Financial advisers generally struggle to create a value proposition that accurately expresses how they work differently, or what makes them special compared to others.
It isn’t that they don’t have points of difference, or that they struggle to put ideas into words…generally they are very good at both. Each adviser has a unique way of interacting with customers, and maintains relationships a little differently, and has slightly different views of how and where product solutions fit in, and what the relative strengths and weaknesses of different strategies are. Each adviser knows that unless they create something of value they have no business.
Despite that, a room full of advisers when working through the process of trying to articulate their value proposition, almost always come up with the same line of thought (and often use the exact same words) to try and describe themselves and their businesses. It ends up sounding something like this:
“you should do business with me because I am honest, trustworthy and a nice person. I care about people and am very good at my job. I am clever and have qualifications and you will have peace of mind if you work with me”
This is the very simple summary of the typical statement advisers first come up with – as a customer might hear it.
So what’s wrong with it? Well, pretty much everything….So let’s pull it apart.
1. Honest, trustworthy, etc…these personal attributes are simply expected. There is no value-add here – customers expect this as a minimum standard of integrity. They are a “ticket to the game” surely…you can’t be an adviser without them, right?
2. Nice person…of course you are. If you weren’t you would have no customers, in fact, you’d have no business if you had no ability to relate well to others and be a decent human. Of course you are nice.
3. I care….well, once again, you are expected to aren’t you? If you did not actually care about others you would not be in a profession of trust where an essential component is the ability to think of the other persons objectives and be willing to work with them to get them the results they want. It is another “ticket to the game” thing really.
4. I’m clever & have qualifications, etc….of course you do. Otherwise you shouldn’t be in the business of advising people about money. Don’t all financial advisers have qualifications like accountants do?
5. You will have peace of mind. NOW….the big problem with this is no customer actually believes it. And we know it is not true really. If I insure my house I still worry about losing it in an earthquake or fire or tornado…insurance doesn’t stop “worry”. If I save hard and for a long time and build up a massive nest egg, actually I’ll worry all the more about losing it…having financial independence doesn’t kill “worry” either.
So let’s recap….5 parts to the typical value proposition statement designed by most advisers and 4 of them are “hygiene factors”, and one is frankly unbelievable in the minds of the customers. By “hygiene factor” I mean it is a given in the customers mind…as in any hospital will be hygienic. It is not in itself a point of difference for hospitals as it is a minimum expectation that goes with providing medical facilities. So it is for financial advisers; it is a given that all advisers will be honest, caring, qualified and decent human beings.
So when pressed to express their core point of difference of what they can do for customers, of why customers should choose them, the majority of advisers fail dismally.
The core objective is simple with a value proposition: articulate the benefit to the client that you can achieve or create for them.
Here are some general areas where advisers can be exceptional and unique, and are able to do something which customers value:
- Customisation: using the masses of data and information in a highly personalised manner, or perhaps providing service or advice that is tailored to highly specific customers. Taking theory and mases of information and turning it into practical tactics that a customer can use to make more money faster perhaps.
- Risk Handling: taking away risks for customers; transferring responsibilities; removing the need to consider specific risks – making their world less risky than it was. Cleverly using contracts to pass financial risks on to other parties at a cost that a customer is comfortable with.
- Convenience: being able to combine things in a way others can’t; getting access to what customers need and value faster, easier, and so on; being there – instead of them having to initiate action, etc.
These are simple just examples to highlight that creating a value proposition is not about you. It is about the end result for the customer – something they will value. The value proposition really is about them.