How People Talk About Financial Planners (and what to do about it)

It’s the question you secretly dread:

“So, what do you do for a living?”

You should be delighted that someone’s showing an interest in your passion.

But the problem is, you’ve been here before. You know how it ends.

Pushing your doubts aside, you launch into an explanation, all the while waiting for that inevitable moment…

That moment when her eyes glaze over and you can practically read her thoughts.

She’s wishing she’d never asked.

She forces a smile. “I guess it’s nice to be a financial planner.”

And a tiny part of your dream dies.

So what’s the problem here? Is it you, or people’s opinions about financial planning?

If you’re struggling to spark people’s interest in our beautiful profession too, there’s a good chance it’s both.

But fortunately for you, there’s a simple solution…

A couple of weeks ago I asked three of my best friends a very simple question:

“What do you think I do as a financial planner?”

The answers:

  • Mortgage advice
  • You’re helping people with investing
  • I don’t have a clue, really

OMG.

It turns out that my (seemingly) smart friends don’t know what I do for a living.

And worse… they’re not reading my posts either.

Why Positioning Helps

So, you are a financial planner.

And in the minds of your target audience, financial product advisors are too.

As well as robo-advisors.

As well as investment advisors.

As well as insurance advisors.

As well as wealth managers.

Do I need to go on?

It seems that almost everybody claims to be a financial planner.

So how on earth can people know the difference?

The answer?

They can’t.

Therefore it’s crucial your clients-to-be have a strong reason to choose you, instead of another product-advisor.

That's why in a crowded financial-planning-o-sphere, correct “positioning” of your service is key.

But what is positioning?

Positioning is a powerful marketing concept relating to the place a business, product – or your financial planning service – automatically occupies in the mind of the target audience.

And we’re all affected by positioning whether we like it or not. Consider the following examples:

  • You hear “luxury watch” – you think… Rolex.
  • You hear “Italian sports car” – you think…Ferrari.
  • You hear “financial planning blogging guru” – you think… Ronald…

Just kidding … 🙂

Strong positioning helps you make a powerful first impression by clearly communicating what your financial planning service is about and who it’s for.

5 Simple Signs Your Financial Planning Service is Not Well Positioned…

Let’s say your financial planning service is about helping people reach their financial goals. (Why? Because almost every financial planner claims to do that…although it’s really bad positioning.)

But still, that doesn’t seem to resonate with the target audience you’re serving.

Could it be that your service is poorly positioned?

Here are some signs to look out for.

Sign #1: You Struggle to Explain Financial Planning to Other People

Suppose you are at a networking event, standing at the bar. You meet a journalist covering 10 emerging financial advisors to watch. You proudly mention you are a financial planner.

The journalist asks the question.  (You know, the one you dread.)

You have seconds to pitch yourself. This could lead to the big break you so desperately need.

JOURNALIST: So, what do you do exactly?

YOU: I’m a financial planner. I help people reach their financial goals.

JOURNALIST: Really? Sounds good. Tell me more.

YOU: I help people arrange their financial affairs in such a way as to enable them to better achieve what they want with their money.

JOURNALIST: OK. Well, that sounds great. Hey, are those California rolls?

What went wrong?

It’s possible you haven’t nailed down exactly what your financial planning service is about. Or you have, but you can’t explain it.

Sign #2: People don’t notice your financial planning service

Why?

Because they aren’t looking.

They aren’t looking because there is too much to look at and not enough time to take it all in. For years and years people have been brainwashed by the financial services industry to believe in… the financial product.

The billboard says: “Low mortgage rate and great service.”

The advertisement says: “Think no one’s lending? Think again”

The banner says: “Free iPad at mortgage closing.”

The commercial says: “It’s your money. Invest it wisely.”

The effect of these product-push-tactics is that most of your (potential) clients now have a very simple default frame: if it’s not remarkable or exceptional, ignore it. If you are selling your financial planning service by focusing on the product, your client’s default frame is: decline.

Making your financial planning service better doesn’t help. Because most people won’t bother noticing it. However, there might be a few who do notice.

Sign #3: People who notice it, don’t try it

They are “just looking”.

It’s the way people surf the net. They rarely click on anything. Rarely stay on a website for long.

However, there are lots of people who are dying to try your financial planning service. Those who are tired of the product-pushing. Tired of the disappointment of dealing with someone who doesn’t really care about them.

These are the people you need to seek out with your story. At least at first.

Sign #4: They don’t become loyal clients

While those people try your service, they don’t come back for more. The very same bias that pushed them to try your financial planning service is pushing them to try someone else’s tomorrow.

So tell me, do you deliver a financial product or do you deliver a remarkable experience?

Your service grows when it makes people feel that you are the answer to their prayers. However, there can only be growth when people tell their friends.

Sign #5: They don’t tell their friends

Why are voters uncomfortable recommending a political candidate to a stranger?

Why don’t people ask their friends to give money to their favorite charity?

I believe the answer to these questions are the same as why people don’t refer your financial planning service. And it has nothing to do with trust, fee, service, your experience, or qualifications. In fact, it isn’t about you at all.

Instead, it’s all about them.

Your clients.

It’s all about people’s bias about what they feel comfortable sharing- and not sharing. Sure, it’s easy to share a funny YouTube video. But how does your client feel about sharing a financial planning service?

The Essential Characteristic of an Exquisitely Positioned Financial Planning Service

Have you ever woken up at 3:00 a.m. with the perfect retort to a question?

Let’s rewind to the journalist-conversation with the benefit of careful positioning…

JOURNALIST: So, what do you do exactly?

YOU: I help people with their financial situation from A to Z. I paint a picture of their financial situation today and a movie about their financial situation in the future. So that they can see the impact of their financial decisions before they make them.

I do this by questioning intently, listening carefully, and acting with integrity.

I do this by changing what people want.

I do this by getting deep and talking about what their money is really for.

I do this by figuring out how people created their money story, figuring out if it truly is the one that is good for them and if not, coaching them into a new way of being.

I do this by finding out what they’re really afraid of and addressing that – sometimes over and over again. Actually, almost always over and over again.

It’s a very real partnership. I’m with people on this journey. I’m responsible for my recommendations. I’ll help people get there. Or I’ll tell them that we need to change their “there” to something else if they want to have any hope of achieving it.

JOURNALIST: Really? Wow, that sounds fascinating. Would you be willing to do an interview?

Now. What makes this positioning work?

IT’S MEMORABLE, NOT GENERIC

Why this works?

Well, answer this question:

Do you think that people consider the financial services industry “memorable” in the positive sense of the word?

I’m pretty sure most people don’t.

Why?

Because most financial planners seem to do what we’ve always done, sell what we’ve always sold and deliver services like we’ve always delivered.

And that’s the problem.

The old rule was: create safe, ordinary services and combine it with great marketing.

The new rule is: create memorable services that the right people seek out

Unfortunately, most financial planners don’t act on this new rule.

That’s why I’m going to help you.

How to Craft A Message That Gets to the Heart of Your Financial Planning Service

Remember my seemingly smart friends?

Since my moment of insight, I’ve been working on a small exercise that enhances your (and my) positioning. It’s something that allows you to experiment with your positioning.

In a safe environment. So that you don’t look like a fool in front of your audience.

It boils down to this…

Pick a non-financial-planner-good-friend who you think might be looking for more clients (in another industry) as well, and ask the following two questions:

  1. Who would you like me to introduce you to?
  2. What would you like me to say to them?

Don’t let them off the hook with either question.

The answer to question #1 should be clear enough that you immediately think of one or more people you know who fit the description, OR you think you know somebody who might.

The answer to question #2 should be something remarkable. Something memorable. Something relevant to the target person. Something that would pique the target person’s interest.

If your friend gives you an answer that makes you scrunch up your face, ask them to try again and again until what they’re saying finally makes sense to you.

In other words, keep going until your face unscrunches.

In my experience doing this with 12 people in the last couple weeks, it takes about three or four rounds of back and forth before the unscrunch happens.

Once you understand who your friend would like to be introduced to and what they’d like you to say, tell them how you’d actually introduce them to someone.

Make it conversational. It should be utterly factual and very brief. The slightest whiff of marketing speak or superlatives or stilted language will ruin it.

Here’s an example template:

“Hi <name1>!

FYI – My friend <name> does <thing> for <industry>. We were just chatting and s/he mentioned that s/he helped <industryLeader> <hugeWin>. Would you like an intro?”

Now it’s your turn.

Reverse roles. Have your friend ask you the same two questions, go through the same scrunch/unscrunch brainstorming, and have them draft a conversational intro.

There are many benefits to this exercise. Here are three:

  • It’s private. You’re not changing anything in public. To make the exercise feel even safer, you can agree in advance that you won’t actually make any introductions.
  • It’s realistic. This is not you sitting in a dark room thinking really hard about what your positioning should be. This is an outsider reflecting back to you how impenetrable and muddled your current financial planning messaging actually is. And it gives you an example of what it should look like if you want normal humans to understand what you do.
  • It’s experiential. It’s not an accident that I said to ask your friend the questions before they ask you. The experience of being on the receiving end of your friend’s soggy answers, and helping sharpen their focus into something useful will make you better at letting go of your own soggy mess and recognizing the benefits of a more focused position.

Please do give this a try with a friend if you haven’t already.

I’m confident that you’ll both end up with some valuable insights about how to better communicate the unique value of your financial planning service to the world.

Let’s Position Your Financial Planning Service for the Runaway Success It Deserves

You may feel that positioning is a marketing gimmick, not a valuable financial planning tool.

But a poorly positioned financial planning service fails you and your audience.

Because you don’t get the recognition you deserve. And your audience doesn’t get the help and insight they need.

So, create a memorable message.

Pull yourself out of the quagmire of ill-defined, wishy-washy, financial planning services.

Create a message that will resonate with your audience, no matter how full the financial-planning-o-sphere is. You’ll find that more of your prospects start asking for your service.

In the real world, when you talk about your financial planning service, people’s eyes will start to light up, rather than glaze over.

And who knows, you may even start to look forward to that question:

‘WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?’

Please, answer this question by leaving your comment – here below in the comment section.

And if you’re searching for some inspiration, please check out this video:

Looking forward to YOUR answer to the question.

Thank you for that.

Let’s make financial planning matter.

-Ronald

Leave a Reply 6 comments

Jeff Reply

We run a financial planning practice that does two things: we help clients identify and fix their financial weaknesses and we help clients achieve their goals and objectives.

Dennis Edel Reply

Can I ask you a question?

Do you sometimes think about the future, and how it may look, or how you want it to look?

Well, I take that, and bring it forward to today. We pull it apart to make sure you’re going to get there. I make sure that all the moving parts are working together harmoniously to take you there on that journey.

Where improvements are required, we improve.

Then we check, and check again.

Some people call it Financial Planning.

That’s what I do.

Glenn Malkiewicz Reply

My aim is to gain a better understanding of you, help you identify your values & priorities and determine how I can assist you make better decisions and bring you closer to living your ideal life. This approach goes beyond financial planning and combines my techincal knowledge with Emotional Intelligence to help you achieve those life goals that are most important to you.

It’s an approach that provides Clarity, Insight, and Partnership. This approach:

1. Provides Clarity around the key planning issues you need to think about both today and into the future.

2. Where I provide my Insight, based on my own experiences and working with a team of experts, by having a deep understanding of your personal situation.

3. Finally, by providing you with Partnership as you move through the stages of your life, helping you update your plans for the future.

My value to clients comes from my mutal understanding of their life issues. What sets me apart is that I treat my client as a person, and not a portfolio or bank account. I know that what clients really want is for an adviser to ‘know me and my family, understand me, help me, simplify me, reduce my anxiety, de-clutter-me, and help me achieve what’s important to me’. The end result is that I help clients define and achieve the fulfilment and independence they seek in their lives

Allistar Walker Reply

We assist by clarifying any doubts you may have regarding your present financial position, and what you may need to do re positioning yourself for the financial future you can realistically afford.

Grey Reply

We help people live million dollar retirements

Michael Tadros Reply

I positively impact people’s lives

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