Not too long ago I witnessed what looked like a coup against a turnkey asset manager.  The company decided to discontinue the use of a Morningstar report which demonstrates how many of a client’s existing mutual funds buy the same companies.  The outrage by this manager’s sales force was palpable.  Long, passionate emails were written, not to mention FB posts.  I’m sure someone started a petition, and another wrote their congressman.  I expected to read of advisors storming the headquarter gates with laptops in hand, threatening to burn the place down.

This revolt raised two obvious questions:

  1.  If advisors wanted the report so badly, why not just fork out the $200 and buy it themselves from Morningstar?  I know…they’re cheap.
  2. Why did they feel the report was so essential in the first place?  Ah…now we’re getting somewhere.

Charts, graphs, brochures…if you ever want proof that our industry has been commoditized, look no further than the materials financial advisors carry with them.

Worse of all, crap like this instantly puts your ideal prospect to sleep.

Oh, the guy who’s using you for free information will love it.  But he’s not going to hire you anyway.

Here’s a core principal you should adopt today.  In fact, write on your wall with a Sharpie Pen:

If everybody else is doing it, DON’T.

No one needs you for the products you sell.  As a purveyor of product, you are a dime a dozen.  But as a purveyor of you, you own a monopoly.

We are such an incestuous industry.  Too many of us are afraid to question industry norms.    When it comes to ideas, we have a very bad habit of seeking input only from within our industry, not outside of it.

Take dinner seminars.  Most advisors I know conduct them at the advice of their FMO.   But I hear constant complaints about “plate lickers.”

An industry outsider, whose opinion I greatly respect, recently asked me, “If advisors don’t like ‘plate-lickers,’ why do they offer free food in the first place?

If food is the only reason they’re coming to seeing you, isn’t that a good reason not to offer food?

Your ideal client could care less about charts and graphs…or food.

If our industry is being commoditized, then there is only one way to protect yourself:

Defy industry norms. 

Norms are boring to people and clients won’t tolerate them.

This will start you in the direction of getting a competitive differentiation.

Do it differently than everyone else.

For example, don’t take unscheduled, unsolicited calls like everyone else.

Don’t be willing to meet any time of the day, usually at the sacrifice of your personal well being.

Never use a chart or graph to explain a point.  Instead, use a legal pad or whiteboard.

Don’t be boring.

Take down the vendor industry trophies.  Instead, put up personal photos that tell them who you are.  But make them classy.  Glamour photos of your wife…not so good.

Reject limitations.

What’s the greatest limitation you face?  Let me guess.  Compliance.  You’re told you can’t use testimonials.

But…you can write a book and clients can offer testimonials about the book.

You can create a four-page magazine slick that describes specific clients and their lives.  There’ll be no direct mention of you, but the photo of your clients atop the Eiffel Tower will get the idea across.

You can create a web page that describes the kinds of people with whom you work.

Just be different.  For a good example, click here.