Develop an expert status that attracts your target market — co-written with Rosemary Smyth

This article was co-written with my friend, Rosemary Smyth, an international coach to financial advisors. The article is also posted on her website.

When you have a toothache, you don’t go to your local mechanic’s shop to have a cavity filled and when your car isn’t running properly, you don’t pay a visit to your dentist. Rather, you go to the professional who has the education, experience, and qualifications to solve it. You go to the EXPERT.

As a financial advisor, you have a level of expertise in the industry. Unfortunately, so does every other financial advisor out there. The perception among prospects is that financial advisors are all clones; they look and act the same, they all know the same information, have basically the same products and they all provide similar care and attention to their clients. So what would motivate a client to go to one advisor versus another?

You can separate yourself from the pack by building a unique and compelling expert status. An expert status provides new advisors with a head-start advantage in the industry and seasoned advisors with a way to strengthen their client base. An expert status benefits you by:

  • Clarifying and focusing your marketing efforts.
  • Helping you to zoom in on a specific target market.
  • Making you more memorable to those you connect with.
  • Assisting your existing clients to refer you to others.
  • Guiding how you develop your career.

Creating your expert status

Start with these steps. You may need to get some help from trusted friends or family members to help you.

  1. Make a list of your strengths and values that describe you best. List as many as you can (although be cautious to avoid listing the characteristics that you wish described you but really don’t. Start with what you have, not what you aspire to be.)
  2. Make a second list of the things that are interesting and memorable about you. This might include your background, your interests your personal style, and even your hobbies.
  3. Make a third list of the things that you have in common with your target market. For example, there might be demographic or psychographic similarities, such as language, ethnicity, education, philanthropy, etc.
  4. Make a fourth list describing the problems that you solve for your target market. Focus on the problems you like to solve and are particularly good at versus everything you can do. (And remember: Keep it focused on problems you solve rather than products or services you offer. This is a key difference).

Now you have four lists that describe aspects of who you are, who you like to work with, and how you can help them. Using these four lists, choose a couple of items from each list as a starting point to put together a unique expert status that not only describes you in a way that is unique among financial advisors.

Here are some examples of excellent expert statuses advisors might create:

  • “I’m an expert at helping women as they navigate the financial complexities of divorce.”
  • “I’m an expert at helping seniors who are downsizing and need estate planning.”
  • “I’m a Mandarin-speaking advisor who works with new immigrants and their families.”
  • “I’m a former Olympian who works with athletes to help them with their unique financial planning challenges.”

Notice how these one-sentence descriptions immediately portray expert status, demonstrating problems that are solved, target markets that are served, and the advisor’s experience and available financial solutions.
Using the four lists you made earlier, create a few of these one-sentence expert status descriptions for yourself and review them against the following questions:

  • Do you like how this describes you?
  • Are there people with whom this expert status would resonate?
  • Can you see a growing demand for this expert status in the future?
  • Which expert status feels the most authentic and motivates you to get up each day and give your very best?
  • If you have some experience in the industry already, what has worked for you?

Ask family and friends for feedback. Don’t expect to nail down an answer immediately, and expect to adjust this expert status over time.

If you’re not sure how to construct these one-sentence expert statuses, here is a useful template to use: “My intention is to work with (my perfect prospect) ______ because I am particularly adept at helping them with _________, and they get ________ as a result.”

How to use your expert status

Once you have an expert status that you feel is authentic to you and attractive to your target market, revisit your prospecting efforts to ensure that everything you do aligns with this new expert status:

  • Does your expert status resonate with your audience as something they find trustworthy and memorable?
  • Does your marketing communicate your expert status to your audience?
  • Are there networking activities that are more closely aligned with your new expert status than the ones you are currently using?
  • How can you communicate your expert status to your existing clients to help them refer others to you more actively?
  • What education and personal development can you invest in to help you strengthen this expert status?
  • How can you serve in the community to enhance your expert status and to build your reputation as an expert?
  • What other experts can you add to your network to act as centers of influence (COIs), who would help to support your expert status and assist you in helping your clients?

Your expert status may seem like it has the potential to limit the number of people who come to you, as well as the services you offer. Counter-intuitively, it can actually make you more attractive to your prospects because an expert status separates you from your peers and elevates you.

Get started!

Take action to start building expert status today by making the four lists and gather those components together into an exciting, authentic, attractive sentence that describes why your prospects should view you as THE expert.

Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at www.rosemarysmyth.com. You can email Rosemary at: rosemary@rosemarysmyth.com.

Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. His first book, The Sales Funnel Bible, helps advisors master their sales funnel. Visit his website at AaronHoos.com and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.

14 ways that retailers can embrace showrooming

With apologies to my friends in retail, I was an unintentional showrooming customer recently:

A couple of months ago I needed to buy a video camera. I’d never owned one before so I read online to find out what sorts of things I should think about when buying a camera; I read several comparison sites and product review sites, and decided on a camera to buy. I found a local electronics store that stocked the camera (according to their website) and I drove there to buy it.

But when I got there, they didn’t have it. The unhelpful salesperson (who took forever to serve me) didn’t know when they’d be getting more in. So I went home, visited the store’s website, bought it online, had it shipped to me for free (and at a price that was cheaper than what was advertised for what it would have cost if the camera had been in the store).

If you are in retail, you have showrooming customers: People who go to your store to look around and then go somewhere else (increasingly online) to buy it there.

Showrooming is a real problem for retail stores right now — particularly for electronics stores like Future Shop, Best Buy, etc., but certainly other industries are getting hit by this phenomenon as well. We’re a shopping culture equipped with powerful mobile devices and we are highly educated on how to find good deals.

I get why showrooming seems to be a problem. But I’d like to put forward the case that showrooming could help businesses.

14 WAYS TO EMBRACE SHOWROOMING

Is showrooming really that bad? From the store’s perspective, showrooming represents a waste of building, inventory, and staff resources, and (of course) a loss of revenue.

But from a consumer perspective, it’s not that bad. And I hate to point this out but all stores are in the business of helping customers. So, how can retailers address the reality of showrooming in their business to help customers who are increasingly becoming showrooming shoppers?

Here are 14 ideas.

  1. Post QR codes in the store to products on your website. When people are in the store with their mobile devices, make it easy for them to find it on your website first. (Hint: Once they are on your site, give them a reason to buy it right them from the site.
  2. Advertise in-store that you will beat your competitor’s prices — and you should probably add “even online prices!”.
  3. If you have more products online than in your store (even temporarily, as was the case for the video camera I bought), educate your sales staff to direct people to the store’s website, perhaps even walking them over to an in-store computer where they can make the purchase right there. Train your staff to provide compelling reasons to buy now from the company website.
  4. Make your sales staff easy to work with. One of the biggest reasons I prefer to shop online is because I can never find a salesperson at some of those big box electronics stores. And when I do, they’re busy. And when they finally do help me, they’re frequently called away by others. Plus they’re like 16 years old and I wonder if they even know what they are talking about.
  5. Train your staff to sell the extended warranty intelligently and less aggressively. The hassle of saying “no” a dozen times to a commission-eager salesperson is a huge motivator for me to shop online; I check a box once for “no extended warranty” and I’m done with it. I understand that extended warranties are big money makers but they’re also a hassle for the customer and I think it’s something that drives people to shop online.
  6. Customers want to control their shopping experience. That’s one reason that online shopping is so attractive: You can browse and buy what you want and when you want. Sales staff need to be trained to help customers feel like they are in control of their shopping experience. I think apparel salespeople do this really well but electronics salespeople do not.
  7. Entice your customers into the store by offering them a unique buying experience. Why would I ever go into a Staples store — where I can never find staff and then I have to wait in line when I do want to buy something — when, instead, I can go online and buy what I want and have it shipped to my house for free within a day? No contest. Can retailers take a page from the playbook of shopper-friendly stores like Chapters? Yes, even Chapters isn’t immune from showrooming but they’ve got Starbucks and a very positive experience that brings people into their stores. And that’s a start.
  8. Offer incentives for buying in the store right now. Going back to my video camera experience — why would I ever want to drive to a store and then pay more for a product if I can get it shipped to my house? I guess “immediate pick-up” (compared to waiting for delivery) might be one enticement but it’s not always an enticement. It doesn’t have to be a price enticement. Get creative on this. A couple of ideas follow…
  9. Offer products that they simply won’t get online. Yeah, you can buy everything online but you might not always think of shopping for 100 different branded computer mouses, each one bearing the name of your favorite band or sports team. In store, you can get that. See? Bring people in with other stuff that they can’t easily find online.
  10. Package deals that they won’t get online. Bundling seems hard to do online. I’ve only seen a few stores do it well. In general, you get your list of stuff, add things individually to a shopping cart, and checkout, perhaps applying some kind of coupon code to the whole cart. But in store, you can get creative. You can bundle things together. Don’t make me shop for the 100 individual cords that need to connect my computer to my surround sound system — put them altogether in a bundle of cords.
  11. Offer additional services that they won’t get online. When I’ve bought computers online and had them shipped to my house, I plugged them in, turned them on, and I was good to go. But I went out to an electronics store to buy my entertainment system. Why? Because there are so many damn cords to connect, I needed a bit of help. I still did it wrong at first but the guy at the store was helpful. He gave me a nice little chart to show me where everything should go. He even offered to come to my house to hook it all up (for an additional fee… I think he did this on the side). Hooking up electronics isn’t the only thing you can offer. But you can offer all kinds of things when you have someone face-to-face. For example…
  12. Turn shopping into an event. Hold prizes. Have a DJ in the store. Hold after-hours events. Hold demonstrations. Offer courses. Shoot coupons from a cannon.
  13. Eliminate the hassles of shopping in-store: Packaging, delivery, returns, parking, line-ups. These are all the annoyances of shopping at a store, in my opinion. These are all reasons that people don’t want to buy at a store, even if they show up at your location for showrooming purposes. So sit down with your sales staff and your store design team and the people who train your staff and figure out how to eliminate these things. Not just minimize them… eliminate them. It won’t be easy and you’re going to hate me for even suggesting it.
  14. Stores want to be stores and not showrooms. But what if you changed your thinking and decided to BE a showroom? Advertise it as such. Instead of calling your staff “sales associates”, call them “demonstrators” or “product guides”. Tell people you are a showroom and invite them to try stuff out. Hey, at least they are coming into your store. They might even be more attracted to coming to your store (instead of your competitor because you’re a showroom but your competitor has aggressive sales staff). Once they are in your store, try to sell to them while they are there with friendly, helpful, knowledgeable (some customers will buy), capture their information (some will buy later, and now you can market to them), incentivize them to come back when they are shopping for something else. You can do other stuff to help embrace this showroom idea — I’ve listed a bunch of ideas at my post: 11 ways to build credibility for your business.

Hey, these tips aren’t going to solve every showrooming issue. I’ll be the first to admit that. Showrooming was a problem before mobile phones and internet shopping became prevalent (it’s just more common and easier to do now). Business models may need to change, too, since company-owned websites but franchise-owned stores take money away from the franchisees.

But showrooming is a reality and retailers shouldn’t just ignore it or tolerate it or complain about it… the ones who will thrive in this new marketplace will be the ones who embrace it.

What I’m work on this week (May 27 – 31)

I hope everyone is have having a nice long weekend, and taking time out for some thoughtful reflection and remembrance of our military heroes. Yes, I live in Canada and today is technically a “workday” for me (our “Memorial Day” and “Veterans Day” are lumped into one on November 11th) but I will still take time today to value the sacrifice of military heroes — both Canadian and American — who have fought for my freedom.

So it’s a work day for me. And here’s what I’m working on today, and for the rest of the week:

  • I’ve got some articles to write up based on the Metals and Minerals Investment Conference that was held in New York on May 13 and 14. I write these reports for my client, MetalsNews.com. They are a real highlight for me because I get amazing access to some of the industry’s top thinkers and writers — I hear their wisdom and turn it into useful content for MetalsNews readers.
  • A book I wrote for a real estate investing client was just published on Amazon on the weekend and it hit the best-seller status. There is a bit of follow-up on that project (just some wrapping-up; making sure my client and his assistants have the final version of the document, etc.). And we’re moving on to our next project starting this week! That’s right… zero downtime. Love it!!!
  • I’ve got a bunch of articles to write for a credit expert, which get distributed around various places on the web.
  • The bulk of my own book has finally be completed this weekend. Now I’m in the detailed editing phase — reviewing multiple times for spelling, grammar, and basically to make sure that I make sense!
  • I’ve got another project coming out later this week. Really excited about… watch for it!

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Government money, dumb money, and too much money’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

I’ve had an interesting relationship to money in my life: Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of it so I really noticed a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and definitely felt that I was firmly among the have-nots. I developed the idea that I’d never achieve “have” status. When I was a stockbroker, the guy who trained me said: “Money isn’t the most important thing in the world. It’s second to oxygen” — a quote that I have pondered and debated in my mind since hearing it. It reveals a humorous truth and a dark side as well. Today, I work with people who make a ton of money. I make more than I need yet I still have a weird “have-not” relationship with money. It’s weird. Okay, psychologists, you can start analyzing.

Here’s some money-related stuff I’ve been reading this week:

My business model: How I run multiple brands without going insane

I’m sometimes asked questions like “how many websites do you own?” or “how do you monetize your websites?” so I’m writing this blog post to talk about that a bit.

I don’t see myself as a website owner or someone who exclusively uses one type of monetization. Here’s how I really view my business model:

I own my very own personal venture capital firm in which I use my own money to invest in assets (like businesses and real estate) in niches and industries I can add value in. Sometimes I start a business up, sometimes I buy a business (or a part of a business, as in the case of a stock market equity). I add value as much as I can (usually through content creation or topical expertise); and if I can’t add value directly (as in the case of equities), I make sure I know enough about the business to trust that someone else is adding value.

These assets are monetized in different ways: Some are brands built into one or more websites that get advertisements put on them; others are monetized with services that I deliver (or I co-deliver with someone else); others with ebooks; others with affiliate offers; etc. As much as possible, I try to monetize each asset in multiple ways. Real estate is usually monetized with rental (and the bonus of appreciation when I sell). Equities I buy tend to be appreciation only (I like dividend-paying equities but I also love to speculate in junior resource stocks).

This mindset is freeing. It means I can work in a variety of industries that interest me, and I can build the kind of business where I see a profitable opportunity. I’m not tied to a specific kind of brand, niche, or monetization model. It also means that I have a big picture in mind: Some brands make a lot of money and others make a little bit but I can evaluate them on their own merits and grow my overall “empire” in the way that I want to.

If you run more than one brand, maybe this kind of “personal venture capital firm” mindset will work for you to help give you the right perspective?