Does Your Value Proposition Resonate?

A gap exists between what financial advisers say during early-stage client meetings and what truly resonates with prospects, according to a new survey form Pershing.

The research suggests an effective value proposition can strengthen new client connections and foster practice growth, yet few advisers seek out or receive objective guidance in formulating such statements. Above all, Pershing says advisers should view the value proposition stage as the time to differentiate their services from the competition.

Survey results suggest an effective value proposition answers the critical client question, “Why should I choose your firm over the competition?” Yet according to the survey, 60% of clients polled said they hear prospecting advisers from competing firms make similar or identical service-related promises. Pershing says this makes it difficult for many clients to distinguish between advisory firms and make a truly informed decision about which firm may best serve their needs.

The strongest value propositions, according to Pershing, incorporate the unique attributes of the advisory practice being discussed; a rational explanation of how the firm’s attributes will benefit the client; and language that evokes emotion, especially optimism.

“Developing an effective value proposition can have larger implications on an adviser’s overall business than they may realize,” says Kim Dellarocca, managing director at Pershing. “In many instances, the value proposition is the first impression potential clients experience and can be the catalyst for a future relationship.”

Dellarocca says the value proposition is also an opportunity for advisers to promote sustainable business growth by identifying and targeting their ideal client base. The adviser should understand how the attributes and features of his practice could appeal to specific demographic groups or client segments. Such insights should be constantly updated and worked into the value proposition, Pershing says. 

“Of course, the real test is delivering on what you promise,” Dellarocca adds.

Based on a systematic look at the value propositions used by the fastest-growing advisory practices, as well as investor reactions to these and other value propositions, Pershing has identified key takeaways for advisers to consider when creating a value proposition of their own. 

First, advisers must include core promises in their value proposition that will serve as the foundation for the client relationship. Pershing’s poll found that investors respond well to promises to build tailored investment solutions that can meet specific goals. While clarity is king, don't oversell simplicity, Pershing warns. Many advisory firm websites promise to simplify investing and relieve clients of the burden of managing wealth, but according to Pershing's study, most investors accept the need to take an active role in managing their own finances.

Additionally, two topics that investors care about most—finding defensive investment approaches that retain growth potential and finding trusted sources of advice and guidance—are under-represented in most value propositions.

Prospective clients also seek assurances that the adviser will work in their best interest, and that the adviser will work with skilled and experienced investment managers. Pershing warns that such points may seem obvious, but advisers who do not specifically mention these points in their value propositions risk being excluded from consideration by potential clients.

Successful advisers also need to include “something extra to differentiate themselves,” Pershing says, such as the delivery of unusual client benefits, like building a family legacy or understanding clients' personal aspirations. If the client is a retirement plan sponsor, language around participant financial wellness and boosting retirement outcomes is important, as is discussion of fiduciary accountability.

Advisers must also watch their language, especially early in the prospecting phase. Pershing’s poll shows potential clients dislike jargon and favor words with emotional connotations—meaning how the value proposition is formulated is just as important as the message it is trying to portray. For example, when judging between near-synonyms, investors prefer words with an emotional punch, such as “unwavering” and “passionate” rather than “committed” and “dedicated.” In addition, Pershing's survey found that investors prefer value statements that incorporate terms like “comprehensive” over “holistic” by a ratio of seven to one.

Trust remains a much bigger concern for investors than the financial industry realizes, Pershing says. Advisers, therefore, must ensure their value propositions include a message about why investors should trust them. This can be accomplished through language around track-record and credentials, as well as more general themes of accountability, integrity and fiduciary responsibility.

Finally, Pershing reminds advisers that different market segments place higher emphasis on different adviser attributes. Advisers should identify their ideal client base and what is most important to them in an adviser—and make sure their value propositions exhibit those points. For instance, investors younger than 40 place higher importance on advisers who will provide guidance through life's major events and relieve the burden of managing finances.

Pershing's “What Do Top Advisors Say and What Do Investors Really Think?” survey report is available at

Pershing, a BNY Mellon company, provides investing and business solutions for financial organizations, broker/dealers, registered investment advisory firms, fund managers and asset managers.