Yes! We’re all individuals!

One of the busiest stands at the IFP Annual Conference earlier this month wasn’t in the exhibition hall. It was just outside one of the conference rooms, attracting a regular stream of Financial Planners between sessions.

Was this a product provider giving away free pens or using a pretty lady in a pretty dress to encourage delegates to spin a wheel to win prizes? Of course not. It was a photographer, offering professional ‘headshots’.

As a keen (but amateur) photographer, I did a bit of lurking by the stand, checked out the kit being used and admired the results popping up live on the tethered laptop. John Cassidy, The Headshot Guy, really does take fantastic photos.

In the few weeks since the Conference, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see brand spanking new headshot photos popping up on social media profiles and websites. You can spot a headshot photo by John a mile off, thanks to his distinctive style. This is a compliment.

It also made me think, as LinkedIn helpfully informed me that a few more of my connections have new photos, of that classic line from the Life of Brian.

One of the most important tools in our marketing toolkit is individuality. In a crowded marketplace where it is difficult to demonstrate to prospective clients that we are better than the competition, we need to demonstrate that we are different. I’m not convinced that looking like every other Financial Planner in the country does us any favours if working towards that goal.

This stuff is near the top of my to-do list at the moment, as we recently engaged an excellent marketing consultant, Michelle Daniels from Extended Thinking in Godalming, to put us through our paces at Informed Choice. After 20 successful years in business, the time has come for us to get some external help in all things marketing.

Now we live and breathe marketing at Informed Choice; we are known for our prolific content creation, innovative marketing and PR activity that was kindly described the other day as ‘media whoring’. But something interesting has been happening over the past couple of years.

Whereas before we were comfortably different from the crowd, that crowd has been rapidly becoming more similar. It’s rather disconcerting. It’s no longer the case that being Chartered or a CFP professional, charging explicit fees for advice, winning industry awards or writing a regularly updated blog are points of competitive difference. These are all hygiene factors now.

To succeed over the next twenty years, we have determined that we need to become different, again. This probably isn’t going to happen with use of the same ideas from within the Financial Planning profession. It’s going to take external thinking, with insight from other professions, to steer us away from the crowd and give prospective clients a good reason to choose us, rather than others who look the same as us.

New profile photos are one item on the updated brand shopping list. As much as I love the photos taken by The Headshot Guy, they might make us look similar to every Financial Planner who attended the IFP Annual Conference. Instead, we will find a local photographer with a distinct style and add one more point of difference to the list. Because we really are all individuals, and we need to be.