Re-Positioning

shell_game

by George Ray

In my last post we talked about building a positioning statement using as three-step approach (go here if you missed it) that starts a conversation with a potential prospect.  When suggesting that financial advisers use this approach, I often get two big questions that are valid, and should be addressed.  The first question deals with why I recommend the three-step approach specifically for financial advisers, and the second question is concerned with the fear of closing off the conversation by offering only one specific problem that you can solve.  Let’s take a look at each of these questions.

Question One: An adviser said, “George, why should I say to someone ‘You know how most people have this problem? Well, what I do to solve it is this.  And, the reason I do that is because they will feel like this after I’ve helped them.’ That seems like an awfully long and hard way to answer the question ‘So, what do you do?’. Why couldn’t I just say that I’m a financial adviser, a financial planner, or a wealth manager?”

You’re assuming that most people know what a financial adviser or financial planner really is, and what he actually does.  But, get 20 financial advisers together in a room and ask them about the services that they provide to their clients.  Ask them to describe their businesses.  You’ll likely get twenty different answers.  So, if we can’t agree on what we do and how we do it, why would we expect anyone else to understand our jobs?  That’s why describing a problem, the solution to the problem, and the emotion that results can be an ideal solution.  It focuses the discussion where you want it to go, and helps to explain what you do as an adviser (not what all other advisers do). However, this method really works best when you have a job that isn’t well understood (like a financial planner), or may have a lot of variation to it  (like a financial planner).  It doesn’t work so well for a person who has a job that we know well.  Here’s an example that shows how silly this could be:

Me: So, what do you do?

Guy: Well, you know how when people’s houses catch on fire they need to put it out?

Me: Yes?!

Guy: Well, what I do is drive up in a big red truck with a hose and a ladder and put it out.

Me: Oh?!

Guy: Because when I do people feel much safer and happier.

Me: So, you’re a fireman??

Guy: Yes.

Me: Jeez, why didn’t you just say that? I know what a fireman is. Do you think I’m a moron?

This is a ridiculous conversation.  We have a  pretty good idea of the fireman’s job, so this really isn’t necessary.  Yes, he could have just told me that he was a fireman. But when the job and its duties aren’t as clear (or if you want to clarify them), then the three-step method can help you do that.

Question Two: “George, I don’t like this method because I may introduce a problem that I can solve, but what if the person that I’m talking to doesn’t actually have that problem? Isn’t that the end of the conversation?”. For example:

Guy: So, what do you do?

Me: ‘You know how most small business owners are so busy running their company that they have little time to spend managing their investments?

Guy: ‘Gee, no I don’t. I’m not a small business owner.’

That’s OK, it isn’t end of the conversation. It would have been better to ask ‘So, what do you do?’ to him first, which would help you to decide which problem that you want to tell him that you solve, but In this situation, one of three scenarios is likely to follow:

1.     Firstly, he may disqualify himself for you. OK, so he isn’t a small business owner, and that’s you’re target market, so you’ve just eliminated him as a prospect.  Keep talking if you like — you can relax and have an interesting conversation about another subject that isn’t all about you. Or, if you’re really on a mission to find new business, then move on to someone else.

2.     Secondly, he may ask you for an exception.  “I’m not a small business owner, but I could really use some help with my rather large investment portfolio.  Would you be willing to help me?” Since he doesn’t fit your target, it’s your call on whether you want to make an exception. “Well, I usually just work with business owners, but when you say large, exactly how large is it?”

3.     And lastly, he may offer you a substitute.  “I’m not a small business owner, but my uncle is.  You should really talk to him.” Ask him why, and if he’ll also introduce the two of you.

So, don’t be afraid to build your positioning statement by using this three-step method, and use it consistently when you meet someone who asks ‘So, what do you do?’  You’ll have a better opportunity to explain what it is that you actually do, and how you help people.  Even if it doesn’t land you a new prospect with the guy or gal you’re talking to, you may find that it will still lead you to new business.

Advertisements

Position Yourself for Success

chess positioning

by George Ray

Have you ever had an opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential client (maybe the big one that you’ve been waiting for years to land)  — and blown it?

I’ve talked previously about the importance of having a value proposition that resonates with your customer segments. But before you even have the chance to explain all the value that you could offer this potential client in your new relationship, you must position yourself to have a meaningful conversation with him.  Your positioning statement (the modern version of the old elevator speech) is essential.  Without one, you may never get to the point of being able to show your value.

In workshops that I’ve conducted with advisers on this subject, its unfortunate how many advisers believe that they have a great positioning statement, but don’t.  In reality, most are poorly formed and/or poorly executed. I even had one adviser, during a role play, begin by asking how much money I make.  When I told him that he doesn’t have the right to ask that question to someone he’d just met, he was flummoxed. (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a blog post.)

Poor positioning statements are filled with jargon like “I’m a fiduciary” (What’s that? Sounds boring. I’ve got to go now.) or contain irrelevant information like “I have a Series 7 and Series 63”.  (Who cares? Can you help me figure out how much I need to retire?). Poor positioning statements are dangerous – they can kill the start of almost any conversation.

I’ve heard lots of excuses reasons that an adviser can’t (or won’t) build a solid positioning statement. They say ‘George, you just can’t condense how great I am and all that I do into 30 seconds.’  (I say watch any Apple commercial on TV.  They know how to do it.) I’ve also heard ‘I don’t want to sound canned or phony with a rehearsed elevator speech.” (When well-rehearsed, you will sound natural.  Think about actors in a play.  They know their lines and how best to deliver them BECAUSE they are well-rehearsed.) Another version of this is ‘I may need different versions depending upon who I’m talking to, so I just play it by ear.’ (The best jazz musicians can ‘play it by ear’ because they have mastered the melody, chords, and rhythm of a song.  That allows them to easily improvise. You need to master your basic positioning statement before you’re good enough to start improving.)

The real problem, which needs to be tackled first, leads us back to the value proposition.  A great positioning statement forces advisers to identify and articulate their value.  You must first have a clear value proposition.  That’s hard.  It takes work. It requires knowing who your customers are and what they want (which could lead us into a discussion on another adviser challenge – creating an ideal client profile.)

So, what’s the solution? Firstly, understand that your positioning statement and value proposition are very different.  The positioning statement has only one purpose — to open up a conversation with someone you’ve just met who at some point likely says ‘So, what do you do?’  How you answer that question will determine whether he will permit you to continue.  You’ve only got about 8 seconds to get his interest (i.e., the attention span of the average adult) and you should probably know that there is a woman in a slinky red dress at the bar that he can see behind you over your shoulder – so you may only have about 4 seconds.

The best way I’ve found to create an effective positioning statement is by combining these three building blocks. If done correctly, you will accomplish your goal of opening a conversation with someone. (After that, it’s up to you where you want to take it.)  To start . .

1. Provide an example of a problem that most of your clients encounter. You can do this (after the ‘So, what do you do?) by starting with “You know how . . . “ and then use an example of a problem that you can solve. For example, ‘you know how people have trouble saving money for retirement’ or ‘you know how people can’t figure out how much they’ll need to send their kids to college’. More common and broader problems can be used when you don’t know much about who you’re talking to, but if you’re at a cocktail party with a roomful of executives from Big Local Company, Inc. then improvise (you well-rehearsed jazzman, you) by saying ‘you know how executives with stock option plans can’t decide when they should exercise their options’. (As the stock option-rich executive shakes his head and says ‘Yes, I certainly do’.)   And, then . .

2. Explain how you solve that problem. You can do this by starting with ‘Well, what I do is . . . ‘ and then tell him exactly what you do to help someone with that problem.  So, let’s carry through our last example — ‘You know how executives with stock option plans can’t decide when they should exercise their options?’ “Why, yes, I certainly do because I have that problem.” ‘Well, what I do is create customized models for my clients that illustrate all of the possible scenarios to give us the best information to make a decision on when to execute those options.’ “Wow. That’s exactly what I need. Are you accepting new clients?” Isn’t that a much better positioning statement? It got you into a meaningful conversation (and he also lost track of the slinky red dress). But you can’t stop there. Next . .

3. Tell him why this is important to him. Don’t just tell him that you can solve the problem. You must finish with emotion. Finish with the feeling that he will get when you have solved the problem for him. Tell him WHY you do what you do.  “I do this BECAUSE making these important decisions on how best to exercise stock options relieves my clients of the stress of having too many of their eggs in one basket, and often we can even find a little extra for them to treat their family to a great vacation”. “Where have you been all my life? Please help me. I want to feel like that too.”

I’ve found that using these three building blocks can be the most effective way to create a positioning statement that will open conversations.  Here, let’s see if it works.  You know how financial advisers often have trouble introducing themselves to new potential clients? Well, what I do is provide them with the building blocks to build an effective positioning statement. Because when I do, they’re able to gain many new clients and build a more successful practice by simply knowing how to effectively answer the question ‘So, what do you do?

What if YOU Created the Disruption?

Newton Cradle Crop 2

by George Ray

(Damn. This one’s a bit long. Better grab a cup of coffee.  Or maybe Instapaper.)

We’ve been talking about the disruptive changes that could occur to an adviser’s business model and where they might originate (for a review, see this post). I’ve suggested that every business should be concerned about disruption, provided some examples, and said that financial adviser practices are not immune.  But let’s turn from the negative idea of disruption to the positive side —- INNOVATION.  Can you proactively innovate in your practice to stay ahead of the potential disruption that is inevitably on the horizon?  And, (now ‘free your mind’ as Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix), could the innovation that you put in place in your own practice actually become some other adviser’s disruption? (and, just as Neo reacted, it’s OK to say ‘Whoa’). Rather than waiting around to have your business disrupted by someone else, what if it was you who proactively innovated — and created the disruption? Hadn’t thought of that, had you?

Ideas for business model innovation can come from almost anywhere, but there are primarily four hubs (or epicenters) that can be a source for business model innovation. Each of these hubs can serve as a starting point for major changes to your business model and have the potential to create powerful changes in your practice.  Let’s take a quick look at each of these four hubs:

1. Resource-driven hub

Innovations that are resource-driven usually originate from within your organization’s existing infrastructure, but could include products and services that you get from your key partners.

For example, Microsoft used its extensive software development resources to drive the innovation of its successful gaming platform, the Xbox.  This gaming/entertainment machine wasn’t originally in their business plan, but they realized that they could use their existing key resources (programmers, hardware designers, manufacturing partners, etc.) to open up a new market for their business.

With a bit of brainstorming with your team, are there any resources that you have developed that could be utilized in a different way to provide a product or service that could be of value to your existing clients — something that your competitors aren’t offering? And, more importantly, could you use those resources or key partners to help you open up a new market for your business (much like Microsoft did with the Xbox)?

2. Offer-driven hub

Your offer is your value proposition.  You can certainly innovate by changing your value proposition, but it will create changes to other components of your business model.

As an example, we saw in our own industry years ago the rise of no-load mutual funds. Some fund companies changed their offer by telling consumers that they didn’t need an adviser, and should do it themselves.  We can argue how successful they’ve been and what this has done for (or to) clients, but it certainly created disruption in my practice back in the 1980’s.  This new offer by some fund companies increased their revenue streams (i.e., they no longer had to pay commissions to an adviser), but may have added to their cost structure (i.e. they had to pay to advertise directly to the consumer and now hire their own service staff). This offer-driven innovation certainly placed these fund companies in a different space in the marketplace.

Today, there is talk of online robots (Michael Kitces says cyborgs) that use artificial intelligence to replace advisers by offering financial advice at a lower cost to consumers (e.g., Betterment and Wealthfront). You may not be frightened by this, and even laugh it off as something that will only take hold at the lower end of the market (i.e., for consumers with lower incomes and smaller investment portfolios), but back when you owned all of those big record albums wouldn’t you have laughed if Steve Jobs came from the future to tell you that one day you could have ‘a thousand songs in your pocket’?

3. Customer-driven hub

Have you ever seen a pop-up box on a website that is offering you a chance to connect directly to a live chat with a salesperson who can answer your questions?  Have you ever shared a comment about something you purchased or about your meal at a restaurant? If so, you’re seeing the result of customer-driven innovation. Customers want to easily find someone to help them get answers (hence the rise of the pop-up chat box) and also have a way to share their comments about their experience directly with the business, or with its other customers. So, are you reacting to your clients’ needs by implementing innovative solutions in your practice that provide increased convenience, better information, or faster access to you and your staff? What are your clients telling you that they need? Are you really listening?  And (here comes the ‘Whoa’ again), why not try to listen to what your competitor’s clients are saying? If he’s not listening, and you are, your customer-driven innovation may bring you some new clients – his, actually.

4. Finance-driven hub

Changes to your business model that are driven by finances can have a significant impact on your revenue streams, and many of the other business model building blocks as well.

We’ve all heard of the razor vs. razor blade analogy.  The company forgoes the revenue stream and potential profit that it may get from selling the razor by giving it away for free — in order to make higher margins selling the blades.  Printer companies do this also – the price of the printer is relatively low upfront, but the long-term ownership costs can be high because of the price of the ink cartridges.

We’ve seen advisers who forgo a potential revenue stream by giving away a financial plan for free in order to get the product sales that may need to be implemented as a result of the recommendations in the plan.  (We’re assuming that this is a real plan, and not just a disguised sales piece.) But there are also fee-only advisers who forgo the revenue from product sales completely. Their value proposition (i.e., offer) is much different from the adviser who gives away the plan for free.  They’ve decided that they can build a revenue stream that won’t fluctuate as wildly with changes in the market or a lack of sales. And, as a result their customer segments are likely much different from the sales person.  They work with different key partners than the salesperson.  And, the other building blocks of their business model (distribution channels, customer relationships, key activities, and cost structures) are also affected.

Innovation originating from the finance-driven hub can be the toughest for your business to take.  We’ve all seen stories about the adviser who decides to switch ‘cold-turkey’ from a commissions-based business to a fee-only practice.  He’s developing a brand new revenue stream while completely giving up his existing revenue sources.  This may be noble, but it’s very difficult to manage and to survive.

So what should you do now? Well, consider these four hubs of business model innovation as you look for ways to innovate in your practice. Each of them could provide starting points and direction for innovation. I suggested a rather bold move – innovate proactively to cause disruption rather than passively waiting to be disrupted.  Your innovations may not come to you easily.  You’ll need to continually watch for ideas and search for opportunities. But, if you’re not comfortable with this, you could always just take the blue pill instead of the red one, Neo.

Are You a Pain Reliever?

Image

by George Ray

I was recently stung by a bee in my backyard (one of the most painful places on the body to be stung). I’ve been taking some pain relievers to lessen the discomfort, and it got me thinking about how financial advisers can provide pain relief to their clients.  In fact, I believe that there are two primary ways that we provide value to our clients — by creating gains and relieving pains.

In my last post, we briefly looked at the need for financial advisers to continue to innovate and adapt their business models in order to avoid being disrupted — or wind up like Blockbuster, Kodak, or Blackberry (maybe soon). I’m a big advocate of completing an annual SWOT analysis (and have lead adviser workshops on the subject) so that advisers can examine their current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOTs).  This can be one of the most effective ways to build (and update) your business plan for the coming year (if done correctly). And although the SWOT analysis can be effective, I believe that we now have a need (because changes are occurring so rapidly) to actually take a step back even further by re-examining our business models much more frequently.

One of the key business model building blocks is your value propositionIt must describe how your firm’s products and services create value for your clients. If you can’t clearly show a potential or existing client how you can create value for him, you really have no business talking to the client. Most advisers think about creating value by creating gains for the client (and I’m not just talking about investment gains). We often suggest that we provide better service (although we have difficulty defining what that means exactly). We might focus on the array of solutions that we have available. Or how long we’ve been in business. Or how many credentials we have after our names.

But your value proposition isn’t about you.  It should be focused on your clients. And your clients often have pains — financial pains. You can differentiate your business from other advisers by letting clients know that you can be a pain reliever. In fact, here are some questions to ask yourself about the pain relief ability of your value proposition:

  • Can you make your customers feel better by killing frustrations or annoyances that give them a headache?
  • Can you fix an underperforming solution from a competitor by offering better performance, higher quality, or new features?
  • Can you relieve the pain of difficulties and challenges that your customers encounter by making things easier or helping them get things done?
  • Can you help your clients sleep better by diminishing their concerns or eliminating worries about their finances?
  • Can you limit or eliminate the conditions that develop from common mistakes that clients often make?
  • Can you break down barriers that are keeping your client from adopting better solutions?

Take some time to think about your ability to be a pain reliever for your clients. Consider all of the things that you do to help them to improve their financial wellness, and help them avoid getting stung in the backyard.  It really hurts.

What Will Disrupt YOUR Business Model?

disruption

It’s said that nothing is certain but changeLook at almost any industry these days and you’ll find it facing disruption from changes that are coming from multiple directions.  You really don’t need to look far for examples — just open up the business section of the newspaper. Oops. Wait a minute. You don’t get the newspaper anymore — do you?  Because as of the beginning of 2011, more people now get their news online than from reading a newspaper.  How do the newspaper companies feel about that? Disrupted, that’s how.

Ask the music industry how they initially felt about mp3s and digital music back in 2001. They were in the process at that time of making lots of money getting us to re-buy all of our old albums on CDs. They fought against digital music for years by suing college kids who were downloading songs over Napster on fast internet connections from their dorm rooms.   You could say that when it came to their business model, they’d ‘rather fight than switch’. (For the younger advisers out there, that’s a reference to a 1960’s Tarreyton cigarette commercial that you can watch on YouTube. By the way, since we’re talking about it, the tobacco industry’s business has also been disrupted — by industry regulations and societal trends.)

And when it comes to disruption, companies who have enjoyed success as a result of their business model often believe that their model can prevent them being disrupted. They believe that they’re invincible – kind of like Superman. Eastman Kodak had the market cornered on selling film, disposable cameras, and film processing equipment until smartphones got cameras. That was Kodak’s Kryptonite. Now people share photos almost instantaneously over Facebook and Instagram.  No more film. No more disposable cameras. No more selling expensive processing equipment to Walgreens.  Goodbye Kodak. You thought you were Superman, but you’ve just been disrupted.

Successful companies and industries can’t stand still.  They must continue to innovate. Even some of the shine has been taken from Apple recently as Google’s Android phones have been embraced by those who want a less expensive solution that also offers more control over how they may use it. And, disruption will continue. How will the automakers deal with the threat of Tesla and its amazing electric car (which is so safe that it broke the safety testing meter) as Tesla begins making more affordable cars for the general public?

I think you get my point.  If you’re a financial adviser who is complacent and you continue to believe that our business will look the same in the next 10 years as it does today, you are heading for the same fate as Napster, Kodak, and most of the small newspapers in our country.  So what can you do? You’ll need to adapt your businesses for the future by seriously thinking about what factors will cause disruption to your existing business model.

Disruptive changes come primarily from four key areas (and I’ve tried to include a few examples from our industry to help explain these factors):

1.     Industry Forces – Competitors (e.g., trends toward ensemble practices), new entrants into your business (e.g., will online robot advisers replace you?), substitute products and services (e.g., which products or services from another industry could replace yours?) changes in suppliers (e.g., to what extent do you depend upon a certain company to provide products or services?)

2.     Market Forces – Changes in market segments (e.g., where will the largest growth potential be?), their needs and demands (e.g., what are they trying to get done), revenue attractiveness (e.g., can they purchase less expensive services elsewhere?)

3.     Macro-Economic Trends – Global market conditions (e.g., how will financial market and economic changes affect your business? Remember 2008?), changes in capital markets (e.g., will your firm be able to get capital or credit if needed?), economic infrastructure (e.g., access to suppliers and customers), changes in costs of resources (e.g., human capital, benefits, etc.)

4.     Key Trends – Regulatory trends (e.g., will you have to become a fiduciary?), societal and cultural trends (e.g., will clients want to pay commissions or fees?), technology trends (e.g., desire for quicker access to data online), socioeconomic trends (e.g., changes in future disposable income and spending patterns)

Should you wait until these outside factors change the shape of your business model by pushing in from all sides, or would you rather proactively adapt? Is it possible to observe trends that are taking place and attempt to predict how they will affect our practices? Although it may not be easy, let’s continue to discuss business model innovation and how we can manage and adapt to the disruption that will inevitably occur in our business.

What Gets Referrals? It’s Not Always Obvious.

I love this article by Katherine Vessenes of Vestment Advisors titled “What Gets Referrals? Exceptional Service” recently published at ThinkAdvisor. The article is full of excellent ideas that her firm has implemented to gain more referrals. But, what I really liked is that right up front she says “Our system of getting referrals from our existing clients is counter-intuitive. We don’t ask for referrals at all. We just provide awesome service—it has worked great for us.” Katherine mentions that her firm does things for her clients that “are obvious to the client and things that are not so obvious”.

Although she divided them up a bit differently (‘obvious vs. ‘not so obvious’) than I did in my recent post (You Can Get Referrals. Just Don’t Ask for Them.), I think you’ll agree that it’s important to help clients understand what it is that you do for them (exactly), how and why you do it better than anyone else, and how it is helping them to reach their goals.  This should be obvious.  Although sometimes it’s obvious to us, but not as obvious to our clients – which is why it may take some extra effort.

I believe that the ‘not so obvious’ tasks (she calls them ‘covert’) need to be made more obvious to the client if we are to get credit for them.  In fact, making those task more obvious might even make them ‘remarkable’ for the client. Here’s an example —

Katherine’s first suggestion is ‘Make things easy’ for your client. It’s a great idea. The father-in-law in her example had already made the suggestion to move a 403(b) plan to an IRA. She agreed and offered to help. It’s interesting that what she did was actually ‘remarkable’ to the client, although it seemed ‘obvious’ to her. The reason it was actually remarkable to the client was because it was previously hard (i.e., Dad told son-in-law what to do, but never followed through to help). When she got everyone together on the phone and made the transfer happen for the client, it created a remarkable experience for the client (she made it very easy with a simple phone call).  I can just hear this client at a dinner party say to someone “Well, yes, my father-in-law is a financial adviser, but (although my wife won’t like me to say this) I would recommend Katherine. She’s made everything so easy for us and provides outstanding personal service.  She just picks up the phone and makes magic happen.”

I’d suggest looking at each of her ideas and consider what she did that helped the client understand the benefits of working with her and her firm, and consider when she also did something that the client felt was remarkable.  Then, decide which of her suggestions you can put into place in your own practice. As always, share your thoughts in the comments.

You Can Get Referrals. Just Don’t Ask for Them.

Duct-tape-over-mouthIn my previous blog post (Referrals? Don’t Bother Asking.), I suggested that most clients don’t feel the need to provide you with referrals because referrals are social currency, and your client has already compensated you (with fees, commissions, or both) for the work you did for him.  Unless he feels the need to increase his social status in your eyes, he has little incentive to provide you with referrals.  And, it’s likely that any referral you would get (as a result of asking) may not be ready to work with you right now.  Have you ever called a referral only to find that he isn’t actually ready to solve a problem that he may have (or may not even have a pressing problem at all)?  Who needs referrals who aren’t ready to do business?

In that post, I recommended that you must do two things to get referrals.  First, make certain that your client can easily talk about what you do and how you’ve helped him, so that when a situation does present itself, you’ll come to the top of the list as a solution. And, also give him something so remarkable to talk about that he will spontaneously combust if he doesn’t tell everyone what you did for him (so that he creates the situation himself, rather than waiting for it to happen).

      Before we continue, I’m also going to tell you that asking for referrals creates a negative experience for the client. No matter how much goodwill you created with the work you’ve done to help him, you just lost some of that goodwill by putting pressure on the client to provide you with a name of a friend, relative, or associate (out of the blue) before the end of your meeting. What you’ve done is made a withdrawal from your client’s emotional bank account. Do that every time you meet with him and you may end up with a negative balance in the account.

      So, how can you show your client how you are helping him?  There are many ways to do this, but here are two suggestions:

  • Open every review meeting with a list of specific issues that the client has asked you to help him solve.  And close every review meeting by summarizing those issues, explain exactly how you’re helping him to solve each one, and provide him with the current status.  These issues (i.e., goals) should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. (Read more about SMART goals here.)  The less ‘SMART’ they are, the less likely that he will be able to talk about them when provided the opportunity. If you’re only helping him with ‘financial planning’, he won’t know how to explain what you’ve done for him to someone that he meets.  But, if he knows how much he’s going to need to send his kid to college and that he’s 50% there (and his son is currently in 3rd grade) — that’s something he can explain (by the way, that’s also pretty remarkable as well).
  • Keep your client focused on the results you are obtaining for him, not on the strategies or products that you are using.  He shouldn’t be telling anyone that he just bought a mutual fund or an annuity from you (especially if he doesn’t know why he did that).  He shouldn’t be talking about the features and benefits of the fund or annuity. Instead, he must be able to say ‘My adviser is doing a great job helping me to build a fund for my kid to go college.’  And, he must be able to offer specifics on just how you did this.  (“He found college cost projections for three schools we would like our son to attend, then showed us the amount we will need to save, helped us find money in our budget, and also opened an account for us to begin saving.”)

Your client will be overjoyed to talk about you without even being asked if he has something interesting, surprising, or unusual to say about you or something you did for him – something ‘remarkable’.  You had your assistant send him a birthday card – no, not remarkable in the least. Every adviser does this (we learn it on the first day of adviser camp). Called him on his birthday.  Better, but no.  Took him to lunch. Getting warmer. Sent him a sleeve of his favorite golf balls.  Better still (at least you knew which ones to send). Sent him an autographed note from his favorite golfer. Now we’re talking. But what if you were able to conference in his favorite pro golfer on the phone with you and him? No way! “I’ve gotta tell you what my financial adviser did on my birthday three years ago. You won’t believe what a great guy he is.” Remarkable? Yes, jackpot (He’s actually still talking about it three years later)!  Was it easy to do? Probably not.That’s likely what made it remarkable. By the way, you don’t need a special occasion for this (like his birthday).  Something can be even more remarkable when it’s done for seemingly no reason.

So ‘remark-able’ is surprising, unusual, out-of-the-ordinary, unexpected. It should be positive.  It should be personal – the more personal, the better. It will likely take some effort. Or at least it must look that way. When ‘remarkable’ occurs, we want to tell others about it as John Jantsch does with this story excerpted from his book ‘The Referral Engine’:

“One day my wife and I hit a sale at the outdoor gear retailer REI. During the trip she found a coat that she loved and bought it. A few weeks later, we went to an outdoor event and she took the opportunity to wear her new coat. As we went out the door she reached into the pocket and found a little slip of paper.

She pulled the slip out fully expecting something along the lines of “Inspected by #48.” Instead, the note read “You are a goddess!” That simple, unexpected message made her day. Of course, we both wondered, who made this coat? I checked the manufacturer’s Web site and discovered a very cool little garment company called Isis (www.isisfor women.com), located in Burlington, Vermont.

This creative act, unrelated to the quality, cut, or color of the coat in question, compelled us both to think fondly of this company and voluntarily refer them to anyone who would listen. Something I’m doing right now.”

So, how do you help your client understand how you’re helping him, so that he can easily explain why someone should talk to you about a similar problem? What have you done that was so remarkable that your client wants to tell anyone who would listen? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.