Research show that we use between 7,000 and 20,000 words a day. When we speak about what we do, we should not be winging it. If you search the internet for 20 minutes to see how your competitors and major financial institutions speak about themselves, you’ll likely find they focus, with great specificity, on functions and features: “We do tax-loss harvesting…” “We customize portfolios…” and so on.

Those are all important aspects of what advisors do. However, in that moment when introducing your firm, meeting a center of influence, or meeting with a prospective client, how do you communicate what, how, and why in a brief impactful statement of 30–40 words or less? How do you elicit a response of, “Great! Tell me more”? How do you imprint on others how they should speak about you? How do you anchor your team to speak the same message?

You need a clear value proposition.

Creating your unique value proposition

Your value proposition should be short — three sentences. To pack the greatest punch, you’ll need to work collaboratively and do some legwork. Try these five steps:

1. Determine what makes you unique. Think of a combination of functional and emotional: It’s not just what you do, but how you express it. Three questions might help you zero in on this:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. Why do you do it?

If you find yourself gravitating to anything repetitive, functional or features-based, how do you say it differently and get at what’s underneath?

As an exercise, think about the clients you most enjoy working with, and for whom you feel you do your best work. Who are those clients? What are the things that make that work your best? Create a word cloud listing all these things.

2. Identify your ideal client base. Next, look for commonalities among your existing clientele to help you define your niche. Set up a grid to identify key attributes your clients share, such as average age, the typical need presented at onboarding, profession, personal attributes, similar hobbies or lifestyles — are they outdoor enthusiasts, frequent travelers, academics? You never went to exclude anyone, but advisors can’t be all things to all people. The point of a value proposition is to define yourself for your optimal clients so you can focus your message and attract more of them by speaking to their needs.

3. Laser focus on your clients’ values. After getting as specific as possible about your base, learn as much as you can about their motivations, goals and values. Talk with your existing clients, ask questions, and listen for the emotional needs that drive their decision-making. Are they concerned about their dream retirement, their child’s education, socially responsible investing principles? Perhaps your clients want to provide for their families, maintain independence or achieve a meaningful legacy. The emotional needs behind these goals may be subtle, but that’s exactly what you’ll want to address in your value proposition statement.

4. Draft your value proposition statement. As a final step, reach out to some of your closest key clients, associates or peers and ask, “When you think of us, what comes to mind? How would you describe us?” These insights are gold.

Now it’s time to synthesize what you’ve collected as a rough draft—what you offer, which clients you aim to serve, what unique benefits you provide, what emotional needs you support, why you do what you do. Draw on the information you’ve gathered in the first few steps, and don’t be afraid to tap into your personal story. Clients want to know what you care about most.

5. Test and tailor your value proposition. Your unique value proposition isn’t something that’s meant to live in your desk drawer. Socialize it with your internal team and your centers of influence. Everyone should be able to articulate it. It’s important that the key words and concepts are internalized so that everyone can communicate them clearly and work together for a common purpose.

As you work to implement your value proposition, one suggestion is to open each meeting with a different person on your team delivering your value proposition, so everyone gets used to hearing it, saying it, incorporating it, memorizing it.

You Created It … Now What?

Developing your value proposition is only the start. The next step is to communicate it to your ideal clients.

Collect stories of how you’ve helped clients — concrete examples go a long way in connecting with prospects. Reiterate your value proposition to clients when asking for referrals. And don’t forget the power of your website and social media: Your value proposition should be clear and consistent across channels. You may also find that using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to tailor your message to individual clients can be effective.

Your value proposition can serve as a powerful tool to help your ideal clients understand what you have to offer. Make it easy for them to choose you.


Gabriel GarciaGabriel Garcia is the head of business management and strategy for E-Trade Advisor Services. He joined the firm in October 2019. Previously, he served as managing director for BNY Mellon’s Pershing Advisor Solutions where he led its Relationship Management & Consulting group and served on the Executive Committee.

Prior to his role at BNYMellon/Pershing, Garcia spent 15 years with Charles Schwab & Co., where he held several leadership positions in sales, training and consulting.

Garcia earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and business administration from Radford University.