Product versus Process

Written by Tim Fortier

Tim Fortier is a Quantitative Model Developer and Portfolio Manager specializing in rules-based investment strategies. He has over 30 years of experience within the financial service industry.

November 9, 2019

Today’s topic is one that is dear to my heart as it is something I have practiced since the beginning of my 30 plus year career.  And in my opinion, it’s one of the easiest ways that you can separate yourself from the competition.

Also fair warning, today may be the day for that Venti size hot beverage as the message will be a little on the long size.

Let me first ask you a simple question. 

The 2019 Investment Company Factbook states that at year-end 2018, there were 118,978 open-end funds worldwide, 1,660 index-based Exchange Traded Funds, 259 active Exchange Traded Funds and 506 Closed-End Funds.  Add to this, the countless number of Unit Investment Trusts, insurance-related products, structured products, fixed-income securities, and alternative investments.  

And let’s not forget too, that our client’s retirement plan statements list even more choices.

Do you really think we need more financial products?  

Barry Schwartz, author of the “The Paradox of Choice“, asserts that when individuals are given a bewildering array of choices it floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting us instead of freeing us.  In other words, while it is assumed that have many choices is a good thing, in actuality, it is more harmful than good.

And you can see this in action when reviewing the previously shared survey.  Investors are feeling overwhelmed. And when they are feeling overwhelmed, they often do nothing, in fear that they will make the wrong decision.   

And doing nothing does not help your practice.  I am pretty sure I am right on this point.  

So with this in mind, do you think it makes sense as a financial advisor, to focus on a product?  Do you see the problem? When you lead with a product, you become part of the noise and confusion.  

Yet what do most FA’s focus on? 


If you are product brained….please stop thinking that way.  It is hurting you and you may not even know it. I want you instead to think in terms of…


But not just any kind of process…but a process that speaks to the minds and hearts of your clients and prospects.  

Here’s the deal.

Your clients and prospects despite their differences are similar in many ways.  And I am willing to bet you the last donut in the box that if you were to ask everyone you have ever worked with and everyone you will ever work with in the future, that there are two common desires that they all share:

  • Please don’t let me get hurt in a market decline (fear of loss) 
  • Please make sure I don’t fail (fear of failure)

And neither, have anything to do with a product.  Rather, it speaks of desires, wants, and emotions.

And more importantly, both are more about how you, as the advisor, are going to guide them to make sure that both of the above does not happen.  

When it comes to marketing, you need to understand that people generally make decisions first based on emotions and only then, rationalize the decision with facts and figures.

So if you lead with a product…which is typically facts and figures, you are approaching this arse backward to how most people make important decisions.  


So what do you think the results might be if you could clearly articulate the process you use to make sure that their two common fears are never realized?  Do you think that might be effective?

Not only do I think you would find it effective, but you could also, in fact, fill in the blank with the product as the product becomes secondary to the discussion.  Said another way, the process drives product.  

Making process-driven sales

In my early days as a broker, in the late ’80s, I became interested in selecting stocks using William O’Neal’s CAN SLIM methodology.  I studied “How to Make Money in Stocks”, subscribed to the weekly editions of the NYSE and OTC Dailygraphs, and became good at finding fast-growing companies.

Now, since this was still before the days of discretionary advisory accounts, each time I wanted to buy a stock, I would have to call every one of my customers which could take quite a bit of time.

 It occurred to me that if I simply taught my clients the process I was using, that since all of the stocks I were buying shared similar characteristics (the process) that I might not need to explain every stock in as great as detail, thus saving me time.

So I began conducting workshops for about 10 clients at a time, teaching them how I was buying some of the fastest-growing companies using William O’Neal’s system.  

It worked…clients loved being included in the process and even though I still had to call every client, the time I would spend on each call was easily cut by two-thirds. A  typical call would be acknowledging that I had found another company meeting all of the criteria and how much could we spend? The specifics of the company became much less important….as my clients had become familiar and convinced of the merits of the process.  See the difference?   

Today, I am convinced that an advisor who first spends the time to articulate a clearly defined process that connects with investors’  fears of loss and failure will not only be very successful but will stand head and shoulder above competitors who continue to lead with a product sales approach.  

What might this process look like?  I will go into this in detail in future posts, but here are some ideas to hopefully inspire you to think about this in the context of your own business.

  • The process must be easy to explain
  • The process must be in agreement with what your prospects already currently believe – this allows you the ability to connect.  
  • The process should not be overly complicated as it’s important that your prospect believes that they can achieve the desired outcome if they follow the process.   In other words, they need to be able to see in their mind’s eye achieving success while using your process. This is critical. If the process comes off like running a nuclear power plant, you will lose them.
  • the process must clearly demonstrate how it addresses their common fears and desires

If you get nothing else from this message, remember that marketing is about channeling existing desires to outcomes and results…NOT to products.

Said another way,  your product is your process….this is what will set you apart from your competition.   It’s what makes you unique in your client’s eyes. It’s the “how”, not the “what” that is important.  

Until next time.

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