Financial professionals have always considered themselves to be in the relationship business. The image of the small town insurance agent who knows everyone (and everyone’s business) is deeply ingrained into our minds. They were one of the pillars of the community and they were trusted advisors – often because they were the only source of information for their clients.
But the world has changed. Whether someone lives in a rural town or a booming metropolis, they are only a few mouse clicks away from a wealth of information on products, markets, and prices. Your customers don’t have to rely on you anymore, they can sit in front of their computer or pull out their smart phones. When the seller has most of the information, it’s called information asymmetry, and in the world of financial services, information asymmetry is a thing of the past.
So if you are a financial professional, you are now in a commodity business whether you like it or not. Customers can buy insurance policies and stocks online – without ever talking to a live person. They don’t need you – you are luxury. If you know your economics (and my guess is you do), you know that prices for commodities fall to a point where there’s almost no marginal profit. Not a fun business to be in.
How can you compete if you can’t set yourself apart by your access to information? You get back to basics: You build your business the traditional way… you build relationships. You become not only a trusted advisor, but a valuable one – an advisor that helps your clients make the best decisions possible. You work to understand their specific needs so well that you become indispensable. You know what they need more than they do… and then you let them know that you know more than they do (in a nice way).
Ironically, one of the best ways to do that is by using the same technology that leavened the playing field… social media. Tools like LinkedIn, blogs, and your website become the platforms where you can share your unique perspective. It’s where you demonstrate your brand – who you help and how you help them.
When looking at how to share your message, you first have to decide what message you are going to share. There are two steps to this. The first is to decide exactly who you are going to work with – who your target audience is. You can’t know how to help everybody, so pick the group that you want to work with. Ignore the impulse to say, “anyone with a pulse”. It’s hard to be a generalist these days when there are so many options. Your clients want someone who knows them and their specific issues – think of the niches that attorneys fill (tax, family, corporate, etc.). Then think of the “special sauce” that you can bring to the table. How can you help them? Everybody is going around trying to solve their own individual problems; what are the experiences, perspectives, and skills that you can bring to bear on their case?
Once you know who you want to work with and what you want to share, the last question is “Are you willing to put yourself out there?” Are you willing to be profersonal™ and let your prospects and clients get to know you (more on that in part 2)? Once you’ve made the decision to bring your personality and unique perspective into your marketing, you can really hone in on sharing who you are. And in the next article, we’ll look at how to share this message on a tactical level. Using the LinkedIn profile as our canvas, we can look at ways that you can communicate your personality in a professional and effective way.