational structure. Your marketing just conveys the message of how you are different.
To identify what makes you different, answer these questions:
What niche market(s) do you specialize in (e.g., dentists who own their own practice)?
Which areas of expertise or life stage do you specialize in (e.g., retirement income distribution, divorce financial planning)?
What types of services do you offer that the average financial advisory firm does not?
How is your fee structure different from other firms?
How is your investment philosophy different from other advisory firms?
What is the size and structure of your business (e.g., national firm, team, solo)?
What specialized education or designations has your staff received?
How is your service model different from other firms (e.g., “We have a service model that grows as a person’s career grows from their first job to retirement”)?
What is your reputation in the community?
What is your firm culture?
What results do you achieve for your clients that are different from other firms?
After you have answered all of these questions, ask yourself, “How does the client benefit?” If the client doesn’t benefit, then it doesn’t matter if it makes you different.
Where you stand out
Whittle your answers down to those that make you stand out the most. While it is good to understand all the ways in which you are different, you are going to be most effective in your messaging if you can focus on one theme.
Let me give you two examples:
While many financial planning firms are generalists, we focus on one thing: retirement income distribution strategies. That means we only work with people who are already retired and want to maximize their income from their retirement accounts, pension plans, Social Security and other investment vehicles. We are the experts in this field and have all the possible strategies that can help our clients make the most out of their retirement income.
We are conservative investment managers. The types of clients who hire us are more concerned with protecting and preserving the money they have saved than beating the market. We aren’t exciting and that’s exactly what our clients like about us. They know our number one priority is protecting their money.
As you can see, you don’t have to be all that different from other firms in the industry to differentiate yourself to a prospect or client. You just have to understand the one thing that makes you different. Then, you need to communicate that message over and over again.
Only once you get this message out and are attracting clients will you be able to prove how you are different through your service and relationships, cementing those relationships in the long run.
Kristen Luke is president and chief executive of Wealth Management Marketing Inc. and co-founder of The Mercato, an online marketplace featuring do-it-yourself tools, templates and training for financial advisors. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenLuke.