You spend a lot of time trying to differentiate yourself. How many times have you seen this menu item on advisor’s websites: Why we’re different?
I believe this is a mistake. Here’s why.
Why “Different” May Be Irrelevant
Why do you assume being “different” is a good thing? When you go to your doctor, dentist, accountant, lawyer or other professional, do you ask them to explain why they’re different?
The reason you don’t is that you don’t care. You’re concerned whether they’re competent to resolve your problem. Whether they accomplish that task in the same or a different manner from other professionals is irrelevant.
Your prospects and clients probably have the same mindset. They want to know if they can trust you with their financial future. They often don’t care how you do it.
The question requires clarification
Are you eager to answer the question, How are you different?
You can’t answer a question you don’t understand. You first need to ask this clarifying question: What am I comparing our firm to?
If you are an evidence-based advisor, you may not be very different from other advisors who subscribe to the same investment philosophy. If the prospect wants a comparison to brokers who don’t have a fiduciary obligation towards them, your response will focus on important distinctions. Unless you ask, you can’t give a meaningful response.
Maybe you shouldn’t directly respond
Depending on the response to your clarifying question, you may not have enough information to respond. For example, if the prospect wants to know how you are different from the XYZ firm, you may not know enough about that firm to explain your differences.
In those circumstances, your answer could be something like: I don’t know enough to compare our two firms. I can tell what we do, why we do it and the value we try to add. I can also answer any of your questions. You should then have enough information to do the comparison yourself. Would that be helpful?
Trying to differentiate yourself can be a frustrating exercise. There are far better ways to market your advisory firm.
Resource of the week
As always, Michael Kitces has an interesting take on the “differentiation” issue.