I’ve been thinking about the concept of value – what do clients see as being valuable in the services we offer.

In the financial planning world, I’ve seen a lot of planners who still feel that sending regular statements to clients is valuable.  If the clients already get reports from their investment providers, and they can log on to the fund manager’s web site 24/7 to get up to date details of their balances, why would they find the stuff that you send them of any value? 

Surprisingly, there’s some stuff that we do for clients that they find incredibly valuable, yet costs us very little to deliver.  Things like:

  • Alerting them to any legislative change that may affect their future plans (easy with a segmented client base and a good CRM)
  • Monitoring the fund managers who manage their investments and letting the clients know if we think they need to move managers.  In practice, it’s not very often we actually need to move managers, but clients have peace of mind knowing we’re still monitoring things.
  • Being available to talk on the phone or in person when they need to run something by us.  Clients I’ve spoken with find this very valuable.
  • Helping them complete paperwork for tax or social security.  Whilst we don’t provide tax advice, we can help them collate the paperwork for their accountants to use.  Again, it’s easy for us to do, but the clients who require this service (generally the elderly) value it highly.
  • Another thought about things clients find valuable – our knowledge!  I’ve been involved in the financial services industry since 1987.  I’ve seen high inflation, low inflation, bull markets, bear markets, investment scams, legislative change…the list goes on.  My clients see value in using my experience to help them. 

My knowledge is the most valuable thing I can offer my clients, yet it is the thing I most often undervalue.

I’m often in situations where I meet with clients and discuss their current situation and plans for the future.  With my experience and knowledge, sometimes it isn’t hard to suggest three or four strategies or ideas that will be suitable for them to achieve their goals.  We can discuss them in a general way in that inital appointment, but we always need to put our advice in writing.  This gives us time to better research the strategies and double-check the numbers.

Here’s the issue – a lot of the time, the things we put in writing aren’t that different to the numbers we talked about after a 30 minute discussion with the client.  I sometimes feel like we do a lot of extra work, but the initial ‘hunch’ proves correct.  Interestingly, the clients still find the process of receiving a written report very valuable, and like receiving something in writing.  More often I feel funny charging them a fair fee for something I’ve thought up relatively quickly and then asked another staff member to prepare. 

What I’ve been making an effort to do better is to sell the value to our clients – ‘this strategy will save you $10k every year in tax’, or ‘investing an extra $1k per month up to your retirement will give you an extra $10k when you retire’.

The whole area of client expectations and value fascinates me and I’ll be writing more about it in the future.

We’ve put this story on the last page of our business brochure – I think it sums up the concept of value and experience nicely.

Picasso was painting in the park one afternoon. A woman recognized the master, and wished to capitalize on her good fortune. She politely asked Picasso if he would please sketch her portrait, as she had so long admired his work. He agreed, and within five minutes, handed the woman a lovely portrait.

“Thank you! Thank you!” the woman replied. “What do I owe you?”

To which, Picasso replied, “That will be $5,000.”

The woman, taken aback, said, “Five thousand dollars? But, it only took you five minutes!”

“No, madam,” replied Picasso, “it has taken me all my life.

Many people in service industries forget that the product they sell is based on their knowledge or abilities.  We tend to undervalue that, or not understand where our clients see value.

Have a think about your business.  Do you know what the services or products are that you can deliver which are most valuable to your clients?  How do you know they’re valuable?  Have your clients told you, or are you guessing?