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How to be a ‘Horse of a Different Color’ Framing the What, How, and When of Your Value Proposition

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In the past 15 years the world has changed in significant ways and advisors today must have new skills, new attitudes, and a new understanding of how to brand and market themselves.

Here are a few questions to help demonstrate this point:

  • Have you found that the Advisors, Agents, Brokers and RIAs you compete with are more aggressive than they used to be?
  • Do you have more competitors than in the past?
  • Does it seem harder to market in this digital age of no cold calling and junk mail?
  • Are you finding it harder to differentiate yourself from your competitors

With all the different types of firms in the marketplace, there are over 600,000 individuals providing financial advice at any given time.  That is a lot of competition.  You have to compete with people in your same building, across the street, and across the country.

As if the competition wasn’t enough, you also have another hurdle, commoditization.  The industry, for the most part, has become a commoditized business.  If you ask the typical ‘Joe/Jane Investor,’ they will tell you that all advisors are the same.  After all, they all sell actively managed accounts, ETFs, insurance, mutual funds, and some alternative investments, right?

A recent Pershing Study* cites 60% of investors found it hard to distinguish among advisors because most said the same things and made the same promises.

Put both of these issues together and you have a challenge.  How do you stand out and make yourself different in a world where you have so much competition and are viewed as a commodity?

We all know first impressions matter, whether on a blind date, a job interview, or choosing an investment advisor.  An advisor’s value proposition is often the first impression a potential client experiences and is often the catalyst for a future relationship.  The value prop statement should answer the question, “Why should I choose you?”

It all comes down to first, how you present yourself, and then how and when you present your value proposition.

Let’s start with the first item.  When a prospective client asks, “what do you do?” – there is nothing you can say, no words that can come out of your mouth so compelling, that it will stimulate curiosity on their part to learn more about your practice.  Most of the elevator speeches I have heard over the past 20 years activate a ‘sales alert,’ which is highly sensitive with today’s affluent.  The reason this holds true is, ‘no one likes to be sold!’

What should you do?  First, understand the nature of the question in conventional social circles and the real opportunity it affords.  It’s unlikely the person asking the question has any real interest in your career, it’s merely a conversation starter.

The real opportunity is for you to connect with the prospective client by not doing what every other advisor does which is talk about what they do, how they do it, and how professional they are at doing it.  Rather be OTHER FOCUSED, because the more you make it about them and less about you, the more quickly you build rapport.

Here’s an example (the scenario is a fundraiser for Children’s Cancer Centers of America):

Potential Client: So what do you do for a living?

Financial Advisor: I guide a handful of families in the area who have entrusted my team to oversee their assets in order to impact the legacy of their families.  PAUSE – So how did you get involved in this fundraiser?

Potential Client: A few years ago a girl in my daughter’s dance class was diagnosed with XYZ.  It was absolutely shocking that this 8 year old kid had to go through this terrible disease, and just as shocking to see her family almost declare bankruptcy. I learned about this facility that would co-opt the cost of the treatment and I have been hooked ever since.

The sooner you can move the conversation away from you and your business in that first interaction, the more likely it is you’ll get new business in the long run.  It’s what I like to refer to as, “keeping the Shark Teeth in your back pocket.”

Pershing went on to say, the strongest value propositions incorporated four key elements: attributes of the advisor, benefits for the investor, a rational explanation of how the firm’s attributes benefit the client, and language that evokes EMOTION.

There is an amazing book and TED Talk by Simon Sinek (YouTube) that drives home the importance of infusing emotion in your value proposition and the way in which you brand yourself which is entitled ‘Start With Why’.  If you are not familiar with Simon Sinek, you need to be.

Sinek states that today’s clients are more sophisticated than ever, but also more cynical and desire more than the same promises, guarantees, or assurances provided by the vast majority of Financial Advisors.  Thus it makes sense to move beyond functional benefits and consider self-expressive, social, and emotional benefits as a basis for a value proposition.  Every advisor is quick to say what they do and maybe how they do it.  Few can clearly articulate WHY they do what they do – and therein lies all the difference!

An emotional benefit relates to the ability of the brand to make the buyer or user of the brand feel something during the purchase process or user experience.  Think Volvo: Safe / Think Coca-Cola: Refreshed / Think Apple: Creative.

So ask yourself, how are you articulating your practice’s brand and what emotion does it evoke among your clients, prospects, and centers of influence?

*The Second Annual study of Advisory Success-Pershing / www.pershing.com
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