In the quest to attract the “right” client and build a solid financial planning practice, it can appear difficult to differentiate yourself among the sea of financial advisers and find clients who need and want your specific services. According to Kristen Luke, principal of Wealth Management Marketing, establishing your competitive position and finding your target market are important elements in developing a successful and aligned practice. She says, “Advisers will be more successful identifying their business’ existing competitive position and then pinpointing a target market that naturally fits that position than to pick a market and force the business model to serve that market.”
Given there are many tools and techniques you can use to uncover your competitive offering and differentiated services, I’ll share one I think is a simple and effective visual mapping tool called the competitive offering matrix. I use a modified version of this technique as part of my due diligence process when evaluating investment opportunities and find it works well for evaluating market positions and strategies for a variety of businesses, including financial planning services.
Below is a sample matrix comparing various competitive traits in the financial planning industry. I’ve mapped a hypothetical sample practice against a hypothetical competitor and wirehouse adviser. In this example, the sample practice has strong differentiation within their fee structure and their high level of professional autonomy. Hypothetical competitor A has strength in high technology and the quantitative space. The wirehouse adviser has an advantage of having a large amount of professional resources.
Once you have established your competitive position, it will be a little easier to identify what types of clients should be your target. For example, if you are not comparatively tech savvy and have a more formal client relationship, going after young software engineers may not be the best match for your service offering. However, the retirement demographic may be ideal for your service and product mix.I recommend customizing the competitive topics to reflect what you feel is most relevant. The key is to modify the tool so that it provides you a meaningful way to assess your business offerings to determine your key target market.
The competitive offering matrix also provides a basis for marketing content and service improvement. Your comparative strengths provide for excellent marketing material, and the areas of perceived weakness can be identified as areas for business improvement.
The best thing about the competitive offering matrix is that it doesn’t judge. Are casual client relations better than formal relations? No, just different. Does being high-tech mean your services are better? No, just different. It is precisely those differences that make you and your services unique, and make you valuable to your target market.
Independent Portfolio Services, Temecula, Calif.