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.

Your target market. Begin by selecting a target market. Do you want to serve only those individuals with investable assets over a particular dollar amount? Do you want to serve only technology companies with revenues in excess of $100 million? Do you prefer to handle only qualified plans, insurance or estate planning for a selected market? These are decisions only you can make, based on your skills, resources and market demand.

When your target market is clearly defined, your firm is able to make intelligent investments in marketing and select the best vehicles for reaching the desired audience. As we will see later, everything you do with your go-to market strategy, including your website, will center on your target market.

Market positioning. Determine how you want to position your products or services within the client’s mind. Are you the first to market with a new idea? Are you the logical alternative to a competitor? Are you the safe decision? There are many ways to position your product or service vis-?-vis your competition. Above all, be credible and be prepared to defend your position with believable facts.

Be creative by communicating a position that is simple, powerful and memorable. Write your position down in a compact paragraph, as few as one or two sentences. Keep at it until the language lifts off the page and raises the hair on the back of your neck.

Once your positioning is clear, it is time to develop your value proposition. Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, said, “The value decade is upon us. If you can’t sell a top-quality product at the world’s lowest price, you’re going to be out of the game…the best way to hold your clients is to constantly figure out how to give them more for less.” A value proposition statement should focus on four key elements: capability, impact, proof and cost.

Ask yourself, how will my client experience the value of my service? As more for less? As the gold standard? As the innovative leader? As full service? The most trusted? Preferred brand? Once this critical step is committed to paper and you can prove it, create a plan for the marketing activities needed to achieve this desired positioning.

Once you select your target market segment, position yourself and define your value proposition, you are halfway to your go-to market strategy. You are also in the process of defining your brand. You can follow the core Five Cs to develop your go-to market strategy by asking yourself:

  1. Client–What need does our target client have that our firm seeks to satisfy?
  2. Company–What special core competence does the firm possess to meet those needs?
  3. Competition–Who competes with the firm in meeting those needs? Take your blinders off and look at direct, indirect and substitute products or services.
  4. Collaborators–Who should the firm enlist for help? How do we reach them? And how do we motivate them to act in our favor?
  5. Context–Which cultural, technological and legal factors limit our abilities to accomplish the above?

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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.