What my 5-year-old taught me about value propositions

A couple of weeks ago, after a return from an East Coast trip, my five-year-old asked me, “Dad, what do you do on all those trips?”  So I went to work and started telling him what his old man does – custom solutions, strategic planning, moving the needle, and all the other buzzwords that rock my world. I was about two minutes into it and he cut me off.  “Hey Dad,” he asked, “Can I watch cartoons now?” Yep, I’d lost the sale.

It got me thinking about how we tell our stories – or our value propositions.  Through the years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of mission statements, value propositions, core belief statements and I’m convinced most of us (myself included!) suffer from the curse of knowledge (Want to know more about it?  Read this short article from the Harvard Business Review).

We’re writing value propositions for our peers – not our prospects and clients.  Just like my five-year-old, our target audience doesn’t spend their whole day worrying about retirement plans – but we spend our lives there, and as a result, we’re not addressing prospects and clients on their level. 


It’s important to think about your value proposition on several levels, because you’re selling an experience of who you are, what you do and what it’s like to work with you. Your value proposition needs to emotionally connect with your audience, so envision a current prospect or a favorite client, your target audience. Imagine them as you answer the questions below:

  • Differentiators – What’s truly different about you and your firm?  Not the 30,000-foot level jargon that every brochure has, but what is it about your team that’s unique? Your proprietary tools, your process, your affiliations…what makes you different? How do you stand out from the next advisor/financial professional?
  • Benefits – How do you improve your prospect or client’s current situation? How do you make their life better? Easier?
  • Show and tell – A statement is a great start, but it needs to be more. How can you illustrate your value with results, sample reports, case studies, research?

Here’s a great exercise to help you answer these questions and get you started creating your value proposition.

It’s been said that people remember about 4% of what you say, but they remember 100% of how you make them feel. When a prospect reads or hears your value proposition, how are they going to feel about you? Obviously, my value proposition didn’t resonate emotionally with my five-year-old. He felt bored. That’s the opposite of what you want to happen.

Remember your audience – avoid jargon, and focus on differentiators and benefits and you’ll end up with a story they’ll be interested in.

Hit me up with questions in the comments or on Twitter. Next time, we’ll build on this and start talking marketing plans.

In addition to blogging here, I also tweet regularly about advisor-focused practice management topics like sales and lead generation, marketing, service and management/operations. Follow me on Twitter at @Rschutty.


Affiliation Disclosures

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company. Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, Member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers. Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor. Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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