Financial advisors tend to market themselves to prospects in the same way and find it difficult to differentiate what they do from what other practitioners do—as if their practice were “all things to all people.” That makes them generalists.

Those same firms also often use template websites to advertise their companies, since templates save them money and time. Templates for advisors might include stock tickers or investment research tools. But they beg the question: If clients want those tools, why do they need an advisor in the first place?

There’s A Way
Kirk Lowe, the chief brand tactician at TactiBrand (, asks this question: If financial advisors are in a highly regulated, commodity business with significant marketing limitations, how do they produce a product that seems different? How do they make a service look different to prospective clients?

It might be difficult, but it is not impossible to distinguish your financial firm from others, even similar ones. Investment products and solutions may usually be very similar (or at least they are perceived to be that way) but the way you present them and implement them (and the way the client experiences them) can make the difference.

Lowe points to a firm that is taking a different approach: Wealthfront ( The firm’s focus is low-cost ETF portfolios using modern portfolio theory, usually available only to affluent investors who’d be paying 1% in fees. Wealthfront offers this to investors with a minimum of $25,000. This can be for free or for a charge of up to 25 basis points.

Lowe also mentions WBI Investments (, which recently set an NYSE record with $1.3 billion invested on the first day of its newly launched actively managed ETFs. ETFs are traditionally passively managed. But WBI’s approach is new and compelling for sophisticated and unsophisticated investors alike. WBI is also unique in that it focuses on absolute returns instead of investment returns. “Returns” don’t paint the correct picture for investors and investment performance, says the firm.

What can you do that is different or unique that enhances or changes how your client experiences you or your services? You need to base it on your own strengths, as well as the clients’ needs.

Lowe suggests that it’s not necessarily about creating new products or services; it’s about making your clients believe your offering will be a new and better experience for them. If you can’t create a unique product, then perhaps you can package and deliver it differently. It is not enough to simply create a message. You need to develop unique ways to deliver that message.

Websites are an obvious way to do that. A developer who focuses on financial services may produce the compelling website your firm is looking for. This would typically be more expensive than generic template website hosting services. But the cost could be well worth it. The challenge is to create a presence that intrigues a first-time visitor and compels him or her to look beyond the home page and contact the firm.

Some people with modest budgets may have to use a template-style website service. But while most offer limited template choices, a few offer some customization. One in particular is Advisor Websites ( Not only does the company offer a number of template options, it also offers a range of monthly prices to fit the budget of financial advisory firms. According to the firm’s website, it starts with dynamic frameworks to customize an advisor’s site, not cookie-cutter templates. Its designers will work closely with your firm to build a site that reflects your brand, culture and direction. And its monthly pricing is competitive with that of other template website services that don’t necessarily offer the customization.

There are hurdles, however. Your site needs to be compliant with all rules and regulations covering advisory practices on both state and federal levels.

Once you have a site, you want to keep track of visitors. Google Analytics is a popular way to do this. You are wasting the money you’ve spent if you don’t check to see whether the content is resonating with visitors. Analytics, for example, can reveal whether your site’s content is out of date or simply not interesting to visitors, prompting you to change it.

Search-engine optimization allows you to get a higher ranking in searches on Google, Yahoo, etc. You should also consider working with firms that can help you integrate software with your site (for instance, by allowing clients access to password-protected lockboxes). After the site is up, you need to keep it current, relevant and compelling to get the most efficient results.

The “Blue Ocean Strategy,” based on the book of the same name by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, suggests that the goal of a firm is to render the competition irrelevant. The blue ocean is the uncontested market space. The red ocean is where there is considerable competition (and all the blood spilled by sharks biting each other).

The challenge for financial advisors is to find value innovation or provide products and services that are different from what other firms may be promoting. 

David L. Lawrence is founder and president of, a consulting firm that provides financial practices, broker-dealers and independent firms with comprehensive, profit-driven efficiency consulting and resources. He is also the author of The Efficient Practice: Transform and Optimize Your Financial Practice for Greater Profits and Success, available at