[Editor’s note: A big welcome to our guest blogger, Kristin Harad, CFP®, a financial planner who previously spent 14 years in financial services marketing.]
The few words you use to describe your practice can seem so simple that you may never have put much thought into what you say. But what you call yourself is vital for shaping how other people, especially prospective clients, view the services and value you offer.
Do you operate with the ‘take all comers’ philosophy of a generalist, as many planners do? Perhaps you feel that you should try to serve every prospect, so you describe yourself as broadly as possible using terms like “financial planner” or “Certified Financial Planner™ (professional)” or the nebulous “financial adviser.”
The problem with these words is that they force people to figure out what you really do and whom you best serve. Vague descriptors provide minimal insight into the value you provide. The person you’re talking to—a prospect, complementary service provider or even someone you’ve met at a party—has to work to ask the right follow-up questions to discover if you are a fit. Often, they won’t bother. If you are using ambiguous descriptors on your website, for example, you’ve lost the opportunity for ideal readers to learn more in the few seconds you have their attention.
Ironically, too many financial planning professionals are so concerned with missing out on a prospect that they let countless opportunities slip right past them without even realizing it. The generalist strategy is one of the least effective marketing strategies since clients rarely search for someone who can work with everyone; they seek professional expertise from someone who can help them solve their specific problems. When you describe yourself as a specialist, you have much higher odds of forming an immediate connection with the right prospects.
Take a moment to think about how this applies to other professionals. Are you more likely to refer business to the “lawyer” you just met or to the “divorce lawyer,” “real estate attorney” or “estate planner for new parents”? Will you want to know more about a person who “sells insurance” or the agent who tells you that she specializes in small business health plans, variable annuities or coverage for rocket launches?
Now think about your target market and the key services you sell. Craft a pithy descriptor that conveys the benefit you bring. Remember, the more specific you are, the more effective this will be. So while a financial planner “focused on clients preparing to retire” is a big improvement, a financial planner who “helps new retirees relax knowing they won’t outlive their income” squarely hits the nail on the head and will spark an enthusiastic conversation from anyone you meet who is pondering that issue.
Describing yourself so narrowly to everyone you meet may feel a bit counterintuitive. However, clearly categorizing what you do will attract the ‘perfect’ prospects who eagerly want to learn more.
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Founder and Principal
VitaVie Financial Planning
San Francisco, CA