In a coaching call a few days ago, the advisor I was working with expressed frustration over a prospect she had difficulty bringing over from another practitioner. My coaching client specializes in a particular area of financial planning, and this prospect needed it. In addition, while the prospect’s other advisor called himself a financial planner, all he really provided in this relationship was investment management. The prospect continues to come back asking planning questions, but has resisted moving his relationship.

After some discussion we moved on.

We are assembling a client advisory board and are deciding who we should invite to participate. “Let’s talk about a client who is a particularly good example of a success you have had with your value proposition” I suggested. She had one. A client who had gone through a significant life change and needed exactly the kind of planning this advisor provides. “So what kind of counsel did you provide?” I asked.

She replied “We reoriented her investments to a more appropriate asset allocation. We identified some repositioning that provided some tax benefits. We evaluated a manager with a style more suitable for a portion of her accounts.” Investments, investments, investments. When we got to around 4 or 5 on her list, we hit a financial planning recommendation.

“I noticed that with this client who had significant financial planning issues, most of your recommendations had to do with her portfolio” I observed. “Hmmm” she replied. “So, let’s go back to that prospect who you are having trouble moving over from his current advisor” I continued. “How are you different from the advisor he doesn’t want to leave?”

It was a significant moment for her. She realized that the financial planning that was at the core of her developing value proposition was what she talked about when she discussed marketing, but in practice she reverted back to what she had traditionally done in client engagements. It was not yet the center of the way she provides services to clients. It is something she talks about but it is not yet who she is.

When your difference is who you are, you will reflexively lead conversations with it.

With everyone.

It is the first thing on your mind when you meet a new client, and what you habitually look for in people you meet. You might even need a checklist to remember all the important financial planning considerations that are NOT the subject of your differentiator.

When your difference is who you are, it is easy for people to tell you apart from your competition. You don’t sound the same. You don’t talk about what everyone else talks about. You can rattle off the top 1, 3, or 5 things your clients worry about or have to address that other people don’t and you can explain how you help them solve those problems. You can avoid all the excessive wordsmithing that results in those overly grandiose mission statements that end up communicating very little. When you have become your difference, marketing and attracting clients becomes a lot easier.

What makes you different from other advisors? Why should your ideal clients choose you over all the other advisors they have access to? And is that uniqueness something you developed as part of your marketing plan, or is it who you are?