There are no USPs when it comes to financial planning or advice.
Actually, let me caveat that. During more than 25 years in this profession, I’ve never seen a genuine USP. There might be a firm out there that has one. I’ve just not found them yet.
And let’s be frank, in a market where demand often exceeds supply, firms don’t need USPs. That said, as you strive to take on the right type of new clients, you should always look to differentiate yourself from peers and worthy rivals (thanks to Simon Sinek for that concept).
When we ask advisers and planners what makes them different there’s often a striking similarity to the answers:
C’mon these are hygiene factors! They’re table stakes. We can do better.
To be fair it’s a tough question to answer and, in many ways, it’s similar to that awful interview question about strengths and weaknesses. If we think about it, though, there are many ways for advisers and planners to differentiate themselves from the majority. For example:
- Holding Corporate Chartered or Accredited status (having both is an even bigger differentiator)
- Publishing fees online (only 5% of firms do this)
- Charging fixed fees for ongoing advice
- Demonstrating great outcomes for clients (so many firms believe this job is done by adding a testimonials page to their website. It isn’t!)
- Focusing on the delivery of financial wellbeing.
It’s the last of these which we’ll focus on today.
A marketing gimmick or genuinely delivering?
The importance of delivering financial wellbeing to consumers has been raised over the past few years. The Initiative for Financial Wellbeing’s (IFW) five criteria is becoming widely accepted as being the definition of financial wellbeing.
However, that’s not stopped some firms expediently slapping a wellbeing badge onto existing propositions and marketing, without fundamentally changing anything about what they deliver for clients.
So, how do firms that genuinely practice financial wellbeing prove that’s what they do?
For us, there are two key ways:
- Submit their business to the IFW’s audit to prove that they deliver financial wellbeing.
- Develop social proof, ideally through client videos, to demonstrate the results of delivering financial wellbeing to their clients.
Proving and publicising that you deliver financial wellbeing
We’re all aware of the long-standing accreditations such as Corporate Chartered status. However, the IFW’s financial wellbeing audit will be new to many people reading this. So, we asked Chris Budd, the IFW’s chairman, to explain more.
“The IFW exists to provide a pathway to help individuals and firms deliver a financial wellbeing-oriented planning approach; one that is focused on helping clients to be happier, not just wealthier.
“We’re aware that financial wellbeing has been adopted in some companies’ marketing, but not their practices. It’s important that a member of the public who is sold the idea of financial wellbeing actually gets what they’ve been promised.
“So, to help firms prove that they are delivering financial wellbeing, we’ve introduced the audit, which sees the firm assessed on whether they are delivering on the five key areas of financial wellbeing. Those that pass can use the IFW’s logo on their website and in their wider marketing. Importantly, those that fail get a pathway to improving their delivery of financial wellbeing and ultimately passing the audit.
“For individual advisers and planners, who want to develop their skills and prove that they deliver financial wellbeing, we offer the ‘financial wellbeing certificate’, a six-week, 18-hour training program written by myself with contributions from others including Phil Bray, and delivered by Quiver Management.”
Over the past few months, we’ve recommended that several firms put themselves through the IFW’s audit process to prove that they deliver financial wellbeing.
Assuming they pass, we’ll use the accreditation in their marketing.
- It’ll be displayed, and explained, on their website.
- We’ll talk about financial wellbeing in the content we produce for them.
- It’ll be a key theme on their social media channels.
- Social proof will focus on the delivery of financial wellbeing to their clients.
- We’ll update their VouchedFor profiles with the new accreditation.
A word about VouchedFor
From next month, it’s reported that firms who pass will be able to add their IFW audit on VouchedFor, and individuals can add the certificates to their profiles.
This is great news. It’ll help consumers identify firms who are genuinely delivering financial wellbeing, not just claiming to. It’s also a fantastic example of VouchedFor embracing new ideas and helping to promote planning and wellbeing to consumers.
Chris Budd again: “By including the audit for firms, and certificate for individuals on a directory, we are enabling the public to select advisers and planners based on whether they will be focused on improving the wellbeing of their clients, and not just adding the words ‘financial wellbeing’ onto their website.”
Prove then publicise
You shouldn’t start marketing financial wellbeing without proving you deliver it.
So, start by submitting your firm to the IFW’s accreditation process. Click here (and scroll down to the bottom of the page) to learn more, including the cost.
Next, build your social proof, focusing on client videos, to get your clients to show the benefits of achieving financial wellbeing. That’s where we can help. If you’d like to know more about our client stories starter package email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300.