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Refreshing Your Elevator Pitch

As you begin to implement your 2013 marketing plan, focus on this four-step process to refresh your elevator pitch.

Helen Modly, 02/14/2013

Experts tell us that our elevator pitch should accomplish four things. It should describe what business we are in, identify our ideal client, differentiate us from our competitors, and provide a call to action. A good pitch is conversational, memorable, and believable.

What You Do
Try to avoid describing yourself with a label such as CFP, financial planner, investment advisor, or wealth manager. Many studies have shown that people don't really understand these descriptions and are so confused by the alphabet soup of designations that this just isn't really helpful.  

Instead, spend some time with your best clients and ask them how they would describe you and your services to a friend. Also ask them why they chose you over other potential advisors. Would they make the same choice today? What about their relationship with you and your firm provides the most value to them? Many of us take pride in our investment management only to learn that our clients value our ability to help them make informed financial decisions more than their account performance.

If you have a tag line for your firm, try to incorporate it into your description. If it feels awkward to say, maybe you need a new tag line! Ours is "Sound Advice--Uncommon Service" and it fits nicely into our elevator pitch. Carefully check your marketing materials and your website for consistency of message.

Describe Your Ideal Client
Early in the year is also the perfect time to reconnect with your best referral sources and "Centers of Influence." Meet with your best CPAs and attorneys and ask them how they would describe you to a potential client and what situations cause them to think of you as a potential referral. Ask them to describe who they think is your ideal client. This can be a very mutually beneficial conversation since you will be telling them how you view their services and whom you think their ideal client would be. Guaranteed, you will both learn something new about each other's business.

A good client description should fit many different people but will identify a particular objective or current situation. Are you looking for people planning on retiring in the next three to five years, the newly widowed or divorced, busy senior executives in a certain industry or with a certain employer, or those facing some other sort of financial transition? Even though you may have investment minimums, I wouldn't mention this in an elevator pitch unless your minimums are what set you apart, such as, "We only work with senior partners of law firms with $10 million or more to invest." (Good luck with that one--you may have to ride a lot of elevators in fancy buildings!)

Differentiate Yourself
Let your competition help you. Next time you are at an industry gathering, ask other advisors how they answer the question. You will very quickly see just how similar and hopelessly bland most of the responses are. There will always be a few folks with very big egos and outlandish replies, but this exercise is really helpful.

When you are talking with your clients and Centers of Influence, ask them how they describe what they do. It is interesting to see how creative some of them will be. My favorite is an information technology officer at a very large firm who describes himself as Chief of Information Dominance. Another one describes herself as one kick-ass website designer. Both are short, descriptive, and memorable. They don't describe ideal clients, but they are great starts.

Another fruitful area to explore is why you do what you do. Are you fulfilling a sense of ministry by helping those facing financial anxiety? Did a family member have a bad experience with an advisor or situation, and your mission is to prevent someone else from the same experience? If this is a true motivator, it will come across as genuine and heartfelt when you express it. If not, don't try to con anyone.

Perhaps you want to mention what you like best about your business. "I love solving difficult problems" or "I love it when a plan comes together" can be powerful statements. Maybe you are into the life-planning movement, and mentoring clients long-term is what drives you. If something along these lines is part of your professional identity, consider including it in your pitch. It is OK to rehearse and practice your elevator pitch. You don't need to memorize it word for word, but you do want a smooth delivery that doesn't feel like a canned script.

Call to Action
The ideal pitch will create curiosity and a question or two for more information. Even when it doesn't, you need a call to action. It can be a simple as, "visit my website" while you hand out a business card. It is a good idea to review your website and marketing materials regularly for consistency of message. Ideally, your website should reinforce your elevator pitch and provide additional credibility as well.

The best outcome of developing a solid elevator pitch is that you will actually look forward to someone asking you what you do, instead of stumbling over a dull response and kicking yourself later.

This article was co-authored by Susan Chesson, CTP, MBA.

Helen Modly, CFP, ChFC, is executive vice president and director of investment services for Focus Wealth Management, a fee-only registered investment advisor in Middleburg, Va. Modly has more than 20 years of experience providing wealth-management services. She is a member of NAPFA and FPA. She can be reached at info@focus-wealth.com.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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