Want to win more business? Articulate your value proposition.

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to miss the obvious, simply because we can’t see the forest for the trees. We sometimes forget why we’re in business. Our knee jerk reaction is to say that we’re in business to make money. If you think that’s the answer..

You would be dead wrong.

Making money is the result, not the goal. It’s the after-effect of your day to day efforts to perform and produce and complete whatever it is you do for a living. Because what you do for a living isn’t making money, it’s making satisfaction. Remember that old Stones song: I Can’t Get No Satisfaction? If you can’t satisfy customers and clients in some monetizable way, you won’t be in business very long.

Some of my clients are wealth managers. Their job is to manage money for wealthy people. Of course, it’s a lot more complex than that, and while most wealth managers (and financial advisors) understand their value, they forget the big picture. They forget that their prospects and clients don’t readily understand their value the way they do, which is why they need to be told in clear and certain terms. This is why articulating your value proposition is so important to winning new business — and at the same time, so hard to do. (Shameless plug:  you can find a whole chapter on value, and value propositions, in Feed the Startup Beast).

Anyway, as part of my research for one of my wealth manager clients, I found an excellent article on value props for financial advisors. I’ve emphasized some of the points made, but otherwise left it intact. Even if you’re not in the wealth management business, you might find it useful too.
I sure did.

Going from Good to Great with the Right
Unique Value Proposition

By Ken Haman

Financial advisors know there’s a lot
of competition in the marketplace today. And they know they need a unique value
proposition (UVP) to help market their services and attract new clients. Most
of the more than 300,000 client-facing financial advisors have attended at
least one workshop or training class on creating a unique value proposition. 

Creating a unique value proposition is one of
the most common subjects we are asked to speak on. As a way of lending you our
expertise without having you attend yet another workshop on the subject, I’ve
gathered three good unique value propositions and two great unique value
proposition statements from some successful teams we’ve worked with—and
provided insights on why they work and how they can be improved. Think of this
as coaching in a can. 

Good UVP #1: Our team helps business partners
turn their business into a secure lifetime income. 
This is a good, basic unique value
proposition. It’s brief and very much to the point. There’s a focused
target group (business partners) and a clearly defined benefit (secure
lifetime income). It doesn’t get much clearer or more direct than this, so
this is a very good effort for a first attempt at a UVP. Here’s how it can be
improved: Don’t “help”; specialize. No one thinks
they need help—certainly not business people and especially not
entrepreneurs. Consider instead: “The ABC Team specializes in…”“Business partners” is a bit confusing. Does the team
really specialize in helping “business partners”? If you really specialize in
partnerships, that could be a very interesting target group (very
specific). If you mean “business owners,” say it, but be more specific.
Consider highlighting the industry, type of business or particular point in the
business’ lifecycle. 

What’s the pain? The UVP clearly
defines the benefit—lifetime income—but people are more motivated to avoid pain
than to achieve pleasure. How can you relieve the client’s pain of worrying
about income for life? Can this be rewritten as “guaranteed income,” or is it
just “secure income”?For a unique value proposition to be truly
great, you need to specify the target group as much as possible and then
articulate the group’s pain as clearly and powerfully as possible. A great
unique value proposition causes the audience to go, “Hey, that’s me they’re talking about!” and
then, “Yes, that’s how I feel!” and
then, “I’ve got to go talk to those guys!” 

Good UVP #2: I provide wealth accumulation
strategies for small-business owners who realize they are behind in saving for
This is a very solid UVP that is
consistent with the model. It is tight and focused, and will work as it
is. However, to improve it from good to great: Avoid buzzwords. “Wealth
accumulation” is a buzzword in our industry. How can you reword this so
that everyone in your target market understands and can relate to it? Avoid jargon. “Small-business
owners” is jargon. A UVP works best when it meets the audience members in
a way they can relate to. Very few business owners think of themselves as
a “small-business owner.” They think of themselves as part of an industry,
as an entrepreneur or through other criteria they can relate to personally and
emotionally. If this could be more specific (like dry cleaners or franchise
owners or chiropractors), it would be stronger. 

What’s the biggest concern? Is feeling
“behind in saving for retirement” the deepest concern of the target group? Is
this the group’s strongest pain? A UVP works when it touches a hot button.
In this case, many entrepreneurs are so focused on the survival of their
business that they aren’t thinking about a retirement savings plan. They
imagine that they’ll fund their retirement out of the sale of their business.
To make this UVP truly great, consider taking a closer look at your target
market and make sure you have found the hottest button to push.A great UVP is always about the target
audience, its members’ pain and their needs rather than the features and
benefits of the advisor’s practice. As marketing guru Jay Abraham reminds us,
“It’s not about you. It’s all about them.” Advisors limit the motivational force of their UVP when
they describe their valuable services rather than speak to the
emotional needs of a particular group of people
.Keeping the UVP “all about them” is
important. When forming your new UVP, return to the fundamental questions: Who
(specifically) is the target group? And what (specifically) is the group’s
greatest concern? 

In my experience, advisors almost always think about their UVP in terms of what
they have to offer rather than what the target clients are most interested in
. Keep returning to the needs of your potential target

Good UVP #3: I specialize in providing
comprehensive financial planning to successful business owners and executives
who are unable to devote the time necessary to ensure their financial goals and
dreams are being most effectively met.
This is a good UVP and will work effectively
to start a conversation. It could be better in some important ways: Avoid generalities and jargon. You probably
already noticed the generalities and jargon in this message: “comprehensive
financial planning,” “business owners” and “the time necessary.” Being too
busy is a very general problem shared to some extent by most successful people.A great UVP deals with specifics and
pain—a specific solution to a particular problem that a certain group of people

Great UVP #1: I provide monetization
strategies for owners of closely held corporations who are interested in
liquidating some of their ownership and have concerns about taxes.
Notice the specifics: not just business
owners but owners of “closely held corporations who are interested in
liquidating,” and not just financial services but “monetization strategies”
that address “concerns about taxes.”Great UVP #2: I provide asset protection
strategies for anesthesiologists who are concerned about litigation and
the loss of personal wealth.
I’ve found that many advisors worry about
getting too specific because they fear that the group of potential clients they
will attract may be too small. This is a mistake, because you need only 10
to 20 new clients a year, each with $2 million to $5 million in investible
assets, to become extraordinarily successful. Think of your UVP as setting
you up to “own” a group. 

A Truly Great Unique Value Proposition Should
Specific: The more you specify a
business or industry or situation, the more you can define the painful problems
the investor is likely to have
. Technology start-ups are really different
from multigenerational family businesses. Each of these business owners will
have different needs and will engage the Financial Advisor on different

Different: Detach from what you know and
what everyone else is doing. Create something truly unusual. The idea of a UVP
is to think very differently from everybody else, and that starts with getting
clear about the needs of a particular group of highly desirable clients and
defining what causes them the most pain.  

Focused: Prospective clients
and referral advocates don’t have the time or emotional energy to listen to a
long, rambling self-description. A unique value proposition should be no more
than a sentence or two.  

Unique: Ask the questions “Can anyone
else make this claim?” and “Can a prospective client find this/hear this
elsewhere?” A UVP points to a particular expertise that distinguishes your
business from similar providers. 

Relevant: For example, one client team
included in their UVP that they provided refreshments at every client meeting,
as evidence of their hospitality and concern for their clients’ well-being. It
was very nice that this group provided a beverage service to their clients, and
I’m sure their clients value this extra, personalized touch. I wish more
advisory practices would do this; it’s easy to do and makes a great impression.
However, I doubt a prospective client would select his or her new advisor
because a beverage service was provided. This information has no place in
a great UVP.A UVP should point to a unique, compelling
and valuable dimension of what your advisory practice delivers that will make a prospective client
say, “I need to find out more about that group—they sound like they specialize
in my situation.”

As a way to sharpen your assessment of your
current UVP, I offer here a “test” for a great marketing statement: Imagine
that you have written the UVP in big, block letters on a white billboard out on
the highway. All you get to write is the UVP and your telephone
number. Imagine that lots of people will look at the billboard every day.
Would anyone call?Unique. Specific. Valuable. Motivating.
That’s a great UVP.Ken Haman is the Managing Director at the
AllianceBernstein Advisor Institute,

 Going from Good to Great With the Right Unique Value Proposition

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