With hundreds of thousands of financial advisors and planners across the United States, not to mention hordes of other financial services and insurance professionals who provide similar services, how can consumers possible tell one from another. As a financial professional, you may have a clear idea of what distinguishes you from everyone else out there – but are you clearly articulating those differences to your prospective clients?
The sad truth is that most advisors (most businesses even) have never invested the necessary time and attention to answering the big question: “Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option, including doing nothing?”
The way you start to answer that question, is to develop (or identify) your unique selling proposition (USP).
As marketers, we regularly hear from advisors who are frustrated with their marketing and sales performance. They struggle to make sense of all the marketing tactics and strategies they hear about or see others employ. They’re confused about how to revamp their business growth efforts… or even where to even start.
Sometimes they’ve got something they think is working, but uncertain how to scale it… or systematize it. After all, they wonder, is there a system to marketing?
How is marketing and sales performance best measured?
How can one know if advertising is working?
How can I compete on something other than my fee?
How can I get more clients without having to spend more money?
…and the list goes on.
Fortunately, establishing a unique selling proposition (USP) can go a long way to eliminating these frustrations.
But whenever we mention the importance of a USP to advisors, they look at us crosseyed and wonder how the United Parcel Service can help them grow their business.
A unique selling proposition at its core is the thing (or set of things) that distinguishes your practice from all the other financial advisors’ out there.
Most advisors think (and often say) they’re in business to help anyone who wants or needs to be better prepared for retirement, and give their family peace of mind about money.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing distinctive about that.
Nor is there about…
…offering the best quality
…or lowest fees
…or superior customer service.
None of these are USPs, because they’re far too generic to be meaningful to anyone you’re trying to attract as a client.
Instead, a USP should address two key areas, which, when used together in your marketing activities, is capable of attracting more ideal prospects who you can convert into ideal clients… and do so more efficiently and at a lower cost than any other approach we’ve seen.
The two key areas are…
Client Benefits: You prospects don’t care about your stock picking capabilities, which financial vehicles you prefer, or even what broker/dealer you work through. They only care about how your practice will help them. Many advisors and firms focus too much on features (what makes them great) and not enough time on the benefits (results given to their clients). If you’re stuck on features vs. benefits, make a list of great the things about your practice (features) and translate them into what tangible results they provide for your clients. Your prospects aren’t looking for “peace of mind” or to “retire comfortably.” They want have specific goals they want to reach in retirement… like travel or being able to afford to buy a seasonal 2nd home, etc.
Your Uniqueness: What makes you different from all the others that provide the same or similar product or service? (Remember, consumers don’t know how to distinguish between Life Insurance professionals who also offer investing services, Certified Financial Planners, Financial Advisors, or any of the myriad of other titles that exist in the financial services industry. And they certainly have no idea what it means to “take a holistic approach” or “focus on a bottom-up investing strategy.”)
Having a powerful USP makes it easier for prospects to choose you, and it helps you attract the right clients to your practice. It also helps you avoid attracting the types of clients with whom you don’t want to work. But if you don’t have a USP, or if you have a weak USP, it will be hard for prospects to differentiate you from everything else out there. By default, most will see you simply as a commodity provider, competing based on price.
A well devised USP needs to be a true reflection of what your clients experience when working with your practice. That means it can’t be a meaningless tag line that’s all style and no substance. For example, imagine dining at a restaurant that promotes itself for elegance and haute cuisine. When you arrive, you find a giant screen television over the bar tuned to ESPN, burgers and pizza on the menu, and a wine list that looks like it’s been written by the restaurant’s beer distributor. Your experience doesn’t match the USP they’ve used to attract your business.
Could you imagine shopping at Target one day and finding their prices to be on par with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or Saks Fifth Avenue? Or how would you feel if you walked into the Nordstrom shoe department and received the service and quality that you would normally find at Wal-Mart?
In our minds, we have a very clear idea of each of these retailers’ places in the market and know what to expect from them before we ever enter their stores.
They each have different Unique Selling Propositions. Wal-Mart promotes itself as a price leader, while Nordstrom is all about quality and service. And yet, both of them make money and satisfy a partition of market demand. Each has its own USP and attracts customers accordingly.
Most financial advisors don’t take advantage of this simple – yet critical – step in establishing their practice. But when you do take the time to determine your USP you’ll be at an advantage, better able to grow and survive in today’s marketplace, and beyond. It starts with being able to successfully answer these two questions:
1. Why do people work with you?
2. If they aren’t working with you now, why should they?
What you’re after here is some kind of a sustainable competitive advantage. Something that sets you apart from your competition or makes you unique. Of course, “unique” is a loaded word. And with so much competition out there, the likelihood is you’re not the only one doing what you do and thinking it’s unique. That’s why you need to establish a Unique Selling Proposition that your competition doesn’t offer, creating extra value or giving people additional reasons to work with you. Unique Selling Proposition can take form in at least four different ways.
You can try to be the price leader. This means that out of all the competitors in the market, you offer the lowest price.
This is a great advantage if it can be created and maintained. However, it’s often difficult to consistently be the price leader and, unless you’re a giant discount broker with millions to spend on advertising to the masses, this probably isn’t the right USP for you.
Differentiate. This means that your practice can create an advantage by doing something more or better or different than the competition. It could be in the form of longer hours, better guarantee, higher quality, more selection, better service, etc.
Focus on a certain niche. This means that your practice can zero in on only one small segment of the market and then become either the price leader or differentiate in some other way, but only to that small segment of the market.
Extra Value Proposition. Your practice provides more value, more quality, more service than your competitors.
Without an effective USP, people will never know why they should consider your services. And, in the absence of any other perceived value, the buying decision on the part of the consumer will always be price. As we already established, being a price leader probably isn’t right for independent advisors.
So, in order to help you frame a USP for your practice, here are some important characteristics of effective Unique Selling Propositions:
1. Be able to articulate the proposition in 90 words or less. Answer the question: Why should people do business with you and not your competitors?
2. Quantify the benefit as much as possible.
3. Be specific in the areas of quality, service, selection, guarantee, etc. A USP is not a mission statement.
4. Fill a void the competition is not filling.
5. It must matter to prospects and clients.
6. It evolves based on what competition does.
7. You must be able to execute the proposition.
Developing Unique Selling Propositions is at the core of the work we do with Advisors across the nation. If you’d like to explore how we can help you reframe your business to attract better prospects more efficiently and at a lower cost by employing a USP, let’s chat. Request a call with a member of our team here.