Differentiating Your Value: People Make the Difference

Foundational to attracting and retaining new clients is the need to consistently articulate, demonstrate and validate your value. In a commoditized industry, there are fewer ways to differentiate your value, yet nearly all financial practitioners are seeking business growth. So how do you stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Financial professionals often seem to get lost in a sea of sameness with all marketing mediums, such as websites or brochures, looking and sounding alike. Think for a moment on just how commoditized the industry has become—almost any financial professional can replicate your what and your how, but it’s much harder to steal your why, your who or the experience that you deliver.

Let’s begin with what’s easy to replicate or steal:

Your WHAT—Solutions

Clients can buy similar products and solutions from almost any company on the street or, indeed, online (a financial plan, funds, stocks, bonds, insurance, annuities, etc.) The type and the size of firm are no longer nearly as relevant as they were two decades ago where you had to go to certain institutions to purchase particular products. Today, those solutions and products can be “purchased” anywhere regardless of whether you are a planning-centric firm, a brokerage-centric firm, an insurance-centric firm or a bank.

Your HOW—Process

Almost all financial professionals have a process that begins with discovery and includes recommendations, implementation, monitoring and ongoing communication. Many will use a visual of some sort in their marketing materials but generally, the process itself is very similar regardless of where a client goes to seek financial advice.

Reality reflects that what you provide and how you work with clients can be replicated almost anywhere.

So now, let’s look at today’s opportunities to create the real differential in this industry:

Your WHY

Your personal why, your team why and the signature story that you all articulate is much harder to steal—it is unique. Financial professionals enter the industry and stay in the industry for differing reasons. Drivers and motivators vary for each human; purpose and beliefs are personal and distinct. Simon Sinek is a fantastic resource on the subject of why; watching his TED Talk or reading his book may be instrumental for you and your team in creating this distinction for your practice. And, if you need to work on your story and positioning, we recommend contacting Susan and Adam Kornegay, fellow consultants in the FPA Coaches Corner.

Your WHO—the Client

The type of clientele that you serve can also be a differentiator. Those who have become specialists in niche marketing have created a distinction from those who serve anyone or, those who qualify prospects purely through a financial-minimum! Perhaps you serve “cardiologists in the U.S.” or, “female small business owners” or “C-suite executives in the Southeast.” The more specific your tribe or your niche, the more likely you are to become known for what you do and subsequently differentiate yourself from others in financial services.

Your WHO—the Team

Building a team of professionals can also be differentiating. The industry has been revolutionized from the sole practitioner model to teams. Teams can be small or large each with varying specialists, knowledge, experience, credentials, backgrounds, passions and interests. Your associates and what they bring to the table can play a remarkable role in differentiating your practice.

There are vertical teams, horizontal teams and hybrid teams all offering something a little different. As you talk with clients, prospects and centers of influence within the communities that you serve, ask yourself if you are maximizing your team members. Are you appropriately positioning all the expertise you offer to your clients? Are clients building a trusted relationship with all members of your team? Do you have any gaps of coverage that you need to address? Should you consider expanding your team? Your team can create a tremendous differential for your practice!


The experience that you deliver to clients, prospects and centers of influence can create a unique differential that no one can replicate. Your experience should take into consideration every emotion a client can FEEL when interacting with your team—whether in-person, on the phone or online. Remember Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Consider your environment; step into the shoes of a client or prospect. What feelings do you and your team evoke throughout each encounter of your client experience? We recommend that you have a service menu of deliverables for each segment of clientele and that you systematize all repeated activities on the back end of your practice so that you have time and capacity to deliver a customized experience on the front end.

Ensuring your client experience is memorable is critical to differentiating your value. Your standards of care will have a tremendous impact on client retention and on the pace at which you grow. In part, we speak so often on the team experience because without an impactful internal experience, your associates will unlikely deliver a differentiating external experience to your clients.

As you read through this article, you will quickly notice that it is the people who really create the distinction in your business—it is rarely the products, solutions, the process or the numbers. We encourage you to meet with your team and further explore the question, “Why should I do business with you/your practice?” Do you have a compelling answer that differentiates you from the competition? Are you focusing on the right elements? Does your client base understand the totality of your value? Do your centers of influence know what makes you different and why they should send you referrals?

Knowing your value and distinction is just the beginning. You will then need to make sure you position your practice correctly in a way that stands out, and, most importantly, the team needs to consistently live your value. In this increasingly complex yet commoditized world, it is more important than ever to articulate, demonstrate and validate your value. When clients and prospects understand what makes you unique and then personally and consistently experience those elements, retention increases and growth enters a new trajectory through an increase in both the quality and quantity of introductions.

Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions. They are FPA Coaches Corner coaches for team development. See other resources from them in the FPA Coaches Corner.

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