At their service
What do your clients want? Such a simple question, but with some serious effort involved to discover.
The secret to becoming indispensable for your clients, is to help them solve their important issues.
How well do you know your ideal clients?
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you get inside their heads a little more. The better you know them, the better you can help them.
- What is my ideal client embarrassed to admit?
- What has my ideal client tried in the past that has not worked for them?
- What does my ideal client worry about? What keeps them up at night?
- What do they secretly fear may be true about their situation?
- How do they fear others (close friends, family, spouse, clients) would react if they found out about their situation?
Source: Marie Forleo’s B-School
The answers to these questions can take you a long way down the road to a deeper understanding of your ideal clients issues.
Once you have that deeper understanding you are well placed to come up with solutions that speak to the needs of your clients.
In my experience, most businesses don’t give nearly enough thought to their clients’ issues. They are far more likely to ask another very successful Financial Planning firm about their business model and service offering, and then try to copy it in some way.
Yet this is probably not how the successful firm became successful in the first place. They will have created their model to solve the issues that their own clients are facing.
Who do you love?
It’s possible to create a successful business serving any group of clients. However, in my opinion it’s important that you really like and understand the clients you are trying to serve. If that feeling underpins your business, with some effort, you can always find a way to make your offering commercial and profitable.
Look at someone like Sophia Bera from the wildly successful Gen Y Planning. She focuses on the issues faced by young professionals in the Gen Y demographic, and runs an awesome business off the back of it. Check out her site and see what she’s blogging and communicating about, along with the free tip sheets she provides. All of them are focused on helping a specific group of Gen Y clients.
It’s a packaging issue
You might look at your finished proposition after doing all of this deep thinking work about your clients needs and say, “But it looks just like the services provided by XYZ Financial Planning down the road.”
Don’t be fooled.
Even if the individual services listed look the same, it’s actually how you package, present, and communicate that information to your target clients that makes all the difference.
Don’t believe me? Just think of your local business banking manager.
My business banking manager, who is part of a big name high street bank, calls me and within seconds alienates me. I don’t know how that’s even possible. I promise you I’m not that prickly.
The minute he opens his mouth and starts telling me stuff, I realise he knows absolutely nothing about me and my business. Game over.
I can’t have a meaningful relationship with someone who wants to help me with my life’s work on that basis.
If I go to a Metrobank, or Handelsbanken, or some other new entrant that understands small business owners, at the surface level they’ll offer me exactly the same set of services as my high street bank. Yet my perception of the service could be entirely different if they’ve done their homework, understand me, and communicate effectively with me. Feeling understood is step one in a great relationship.
The same is true when you think about positioning your service and delivering something meaningful for your clients.
If you sort of deal with ‘anyone with money’ and deliver a standard list of services that all advisers seems to offer, then it’s going to be very challenging to differentiate yourself, and command and maintain a premium price. All of these things have pretty obvious implications for your profitability, enjoyment and longevity.
Sell ‘em what they want, give ‘em what they need
The truly great firms go even further, identifying what clients say they want, and what clients actually need.
The services clients think they want are the reasons people will come to see you in the first place. These are your marketing hooks.
The services you know clients need are the things that will solve the client’s actual underlying issues, not just treat the surface symptoms.
Consider the value proposition that we all know and understand from a General Practitioner (GP) doctor. If you break it down to basics, the value proposition from a GP goes something like this:
“You’re sick. Come and see me, and I’ll give you a pill to make you better.”
Somewhere in our minds we still believe this.
A bad doctor might do just that; prescribe me a pill that probably won’t solve my underlying issue, but will maybe get rid of the symptom.
A great GP allows me to come to see them on the same understanding; that maybe they’ll write me a prescription and make me feel better (my want). However, when I get there they will ask me questions about my various symptoms, how I’m sleeping, how hard I’m working, how much alcohol I drink, how much exercise I get, and how my relationship is with my significant other etc.
Most importantly they’ll ask these questions and communicate with me in a way that makes me feel they actually care. It won’t be patronising or judgemental, because then I’ll just switch off.
At the end of all that they might prescribe drinking less and exercising more.
You get the gist.
What do my clients want?
Answering the question, ‘What do my clients want?’ is tough. It takes real commitment and effort to find the answers to that question.
At Team GB Rowing they ask a question of any improvement or tweak that they make; “Does it make the boat go faster?”.
When you work on your proposition you should be asking yourself a similar question. Is it making a noticeable and material difference to your client relationships and your business performance?
If you get your proposition right, you bet it does. If you’ve done this exercise well, that’s what you’ll see as an outcome. If you’re not seeing that outcome, maybe you need to revisit this subject and dive a bit deeper.
Let me know how you go.