How to Describe What Makes Your Firm Different
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Whenever I speak with advisors, I always ask, “How is your firm different from other independent firms?” Despite the advisors’ insistence that their firms are unique, I hear the same general answers:
- We truly care about our clients.
- We have great service.
- We actually do financial planning (unlike firms that just say they do it).
- We follow through on what we say we are going to do.
- We act in the best interest of our clients.
While these all may be true and may help clients perceive you as different from other advisors once they are in a working relationship with you, these answers won’t help prospects understand how you are different from the other advisors they are interviewing. 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.
Three steps to differentiate yourself
So, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition? The answer is not just in your marketing, which simply conveys the message of how you are different.
You differentiate yourself by drawing on all areas of your business, including your vision, service model, ideal client profile, investment philosophy, client service process and organizational structure. Below are three steps to help you identify these unique factors.
Step 1: Answer the important questions
To define your differentiators, start by asking – and answering – the right questions. Once you answer the following questions, you will know what separates your advisory firm from others:
- What niche markets do you specialize in (e.g., dentists, business owners)?
- Which areas of expertise or life stage do you specialize in (e.g., retirement income distribution, young families)?
- What services do you offer that are unique and that differentiate you from an average financial advisory firm?
- How is your fee structure different from that of other firms?
- How is your investment philosophy different from that of other advisory firms?
- What is the size and structure of your business (e.g., national firm, team, solo practice)?
- What unique or specialized education or designations does your staff hold?
- How is your service model different from that of 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?
- How might you describe your firm culture (e.g., how do clients feel when they leave your office)?
- What results do you achieve for your clients that are different from that of 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.