The ONE key thing you must do to differentiate yourself and define your brand

Cool grandpa guy standing self-confidently wearing shades and a tartan red suit against vibrant yellow background

By AdviceBridge

Last month’s article with five quirky ways to make your financial advice firm stand out was so popular, we’re sticking with the theme. This month, we wanted to highlight the one key thing you must do to differentiate yourself and define your brand.

The financial advice industry is a competitive market, so, as our previous article stressed, it’s essential to find ways to help your firm stand out.

The absolute best way to do this is to create a real difference and have a story that sells. Something truly unique that you, and no one else, are offering. Then pivot all your marketing efforts around that.

David MacDonald did this when he founded Path Financial

In 2018, MacDonald quit working for a national firm and started working towards launching his own financial advice company.

He knew to survive and thrive in the packed marketplace he would need to do things differently from the outset.

So, he did nothing.

Instead of rushing ahead, he stopped and had a good hard think about how he could make a real difference to the people he served, what mattered to them, and what he cared about.

Understand why you do what you do

Taking a leaf out of Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, MacDonald asked himself three key questions:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do you do what you do?
  3. Why do you do what you do? What’s the purpose?

Following a lengthy pause, during which he took a long hard look at his values, he decided that what he really wanted was to do something positive for the planet.

This was his purpose, his “why” and, as you will see, he stuck to it rigidly.



Having hit upon his purpose, he figured there must be other people like him: like-minded souls who had money to invest but wished to do so without doing harm to the planet.

Focus on what matters

MacDonald set out with the idea that pensions, savings and investments could be invested to do good, rather than harm. He wanted to find investments where the money could help to reverse climate change.

Instead of investing in companies that damage and destroy the planet, MacDonald finds and invests in businesses that are clean, sustainable, and making a positive impact on the world.

And this message – “Path Financial invest for Positive Impact” – is reinforced throughout his brand. The marketing material, his website, and the firm’s entire ethos is green.

Strike that – the firm’s entire ethos is “Green”, with a capital “G”.

Going even greener

Not satisfied with simply offering greener investments to his clients, MacDonald wanted to go a step further.

ESG (environmental, societal and governance) investing has been making the headlines for the last couple of years. But MacDonald didn’t just want to focus on standard ESG investments, he wanted to double-down and zero in on finding ESG and SRI (socially responsible investment) funds that would deliver outstanding impact for his clients.

MacDonald went hyper-niche when deciding his approach:

  • No fossil fuels
  • Further ethical screen-outs
  • 100% “impact investment” – no compromise
  • 85% alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • 75% carbon reduction
  • Transparent charging structure
  • Net-Zero commitment
  • Paperless
  • B-Corp
  • He would give a percentage of profit to charity.

You could argue that MacDonald was incredibly fortunate in his timing

Environmentally friendly investing has been growing at an exponential rate. In fact, 169 new funds with environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria launched during the first quarter of 2021.

According to Bloomberg, global ESG assets are expected to exceed $53 trillion by 2025. This represents more than a third of the $140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.

Given that ESG has been having a moment, you could argue that MacDonald was incredibly fortunate in his timing; The Path received FCA approval in September 2019, and MacDonald signed his first client at the beginning of the first national lockdown in March 2020.

MacDonald has created a brand with a story that sells

But MacDonald owes his success to having a standout difference.

The truly green credentials by which MacDonald stands are woven throughout The Path brand and marketing proposition.

The hyper-niche proposition makes it easier for potential customers to find him, giving him ideal leverage for capitalising on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, as well as organic SEO.

Plus, it’s a great story. This is a massive advantage as it opens the door to press coverage and PR that he doesn’t have to waste time seeking out – press will discover the story and come to him.

Build your own stand-out brand

MacDonald clearly loves what he does and is proud of what he has achieved in a very short space of time.

Since launching The Path at the start of the global pandemic, the business has grown from 1 to 20 people.

While it is never wise to attempt to replicate someone else’s success, MacDonald’s story provides great inspiration for anyone who wants to create a successful business out of their passion.

To do what MacDonald did, start with you. What do you want and what are you passionate about? It’s your brand, so you get to call the shots.

To find out more about The Path, visit the website or Google David MacDonald – and see for yourself how valuable a good story can be.