Kirk Loury is president of Advisable Wealth Engines and its affiliates including Wealth Planning Consulting Inc. He is a thought leader in adviser practice management and investing and planning technology, and is a regular contributor to the FPA/Journal of Financial Planning Practice Management Blog.
When it comes to marketing yourself or your firm, it seems every guidebook or consultant mandates the now-common “elevator pitch” and “value proposition” summaries. But the fact is, investors looking for a new advisory relationship will want much more before making a decision—it’s called due diligence.
Most individuals will not have a clearly articulated process for deciding with whom to enter into a trusted advisory relationship, but all want to reflect on their decision and know that they made a good choice. This is not just for the basic satisfaction of a well-made decision, but there’s real economic and emotional value at hand. An adviser who encourages scrutiny shows confidence and transparency—two characteristics central to a trusted advisory relationship.
Making Business Personal
Whether a formal or informal process, every prospect must know nine key messages about an adviser. Unlike an institutional due diligence process that emphasizes sterile facts, an adviser should personalize these key messages to reach the prospect’s mind and heart; both must exist for a professional relationship to flourish.
1. The key benefits clients receive. This goes beyond the service listing often found in standard value propositions to personalizing the importance of each benefit. I have previously written about how oftentimes, the process of selling professional services emphasizes features and not benefits. In other words, practitioners often push features such as, “We offer retirement planning services,” or “We have a disciplined investment process.” When selling features and not the value contained in the resulting benefits, a practitioner’s services become commoditized and the target market diffused (see the blog post “Clients Buy Benefits Not Features” on PracticeManagementBlog.OneFPA.org). Therefore, applying monetary and quality-of-life values to the total benefit package shifts the focus from costs to net benefits (like net profits to a business).
Example: “When my clients see their needs and aspirations carefully marked as milestones in the wealth plan, a real sense of financial purpose takes over.”
2. Pricing services. Clients’ value a fiduciary’s watchful eye over increasing complexity and uncertainty, and this must translate into an appreciation for relationship pricing such as a retainer or fee on AUM, compared to a commission approach that is inherently transactional.
Example: “We only work for your best interests, and this isn’t something that is turned on or off but rather is a constant, and that’s why we price our services in a bundled fee for the wealth we oversee.”
3. Services have value. Services deliver financial or emotional benefits, and a specific example brings tangibility.
Example: “Our retirement income planning ensures that the income you receive is done so efficiently. Recently, we increased a client’s monthly income by X percent through improved tax efficiency.”
4. Your service practices. Move beyond the overused term “relationship” to how a client actually experiences the delivered services.
Example: “It’s important that we get to know you and your family. Then, when we have our meetings, you’ll see how our services directly connect to what’s on your heart and mind.”
5. Why you’re an adviser. Your advisory business is a service business delivered by a server. It takes a certain personality willing to serve, and the energy source for this is an adviser’s passion.
Example: “My family struggled with financial anxiety and my heart still aches for the burden it caused. I became an adviser to bring peace of mind to my clients.”
6. Your community involvement. Your advisory business is a people business, and this is best illustrated in community involvement.
Example: “My family took root in this community back in [year], and we are involved in X, Y, and Z. This involvement gives us a deep appreciation for what it means to be a true neighbor and, since many of our clients are local too, we connect on many professional and personal levels.”
7. Your credentials. This should be more than just listing specific professional certifications and designations; list needs-based expertise as well.
Example: “My expertise sit right in the center of what you need in identifying a retirement income plan. I’ve developed similar plans for [X number] of our clients, so it’s rare that an issue comes up that I haven’t already encountered.”
8. How you built your company. Knowing why an advisory firm started tells a prospect a lot about the adviser.
Example: “It was important to me that my business dedicate itself to specific wealth needs instead of being diluted as may be the case in a larger firm.”
9. Your business objectives. An advisory firm is usually a community-based business.
Example: “We’re a small business in town and when our clients achieve financial, social, and emotional success, the whole community benefits.”
Messaging to Win
Clients who understand an adviser’s relatable characteristics easily can paraphrase them to others. When a client speaks in this way, he or she not only offers the adviser an important due diligence reference, but the adviser’s characteristics become further internalized.