The financial services industry is extremely competitive and marked by many one-of-a-kind challenges. While success in financial services may carry its own set of unique difficulties, there are several best practices that are transferable across all industries and will help you overcome competitor challenges.
1. Differentiate Your Business Through Relationships
You cannot survive in a competitive environment if you do not focus on bringing value through intimate connection with your clients and prospective clients. You cannot simply proclaim a difference in your products or services; you must differentiate client experiences and your relationships with each one of them.
For example, individuals and families can obtain many of the same financial services from a large number of providers. To stay ahead, Woman’s Worth created an integrated life-planning model that specializes in the unique lifetime income planning needs of women and focuses on life-planning issues significantly broader than only money and financial products.
Differentiating Woman’s Worth with this core market allows the company to develop key strategic partner and client relationships, resulting in strong brand loyalty. It brings a depth of knowledge and understanding, specializing in the unique life and financial needs of women as they navigate through their lives, up to and through retirement.
Continuously benchmark best practices and create differentiators in your business model. For example, create a differentiated client experience or package client solutions your competitors do not provide. Articulate in all your marketing touchpoints the value proposition you bring to the clients you serve and create strategies that allow them to attract clients.
Continuous monitoring and evaluation of your strategic differentiators is as critical as their identification and development. Capturing, analyzing and understanding key performance and market metrics to determine which tactics result in achieving the strategic and operational business goals help create best practices that can be incorporated into your strategic business planning.
2. Maintain Continuous Evaluation and Planning Practices
Assessing internal and external market factors utilizing a SWOT analysis model is an essential ongoing discipline. SWOT is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” and is a structured planning method that evaluates those four elements specific to your business environment, both internally to your organization and externally to your industry. Completed annually, the results should be synthesized into your company’s strategic planning processes.
Even in small businesses, strategic planning should drive operational planning to achieve predictable results and create strategies and tactics to achieve desired goals, thus giving you a competitive advantage. You typically get what you measure, so measurement is the critical component of getting predictable results.
3. Embrace Professional Development and Coaching
Investing in yourself as a business owner is essential to personal growth and is something to continue to budget for every year. The best business ideas come from personal development and coaching opportunities gained by engaging with successful individuals across all industries.
Finding others from across the business spectrum to learn from continues to be one of the most productive business practices available. Continuous learning is the bedrock of business success. Just as with investment in technology, marketing materials and employees, you must also invest in yourself to stay ahead of your competition.
4. Do Not Be Afraid to Listen to Input
Another tremendous asset for any business is the creation of a Client Advisory Board, which acts as an ambassador for your company’s services. The board consists of a group of the company’s best clients, prospective clients and individuals of influence in your community/industry who act as the conscience of the organization. They tell you what they experience from competitors and offer direction on how to continue to differentiate your company and maintain brand allegiance. A Client Advisory Board can be brutally honest and help you see things that might be working against your company vision or mission. Listen and act on their input; the results will be amazing.
Too often, small business owners fail. They do not re-invent themselves to remain competitive. Embracing a discipline of strategic and operational business evaluation and planning, developing differentiators through relationships, listening to top clients and individuals of influence, and investing in coaching and personal development will allow re-invention to be seamless, and for you to stay ahead of your competition.
Jeannette Bajalia, Woman’s Worth
Jeannette Bajalia is the founder of Woman’s Worth and has more than 40 years of experience in the insurance and financial services industries. She is also co-founder of the Growing Bolder Life Institute, which is powered by Woman’s Worth.