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How advisors can deliver meaningful value to clients

November 10, 2022
clock 4 MIN READ

I’m often asked, “what are other advisors doing?”

I believe this question stems from a belief that by doing more you are providing more value. I’m here to argue against this “more is more” mentality.

Is the number of services you offer really what matters? I’d say no. What matters is the relevance of those services, and your clients’ experience with them. Said another way, the value you deliver is equal to the value that your prospects and clients realize.

We see this disconnect around expected versus realized services play out in investor and advisor research. According to the Spectrum Group,1 investors expect advanced planning services such as tax planning, estate planning, and trust services, but often don’t report it when they don’t realize them.

On the other hand, according to the InvestmentNews 2022 Pricing, Profitability, and Compensation Study,2 advisors report delivering many of these services at high rates.

What's going on? Either advisors aren’t doing what they say they are doing or their clients aren’t realizing it.

Before you consider adding additional services to your offering, I challenge you to slow down and consider these questions:

  1. Are you getting credit for what you’re doing?
  2. What do your clients most need?
  3. What do they value?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s time to ask for some feedback. You could start by posing these questions to a small handful of clients:

  1. When you were looking for a financial advisor, what did you value most?
  2. What do you most value now?
  3. What do you expect to need and value in the future?

At the Insider’s Forum in September, Julie Littlechild shared new investor research around satisfaction versus engagement (there is a difference). She reported that 93% of the 1,000 investors surveyed were satisfied. Only 26% were engaged. However, engaged clients are more confident about their financial situation and realize greater value in their advisory relationship.

What’s the difference between satisfied and engaged? Satisfaction is meeting expectations around services. You know your clients are engaged when they are not only satisfied but referring.

How do you cultivate engagement? Littlechild’s answer:

Go beyond services, which are largely expected and commoditized. Instead, focus on providing leadership, which requires deeper conversations that seek to understand and support clients’ psychological and emotional needs – not just their financial needs.

The hierarchy of value, according to Littlechild, begins with services, goes to offer, and finally expands to leadership.

So, how can you deliver more value?

Work to move up the hierarchy of value from need to delivery to realization. Here are three steps to get started:

Understand your clients' needs and wants

How are they feeling? What’s worrying them? What are their expectations as they are continually evolving and as the world evolves around them?

Start with understanding where they are to inform how you may be able to help in your role as a financial advisor.

Refine your services and experience based on their input

Begin by listening to your ideal clients; those relationships you want to replicate. This can help you co-create your client experience by putting their feedback to work. A valuable experience is relevant and personalized to the client. Technology can help you capture key inputs and you can use them to craft a curated experience for individual relationships at scale.

Another aspect of delivering value is setting clear expectations at the onset. Deliver guidance to prospects and clients on what they will receive if they work with you. Not all clients need every service, so helping them understand your offer early and often is crucial.

And of course, do what you say you will do.

Finally, get credit for what you are doing and how it's impacting them

You can deliver value, but if your clients don’t see the benefit, is it truly valuable?

Help your clients realize value by reminding them of their needs and goals and asking them how they feel it’s going. Show them what you (and they) have done, ideally in a visual way. Communicate progress using a standard framework such as a one-page business plan, which lists their stated financial and emotional goals and accomplishments. 

By understanding their communications preferences, you can meet their expectations and co-create a meaningful experience.

And keep checking in on how they are feeling and their goals and needs. Don’t let them get off the hook with, “I’m fine,” or “I’m good.” Dig deeper. Use clarifying questions such as, “what would great look like?” or “tell me more,” to uncover what they may not be ready or able to articulate on their own.

There are three dimensions of value: need, delivery, and realization. With the end goal of realization in mind, how does that change how you’re thinking about your services, offering, and engagements?


1"Focus on What Investors Want," Spectrem Group,

2"2022 InvestmentNews Adviser Benchmarking Study" (fee required to view report), InvestmentNews,


Shauna Mace, CHPC

Head of Practice Management

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