Communicating your value for Fee-Only advisers has become a competitive undertaking. It is complicated by fee pressures, access to affluent clients and an ever-evolving service model. Advisers try to set themselves apart from others, but in many cases, the message is missing the mark.
Your prospective clients may be getting lost if the message is not relatable. Advisers and their teams spend hours carefully crafting their messaging with purposeful thought and intention. The problem is they tend to write from their point of view, not the client’s.
Communicating your value is your brand, tagline, website, bio or “About Us” page. It is your literature, social media, and most importantly, the words you use when you explain your value to clients. Many advisers communicate how they do things, but do not always articulate the real benefits they bring clients. If you were to ask one of your clients what you help them accomplish, and how they feel about you, their responses are often completely different from what you are putting out there. The client defines your value.
The Fee-Only advising model is a point of distinction and should be communicated prominently in your branding. However, if you focus solely on the Fee-Only definition, or the way you are compensated as your main explanation of value, the client will immediately think, “what’s the fee?” You could end up down a rabbit-hole because the client may focus on your cost without understanding what they will accomplish with you.
3 KEY QUESTIONS
The way you communicate your value should answer 3 questions your clients will have:
- What Makes You Distinct from Other Advisers?
Many of the Fee-Only adviser websites we see spend about 80% of the content explaining what a Fee-Only adviser does and how it differs from the rest of the industry. This information should be conveyed, but many websites unintentionally read like an op-ed on the industry. They are trying to show the benefit to the client, but too much definition is not relatable.
Let the definition and benefits of your Fee-Only model be a strong lead paragraph or two, or perhaps a dedicated page on your website. Spending 80% of your branding on this topic kills any attempt at explaining what you help clients personally accomplish. You want the bulk of your messaging to focus on the positive benefits you bring clients in their lives. It might be somewhere on your website, but if the client leaves your site before they find it, you missed the opportunity.
There is another problem with swinging the pendulum too far on explaining the Fee-Only model. If you focus on how the client pays your fee, not a particular company, the client could get confused about what they are paying for without proper context. Don’t overdo it.
- What Can I Specifically Get Done with You? (Hint: Don’t Use Industry Jargon)
This question is one of the most important you need to answer. To this day, we are still seeing industry buzz words and jargon on adviser sites as an attempt to explain what you do. Clients do not use jargon or industry-speak. More on this in a moment.
- How Will I Feel If I Work with You?
Clients engage not because of what they think about you; they engage because of how they feel about you. Consider using statements such as, “Our goal is to help you gain more order in your financial life, comfort with your finances, more balance with competing financial demands.”
SPEAK FROM YOUR CLIENT’S POINT OF VIEW, NOT YOURS
Below is a breakdown of common advisory services and the jargon we see being used. Consider replacing the jargon with phrases your clients can actually relate to.
Asset Allocation and Diversification
Asset allocation and diversification speaks from the adviser’s point of view. It sounds eloquent, but they are technical terms. Clients do not use these words.
Communicate using words such as, we understand you have competing priorities. You cannot always focus on the day-to-day aspects of managing your investments. We help you put an investment strategy together across several different categories. What this means to you is we help you reduce the chance that your portfolio would be over invested in any one category. We work with you to manage your portfolio as your circumstances, age or economic conditions change – this helps balance your overall risk.
When describing business planning, many advisers list out executive benefits, deferred compensation, qualified and non-qualified plans. It’s a list of buzz words. Your business owners are shuffling the demands of running a business while managing personal finances. They are trying to get children through college while stressing about their own retirement. They struggle with hiring and retaining employees or figuring out an exit strategy. They want an adviser who is efficient and simplifies the process.
In addition to your services, state the real benefit of the process. You help clients gain a better sense of structure as they balance business and personal financial workflows. You share the same intensity as they do. You help them stay ahead instead of running behind.
Saying you have “excellent service” can come off as trite. Shouldn’t excellent service be a minimum expectation of doing business with you? Let’s tell the truth. There are many financial firms where the client feels like an account or number. Clients have used those exact words to describe negative experiences they have had with prior advisers. Embrace this thought and instead of saying you have excellent service, turn your messaging into something deeper for clients.
Consider saying, we give you straight answers. Our goal is to make you feel heard and important. No question is too big or too small. We take all the time needed to help you understand concepts. We never want you to feel like an account.
Clients for Life. Being There Life
We all hope this is the case. In reality, as your business grows, will this client really be a client for life? What if they no longer meet your minimums? What if the client is too demanding on your staff for the revenue? What if your client reacts to fear and makes moves with their finances that are disruptive to the plans you put in place?
You cannot mutually promise each other you will be there for life.
Consider using phrases such as, we aim to stay a step ahead of you, to help you prepare for the next stages in your life. We work together in the process, particularly as life throws you unexpected twists and turns. We always want you to feel we are on the same page with you.
Monitoring your clients’ progress and having regular reviews is important to say, but you should carry the statement further. Let your clients know, you never want them to feel alone in their financial planning.
Risk Management (Market Risk, Economic, Inflation, Longevity Risk)
These are buzz words. Consider using phrases such as, we help you structure a plan that is focused on the lifestyle you envision. We help you understand and consider your available opportunities while working to navigate economic and market conditions.
When you talk about retirement planning, don’t just speak about the tools you use or the analysis you do. Speak with words clients can relate to so they feel less anxious about the process.
Consider saying, you help clients organize and structure their retirement – including healthcare costs, market risks, social security, Medicare selections and budgeting. Clients don’t want to spend their retirement years worrying about money on a daily basis. You help make the process more comfortable by showing clients how their finances can be structured.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Speaking from your point of view is important and we are not trying to diminish that. There needs to be certain explanations of how you do things. Before you get to how things work, focus first on the positive benefits to the client. Then let the client ask, “how do you do that?”
The bottom line is you want clients to engage with you. Take a look at your branding again. Look at your messaging with fresh eyes and ask yourself, am I answering the 3 questions a client will be wondering? Is your message missing the mark in communicating your value by not speaking from your client’s point of view?
The concepts and content discussed in this article are meant to be educational in nature and are not to serve as specific business, financial, tax, legal, or regulatory guidance. Individuals are advised to seek the counsel of such licensed professionals as it relates to their specific business.