Category of One

How do You Place Yourself in a Category of One?

Become a category of one. It’s good advice for your business. Differentiation seems to be an increasingly difficult thing to pull off in marketing. The last thing you ever want to be compared to is just another [fill in this blank]. Change what you are, so you do not have to compete with other [plural version of previous blank].

It’s what I would call a category of many. Such as, I’m just another independent financial adviser, or accountant or marketing consultant.

This is a snippet from The Next 100 Days Podcast, where Kevin Appleby and I discussed several marketing strategies, including category of one, and how you start with your Unique Sales Proposition.

Unique Sales Proposition

To create a category of one in your market, start with a Unique Sales Proposition (USP). This is a way of explaining your position against your competition. Beyond that it explains WHO you are for and who you are not for. By redefining how you want your customers and prospects to see you, you can take a step towards that enviable position of being in a category of one.

Your USP is way of summarising and telegraphing the main benefit of your product or service.

If you are an independent financial adviser, how would you answer this USP question seen through the eyes of a site visitor or prospect or lead?

If I am your ideal prospect, why should I do business with you rather than with
any and every other option available to me in your category,
including doing nothing?

The USP Question YOU must ask.

No-one said this was going to be easy. Your competitors are probably intimidated by the need to produce one too. But, try. Because it will reward you. It is probably the strongest and least expensive optimisation of your business strategies you can undertake. You re-craft your value proposition. So you distinguish yourself from other IFAs, for example.

If you come up with banal phrases like quality-of-our-service, beware! Everyone thinks they have that. And if you think that your USP starts and stops with the ‘independent’ part of independent financial adviser, then maybe it’s time to think again.

10 WORDS – can you summarise your USP into around 10 words?

Help with Your USP

I’m still thinking of IFAs, but it still applies to you if you are not an independent financial adviser.

Recent changes to pension rules have made. This has placed a premium on advice. New simplified advice propositions are competing with IFAs to service people’s finance requirements. Investors are bombarded with offers as the bull-run in stocks is precariously long and interest rates persistently low.

Every industry will have its challenges though. One angle is that YOU are unique. A USP is by definition unique. Clue’s in the name.

Do you have a specialism in advising about pensions for a particular group or demographic? Take a good look at your last few pension projects. Is there a pattern emerging? For pensions, this could be investments, IHT etc.

Or are you distinct because of your holistic financial advice? Have you taken a step away from advice per se and are you offering lifetime, or later-life wealth management, catering for every aspect of a person’s income and expenditure.

Have you got the evidence and for your positioning? By geography, by age-grouping, by affluence, by product?

Here are some USP examples:

  • We specialise in public sector pensions. (Specialty)
  • We 100% guarantee to protect you against misleading advice. (Guarantee)
  • We use a unique lifetime financial health tool called Wealthy! to analyse and recommend strategies for your financial future. (Methodology)

A Tool to Rate the Quality of Your USP

Scale Your Value to Your Market Size of Market Competition Barriers to Entry
1 Limited Small Extensive Few
2 Substantial Medium Limited Significant
3 Strong Large Extensive Few
4 Highly Valuable Large Limited
(i.e. patent)
Extensive Barriers
5 Highly Valuable Large Limited
(i.e. control of components)
Near Exclusive

The nearer you can get to at least a 3, the stronger your position in the market.

Now, using the same USP Rating Tool, use it for all the people who take food off your table. That is, your competitors, large or small.

Can they say the same thing about your USP? If they can yours is not unique or strong enough.

Other things to look out for…

  1. Think about the claims your competitors are making and how they differ from yours.
  2. Which of your campaigns have been successful in the past? Which ones haven’t?
  3. Look at your website metrics. What does it tell you about visitors? Which pages deliver the best response?

Difference between your USP and your value proposition

Your USP) is a statement about what makes you and your company different from your competitors. It is similar. But, your value proposition is the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. Your value proposition may in fact be different for different customers. You may be selected by younger people for X and Y for older people.

Measure Your Potential Unique Sales Propositions

When you draft your Unique Sales Proposition, test its voracity with these 3 essential elements:

Appeal – how much is your USP desired by your ideal prospect?

Exclusivity – are you the only place where your ideal prospect can get this? What sets it apart?

Credibility – is your USP believable?

The Affluence Trifecta

Posh name, for a differentiation triangle. It can lead you to a category of one. I lay out a comprehensive marketing strategy for the independent financial adviser to become a category of one.

the Affluence Trifecta, Dan Kennedy, Finely Fettled, Category of One

With credit to Dan Kennedy, here is The Affluence Trifecta

– whatever everybody else in your category is, you aren’t. Financial advisers leave prospects tell-tale signs of being ‘another salesman’. You must stand apart. Exhibit expertise. Follow a plan that sees you as a celebrity within your market. You explain things, without jargon, in a clear way that maintains your target’s attention [Speaking]. Competitors will trumpet their greatness through paid ads. You will generate useful and credible content in your field [Book]. Finally, you excite your audience on a deep psychological level [Video].

Above – by whatever means, unassailable authority/celebrity/social proof your prospects could settle for someone else, or if they are fortunate, get you. You are an authority. 99% of affluent people will be unaware of your services and why they can transform the remainder of their lives. The plan is to elevate you above the rest. This combines [Book], [LinkedIn] ‘gravitas’, [Video] social proof testimonials, and search [Local SEO]. Referral marketing [Direct Mail] campaigns will leverage existing high value relationships. [Introducers]. A world class result would see 40% of existing clients making an introduction within their networks.

Alone – you sell in a vacuum. In places that you control. The task is finding media and sales places that do just that. These tend to favour offline versus online. You sell in places that you control. Connecting socially and in a relaxed setting plays to most IFA’s natural skills. [Events]. This is both the power of the un-obvious place. These are places where your market is frequenting, to turn prospects from invisible to visible [Print ads]. Showing up alone is smart marketing strategy for you. Presenting your message over in an utterly appealing way. [Direct Mail/Shock & Awe]. And for those looking for a solution where you are a good fit [Search].

If you are thinking, I would like to apply the Affluence Trifecta to my practice, call me on 01535 654930 or send an email to

Thank you