articulating what we do
Growing up, I was told my grandfather was a financial planner. He had a thousand clients and hit a home run - or was it a grand slam? - with some Chinese stock. Or so the legend goes.
I was also taught about how much my grandfather cared for people - his clients, his neighbors, his family. Based on my early memories of him and the stories I’ve heard over the years, I am confident he served his clients with integrity and to the best of his abilities with the resources available to him. However, I’m not sure "financial planner" accurately describes the work he was doing - at least as I understand comprehensive financial planning today.
Titles on Titles on Titles
After becoming a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, working as a financial planner, and now promoting the fee-for-service model at AdvicePay, I can confidently say we do not have clear definitions or distinctions for various titles across the industry. To be fair, I probably could have told you that before even entering the industry!
Our industry uses various titles to describe various levels of service with very little consistency.
Whether a consumer or employee of the financial services industry, it can be confusing. Like my grandfather, many are doing their best within the confines of their company, what they know, and the language they were taught to use.
How do we communicate clearly to our clients?
With the lack of clarity among those of us who work in the industry, imagine how those outside the industry feel. When a prospect decides to commit to an ongoing relationship with you, they are likely either entering into a relationship with a financial planner for the first time or are changing financial planners due to a poor experience elsewhere. It is then up to each financial planner to clearly explain to prospects and clients the value of financial planning in a way that is specific to your firm, the clients you work with, the services you offer, and the fees you charge. The process can vary from firm to firm, but it should be absolutely clear to anyone who decides to work with you.
Three Major Components to Communicate
When it comes to explaining the value of financial planning to your clients, I think there are three major components to clearly communicate:
1. Who you serve.
2. What problems you solve.
3. What your process looks like.
Who Do You Serve?
Prospects should know who you work with. Better yet, explain why you work with that niche of clients. This helps tell your story and show your passion for their concerns. Ask a few questions and then listen. What brought them to your office? Does this align with the types of clients you work with?
|PROFESSION||Doctors, teachers, military personnel|
|VALUES||Religious affiliation, philanthropists, socially-responsible investors|
|INCOME OR ASSETS||Couples making at least six figures; families with investable assets of at least $500,000|
|STAGE OF LIFE||Pre-retirees, business owners about to sell, recent widows or inheritors|
What Problems Do You Solve?
Prospects should know which problems you can help solve - and which you can’t or don’t solve. Highlight the primary issues you help clients solve. Keep in mind that saying you do “comprehensive financial planning” probably won’t resonate because prospects don’t know what that means. I find it’s a good idea to provide a list of all the services you offer.
When clients know all that you do, it reduces the chances that they make a financial decision without consulting you. They also may be more likely to refer a prospect who could use your help. You want clients to say, “Let’s call Lucy. Lucy does that.”
|CLIENT PROBLEMS YOU MAY ADDRESS|
|Paying Off Student Loans||Buying a House|
Budget and Cash Flow Management
|Social Security Elections|
|Employee Benefit Reviews||Tax Planning||Estate Planning|
|Executive Compensation Planning||Insurance Reviews|
What Does Your Process Look Like?
In addition to the type of work you do, prospects and clients should have a clear idea of what the process looks like in practice.
- What information does the client need to provide to get started?
- How many meetings will you have in the first year?
- How does this change in future years?
- What do those meetings typically entail?
- Where do meetings take place?
- How long do meetings last?
- What deliverables do you provide?
- What technology will the client need to set up?
- How should a client reach out when something comes up between meetings?
- How much does it cost to be a client?
- How do they pay you?
- Are there any others fees or expenses, to you or anyone else?
Make sure prospects know there is significant work required upfront on their end. Set expectations so they aren’t overwhelmed, and acknowledge the progress they are making throughout the process. Help them understand that the benefits of delegating to a financial planner can only be seen after their financial planner has all of the financial information they need to do their job.
Doing What’s Best for Prospects, Clients, and the Industry
Like my grandfather, most of us are out there trying to what’s best for our clients. As a financial planner, you have a tremendous opportunity to clearly communicate the value of financial planning. As you describe your unique process, you can find the ideal clients for your business and, as needed, refer prospects to another financial planner better suited to their needs.
While the titles we use can be confusing, clear messaging around who you serve, what you do, and how you work, including how you get paid, can add significant clarity and value to your prospects and clients. They may have never experienced true financial planning before and you have the opportunity, even the privilege, to show them.
Download our free resource, Client Communication Prep Sheet: Three Questions to Address When Sharing the Value of Your Financial Planning Services.
Review your client communication practices for on-boarding and client renewals, and ensure you're setting yourself and your clients up for a successful, long-term relationship.
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