Seven Ways to Differentiate Your Advisory Business
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
Financial advisors often sound like their competition. They use the same differentiators and the same language. Here are seven ways you can position your firm so that it is incomparable to prospective clients.
One of the most common frustrations I hear from financial advisors is, “How do I get prospects to understand that we are different from other firms?” Usually, those “other firms” claim to offer comprehensive financial planning but don’t deliver on their promise. The prospect chooses the company with the best marketing, not the one with the best financial advice.
When I ask advisors how they think their firm is different, I hear terms like “fee-only,” “fiduciary,” and “independent,” or statements like, “We actually do comprehensive financial planning.” These are all good qualities worth highlighting. But unless a prospect is highly informed, those “differentiators” don’t help them understand how you are different from other companies they interview – especially if they say the same thing as you.
Instead of asking the question, “How do I differentiate my firm from the competition?” ask yourself, “How do I become incomparable?”
To sound different, you must be different in a way that is obvious to your prospects.
How can you position yourself to be incomparable from your competition? Let’s look at seven ways:
1. Focus on a niche
When you focus on a narrow set of clients – for example, business owners who are selling their companies – it is obvious that you specialize in the needs of one type of client. For prospects in your niche, this will be in sharp contrast to the firms they interview that are all things to all people.
2. Be an expert where others aren’t
You can position yourself as an expert in an area other advisors don’t have knowledge. This focus may overlap with a niche, or it can be a stand-alone solution covering a wide variety of client types. For example, you may have expertise working with people invested in real estate who need an investment strategy that diversifies their concentrated position but doesn’t force them to sell property.
3. Develop a proprietary process
By developing a unique, proprietary process, you make comparing your firm to others akin to comparing apples to oranges. Throw out the standard seven-step financial planning process that most firms use. Your unique process should help prospective clients see a clear path from where they are today to where they can expect to be after working with you.
4. Have a unique distribution method
Delivering advice other than by meeting in the office or over Zoom will differentiate you from your peers. For example, let’s say your office is an Airstream you bring to the client’s home. You offer the ultimate in convenience because all your client has to do is step out their front door, and there you are.
5. Offer best-in-class customer service
Propel your business by having customer service so good that people can’t help but talk about you. Consider the reputation of the Ritz-Carlton and Nordstrom. This approach is challenging for most advisory firms because the only way it works is through widespread word-of-mouth from your clients. You need enough clients who talk about you regularly to build your reputation in the community.
6. Outspend the competition on marketing
One way to stand out from the competition is to be louder than them. Have a bold brand and be everywhere – workshops, radio shows, podcasts, billboards, sponsorships, advertisements, etc. If your brand is ubiquitous, your prospects will feel like they already know you, and it will be hard for them to compare you with other firms. The downside is that you have to be prepared to spend a lot of money. If you’re not fully committed, you’ll just waste your money.
7. Stand for something
When you share the same values and beliefs as your prospects, they automatically recognize you as different from other advisors. But you need to be bold in your messaging, perhaps even controversial or divisive. For example, you state, “We are a faith-based firm that weaves in conservative, Christian values into everything we do.” Build your culture and client experience to match those values. As with number 6 above, you have to commit to this approach. If you dabble in standing for something, you won’t have the impact you are looking for.
Go all in
Choosing just one of these methods can help you stand out from your competition. If you layer in multiple options, you’ll find even more ways to prove your uniqueness. Whether you adopt one or multiple approaches, the key to success is to go all in. Dabbling won’t get you any results, and you’ll continue to look and sound like every other advisor.
If you want prospects to think you are different, you must be different.
Kristen Luke is the President of Kaleido Creative Studio, a marketing agency specializing in helping RIAs promote their businesses to a niche through an expertise approach. Over the past 15 years, Kristen has consulted with hundreds of financial advisory firms and shared her marketing expertise via industry conferences and publications nationwide. For more information visit www.kaleidocreative.com.