Advisor Pains — Urgent, Visible Problems

To understand an advisor’s point-of-view and to engage with them, you must have a deeper understanding of their pain — their urgent, visible problems, even those they may not be aware of. From a high level you might generalize their pains as:  

  • Differentiating themselves from their competitors
  • Justifying their fees and navigating an accelerated shift from commission-based to fee-based accounts
  • Attracting broader demographics and segments
  • Adapting their behavior, digital tools and agenda to their clients’ way of life.

However, this is likely too generalized to your total market. For example what are the comparative pains of indy advisors vs. wirehouse advisors vs. independent advisors/RIAs – as well as for the major segments within each.

Pain Maps – Foundation of Advisor Engagement

There are  four interdependent and sequential elements or building blocks that make up an effective Advisor Engagement Strategy.  It is likely no surprise that pain points are the foundational element. 

Advisor Pain Points


    • Pain Maps™
    • Engagement Personas™
    • Pain Ladders™
    • Message Maps™






Organizing advisor pain points in Pain Maps™  will enable the ULTIMATE goals of creating Engagement Personas™ and informing the message development process. Engagement Personas™ should represent an excellent buyer-centric perspective and be rich with pain points relative to your solutions.

Further, it is important to organize and prioritize the pain points for each segment (e.g., RIAs, Wire Houses, Indys) in order to connect them to the larger narrative in the context of segment-specific demand engagement initiatives. As you go through this process, you’ll see there’s often overlap between segments/buyer types, thus allowing for the most efficient message, experience and content development processes possible.

For example, an Independent persona’s pain points may contrast as well as overlap with a wirehouse advisor as illustrated below.

Illustrative Pain Points

Independent Advisor 

  • Fund companies that don’t understand me or my business 
  • Need insight and perspective that can be used with clients

Wirehouse advisor

  • Help positioning alternatives and “unconstrained” funds
  • Keeping up on products and the markets

Independent / Wirehouse Advisors

  • Portfolio advice / 2nd opinion
  • Broadening client demographics

Both Pain Maps™ and Engagement Personas™ are created through interviews with key stakeholders, primary and secondary research, surveys and, most importantly, interviews with your target audience.



Alex Lee, longtime president of OXO, the maker of well-designed cooking tools and housewares, told the story of how they created their iconic liquid measuring cup.

No one had ever seriously complained about measuring cups.  Some people thought that glass ones are too heavy and that they tend to break, but that was really it.  OXO started to study how consumers use measuring cups and noticed one striking commonality that was more impactful. It’s something you’ve probably done yourself at some point.

Photo source:

Do you see it?  Using a traditional liquid measuring cup, you need to lean over to read the measurement.  It’s annoying, But we thought it was normal.  Well, we did think it was normal until OXO designed a better way: a measuring cup you can read from the top, with no leaning over required.

Photo source:

This new measuring cup sold two million units (!) in the first year.

This is a powerful idea: studying how consumers behave can transform your business.  I apply this maxim to pricing research, a topic that has been popular with a number of my clients.

When thinking about how to suggest a retail price, many brands, both big and small, start with their cost.  Then they add on the profit they want to earn, account for expected distributor and retail margins, and get to a suggested retail price.  Or someone suggests a key price in their category and they go with that.

But it’s critical to take the consumer’s point of view into account and understand her willingness-to-pay.

There are three approaches I rely on:

  1. Engage with your retailer’s buying team
  2. Observe what’s happening in the market
  3. Use surveys to ask consumers about price directly

1. Engage with your retailer’s buying team

The team at your retailer customers might have some research or other experience in understanding their shoppers’ willingness-to-pay.  Ask them.  When you have a review meeting or some other opportunity to talk, ask what they are hearing.  Keep in mind, though, that many buyers are biased toward always lowering prices, even if it means that they lose penny profit.

One client of mine faced significant cost pressure, but the client’s largest customer simply would not accept a price increase.  We probed to understand her resistance, and she showed evidence that products in her portfolio suffered large declines in velocity when they were priced above $1.99.  We suggested a smaller pack size that could hit the magic $1.99 price point and make money for my client. She accepted the proposal, and this arrangement worked for everyone.

2. Observe what’s happening in the market

Competitive benchmarking: Where are your competitors priced, and where do you fit on the continuum?  Are you priced comparably to competitors whose products realistically compare to yours?  Are there any magic prices that are working well or toxic prices that are failing miserably?

Natural elasticity: if your product sells at different prices at different retailers during different weeks, or at a discount during a price reduction, measure the effects. Equivalize sales across retailers by measuring units sold per store per week (or per million dollars of store ACV), and see if one price works much better than another.  For a frozen food item, I once found that promoting it at $2.49 produced better unit movement than at $2.29.  It was a no-brainer to make the change.  You can obtain this data directly from your retailer customers or from syndicated data sources like SPINS, IRI, and Nielsen.

3. Use surveys to ask consumers directly about price

There is a wide range of tools available to affordably survey consumers about their willingness to pay for your items and other topics.  I have found Google Surveys to be very affordable for certain use cases, as low as 10 cents per response for a single-question survey.

From easiest to hardest, some pricing survey techniques include:

  • Gabor Granger: Identify the highest acceptable price by asking about purchase intent at multiple price points.
  • Van Westendorp: Identify bounds of acceptable price ranges by asking what prices would be too cheap, cheap, expensive, and too expensive.
  • Conjoint: Identify utilities of product attributes, including price, by having respondents choose from among multiple product/price combinations.

* * *

Ultimately, the most important thing is to get inside your consumers’ heads.  Any technique you use to get there will involve a wide range of trade-offs, but it’s important to start somewhere.  And the evidence you learn to support your objectives will go a long way toward building trust with your retail buyers, sales team, and beyond.

(You can see a video of Alex Lee’s presentation that inspired me on the Gel Conference’s Vimeo channel.)


Contact Scott if you’d like help thinking about your products’ prices — and how your customers perceive them.

A version of this post originally appeared in Specialty Food Resource’s Food Entrepreneur Magazine.


Content is the thread that connects marketing and selling.

Done correctly, content gives you the ability to:

  • Engage with your prospects
  • Advance their understanding that what you have to offer can make a difference to them
  • Eventually, convert them into buyers

Only by fully understanding your prospective buyers’ pain points, key challenges, intents, preferences, and more can you create content that truly resonates with them.

Let’s review some simple pointers that can help you create content of this kind.


Ask yourself if the content you’re creating and the experience it engenders is relevant, valuable, unique, compelling, provocative, exclusive, and/or enticing. In short, do something different.

To evaluate the quality of your content, ask yourself these telling questions:

  • Will our content help prospects address key problems and challenges they’re facing?
  • Will it provide them a framework to better evaluate their challenges and begin assessing approaches to solving them?
  • Will they interrupt what they’re doing to acquire and interact with our content at the point of our presenting it to them?

Unless your answers are yes, yes and yes, you’ve got more work to do.


60% to 80% of companies today, including those that pay homage to the importance of content, fail to experience success because they consign content strategy and development to Product or Corporate Marketing. In turn, those marketers allow product and brand messaging to define content’s composition. They develop creative messages that are often product- or brand-centric, and then they promote the content in calls-to-action across a host of digital and social media channels.

They’re creating monologues, not dialogs.

Our recommendation – invert the approach. Determine who to target and what’s important to them (their pain points, for example) and then develop your content before the campaigns and creative process begins. Then, and only then, develop creative that’s intended singularly to promote the content asset(s).

And always make sure that it’s your Demand Generation people who are leading the charge.


Content “atomization” allows you to extend your content into component parts, thereby reinforcing your narrative and messages by serving up “bite-sized chunks” of information.

Using this technique, a single “pillar” content asset such as a white paper and be re-used in hundreds of different ways – as blog posts, infographics, webinars and more.

It’s the smart way to feed the machine.


Effective content marketing is a function of nurturing a prospect from interest to commitment. In that context, it’s worth spending a minute on a concept known as Equitable Exchange – what are you going to give to your prospects and what are they willing to give you in return?

At the beginning of the buying cycle, you’re looking for permission to continue the dialogue. The prospects award you this in exchange for a non-obligatory content asset of perceived value. It may be a white paper or a sales aid – something that helps prospects gain insights, build knowledge and ultimately do their jobs more effectively.

Going forward, you’re looking for qualification and readiness, while your prospects are looking for solutions and credibility. The equitable exchange shifts to an often more obligatory value equation. Content can be case studies, tools and other assets of higher perceived value that can move the process along.

Just remember, content isn’t a tactic – it’s a strategy. It’s the strategic element that inspires your target audience to carry on a dialogue with you.

Download a copy of the Buyer Engagement eBook: “Exposed: The False Promises of Revenue Marketing”