Financial advisors know there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace today. And they know they need a unique value proposition (UVP) to help market their services and attract new clients. Most of the more than 300,000 client-facing financial advisors have attended at least one workshop or training class on creating a unique value proposition.

Creating a unique value proposition is one of the most common subjects we are asked to speak on. As a way of lending you our expertise without having you attend yet another workshop on the subject, I’ve gathered three good unique value propositions and two great unique value proposition statements from some successful teams we’ve worked with—and provided insights on why they work and how they can be improved. Think of this as coaching in a can.

Good UVP #1: Our team helps business partners turn their business into a secure lifetime income.

This is a good, basic unique value proposition. It’s brief and very much to the point. There’s a focused target group (business partners) and a clearly defined benefit (secure lifetime income). It doesn’t get much clearer or more direct than this, so this is a very good effort for a first attempt at a UVP. Here’s how it can be improved:

Don’t “help”; specialize. No one thinks they need help—certainly not business people and especially not entrepreneurs. Consider instead: “The ABC Team specializes in…”

“Business partners” is a bit confusing. Does the team really specialize in helping “business partners”? If you really specialize in partnerships, that could be a very interesting target group (very specific). If you mean “business owners,” say it, but be more specific. Consider highlighting the industry, type of business or particular point in the business’ lifecycle.

What’s the pain? The UVP clearly defines the benefit—lifetime income—but people are more motivated to avoid pain than to achieve pleasure. How can you relieve the client’s pain of worrying about income for life? Can this be rewritten as “guaranteed income,” or is it just “secure income”?

For a unique value proposition to be truly great, you need to specify the target group as much as possible and then articulate the group’s pain as clearly and powerfully as possible. A great unique value proposition causes the audience to go, “Hey, that’s me they’re talking about!” and then, “Yes, that’s how I feel!” and then, “I’ve got to go talk to those guys!”

Good UVP #2: I provide wealth accumulation strategies for small-business owners who realize they are behind in saving for retirement.

This is a very solid UVP that is consistent with the model. It is tight and focused, and will work as it is. However, to improve it from good to great:

Avoid buzzwords. “Wealth accumulation” is a buzzword in our industry. How can you reword this so that everyone in your target market understands and can relate to it?

Avoid jargon. “Small-business owners” is jargon. A UVP works best when it meets the audience members in a way they can relate to. Very few business owners think of themselves as a “small-business owner.” They think of themselves as part of an industry, as an entrepreneur or through other criteria they can relate to personally and emotionally. If this could be more specific (like dry cleaners or franchise owners or chiropractors), it would be stronger.

What’s the biggest concern? Is feeling “behind in saving for retirement” the deepest concern of the target group? Is this the group’s strongest pain? A UVP works when it touches a hot button. In this case, many entrepreneurs are so focused on the survival of their business that they aren’t thinking about a retirement savings plan. They imagine that they’ll fund their retirement out of the sale of their business. To make this UVP truly great, consider taking a closer look at your target market and make sure you have found the hottest button to push.

A great UVP is always about the target audience, its members’ pain and their needs rather than the features and benefits of the advisor’s practice. As marketing guru Jay Abraham reminds us, “It’s not about you. It’s all about them.” Advisors limit the motivational force of their UVP when they describe their valuable services rather than speak to the emotional needs of a particular group of people.

Keeping the UVP “all about them” is important. When forming your new UVP, return to the fundamental questions: Who (specifically) is the target group? And what (specifically) is the group’s greatest concern? In my experience, advisors almost always think about their UVP in terms of what they have to offer rather than what the target clients are most interested in receiving. Keep returning to the needs of your potential target group.

Good UVP #3: I specialize in providing comprehensive financial planning to successful business owners and executives who are unable to devote the time necessary to ensure their financial goals and dreams are being most effectively met.

This is a good UVP and will work effectively to start a conversation. It could be better in some important ways:

Avoid generalities and jargon. You probably already noticed the generalities and jargon in this message: “comprehensive financial planning,” “business owners” and “the time necessary.” Being too busy is a very general problem shared to some extent by most successful people. A great UVP deals with specifics and pain—a specific solution to a particular problem that a certain group of people have.

Great UVP #1: I provide monetization strategies for owners of closely held corporations who are interested in liquidating some of their ownership and have concerns about taxes.

Notice the specifics: not just business owners but owners of “closely held corporations who are interested in liquidating,” and not just financial services but “monetization strategies” that address “concerns about taxes.”

Great UVP #2: I provide asset protection strategies for anesthesiologists who are concerned about litigation and the loss of personal wealth.

I’ve found that many advisors worry about getting too specific because they fear that the group of potential clients they will attract may be too small. This is a mistake, because you need only 10 to 20 new clients a year, each with $2 million to $5 million in investible assets, to become extraordinarily successful. Think of your UVP as setting you up to “own” a group.

A Truly Great Unique Value Proposition Should Be…

Specific: The more you specify a business or industry or situation, the more you can define the painful problems the investor is likely to have. Technology start-ups are really different from multigenerational family businesses. Each of these business owners will have different needs and will engage the Financial Advisor on different solutions. 

Different: Detach from what you know and what everyone else is doing. Create something truly unusual. The idea of a UVP is to think very differently from everybody else, and that starts with getting clear about the needs of a particular group of highly desirable clients and defining what causes them the most pain. 

Focused:Prospective clients and referral advocates don’t have the time or emotional energy to listen to a long, rambling self-description. A unique value proposition should be no more than a sentence or two. 

Unique: Ask the questions “Can anyone else make this claim?” and “Can a prospective client find this/hear this elsewhere?” A UVP points to a particular expertise that distinguishes your business from similar providers.

Relevant: For example, one client team included in their UVP that they provided refreshments at every client meeting, as evidence of their hospitality and concern for their clients’ well-being. It was very nice that this group provided a beverage service to their clients, and I’m sure their clients value this extra, personalized touch. I wish more advisory practices would do this; it’s easy to do and makes a great impression. However, I doubt a prospective client would select his or her new advisor because a beverage service was provided. This information has no place in a great UVP.

A UVP should point to a unique, compelling and valuable dimension of what your advisory practice delivers that will make a prospective client say, “I need to find out more about that group—they sound like they specialize in my situation.”

As a way to sharpen your assessment of your current UVP, I offer here a “test” for a great marketing statement: Imagine that you have written the UVP in big, block letters on a white billboard out on the highway. All you get to write is the UVP and your telephone number. Imagine that lots of people will look at the billboard every day. Would anyone call?

Unique. Specific. Valuable. Motivating. That’s a great UVP.

Ken Haman is the Managing Director at the AllianceBernstein Advisor Institute, visit


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