Outside voices and views for advisers

7 ways to refine your niche and boost your business

Two top financial advisers discuss how focusing on certain clients has allowed their teams to flourish

Jun 11, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Ray Sclafani

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Client acquisition is a key component in any financial advisory business. Advisers and teams who've nailed down a targeted approach to finding clients are well ahead of the game, but what many don't realize is how this process specifically should be geared to a niche target market.

As an executive coaching company working exclusively with financial advisers, we can spot a successful strategy and target market from a mile away. We've worked with the best in the business to define, streamline and perfect their processes. I had the pleasure of interviewing two of our long-term clients on their experiences in creating niche markets.

Geri Pell, private wealth adviser at Pell Wealth Partners and David B. Armstrong, managing director and co-founder of Monument Wealth Management, specialize in working with clients who have very different needs, but offer similar advice on how to discover your niche.

Focus on the relationships you enjoy:

Think of one of your favorite clients and evaluate what makes that relationship so successful. For Ms. Pell, an epiphany came one day while her team was “working with a wonderful, nice, single woman in her 40s who had never really given much thought to her own personal wealth, even though she worked as a banker,” she remembers.

“She was eager to have a better relationship with her finances. We were able to help her significantly,” Ms. Pell said. “I realized this was the type of client I wanted to work with over and over. It became easier to spot those qualities in people once I'd seen them so clearly in that client.”

Walk in their shoes:

Become an expert in the unique circumstances and challenges your target clients face.

“We are entrepreneurs advising entrepreneurs,” said Mr. Armstrong, who, along with his three partners, specializes in working with entrepreneurs who've experienced a liquidity event. “We understand exactly how hard they've worked to build the business they are now trying to sell, which gives us a powerful advantage in stewarding their money.”

Don't limit yourself to a single qualification:

It's important to carefully define your niche. Pell Wealth Partners is incredibly strategic and picks their ideal clients based on: clients they enjoy being around, clients with a certain level of assets, clients who are responsive and easy to work with and clients who frequently refer them. The cross section of these components is their niche, which is comprised of women who are managing their money on their own, corporate executives, same sex couples, and a large contingency of environmental, social, and governance clients who focus on impact investing.

Take your time:

It is natural for a target market to change and take shape over the course of a business; you just have to be willing to adjust with it.

“It's rare that anyone starts their career focusing on a particular niche,” Mr. Armstrong said. “Take the time to choose one you can relate to, learn about and be a part of. Don't arbitrarily pick one and go after it.”

Listen to your clients:

The feedback you receive from clients will let you when you've found the right fit — and when you haven't.

“I knew we'd found our niche when current clients started advocating for us and referring entrepreneurs to come to Monument,” Mr. Armstrong said.

But you may find others who are as vocal about not being the right client.

“Every time I'm with a potential client who focuses too much on short-term performance, or isn't willing to make change, I know they don't realize the value we bring to the table as comprehensive financial advisers,” Ms. Pell said.

Make your target client base a priority:

“Entrepreneurs make up 90% of our business,” Mr. Armstrong said. “All three partners at Monument Wealth Management focus on this same demographic, and we have an incredible group of client advocates who put us in touch with people just like them. It's gained an incredible momentum from when we started in 2008.”

Stay in front of your advocates:

“The clearer you are on the type of client you're looking for, the better advocate you allow people to be for your business,” Ms. Pell said. “We have fabulous relationships with professional and client advocates that we've worked tirelessly to build. We continue to develop these as our networks grow and change.”

The moment you're able to turn down a client who doesn't fit in your niche, or refer that client to another adviser in your network, you've reached a milestone. It's empowering and indicative of growth in your business and your mindset.

Ray Sclafani is the founder and CEO of ClientWise, the premier business and executive coaching firm working exclusively with financial professionals and teams. ClientWise partners with financial advisers, wholesalers, managers, and executive leaders to optimize growth, maximize revenue and create self-sustaining businesses.


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