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Conveying your financial advisory firm’s value


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Before conveying your firm’s value to clients and the market, you must determine exactly what that value is.

“Why did you want to be a planner in the first place?” says Arlene Moss, executive business coach of the XY Planning Network. “What’s your passion? What do you enjoy doing? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you good at?”

There are things you know more about than your competition. Lean into that subject matter expertise and determine who needs that help.

Vestia Personal Wealth Advisors in Nashville, for example, specializes in providing advice to specialty physicians, who make up 90% of its clientele. The firm helps doctors negotiate employment contracts, buy insurance and choose whether to buy into surgery centers.

“It’s so much easier to show value when you have a specialty,” says Vestia CEO Lauren Oschman.

Patrick Kilbane, partner and general counsel for Jacksonville Beach, Florida-based Ullmann Wealth Partners, which specializes in high-net-worth women considering or going through a divorce, agrees. 

Kilbane is an attorney who handled divorce cases before joining Ullmann. Now he is also a certified divorce financial analyst who acts as an “ombudsman” for women embarking on divorce cases, advising them and referring them to other professionals. “We’ve found that we’re meeting a significant unmet need in the market,” Kilbane says.

Target markets can range from demographic segments to professional groups to clients in different life stages, such as new parents or retirees. 

Your ideal client and area of expertise can also be super specific: one advisor targeted divorced, entrepreneurial women who owned dogs. Her office had a play area for dogs; she incorporated canine care needs in her recommendations, hired a professional photographer to take pictures of clients and their dogs and held client events at a local dog park.

After some soul-searching and identifying your optimal niche and ideal client, meet with your team for a brainstorming session to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“Get everyone in a room with a whiteboard,” says David Grau, Jr., president and CEO of Succession Resource Group, a valuation firm based in Portland, Oregon. “Make sure there’s alignment. Confirm who you’re targeting and why. Standardize the basic services. Ask, ‘How do we make the client experience they value unique?’”

And do some research.

“I’m a big believer in doing client research to determine value,” says industry consultant Mike Byrnes. “You can do surveys, use focus groups and an advisory group of your best clients. Ask them what they value about your work and what they value most.”

Vestia’s physician clients told advisors that what they valued most was the time the firm saved them. “We discovered that it wasn’t a financial benefit they valued,” says Oschman. “Doctors are very busy and time is their most valuable resource. They want to spend the time they’re not working with their families.”

The next step is critical: write down a value proposition. Make sure to download our Action checklist for a complete guide to crafting your value proposition.

Don’t stop at the written word, though. Webb says it’s essential to take the time to practice describing your value out loud. “An actor wouldn’t go before an audience without rehearsing,” she notes. “Practice saying the firm’s value before others until you’re comfortable and the words flow naturally.”

And eliminate the jargon! “Avoid advisor-speak and talk to clients in a language they can easily understand,” says Lisa Crafford, director of wealth solutions, BNY Mellon Pershing.

Now you’re ready to let people know what you can do for them. According to experts, the best way to do that is to tell clients and prospects stories about how your expertise can benefit them.

“We’re very big on storytelling,” says business coach Moss. “Describe how you helped someone in a similar situation. Share your expertise, not your resume.”

 “Stories sell,” says Vestia CEO Oschman. “We try to share stories that draw parallel pain points with other doctors.”

Referrals from clients and professional associates familiar with your practice are, of course, the best endorsement of your value. And advisors get a huge break this month [November 2022]:  new SEC marketing rules allow firms to use testimonials from clients praising their work.

“Advisors should start using testimonials,” says Webb. “Check with compliance to ensure you’re following the rules, but a story from a client about how you’ve helped them with a particular problem can be extremely effective and persuasive.”

Workshops, seminars, webinars and Zoom calls also offer advisors an opportunity to display their expertise and value to a targeted audience.

Vistia gives talks to groups in their field, such as a local organization of women cardiologists and the local chapter of the American College of Cardiology. The advisor specializing in female business owners with dogs told dog owners how to care for their pets could be incorporated into an estate plan. Ullmann Wealth offers a free Zoom consultation with Kilbane to women considering a divorce and a copy of his book, “Move Forward Confidently: A Women’s Guide to Navigating HNW Divorce.”

Consultant Mike Byrnes also stresses the importance of an obvious but often overlooked way to communicate value — the firm’s website.

“The firm’s website is the first impression people have of the firm and what it can offer them,” Byrnes says. “If people are going to research where they will buy a car for $40,000, they’re certainly going to go online before they give an advisor $1 million to manage. It’s crucial to make sure your value is clearly articulated.”

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