Financial advisers seeking to build a niche practice have one overarching need — the ability to prove they have the expertise that members of that niche need.
The brand an adviser creates with a website, events, social media and other promotional messages should focus on how the adviser addresses the needs of a particular group, according to experts.
“The key is to be specific and clear with your brand,” said Kristin Harad, a financial adviser with VitaVie Financial Planning who works with expectant mothers and families with young children. “If you try to be all things to everyone, no one knows if you're right for them.”
Stephen Wershing, president of The Client Driven Practice, a consulting firm, said that by focusing on common issues and problems, the adviser can be compelling and attract the attention of those who are part of the niche.
For instance, when someone asks an adviser who focuses on women in transition what he or she does for a living, Mr. Wershing suggests describing how the adviser helps women concerned about their financial future to feel more secure and confident.
Also, he recommends sending clients to resources outside of the financial realm. With widows who may be handling their own finances for the first time, for example, he recommends addressing some of their psychological and social needs by pointing them to social workers and other resources that can help.
“You make it clear that you are very different than other financial advisers when it comes to those kinds of clients,” Mr. Wershing said.
Those looking to appeal to women also need to be ready to socialize, both online and in person. Connecting socially with female clients is important, and that leads many advisers who are focused on women in different stages of their lives to host events that appeal to their interests or seek to offer help with a problem.
Page Harty, an adviser who works with women in transition, said her firm, SignatureFD LLC, replaced “stuffy, old-fashioned meet-and-greets” with lunches that combine networking, health workshops and other learning opportunities.
For example, her firm has hosted educational sessions for women returning to the workforce or for those who found themselves “suddenly single through divorce, death, disability or dementia,” she said. Other events include a gathering for martinis and makeovers, cooking classes, yoga workshops — even target shooting.
'STARVED FOR TIME'
“Women are starved for time and have no interest in generic seminars or hidden sales pitches,” Ms. Harty said. “A more relaxed, informal setting for women who have similar interests is how real relationships are developed.”
An adviser focused on women in different stages of their lives should craft his or her website carefully to include important content that focuses on educating clients, as well as helping them with certain issues they face as part of a group.
She said the colors and images on the site should be women-friendly, and the language needs to be more emotion-based — talking about feelings, aspirations and worries — as opposed to being technically oriented, said Ms. Harad, who also helps independent advisers with marketing.
The website should include graphics that incorporate a lot of people, and contain video, a medium that can start a relationship with a prospect. Women “want to connect with a person,” Ms. Harad said.
“Women want to learn; they don't want to be sold to,” she said.
Ms. Harad, who focuses on women in their 30s with children, advertises in a couple of very specialized publications, including the newsletter of a support group for mothers. Involvement in that group gives her access to about 5,000 prospective clients.
Another way she has built her business — which began in 2007 — was by teaming up with an estate-planning attorney who focused on the same population. They speak to groups together to offer a range of wealth management services.
“I grew quickly because I got right into my market,” she said. “I showed them that I cared about their issues specifically, and people didn't ask me how long I had been doing it.”
Today, social media is an important component of substantiating an adviser's expertise. Kristen Luke, chief executive of Wealth Management Marketing Inc., said that communicating through social media helps advisers maintain their relationships with clients and prospects. Advisers interested in female clients should be blogging about women's issues and sharing relevant articles with them through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
It's important, though, to be genuine in blogs and avoid stereotypical conclusions or any air of condescension, Ms. Luke said.
She said some advisers also have created support groups that bring together women who may have lost spouses or otherwise find themselves alone with their finances for the first time. Developing a relationship with a client during a time of crisis, such as following the death of a husband or during a divorce, takes a caring and sensitive approach, but it also helps foster loyalty and make someone a lifelong client, Ms. Luke said. In fact, focusing on women as clients has several benefits.
Studies show that women are more likely than men to recommend their advisers, often to a friend or family member who is having a financial problem with which the client thinks the adviser can help.
And women's wealth as a whole is growing. Their $14 trillion in assets today is projected to reach $22 trillion by 2020, according to a Family Wealth Advisors Council white paper in 2011.
The wealth management industry has started to focus on the women's market only recently, giving the early players an advantage.
“By focusing on serving women who face similar challenges, we have begun to successfully build a community of like-minded women,” Ms. Harty said. “As this community grows, we watch our business expand and further grow, not only by the number of new client relationships we have but by the expertise and skills we are obtaining in working with this market niche.”