“Coach’s Forum” is a place in which you can ask your questions, tell your stories or give your opinions on any aspect of practice management. For each column, George selects the most interesting and relevant comments from readers and offers his advice. Our objective is to build a community of people with a common interest in making their financial advisory practices as effective as possible.
Advisor says: Thanks for your recent column [July 2016] on creating a “differentiation talk” to use when I am trying to position myself with prospective new clients. Even though I am a relatively new entrant in the industry, I followed the steps you suggested and can describe who I am and what I do more confidently in a way that will help me stand out in the crowded world of financial advisors.
While I now have my differentiation clear, it hit me that even the most compelling value proposition in the world won’t do me any good if I don’t create opportunities to tell my story. Do you have a similar defined process for getting the word out to my target market?
Coach says: First, congrats on getting your differentiator in hand. While I believe this is something every advisor must do, I recognize that it is particularly challenging for newer advisors, who do not have many real-life client experiences on which to draw. The good news is that your “differentiation talk” will evolve as you develop new insights into the things you do for clients that they value most.
Second, you are correct that having a compelling message is not enough. You still will be one voice among many. Some advisors, to give themselves the best chance of being heard by the people they want, have found that thinking about approaching their target market from four perspectives is helpful, based on what I call the “Four Cs”:
1. Community: Who knows you. For years, we (including me) have preached that one of the best ways to meet prospective new clients was to “work your network” or, in other words, engage with people “who you know.” Recently, however, I have come to think that is too limiting an approach. Having a network implies that you already have somewhat regular interaction with those people, which leaves out a whole bunch of people with whom you cross paths every day. So, I like to turn the definition around from “who you know” to “who knows you.” The objective is to have everyone in your community know who you are and what you do.
Some people have a high profile in your community that comes with their role. Think, for example, of your mayor. Chances are, if someone offered to introduce you to him or her, you would accept – out of respect or, at least, curiosity. I am not suggesting that your profile needs to be as well-known as the mayor’s, but what is preventing you from having everyone in your “personal community” recognize your name, your picture, your business and your story?
You interact with hundreds of people on a regular basis – the dry cleaner, the school principal, the doctor, the mechanic, the retailer, the restaurateur and many more. What could you do to ensure that they know who you are and what you do? For starters, consider:
– community service
Referrals are both easier to give and to receive if there already is recognition of who you are and what you do. People will be more willing to refer you if they can say something like “You know John – he writes that column on investing in the newspaper every week.” Or “I’m sure you’ve heard Mary’s name before – she is very active in the parent/teachers association.”
Similarly, people receiving referrals will do so more readily if they can associate your name quickly with something familiar.
Smaller communities provide greater opportunities to make sure everyone knows who you are and what you do. However, there is nothing to prevent even advisors living in a sprawling metropolis from carving out a section of the larger community and making it theirs.
2. Centres of influence (COIs): Who knows who. Many advisors limit their thinking regarding COIs to lawyers, accountants and, occasionally, bank managers. Again, the shortcoming of this approach is the assumption that the COI has some sort of current relationship with the type of prospect you are trying to meet.
What about all the other people prospects know but don’t work with in any way but who might be able to introduce you to someone who meets your preferred client profile?
Let me give you a personal example. A client recently asked me to help him find financing so he could expand his business. The obvious candidates were the local banks, but he found their requirements too onerous and their terms too stringent, so he asked me to seek out private investors.
The obvious place to start was to ask myself “Who do I know who might be able to invest a million dollars in a private company?” My list was pretty short – six people, to be exact. So, next I asked, “Who do I know who is a COI for people who might consider such an investment?” I tripled my list by adding a dozen lawyers and accountants. Finally, I expanded my scope by simply asking, “Who do I know who might know someone who could be a candidate?”
By removing any limitations on what people might do for a living or how I knew them, my list exploded to more than 80 sources of potential introductions to wealthy private investors. I sent each of them a message: “Who do you know who might know someone who could consider an investment?”
The result: almost 30 direct referrals to people I did not know, telephone conversations with 19 of those candidates, which led to six signed non-disclosure agreements, which in turn led to three face-to-face meetings, which led to two offers, which ultimately led to a $1-million investment.
So, instead of asking a handful of lawyers and accountants for introductions to their clients (which we all know they are reluctant to give), why not ask yourself: “Who do I know who might know someone who could introduce me to qualified prospective clients?” You will uncover many more opportunities.
3. Credibility: What you know. This concept takes us back to my earlier column on differentiating yourself in your marketplace. As you will recall, part of that strategy involves becoming the “go-to guy” (or “gal”) in an area of importance and relevance to your target market.
Credibility, of course, has to be earned. Therefore, you must be a subject-matter expert in the area highlighted by your differentiation strategy. Gain whatever knowledge, qualifications and certifications you can. Seek endorsements and testimonials from clients, COIs and other respected individuals or organizations. If you truly do stand out as the “best in field,” word will spread and people will seek you out for your expertise.
4. Communication: Sharing what you know. Being the best at what you do is a great ambition for many reasons. However, to leverage your talent effectively, you want your target market to not only recognize how good you are, but also be able to tell others about you. (See Point 1 above.)
The catchphrase in advisor marketing today is “content is king!” This refers to sharing – broadly and frequently – the specialized knowledge, unique skill or whatever differentiating attribute you have. Bear in mind, however, that simply publishing content for the purpose of meeting some deadline or volume target will do you more harm than good.
You want the information you share to be read – and passed along to others. To make that happen, the content has to be relevant to your target market, easily digested and repeatable on some level. Meeting all three objectives can be a challenge, so publishing quality material less frequently is preferable to a lot of irrelevant material all the time.
For truly effective communication of your value proposition in today’s noisy world, you must have an online presence that extends beyond your website. So, by all means, make use of LinkedIn, Facebook and other popular social networks to get your message out to as many people in your community as possible, so they, in turn, can be your advocates.
That said, don’t ignore other opportunities to get your message out: publish in print, if possible, and accept every invitation to speak, even if it is to a book club!
Combine all four of the strategies above and I am confident your profile will spread.
George Hartman is CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto. Send questions and comments regarding this column to firstname.lastname@example.org. George’s practice-management videos can be viewed on www.investmentexecutive.com.
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