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4 Steps to Becoming Distinctive and Referable

According to Scott McKain no one has ever said “I love my financial advisor, she’s exactly like every other one.”

Good point; well made.

But what does it really mean to stand out? What does it mean to be truly distinctive?

It’s a topic that has captured Scott’s imagination and was, in fact, the topic of his book, Create Distinction: What to Do When ”Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Scott, along with my co-host Steve Wershing , on our podcast, Becoming Referable . His insights on what’s required to stand out are worth sharing. And I don’t think it’s only because we share many of the same views (although I’m human, so that’s possible).

You can listen to the full interview above and review some of the steps in becoming both distinctive – and referable – below.

#1 Stand for Something


Scott makes an incredibly important point that to stand out you need to stand for something. “You’ve got to be crystal clear about who you are, what you stand for and what is the strength of your practice,” he says.

In fact, he goes on to say that this is the point at which distinction begins when he says the following. “I think distinction, particularly for financial advisors, is the point in your practice where prospects and customers are attracted to you because of what you stand for.”

This concept is so important and so difficult. When you stand for something it means that you don’t stand for something else. That is, when you stand for something you won’t be appealing to some prospective clients and that’s tough medicine to swallow. Habit and fear can get in the way of drawing a line in the sand and saying “this is the work that I do and the clients for whom I do it”. But when we find the courage to do just that, great things happen.

#2 Know Your Target and Know Yourself


According to Scott, in order to be distinctive you need to build a client experience around the needs of a defined target group. He goes on to say that your target needs to be congruent with who you are and what you care about.

I couldn’t agree more and would add that the definition also needs to reflect how your ideal clients define themselves, which means going beyond wealth and age. You can read more about that here.

#3 Good Client Service Doesn’t Set You Apart


Scott quotes the old statistic that 90% of drivers believe they are better than average drivers and points out the mathematical impossibility of that claim. When you focus on service, he says, you aren’t expressing what is different, distinctive or superior about what you do.

We also fall victim to that in our industry. In fact, I collaborated with the Financial Planning Association on a study that highlighted that three quarters of advisors feel they are differentiated on the basis of their client service. Hmmmm. You can read more on that here .

Related: Why Advisors Should Stop Trying to Be Everything to Everyone

#4 Don’t Make Assumptions


Scott highlights a human propensity to make assumptions about what our clients will consider distinct. And points out that we can, of course, be wrong. He suggests we need to find a way to see your practice through the clients’ perspective.

In many respects, this concept connects to the work we are doing on client journey mapping right now. It’s a framework for understanding client experience through the eyes of your clients. You can read more about that here .

Related to this concept, Scott makes a great observation. “The three most important words I’ve ever found in creating that experience is, ‘and then what’. For example, your prospect is considering getting financial advice. And then what? How do I get in front of them? They reach out to get information. And then what? What do they need to see to help them make a decision?”

It all starts by putting yourself in their shoes.

I enjoyed chatting with Scott and think you’ll find the interview of real interest. Click below the image to listen to the podcast.