A question raised by many marketers and business experts is how you – the business person – differentiate yourself from others in the same business. Why should or would a customer choose you over someone else?
One aspect of the RIA business where an adviser might demonstrate an approach or service that sets the adviser apart from others in the business is that of client financial plans and planning. In context of planning, the range of service runs from no planning offered to cookie cutter plans to custom, with many levels between. Clearly there is a lot of difference here, but at the low end of the range that is unlikely to attract customers.
Looking more closely at those advisers offering planning, if the plan is actually tailored to a particular client, then it is by definition not precisely cookie cutter. But to be truly custom in the planning offered, would an adviser need to be a craftsman, something more than simply being able to put an individual client’s information into the black box (planning software or spreadsheet) and come up with something to present to the client? If the adviser typically does the same thing for each client, using the personal information and financials of course but doing little more than advising what approximate level of spending for a particular period of retirement, that seems to be little more than cookie cutter planning with a gloss of client information.
Would truly custom planning involve something like taking the time to educate the client about the choices available and the meaning of different decisions? So the client is involved in the making of a plan that reflects what the client wants/needs and is premised on the client’s informed choices and participation. The idea of education would suggest a craft practiced by that adviser. A craft involving the transmittal of knowledge and understanding to the client so the client can better be prepared, understand, accept and implement.
Clients can understand if an adviser is doing something more than simply doing a business transaction with the planning offered. An adviser that goes further, educating the client in the process of creating the advice, will be able to differentiate the adviser’s product from that offered by others.