Susan Forman, SVP of Schwab Advisor Services, talks to advisor marketing expert Maribeth Kuzmeski to learn how advisors can differentiate their firm, grow their business and acquire new clients. 


SUSAN FORMAN: I’m Susan Forman, and I’m delighted to be here today with Maribeth Kuzmeski from Red Zone Marketing. We all know that advisors today are really struggling with how to differentiate, how to grow their business, and how to acquire new clients.  Maribeth is a pro in helping advisors think about how to differentiate and how to tell their stories. I’m really happy to have her here today.  Welcome, Maribeth.

MARIBETH KUZMESKI:  Thank you, Susan.

SUSAN:  So Maribeth, we know advisors are having a harder and harder time differentiating themselves, so what are some actionable steps and ideas that you have for them to think about?

MARIBETH:  I think the first thing is to figure out what really is your differentiation, so, for instance, what’s unique about you. And if the advisor does not know precisely what is unique about them, it’s helpful to ask maybe their clients that love them, and that know that they’ve got differentiation, maybe do a survey, but find out what’s unique and really start to promote that. I think it’s really important today.  The second is to have a value proposition, not an elevator statement, but a value proposition that proves out your fees. And the third is to have that elevator statement, that statement that you would use when you’re talking with someone who’s in a specific niche, so that you really are being purposely informational to them.

SUSAN:  That’s really interesting. Now, you mentioned the value proposition.  Tell me a little bit about how you think about those. And I think you have a formula to help advisors think about how to construct one.

MARIBETH:  Yeah, we have a formula for a value proposition, which is really proving that fee out.  It’s having an overview statement, like ‘Investing Redefined.’  And then being able to say, ‘There’s three things that we do.’ This is not an elevator statement, but a value proposition.  ‘The first thing we do is this.  The second thing we do is this.  The third thing we do is this.’  And to combine it all together to be a memorable way of discussing what it is that you do so that somebody could actually repeat it or understand what you do. In a case of, ah, a client of ours, they say, ‘Financial planning, investment management, intellectual capital and you never get that call where somebody says, ‘Now, what am I paying that fee for?’

SUSAN:  Makes a lot of sense. Now, you talked a little bit about the way you have to get your message out into the marketplace. And I know social media is something a lot of advisors are struggling with.  There’s a lot of regulation in that space. So what are some safe ways that advisors can enter that social media space?

MARIBETH:  I think the person needs to think about your exposure.  Google yourself and see what your prospects are seeing.  Statistically, nine out of ten are going to Google you before they come in to see you the very first time. And so if that’s the case… and, by the way, if it… if a million-dollars or more, it’s ten out of ten times.  So if you think about, ‘Well, what does that really mean?’  Well, your prospects are seeing whatever they’re seeing, and that is making them either want to pick up the phone and call or not. So make sure you’ve got a good picture.  Make sure you’ve got your statement up there as to who you work with, and what it is that you do, and why you’re unique. Make sure that you just got that exposure up there that you need on LinkedIn, Twitter, if you want to use that, and Facebook.

SUSAN:  That’s great.  Now, we talked about some social channels. Tell me about other channels, other ways that advisors can get their messages out into the marketplace?

MARIBETH:  Well, I think one of the ways is just local. You know, are you local?  Are you active local?  Are you doing the things that… advisors know that being out in the community, networking, involved in charities, and boards, and things like that, but there’s other ways that you can really get your message out.  And one of the ways is to do community events, or to do client events, or to do events, in general, where you’re inviting people from the community. And that’s one of the ways that you can sort of get the word out. That can then turn into, ‘Well, we took a picture, we put it on social media, we wrote up an article, we put it in the newspaper,’ those kinds of things.  So I think it’s important to be out there as a financial advisor. But, again, I’ll take one step back and say no matter what you do, if you do not have your messaging down pat… if somebody says, ‘What do you do?’ you’ve got to know what that is.  If somebody says, ‘Why should I pay this fee to you?’ you’ve got to know what your answer is to that and know your differentiation.

SUSAN:  Maribeth, thank you so much for being here today. It was really great to hear about your actionable strategies for advisors. Thank you.

MARIBETH:  Thank you, Susan.

Susan Forman, Senior Vice President, Schwab Institutional Services
Maribeth Kuzmeski, PhD, President, Red Zone Marketing

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