What is different about you? Why should prospective clients choose you over any other advisor with whom they may speak? To successfully attract clients, there needs to be some reason for those particular people to choose your offering from among all of their options. So, what is it about you? Take a minute and list a few reasons for people to take you over your competition. I'll wait.

Got ‘em? Great. Now take a look at them again and consider this: do they really set you apart? Or do other advisors say basically the same thing? Here is what I usually see when I ask these questions – advisors tell me good things about themselves, but nothing that will set them apart. They give me what I call table stakes – what they have to ante up on the table just to play the game. Here is a partial list of things that will not differentiate you:

  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Reputation
  • Investment results
  • Customer Service
  • Our Employees
  • Financial Planning
  • Fee-Only

This is a list of things almost every advisor says. You cannot be an advisor without at least saying that you provide them. Is there any advisor who could be in business unless their clients have trust in them? Is there any practitioner who would last very long if they did not provide at least reasonably good customer service? Of course not. Clients have every right to expect these of us, and we oblige. So these characteristics are good and important for an advisor to have, and you can be proud of them. But they will not give anyone a reason to do business with you over anyone else.
You need to provide them something different. Particular knowledge about the situation a specific type of client is in or expertise in a special planning technique or peculiar section of tax law. A unique experience unlike what most advisors offer their clients. Anything that other practitioners do not offer.

This is why catering to a niche is so important. Addressing the needs of a specific group will provide you guidance on how to distinguish your practice from other advisors. The better defined your target market is, the better you can understand their particular wants and needs. And the desires they have that are outside the usual offerings of financial advisors give you the best opportunity to differentiate yourself strategically. Find out what your target prospects want most outside of the routine offerings of financial professionals, and you will find things that other advisors do not provide.

Do you have a big employer in your town where many of your clients work? Promote and develop your deep knowledge of the company's benefits plan and you have given all those employees a good reason to talk to you. Do you specialize in families of members of the Armed Forces? Your knowledge of their specialized benefits and the G.I. Bill have particular value to them. Are many of your clients women entrepreneurs? Understanding how to help them grow their business, and expertise in programs for women owned businesses, even the ability to help them network with each other are valuable resources they cannot get from every advisor. Do you understand how to translate Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) values into portfolio management decisions? You have an opportunity to connect with a group that puts a high value on that knowledge.

Understanding and developing a differentiator can be a challenge because, at its base, what we do in providing financial services is actually very similar from one group to the next. And many of the differences, like how we approach investment management, are too complicated for clients to really understand or appreciate. Many advisors also strongly resist true niche marketing because it is very difficult to turn away people outside your target population who would otherwise make good clients. But seeking out and developing those differences can yield a handsome payoff because it can give a particular group of people a powerful reason to choose you and only you as the advisor who is right for them.

How do you separate yourself from other advisors? I would love to hear a success story of how you distinguish yourself from your competition. Please tell us in the comments about what has worked for you.

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