Like many financial advisers, I would like to help everyone in the UK invest more wisely, reduce their tax burden, and enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Like everyone else in the field, though, my practice is a bit more focused than that. I am an expert in retirement planning: my clients tend to be over the age of 50, with nest eggs of more than £1 million. Therefore, if a single 25-year-old asked me for help, I would likely refer them to a more suitable adviser.
Professional focus is a strength in most respects, but it can also lead us to market our services somewhat complacently. It may be time to step back and consider whether you are marketing yourself as effectively as possible. Your competition may already be doing so.
Competition of course means more options for potential clients, and more reason for them to ask insightful questions before choosing a financial adviser. For you, that means going a bit beyond posting a picture of your new car and crowing “My new Jaguar is a Tesla!” (besides, that appears to be what people expect of us).
Rather, you must anticipate the questions clients are asking themselves as you read this, and present yourself accordingly. To get you started, here are the four such steps I have found most helpful.
1. State your specialty
It may seem overly limiting to tell the world that you focus on certain types of clients, but that’s exactly what your most valuable clients are looking for. If they want help filing a divorce, they seek a divorce specialist, not a personal injury lawyer. Likewise, clients looking for financial advice will want to seek it from someone with credentials and experience that fit their specific needs.
You needn’t choose just one specialty. For instance, if you find yourself working most productively with members of a certain age group and with specific professions, you can always market yourself individually to each of those groups. The idea is to play to your strengths by helping potential clients understand your professional focus.
2. Manage expectations
Some financial advisers focus intensely on one area, such as investment management or insurance. Others provide comprehensive financial planning services, though typically to certain types of clients. You have everything to gain by highlighting the scope of your services.
And when it comes to demonstrating your experience, it may not be enough simply to state the number of years you have worked as a financial adviser: you should be ready to identify the specific services you offer and how your experience with each has helped your clients.
If you have earned CFP® certification, be sure to highlight the fact. Especially savvy clients may already know what the CFP® designation entails, and others will be glad to know a bit about the standards it represents.
On a more personal note, each of us has our own ways of getting to know new clients, analysing their situations, and monitoring the outcomes of the advice we give them. Preparing a sort of ‘elevator pitch’ that briefly encapsulates your way of doing things can go a long way toward helping clients appreciate your professional style, and can encourage the right ones to commit to working with you.
3. Define your investment philosophy
These days, anyone can share their market outlook on the web, and it seems like most people do. It's not enough simply to state your analysis of market conditions: you must define your investment philosophy.
When you do, remember that you’re addressing your ideal clients: ones who know how to ask pertinent questions even though they might not be strongly inclined toward certain answers. If your investment philosophy turns on minimising expenses and limiting risk, highlight the fact. If you look for a balance of exoteric assets and more conservative positions, your ideal clients will want to know sooner rather than later.
4. Be clear about who gets what
The first episode of Mad Men featured a marketing masterstroke. While drumming up ideas to sell Lucky Strike cigarettes, Don Draper comes up with its iconic catchphrase: “It’s toasted”. Never mind that every other cigarette on the market was toasted as well: Lucky Strike still managed to differentiate itself by making the claim before anyone else thought to.
I hope you don’t smoke, but the message is otherwise perfectly clear: even the things that we consider mundane can be effective messages in the minds of potential clients.
Take remuneration. Here I’ll confess a bias: I feel strongly that financial advisers should be paid only by their clients, and should not earn commission-based remuneration for selling limited ranges of products. If this sounds like you, feel free to use it to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Something similar applies to the way you handle money entrusted to you by clients for investment. If you accept client assets for investment, you know that the FCA requires you to keep them in a custodial account. This may seem like business as usual to you, but highlighting the trustworthiness of your third-party custodian can set you apart.
In general, our prospects are in an interesting spot. On the one hand, they have ready access to more information than ever, and to an embarrassment of opinions about what a financial adviser can do for them and how to choose the one that best suits their needs. On the other hand, it may be more difficult than ever to turn that background knowledge into practical, effective decision-making.
As a result, our potential clients’ questions have never been more informed, and answers to those questions have never been more elusive. It behoves us to acknowledge that fact, and to address the concerns of an increasingly informed public at every stage possible.