The Top Three Reasons Clients Choose You

Critical to attracting clients and receiving referrals is a financial advisor‘s competitive advantage, a strategic differentiator, a unique value proposition, something that enables people to understand why they should choose you, or send you a referral, over all other financial advisors.

You must be known for something.

Here is one simple marketing exercise to help determine whether there is something about your practice that separates you from the competition: List the top three reasons clients should choose you over other advisors. Go ahead, take out a piece of paper and write them down. Come back when you’re done.


So, what did you write? Are they three things other financial advisors would not write, or that other advisors could not claim?

Probably not, and don’t take offense. For most of our careers, we have been trained and encouraged to use the same clichéd terms. This part is hard. I have worked with hundreds of advisors, and reviewed hundreds of advisor websites, and practically all of them say essentially the same thing. Many say EXACTLY the same thing! Here is a list of things that will not differentiate you:

  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Good customer service
  • Financial planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Individualized recommendations

Even people who speak and consult in our field frequently get it wrong. At FPA Denver 2010, Vern Hayden, in his talk “Differentiate Or Die” gave a partial list of potential differentiators. But, these, too, will not differentiate you:

  • Fee-only
  • Objectivity
  • Being a CFP

Some of these are “table stakes.” Things that must be true, or that you at least must claim, to earn the right to talk to a potential client at all. Some of these may be strengths; an aspect of your practice that will increase client satisfaction but not necessarily separate you from many other advisors.

And let’s get this out of the way right now – I know, everybody says it but you actually do it. Got it. I know you are vastly better at whatever it is than the half-million other advisors in the country. Even so, here is the hard truth: when everyone else says the same thing, how is a prospective client to know?

Here is a simple test to help determine whether what you are saying will differentiate you. Ask “could an advisor say the opposite and still be credible?” For example, if you say one of your top three reasons is because you provide great customer service, could an advisor say to a client “I do not provide great customer service” and still be in business? Probably not. On the other hand, if one of your top three reasons people in your target market should come to you (assuming for the moment your target market is obstetricians) is “I know the particulars of planning and risk management for obstetricians,” could an advisor say to a potential client “I do not know the particulars of planning and risk management for obstetricians?” Assuming the advisor is not targeting obstetricians, sure.  In fact, most should say it, because that is a legitimate specialty.

This is not a perfect test, but it is one way to evaluate whether what you claim has the potential to separate you from the competition.

Your differentiator, your niche, your unique value proposition, may be the hardest marketing question to answer. But answer it you must, or your business development and referral programs will never come close to their potential.

1 Comment

  1. Mark ColganDecember 17, 2010

    Yes Steve, you are so right! WIth over 675,000 financial advisors our there, most of which are selling the same products, one must be different to stand out from the crowd. AND, whether they differentiate themsleves by client niche, product/service specialty, geography, etc. they must also let it be known. A well crafted "Unique Value Proposition" must be created, mastered and shared consitently.


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