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Stephen Hagues: Finding your USP

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The pension reforms offer a great opportunity for financial advisers to attract new clients and grow their business. As product providers look to sell new propositions and unscrupulous firms solicit consumers to put their money in esoteric investments, the general opinion is that the new rules have brought to the forefront the need for advice.

The advice industry is certainly becoming more competitive at a time when such huge opportunity exists. Simplified advice propositions are one of the main competitors to IFAs in winning new business but whether they becomes more prevalent, given recent final guidance from the FCA, is yet to be seen. Online advice services are another group joining the competition pool to service people’s financial needs.

With investors having their attention vied for, the importance of showing a firm’s uniqueness is now even more essential. Every firm has a unique selling point, not least because as individuals we all have our own personal style and skills we bring to any job. However, being able to pinpoint exactly what your firm’s USP is can be tricky.

A simple trip to the supermarket involves factors that influence decisions, such as convenience, price and knowing other people that use the store. These factors apply in other service decisions – like taking financial advice – but can be relegated to secondary issues in the decision-making process.

A strong selling point can help do this by giving investors another influencing factor on their decision. It may be that your firm is independent but the amount of financial advisers that still use this as their only selling point is shocking. It is even more surprising how many do not let potential clients know what it actually means at the first point of contact.

It may be that a particular specialism is your selling point, which may or may not be pension expertise. While many financial planning firms are now emphasising their skills in pensions, the more forward-thinking are showing ways to service clients throughout their lifetime.

Looking after client needs across the board, particularly through joint ventures with other professional service firms, is the way forward for the financial planning industry. So while highlighting pensions as your specialty is great, we have seen advisers showing what tie in services are offered, such as long-term care planning and will writing, alongside promoting other expertise.

However, that effort needs to go a bit further by actually showing evidence of your expertise, whether that is through online or personal recommendations, your manpower or background in order to convince someone of its quality. For example, putting images of any awards your business has won on your website can act as proof of your quality as an adviser.

Showing your core values and priorities may be another route to take with your USP. These could be ethical values, understanding of financial needs or particular investment beliefs. A USP focused around the type of clients serviced does not go far enough, as you can bet there is another advice firm ready to offer their services to those clients.

The benefits of identifying your USP can only be fully realised if it is marketed to potential clients. Whether you are prolific on social media or not, the first point of contact for most new clients is the company website. So this has to portray your USP, even from the point of the very homepage. A blog is a good way of building up your identity and showing evidence of your expertise.

Whether you have already made significant steps in marketing or not, reviewing what your USP is and conveying it not only to the inside of your organisation but to the outside world too can help build your client base at a time when there is a huge opportunity to.

Stephen Hagues is founder of Retiring IFA

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