For many advice businesses, the task of clearly defining the value of their services can be a major challenge. But an even bigger one may be communicating that value proposition to clients effectively and ensuring the message sticks. What works? What doesn’t?
At base, a value proposition is a summary of why a potential client chooses an advice firm. It clearly encapsulates the benefits the firm brings to clients, the problems they solve, and what differentiates them from other potential providers.
The Common Traps
But there are some potential traps here. A big one is a tendency by advisers to ground their value proposition in the tools and techniques they employ, rather than the outcomes they deliver. In other words, there is too much focus on the ‘how’ and not enough on the ‘why’.
A second trap, related to the first, is to use industry language to shape and articulate the value of the service, rather than the language of the client. (“We create customised solutions to maximise wealth outcomes in appropriate asset allocations.”)
And a third trap is to focus too much on quantitative outcomes than the qualitative. This is another way of saying that it is easy to neglect the value in changing how clients feel by focusing too much instead on things that can be measured.
The Intangible Values
The more successful businesses we’ve seen express the value they bring in intangible things – such as the conviction of a sound philosophy, the confidence they engender and the sense of empowerment they create among their clients.
If they think of the problems they are trying to solve, establishing a value proposition becomes easier. For instance, people frequently feel overwhelmed by media and market noise. An advisor’s value in this case might be as someone who brings structure to people’s finances and filters out distractions so they can get on with their lives.
A facilitator sells the client what they want or what they think they want. But an adviser with a clear, strong and defensible philosophy manages expectations, delivers consistency and, through honest counsel, provides an objective voice.
From the clients’ perspective, the benefit here is having someone who provides clarity, structure and predictability around their financial challenges by neutralising the emotional noise and distractions generated by the outside world.
Connecting the ‘How’ to the ‘Why’
This isn’t to say the tools you use are not important in articulating your value proposition. But the best advice firms manage to connect the tools – the ‘how’ element – to the desired outcome – the ‘why’ element. Here’s an example of language we have seen work well:
“Our firm employs a disciplined process. We do that because we believe having an agreed process makes you more able to deal with whatever financial markets, and life generally, throw at you on the way to where you want to go. Without a process, you may be more likely to act on emotion triggered by headlines or whatever other distraction everyone is talking about. With a process, you have less chance of sleepless nights because you’re improving the reliability of outcomes, relying more on skill than luck, and focusing on what’s within your control.”
A process is not an end in itself, in other words. What it does is accommodate change and the infinite variation in people’s tastes, preferences and risk appetites. If this process keeps the client on track and helps them better live with volatility then it most likely is a good process.
Defining and Demonstrating Value
Ultimately, what the adviser is providing is structure and comfort amid uncertainty. The world will always be complex and uncertain, and there will always be a host of potential distractions. But just having a structure in itself can deliver a level of reassurance.
So, while the value that advice firms bring undoubtedly comes out of each professional’s expertise and credentials, it is not defined by them. Those are just tools in delivering the real value, which is the structure, clarity and peace of mind that clients seek.
In fact, advisers we partner with say that by instilling discipline through a sound philosophy and consistent message they are more likely to help empower and liberate clients to live the lives they want with a greater sense of comfort about their choices. That is truly valuable.
In summary, we’ve seen successful advice firms communicate their value through connecting process and structure to desired outcomes and articulating that in the clients’ language and life experience. It’s a winning combination.
Find additional resources and learn more about how Dimensional can help you communicate your client value proposition here.
Paul Turner Heads the Adviser Group at Dimensional Australia, a global asset management firm which has been working with financial advisors for more than three decades in helping people reach their goals.
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