Both Advisor Products' and CRM's services offer a secure client lockbox or vault-type technology that the advisor and the client can use to store and transfer information. Both offer useful collaboration features. And both can provide investment reports to clients through a Web site that they can easily and quickly access. Advisors can also permit clients access to real-time reports (though it appears that the Advisor Products portal is capable of interfacing with a larger number of custodians and providers). From a Blue Ocean strategy standpoint, this type of service is clearly in the category of differentiation.

The other avenue to differentiation is your credentials. Most would agree that the CFP designation is the most widely recognized and respected one in the profession. Despite the many reasons for obtaining it, with so many CFPs out there, it is difficult to imagine how simply having the mark could set you apart from the rest of the pack. Many advisors have chosen to add other professional credentials to solve this problem and extend their capabilities. One Blue Ocean approach comes from the Financial Engineering Institute ( While not well known, the institute offers a unique way to describe what you do. Designed to appeal to the affluent and to business owner clients, its program offers new private-labeled financial tools and advanced case design support. The institute also offers planning, marketing and technical skills training. The institute's OpenOption Dream Architecture and Engineering Dreams into Life branding and positioning concepts provide unique and compelling messages for clients. Strategies like these can help create differentiation and uncontested market space.

Consider the so-called "30-second elevator speech." When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you say in 30 seconds that creates a compelling reason for someone to want to know more? If your answer is "I am a financial advisor," there is little reason for someone to ask for details. If your answer is, "I am a financial engineer," most people would be unfamiliar with that title and be compelled to ask what that is. Another example could be in how you describe what you do, rather than your credentials. When asked what you do, you might respond, "I help people accumulate and then spend piles of money." This type of answer draws a picture in someone's mind and raises their curiosity about how you can do this. The concept is to create awareness and build an overwhelming reason for someone to want to learn more about what you do and how they could benefit from it. In the world of the Blue Ocean, this is a very efficient way to create uncontested market space.

There are many more examples of Blue Ocean thinking in the financial services profession. We invite you to share your thoughts and stories on this topic by e-mailing [email protected]. Who knows? You may find yourself in the next installment of this article series.

David L. Lawrence is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of David Lawrence and Associates (DLA), a practice-consulting firm based in Tampa, Fla. DLA publishes a monthly subscription newsletter, The Efficient Practice, which focuses on operational efficiency ( David is a much-sought-after public speaker on a variety of leadership, financial and technical topics. For details, visit

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