Tips on Differentiating Your Retirement Practice from the “World’s Greatest Dad”

Yep, that’s me and I’ve got the mug to prove it! And if that were all I gave you, would you really believe it? For all you know, I bought the mug myself and my kids really call me Mr. Bossy (that’s another blog).

This is how I feel sometimes when I’m reading retirement advisor bios and value propositions. Everybody has the buzzwords – independent, unbiased, fiduciary, monitoring, managing…and most of those words are crammed into a tool or worksheet to create a statement, slogan or motto.

It’s a start, but without more depth or visual illustrations of value, those words might as well be printed on a coffee mug.

Here are a few ideas on how you can differentiate and illustrate your value:

1.)   Proprietary tools – have you looked at your computer desktop lately? If you’re like me, you have agendas, presentations, illustrations, excel files and more that you’ve created for clients and prospects over the years. I’d be willing to wager that it’s a wealth of value. Your personal files (whether on your desktop, hard drive or file cabinet) are a great place to start because these items are proprietary to your practice and there is probably nothing like them in the market – productize them.

2.)   Illustrate process – why does this matter? Illustrating a process tells your client or prospect that you’ve done this before. If your RFP process is unique, I want to see it – show me what the experience will be like for me. Show me how you’ll report information and help me make a decision. Show and tell is so powerful in differentiating and illustrating value.

3.)   Document what you do in writing – yes, I know, earth shattering stuff here. But why aren’t you doing it? So much work goes into Investment Policy Statements (IPS) because they’re guides for the committee and allow you to show the process (see idea two above). Three documents that should be just as common as the IPS:

  1. Service Commitment – what you do for the client, and not just your ADV II or 408b(2) disclosure
  2. Education Policy Statement – documentation of education
  3. Fiduciary Roadmap – documentation that key tasks have been accomplished

4.)   Be real – above all, be genuine in what you do and what you love about your job. Nearly every advisor I talk to is passionate about helping people, and they see the retirement plan market as a way to help a large number of people save for retirement. If you’re one of those advisors, make sure your prospects and clients see and feel it when you talk – ditch the industry jargon and be real.

More than words on a mug

If I don’t help my kids see how I’m the “world’s greatest dad” then it’s just words on a mug. If you don’t show your clients and prospects how you’re different, then it’s just words on paper. If you can align what you do (illustrating value) and what you say (your value proposition), you’ll find it much easier to communicate what’s unique about your firm and truly differentiate yourself from everyone else.


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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  • The average age of investors is slowly increasing and will eventually affect the entire advisory industry. As clients get older, they need more advice. The management of retirement income has become the top issue that most clients want to discuss.

    Advisors need to “pivot” their practices towards retirement and focus on adding value to the discussion. An interesting panel discussion at the MMI Fall Solutions Conference covered this issue and provided great insight for advisors in this changing environment.

    You can read “7 Questions to Help Pivot Your Practice Towards Retirement” via this link: