I often read about product information, “new” marketing tactics for generating leads and referrals, and sales strategies to sell more stuff. Many of these ideas are extremely valuable for building a knowledge base. They may help you grow your business, and increase revenue and profitability. But there is one important idea missing: brand differentiation. How do you become different from every other financial advisor or insurance professional in your community?

In my opinion, there is only one primary way to truly be different: customer service.  The insurance products and investments you offer, as well as the sales process and marketing resources you use, can all be duplicated by your competition. The one thing that can’t be duplicated is you and the way you make your clients feel. Brand differentiation through customer service is about the relationships that your clients and prospects have with you and your staff, the level of service that you provide, and how you make them feel.

To begin, it starts with creating your own service plan. This will set the standard of care you expect of yourself and from your staff when interacting with clients and prospects at all touch points. If you experience regular turnover within your business, this will be essential to your success. Regular turnover leaves gaps (learning gaps, transition periods, experience, etc…) in your business that will ultimately impact your client’s service experience. 

When creating a service plan, consider the following:

Step 1:  Define the objective.

  • What experience do I want my clients and prospects to have with my organization? 
  • What makes us different?
  • How will we leave a favorable lasting impression on our clients and prospects?

Step 2:  Identify all main touch points with clients.

  • Your website, blog, and social media presence
  • Your mailers (for seminars, educational events, client appreciation events, etc…): Do your mail pieces look like every other advisor in your community? 
  • Phone calls: Have you thought about having some basic phone scripts for how you would like you staff to answer the phone and how to best wrap up a call with clients and prospects?
  • Emails and newsletters: Do you have consistent email signatures for you and your staff, custom designed letterhead, as well as email templates to ensure all necessary basic and non-personalized necessary information is included? Do you newsletters look professional?
  • Standard office documents (letterhead, printed client communications, etc…)
  • In-person meetings (consider where your building is located and the proximity to a majority of your clients, office appearance, and office attire of you and your staff)

Step 3:  Consider the experience.

I define experience holistically: It includes anything that has the potential to leave a lasting impression on your clients. Creating a memorable experience will require substantial thought and expense (both time and money), as well as ongoing effort. You will need to constantly tweak your service plan and retrain your staff depending upon the level of specificity and depth of your service experience.

Step 4:  Evaluate your results.

To ensure that you are on track, you will need to measure your performance.  Conducting a client satisfaction survey will not suffice. Consider conducting focus groups facilitated by a non-biased third party. By doing so, your clients and prospects will be more likely to give honest feedback that will allow you to tweak your service plan and training strategy in order to achieve optimal results. 

Through proactive planning and implementation, you can ensure the highest quality of service experience for you clients. Go beyond what is expected of you and deliver an exceptional experience that will leave a lasting impression. This will be the key to driving referrals and client retention. 

For more from Todd Greider, see:

4 compliance tips for leveraging YouTube to grow your business

5 industry blogs you can’t afford to ignore

Why a uniform fiduciary standard isn’t the answer