Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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I just joined our advisory firm and have been reviewing our materials. My background is compliance, so that’s the eye I am using, but as I read through our materials, I realize we aren’t saying very much. Yes, we are Independent, flat-fee, our gains and losses are tied to the same metrics as our clients, we are fiduciaries putting our client’s needs above all else and we use an objective investment framework. This is all blah-blah-blah. I have worked at five other RIAs and they could all say these exact same things. It is possible to create a message to talk about what we do that is actually different? I’m dubious to suggest this or take on this initiative without some confidence there would a light at the end of the tunnel.
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The ongoing dilemma – how do you stand out in a crowded market and one where everyone, essentially, is doing much of the same thing? Professional services marketing can be tough because there is nothing to touch or feel. You can’t tout bells and whistles, or fancy gadgets. You are selling a service and each of us will place a different value on a service depending on what we deem to be important to us.
Financial advisors – RIAs, independents and even brokers – are providing a similar service. There are different flavors of course in that some are fee-based, some commissioned, some held to fiduciary standards, some marketing products their company has created, some doing planning, some as investment specialists but at the bottom line, it’s a similar offering to the average high net worth investor who doesn’t get all of the nuances of each flavor.
This said, there are some important differences to consider that have more to do with the people aspect, and the relational aspect, rather than the technical competency or fee aspect. Each advisory business IS different by definition because the people are different. I’ve personally worked with thousands of advisors and I can honestly say that while I hear many stories that are similar in process – how they treat their clients, their objectivity, their philosophy etc. – the people telling the stories, and the way they tell the stories, can be vastly different from one another.
It’s important when you want to stand out in a crowded market to get at the root of what it feels like, about how clients think, about doing business with you. Paint a picture through your marketing materials of what a client should expect when working with you. What type of people will they work with on a daily basis? What kinds of communication can they expect? What type of life planning will they do? Focus on adjectives that describe your staff. Move away from the same-old “independent”, “objective”, “flat fee” types of things to more colorful, descriptive words.
One way to do this is to gather your staff together and have them tell stories about their work with clients. What adjectives or descriptors emerge from the stories? What do the stories tell you about your firm?
Rather than capturing different facts and data, try to move to capturing feeling and thinking language.
By Beverly Flaxington, Read the full article here.