For financial advisers, communicating value starts first with knowing what's valued

Advisers must master standing out from the crowd, expert says

Mar 1, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

By Liz Skinner

Many advisers may not be promoting the things that their clients value most, new research shows.

Advisers need to probe their ideal clients to uncover what services and education makes them happiest about their experience, and then the adviser needs to better communicate these attributes to grow their business, said Julie Littlechild, founder of AbsoluteEngagement.com.

“If advisers think about attracting clients, they need to be communicating how prospects can tell that adviser from all the others there,” she said.

Building a business specifically around the needs of a niche or ideal client is likely to create a more valued experience than trying to be everything to everyone, said Ms. Littlechild, who wrote a white paper, “Defining and Communicating Your Value,” that was released by the Financial Planning Association Monday.

“Advisers are sometimes too afraid to narrow their focus, but the value can become a bit washed out when we're trying to be all things to all people, she said.

(More: 7 services that clients value most)

About 70% of advisers said they don't believe prospects would have a good sense of the type of clients they work with just by going to their website, according to the research.

More than three-quarters of financial advisers said the thing that sets them apart from other advisers is their ability to understand client needs and objectives.

If that's the “value” advisers are promoting, then they are hitting prospects with the same message as 75% of advisers, Ms. Littlechild said.

“That's not differentiating or showing value,” she said.

Eric Brotman surveyed his firm's clients about five months ago precisely to figure out what they valued and what they didn't even realize the firm offered.

"The results have allowed us to focus on the most important things," he said.

Brotman Financial beefed up its staff as a result of clients' top-valued service being prompt attention to critical matters.

It also decided not to renew its Baltimore Orioles season tickets after clients said having access to the tickets was very unimportant to them, Mr. Brotman said.

Another problem that confounds many advisers is that “they don't want to use a canned expression of their value,” such as a so-called elevator pitch, but they don't have an alternative solution, she said.

“Advisers still struggle with how to effectively tell people what they do without sounding canned or too bland,” Ms. Littlechild said.

(More: Keep your elevator pitch at the ready)

Randall Gerber, a Raymond James financial adviser and founder of Gerber LLC, is an example of an adviser who makes his value proposition to his ideal client clear from the start.

The homepage of the firm's website reads: “Why do we work with first generation entrepreneurs? Our founder believes they are the world's leaders and creators.”

Mr. Gerber said his website has been effective at informing prospects about what his firm does and doesn't do. He first focused the firm on helping entrepreneurs after the market correction in 2001/2002.

“We realized there were certain client behaviors that we didn't like, and others that we embraced," he said. "We realized it was business owners who had a long-term perspective and understood the value we offered to them."

He further narrowed the firm's niche to first generation entrepreneurs after realizing this group had specific interests and concerns they wanted to help with, he said.

"Back in the 1990s we did everything for everyone," he said. "Since the change our own firm performance has improved, and our employees are happier because this is an exciting and fun group of people to help."

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