I’ve long believed that it’s pointless (and almost impossible) for advisers and planners to have a genuine unique selling point, or USP.
I’m very happy to be proved wrong, but I’m yet to see a firm do something which is truly unique.
Naturally, some services and methods of working are rarer than others; fixed fees being an example which springs to mind. But is that unique? No, just in the minority.
The good news though is that financial planning firms don’t need a USP to thrive. I’d go further, and say those constantly searching for a USP will catch ‘shiny new thing syndrome’ and see their business suffer as a result.
However, while you don’t need a USP, it’s vital that you understand and effectively communicate two things:
1) Your points of difference
2) The reasons why consumers should choose to work with you and not an alternative firm.
Good question! Here’s the answer…
We all know the best new enquiries are from people referred to you. However, there’s no guarantee that the prospect has been recommended to you alone.
He’s 58, in a stressful job and would like to retire. Relaxing over a couple of pints on a Friday night, he asks his two drinking companions for their recommendations. Both suggest a different planner.
The next day, Bob looks up the two planners before deciding who to contact. He heads to Google and starts typing. This is where the battle for Bob’s attention intensifies.
As most financial planners engage the majority of clients they meet, it's easy for firms to be lulled into a false sense of security, believing they never face competition.
That’s wrong, they do. But that element of competition is hidden because Bob only selects one of the recommended planners to meet with. The other never gets the chance to engage Bob. He or she doesn’t even know Bob was considering them.
So, to maximise the chances of Bob making contact it’s important that we remember several things about his search:
1) If potential clients can’t easily find you or your business online, they are likely to look elsewhere.
2) Potential clients meet you online before you meet them.
3) What they see online must convince them you could be the person to help solve their financial problems or achieve their ambitions.
It’s the third on that list I want to concentrate on. And it means understanding your points of difference and why your clients work with you.
First things first, what do we mean by ‘online’?
Anywhere your business or your name appears online.
That starts with the Google search results page and then any of the resulting links. These might go to your website (the most important of all), social media links, review sites, directories, press articles, the FCA register, your Companies House entry and so on.
It also means your Google My Business listing, which should also appear when someone carries out a brand search.
Convincing prospects online
You can convince the potential client you are the right planner for them in several ways. It’s worth remembering the aim here too; it isn’t to engage the client, simply to get the potential client to make contact.
Nothing more, nothing less.
So how can we do it? There are three key ways:
Show evidence of great outcomes
Nothing beats proving that you do a great job for clients.
I’m constantly amazed by the lack of effort some financial planners put into collecting social proof. It’s not good enough to say you are a great financial planner - you need to prove it.
When asked why a client should use them, too many still rely on accurate but tired, old phrases: “Honesty, integrity, trustworthy.” In fact, I recall one adviser answering that question with: “We’ve never had a complaint.”
Really? Is that all you’ve got?
Social proof is vital. Attributable testimonials, preferably accompanied by a photo of the client, are the minimum you should aim for. Detailed case studies are the next level up, followed by the ‘gold standard’ of social proof, client videos.
Connect on a personal level
Too many planners hide themselves and their team away online.
This is particularly common with smaller practices, which don’t want to 'look small'. Well you are, so celebrate the benefits. Not every client wants to deal with a large organisation; in fact, many actively seek smaller firms.
Whether you’re a sole practitioner or a multi-planner business, it’s vital you connect on a personal level. That means building a detailed team section with subpages for each member from the managing director to the newest apprentice.
Don’t just include the work stuff either, let your personalities shine through. Remember, potential clients meet you before you meet them. Let’s not be dull!
Demonstrate knowledge and professionalism
Some clients will want to know you have specialist knowledge and expertise. You can show this by highlighting your academic qualifications and accreditations. Explain too how they help you advise clients and set you apart from your peers.
Time to review your online presence
Put yourself in Bob’s shoes for a moment and search online for your business.
Firstly, are you easy to find? Is your website in the first position in the natural search results? Are you dominating the search results page? If so, great. If not, then you’ve got some work to do.
Next, click the links.
Are you showing great client outcomes? Are you connecting with clients on a personal level? Are you demonstrating expertise?
If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to each question, again, you’ve got some work to do.
These are all points of difference and, ultimately, the reasons why clients should work with you.