Phil Billingham stresses the importance of promoting your real value to clients.

    What do the American railways, Polaroid and Kodak have in common?

    Apart from some pretty spectacular bankruptcies?

    The answer is, they did not know what they were for.

    The American railways thought they were in the railway business.

    "If your purpose involves wisdom, integrity, relationships and being the client’s trusted partner, you can never be out of business"

    In reality, they were in the ‘moving people around business’. That failure to understand meant that when the airlines came along – who could move people faster – the railways should have bought the airlines. But instead they tried to compete, using old technology, and an old fashioned set of values. The result? Multiple bankruptcies.

    Polaroid had a wonderful business model. Sell the cameras cheaply and then sell the film. Which they did. Very profitably.

    Digital did not kill them. They actually had a good digital process. But they were wedded to the single thought that they were in the business of providing an instant print. What they were actually doing is being in the business of providing an instant image.

    One word. Just one wrong word and Polaroid became the largest bankruptcy in American business history (before the credit crunch).

    Kodak made film for cameras…. But you get the point.

    So how does that affect us?

    In the old days, we made our money by selling products and being the gatekeepers to knowledge.

    Today, everything is on the net and anyone with a mobile phone can find out what they need to know about NISAs, and probably buy online as well. Why do they need you?

    So if your purpose is:

    • Knowledge - you are competing with Google
    • Distribution - you are competing with Amazon
    • Administration - you are competing with India and South Africa

    But if your purpose involves wisdom, integrity, relationships and being the client's trusted partner, you can never be out of business.

    So how do we ensure that everything you do promotes your real value, not the ‘distribution’ values we looked at?

    Look at your website or brochure as a start.

    • For every mention of a human fact about you, your team and your clients, add a point.
    • For every mention of a product, tax wrapper or fund performance, take off a point.
    • If you have live performance or market feeds to your website, deduct 10 points.
    • If you have a live ‘financial news’ feed to your website, deduct 20 points.

    Then score yourself:

    • Plus 10 points or more = Green. Well done. You get it
    • 0 to 9 points = Amber. Perhaps more focus on your value?
    • Below zero = Red. Perhaps the approach needs a rethink?
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