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Do you want to be like 80% of other brokers?

You’ve got the same products and services as every other broker. So why should an investor do business with you?

Thirty seven years ago, a Harvard professor answered a similar question. He was studying corn growers. He noticed that although they all supplied the same commodity to the marketplace, some were a lot more profitable and successful than others. He reached the conclusion that the commodity was only one element that the buyer purchased. The buyer also purchased timely delivery, lot sizes that fit their needs, discounts for volume purchases, mode of delivery and a host of other variables that accompanied the indistinguishable commodity. He found that the most successful corn producers, were innovators in providing the other variables around their commodity product. They developed the knack of differentiating the same product that others offered.

You can be like every other broker or you can differentiate yourself. There are dozens of ways to be different. Let’s look.

You can master a technical area that other brokers do not master such as qualified plans or cash management for mid-sized businesses or stock options or estate planning or utility stocks. There are unlimited arenas in which you can special through specific knowledge (which would be followed by a marketing program to advertise this unique ability to your niche market).

You can specialize in a specific niche, such as seniors, or business owners or care dealers. People prefer to do business with those that understand their needs. By focusing on one niche, you uncover needs to serve that other brokers do not see. Additionally, you build a reputation within that niche for being a “specialist.” Your marketing program would include writing a column in the journal for that niche, speaking at their meetings, employing a drip marketing campaign and popping up everywhere that your niche market gathers financial advice. You can also specialize with people of specific professions (e.g. engineers) or interests (e.g. Sierra Club members).

You can distinguish yourself with a radio or television show or by writing a book. Note that many areas have public access stations that are begging for programming. Most have studios with eager students in film school who will gladly produce your television show for next to nothing. Also, there are a few companies that will write a book for you. In other words, you just need to be the quarterback and have others implement these differentiating measures that will separate you from all other brokers.

You can build a business around a sport you love. I was recruited into the business by Richard who was a fine golfer. He joined the best country club in town where all of the CEOs belonged. He went to the course everyday at 2 pm and made best friends with the head caddy who organized the foursomes. He always gave the head caddy a nice tip for putting him in the foursomes with the richest members. The CEOs in the foursome, who were in their sixties, were shocked to see someone under age 40 out on the links mid-day. They were immediately impressed. End result: Richard, a newcomer to town, quickly became one of the top three producers at his firm and never had more than 65 clients.

If the above methods of differentiating yourself don’t click for you, follow what interests you: your hobbies, people you like to hang out with, books you like to read, etc. Look at anything that attracts you and see if there is a business-defining opportunity in that interest.

Yes, this will take some creativity and possibly some false starts. But it’s well worth a little effort rather than spending your career peddling the same funds and services as every other broker and always struggling to get clients.


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© 2008 Financial keynote speaker—Larry Klein