by Tony Vidler
To the typical consumer all professionals are approximately the same, unless there is a clear brand that stands for something which matters to them personally, or a clearly articulated value proposition which promises an outcome that they want.
Any two financial advisers are, to the typical consumer who knows neither of them, about the same. Both have letters after their names (hopefully); both use the same sorts of titles and jargon; both are presumably properly licensed and all that sort of thing; both promise broadly the same solutions….so there is no obvious difference between them really.
So guess what consumers use as their decision-making guidelines if two professionals appear to be basically the same?
Which one charges less?
This becomes an easy selection tool when all else appears equal. After all, it is how consumers compare everything else in the market…it is their reliable comparator to determine obvious value. When this happens, the adviser just became a commodity. No discernible point of difference or perceived higher value offering, so they are simply selected (or not selected) on the basis of price like any other disposable product or service.
If the two planners charge about the same, which often happens dues to competitive forces, what does the consumer use as their next comparison point?
Who is the closest? ….or, who has more/better parking? ….or, who works more convenient hours? ….or, who will come and visit me “after hours”?
…..this is how consumers decide which of the two is most suitable when competing advisers appear to do basically the same thing and cost basically the same amount of money.
If the two planners are about equal in all respects, including convenience, then a bit more work is required by the consumer. So they tend to go to what they can trust most:
Who do they know who uses you? …or, who has provided testimonials and endorsements? ….or, who are you connected to professionally who is someone they know of or trust? or, what sort of clients do they work with?
….the consumers look for common connections where it makes it easier or less risky for them to have some trust that this particular professional might be the right one.
However…a strong value proposition branding can relegate these decision making points to being secondary issues. It can remove the commoditisation from the process of selecting a “right” adviser.
If a professional has a clear market positioning or specialty area, with authority and great positioning it separates them from the other professionals. If there is a clear client benefit – or value proposition – which is easily understandable and different it makes the choice even easier. If the entity – whether that is a personal or a corporate brand – is identifiable or memorable, it becomes even easier for the consumer to choose.
These are the essential elements of building a “brand” in the marketplace, and a great brand will eliminate commoditisation. Without great branding that involves a clear position, a clear value proposition, and a memorable identity, you are just about the same as every other professional.
The most critical element of branding though is building the value proposition, because even if the positioning and identity are not quite right or not fully developed, the value proposition alone can eliminate the commoditisation aspects.
Without it, you are left with little choice but to compete on price and convenience and the like – and that is hard work!