Back2Y – the alternative conference for financial planning firms – invited the crazy ones, misfits, troublemakers, round pegs in square holes (to paraphrase Apple) to Birmingham this week to find out how to get ‘back to why’ they do the work they do.
Founder and chief rebel Paul Armson’s dream is for financial planning move away from the term ‘industry’ and its association with products and for it to be “the most respected profession”. Doctors don’t refer to their ‘industry’ he said, so why should planners. “When people understand financial planning they reach out for it and pay for it,” he said.
That’s all very well. But how to get clients to understand it?
Step 1 – Build a value proposition that’s not a commodity
Mitch Anthony of Adviser Insights and The Financial Life Planning Institute explained that “The value proposition is felt but not measureable. As soon as you can measure it you can compare it. Comparability drives down price. If your website and elevator pitch sounds the same, you can’t charge more – your differentiator isn’t clear.”
It’s a similar sentiment being noted in other sectors: recently British Gas director of brand marketing Margaret Jobling talked about the race to the bottom in terms of price: “Gas is gas and electricity is electricity. There’s no better or worse quality gas – you can’t price-tier your gas, the only thing you can do is differentiate your service proposition and help customers understand what they are getting and what they’re paying for.”
So what are clients getting from financial planners?
“You’re selling truth and insight, helping people make wise financial decisions, helping to bring order to chaos, helping them to focus on their life not their money,” said Mitch, “If you feel it, but can’t measure it, you have value.” He calls it a Return on Life, not investment.
So what’s a good example of something you can feel?
Last week I listened to a great example of this on the Becoming Referable podcast when author, speaker and podcaster Scott McKain talked about creating a ‘distinctive’ business. He discussed the experience of being a client from the very start of the process and gave the example of a widow whose first experience began when she got to the parking lot and had to walk alone to the lift, which would take her to the lobby, then to another elevator that would take her to the practice’s office. Bit of a trek.
Part of what they started doing was that the adviser would meet her at the garage – they booked an Uber for her so they could track when the car was going to get there so they could greet her as she arrived and accompany her to the office. “It’s the little things that get ya,” he says.
The devil is in the detail. You may be too close to it. You may not even know what it is clients like about you.
It may be time to ask them…
Step 2 – Use extreme clarity to create points of distinction
“Let’s face it; most financial advisers look the same. They offer similar services and promote themselves using the same old mission and vision statement language.” Said the blurb for Steve Sanduski, of Belay Advisor’s, session.
He’s not wrong there.
From copy to colours to logos to image – don’t get me started on stock photography – there’s not much to separate many financial planning websites out there. A straw poll I’ve just very widely conducted with myself has revealed three sentences on three different financial adviser ‘about us’ pages. Spot the difference:
- “With more than 20 years of experience, we are an industry-leader in…”
- “We are at the leading edge of…”
- “We are one of the country’s leading firms of…”
They can’t all be can they?!
One way to start is to look at your values. Back to Steve:
“People are attracted to other people who stand for something. It doesn’t have to be controversial, but digging deep to decide what you’re going to fight for. If you do that you’ll have a client for life.”
What got you into this business? What are the core values that guide your business? Use them to drive your behaviour and guide the way you make business decisions. Dig deep:
Think about how you would describe what you do for clients using 3 words.
Then think about what’s your core proposition in 7 words or less. Steve’s core prompters are:
- What does your company really do?
- How do you satisfy a deep emotional need?
- Who can you best serve?
- What does your client get as a result of your core proposition?
- What makes you different?
Step 3 – Communicate it
Ok this was Steve’s final call and my own step, because there were too many more to include here. And because once you’ve nailed the above, how are you going to tell your clients about it? That’s where the fun really begins… which I suppose I would say.
It’s all about being consistent, human and telling stories. That way you can engage your clients’ trust, and develop client for life. These were all themes touched on by the other excellent speakers: Heather Wright of Advance Performance, Paul Armson himself, Nick Lincoln of Values to Vision Financial Planning, Richard Mullender, ex Scotland Yard hostage negotiator, and Tina Weeks of Serenity Financial Planning.
“Trust is built thorough repetition and having consistent message. Repetition is the mother of all learning. They’ll understand you and never leave you,” said Nick. But he also said “Trust is hard – it can be pissed away in a second.” Which is a topic for another blog…
So how’s your ‘why’ looking? In a world of automation and robotics, cold, corporate photography, jargon and sameness, clients are desperate to engage with another human being. They’re ready for your “why”.
I thought that no event could rival those by wrap platform Nucleus, but this came pretty close. This was a great conference – and it wasn’t even aimed at me. Well done to all.