"What Do You Do?": Compelling Value Propositions for Financial Advisors

As your advisory practice grows, you will find yourself having more and more conversations about what it is you do. These conversations are key to growing your network, your client base, and ultimately your business, so it’s important that you can describe your practice clearly, confidently, and concisely.

As your advisory practice grows, you will find yourself having more and more conversations about what it is you do. These conversations are key to growing your network, your client base, and ultimately your business, so it’s important that you can describe your practice clearly, confidently, and concisely.

If you can articulate the value you bring to the table, and if you can do so in a way that differentiates you from your competition, these conversations become much easier. Plus, it makes your marketing efforts more effective, from designing your business cards to writing your website copy.

In this guide, we will look at examples of how to articulate your value proposition as a financial advisor (answering the question, “What do you do?”), as well as how to form your unique selling proposition (answering the question, “Why should I work with you, specifically?”).

Value propositions for financial advisors

A value proposition is a simple statement of what you provide to your clients. Most companies have a generic value proposition built into their business category. For example:

  • Grocery stores provide value to consumers by giving them a single place to buy different types of packaged goods in consumer quantities. (Otherwise, people would have to create relationships with dairies, produce providers, and large CPG brands themselves.)
  • Dentists provide value to patients by cleaning and inspecting mouths in ways that consumers wouldn’t otherwise have the means, equipment, and expertise to do.
  • Law offices provide value to clients by renting out their knowledge of law and policy, saving clients the time and effort of learning to practice law (and avoiding the costs of accidentally handling things illegally).

Likewise, in the financial advice space, the value you provide to your clients comes from several generic sources. These sources fall into two major buckets: financial value and extra-financial value.

Financial value vs. extra-financial value

Financial value is the most straightforward benefit you provide. It simply refers to the ROI that your clients realize through working with you. This includes generating returns, avoiding losses, managing and optimizing deposit limits, etc.

Extra-financial value is more expansive. This refers to all the “extra” benefits that someone enjoys besides the ROI—it’s what some financial advisors have begun to refer to as ROL, or “return on life.” This includes value sources such as:

  • Planning: objectively envisioning what your clients can accomplish. Your clients can be inspired to change their investing, spending, and saving habits simply because you helped them set a vision and make a plan to realize it. This can create feelings of confidence and security that could be difficult to come by otherwise.
  • Organization: helping your clients know if they’re on track. By organizing your clients’ financial lives, you give them the assurance that at any point in time, they can quickly check in to see if they’re on track to meet their goals. You also make it much easier for them to access information they need for tax reporting, estate planning, and other wealth management activities.
  • Accountability: keeping your clients on track. Just like a personal trainer holds their clients accountable for reaching their fitness goals, you’re the voice that reminds and encourages your clients to work toward their financial goals.
  • Expertise: educating and counseling your clients. You’re the financial expert, so your clients don’t need to stay abreast of the stock market, monetary policy, fiscal policy, inflation, and the like if they don’t want to. Instead, you keep them informed on what they need to know, and you’re available to educate them on what they want to know.

Almost every financial advisory practice will provide value through a blend of what we’ve listed above. However, that blend will vary from advisor to advisor. Some advisors will be stronger at building tailored plans, while others will focus more on client education. So while all advisors more or less provide value from the same sources, individual value propositions will vary from practice to practice.

How to write your value proposition

Writing a value proposition should be a simple process. The statement doesn’t need to be fancy, and it can be as long or brief as you want. But some criteria separate a useful value proposition from a useless one:

  • It should be easy for your audience to understand. Unless your target market is the extremely financially literate, you should avoid technical in-speak.
  • It should be easy for you to remember. Although you can use your value proposition for multiple marketing purposes (more on that later), your value proposition will help you most if it can simply answer the question, “What do you do?” As an RIA, you don’t want to come up with a new answer to that question every time someone asks it. Your value proposition should be your immediate, go-to response.
  • It should sound natural. Don’t treat your value proposition like a composition assignment. Use words that you would use in a regular conversation. Instead of “I optimize and organize my clients’ portfolios so as to maximize return on investment and realize their financial goals,” you might try, “I help people set financial goals, get their finances in order, and keep them on track for reaching their goals.”
  • It should be verifiable. If someone asks you if you have examples or if they ask how your offerings work, you should be able to naturally bring up real-life scenarios that explain or illustrate the value you provide.

Example value propositions for financial advisors

Your value proposition needs to communicate the benefit you provide to your clients and how you provide that value. Here are some example value propositions:

  • “I help people get their financial lives in order: I manage their investments so that their money is working toward their long-term goals without them needing to worry about it.”
  • “I’m like a counselor, but I focus on people’s finances. I keep my clients educated on how the market works and help them make objective decisions with their money.”
  • “I keep people on track with their financial goals: my clients and I work together to set expectations and milestones, and I help them keep their eye on the long-term.”

Ways to use your value proposition

As we’ve discussed, your value proposition can be helpful primarily when describing what you do in conversations—especially in the early years of your practice. However, your value proposition will come in handy when:

  • Creating marketing collateral. Your business cards, your letterhead, your email signature, bios and descriptions for community events and sponsorships, your Google My Business description—all the little bits of text you may need to write to describe your business become easier to create when you’ve already articulated what you do.
  • Crafting your social profiles. Your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Instagram account—all the places where you describe yourself can benefit from already having articulated your value proposition.
  • Onboarding clients. When you bring a new client in for that first meeting, your value proposition can function as an outline for the ground you need to cover. This will help you set expectations for your client and make sure they are aware of all the services you provide.
  • Organizing your website. If you have articulated what you do, then deciding what pages and content you need on your website becomes much easier. A comprehensive value proposition can be a good starting point for mapping out the content and navigation for your website.
  • Onboarding employees. If you’re ready to hire new talent, your value proposition can be a vital tool for giving new employees an idea of your firm’s goals and what they will be helping your clients accomplish. (Plus, it will help them answer the question, “What do you do?” when it comes up—amplifying your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.)
  • Articulating a unique selling proposition. You’re not the only financial advisor in your market, and knowing what you do is the starting point for explaining why someone should choose to hire you instead of the competition.

This last part is important, because a value proposition is just a start when it comes to communicating your value as a financial advisor. Once you have your value proposition articulated, you will want to move on to writing your unique selling proposition.

Unique selling propositions for financial advisors

While a value proposition describes how your practice creates value, the unique selling proposition makes the case for why you’re the right advisor for your target market. Value propositions are descriptive; unique selling propositions are persuasive.

The unique selling proposition (which marketers usually shorten to “USP”) is typically a one-or two-sentence statement that should accomplish the following:

  • Resonate with your target market’s emotions. The USP should involve an emotional appeal: you want to tap into how your most satisfied clients feel (or how you want your future clients to feel).
  • Differentiate you from “the rest” of the financial advisors. This doesn’t need to be a unique product offering. But your unique flavor should be evident when people read or hear your USP. If you focus on helping…

    people in a certain profession (e.g., medical professionals), or

    people from a certain background (e.g., first- and second-generation immigrants), or

    people with certain like-minded values or practices (e.g., homeschooling families), or

    people facing certain challenges (e.g., newly divorced parents) …

    … then this should be evident in your USP.

    It could even come down to a different tone or energy that you bring to your client meetings (e.g., you might be the humorous, nerdy, and/or outdoorsy FA in your city).
  • Plainly state how you help your clients. Your USP should highlight the value you bring to your target audience. This is much easier to do after you have developed your general value proposition.

How to use your unique selling proposition

Developing your USP can be beneficial for fleshing out your marketing strategy. It bridges the gap between what you do and why people choose to work with you. Once your USP is written, you can use it in various ways:

  • Website homepage copy. It can be tough to figure out exactly what to say on the homepage of your website—but if you have already articulated your unique selling proposition, most of the work is done. Your website homepage is the perfect place for your USP to live: it immediately tells your website visitors who you serve, what they can expect, and why they should choose you.
  • Networking with competitors. Unless you are the only financial advisor in your community, you will likely find yourself at networking events with other advisors. If you know what separates you from the rest of the pack, then networking becomes a bit easier. Not only can you naturally differentiate yourself from the other advisors, but you can also differentiate yourself to the other advisors. It’s easier to converse with and learn from other people in your field if they know you’re not chasing their target audience.
  • Advertising copy. Should you start spending money on ads, your USP will help you target your spending on the right audience. It can also increase your return on ad spend, as you won’t be advertising generic services—you’ll be promoting something uniquely appealing.

Grow your advisory business with Betterment

Your value proposition and USP are two key tools you can use to grow your business. By articulating what you do and why people should choose you, you give yourself an advantage in both your everyday conversations and your marketing efforts.

But this degree of intentionality can take time. And processing the demand that comes with effective communication takes even more time.

One way to optimize your time as you grow your advisory practice is to invest in tools that reduce hours spent on investment management and back-office admin. If you’re looking for a better way to grow your business, Betterment for Advisors can help. Our platform helps you deliver personalized model portfolios to your clients and manage your entire practice—which means you can spend more time crafting your message, building relationships, and bringing in new clients.

If you’re curious about how Betterment can help you grow your practice, schedule a demo with us today.