Consulting in financial services has given me freedom and success beyond expectation. If, by sharing what I’ve learned, I can help shorten others’ learning curve to greater income, then I’ve fulfilled an important personal mission.

Successful planning. Success begins with planning, and unfolds as a series of simple actions with predictable results. A successful plan will expand your client list, market reputation and firm value. According to a 2010 Financial Planning magazine study, fewer than 32 percent of the best financial advisory firms have bothered to develop a marketing plan. Of those who do have one, only half have implemented it.

Your firm creates value through effective marketing because value is created by meeting clients’ needs. Let me repeat: Value is created by meeting clients’ needs. A firm cannot define itself by the products it sells, but by the value it creates for the client. Focusing on value is the platform on which to build a successful marketing plan.

Value as market strategy. Your ability to demonstrate the measurable value you bring to the client determines your level of success. And it can only be defined from the client’s perspective. You may add an interesting feature or benefit to your service that, in your opinion, screams value, but if the client doesn’t care about it, it does not add value.

  • To understand value, ask these basic questions:
  • Why do clients choose certain solutions and/or sources of services?
  • What current cost and drivers dictate their behavior?
  • What would cause them to change behavior?
  • What unmet or poorly met needs do they have?

Your existing clients are your best source for defining value. Spend time with them and ask them what they value–you may be surprised. The only way your firm can justifiably charge premium pricing for your products or services is by creating real value in the client’s mind and on his balance sheet.

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William L. MacDonald is the founding partner of Compensation Resources Group, Inc., Merrill Lynch Executive Compensation Group, and Retirement Capital Group, Inc. He is quoted frequently in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Bloomberg, and often lectures at the Forbes CEO Forum and the Young Presidents’ Organization. His awards include Entrepreneur of the Year and California Veteran of the Year. MacDonald is a longtime contributor to the Million Dollar Round Table and Top of the Table organizations. A graduate of Northeastern University, he also graduated from The President’s Program on Leadership from the Harvard Business School.