Zero in on the right client base, provide value, and reap the benefits.
7 min read
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Building a financial advisory practice isn’t easy. Letting go of a stable paycheck, hustling to add clients, figuring out the back-office logistics of client service and compliance — those early years are tough by any measure.
And unfortunately, many advisors make their path even harder by compromising their own growth trajectory.
One of the biggest mistakes I see advisors make is spending time and money on activities that don’t move the needle on their business. The result? Less income, more headaches, and clients who aren’t ideal.
The good news is that any advisor can follow a proven model to grow. If you’re just starting out, the right model can propel you to success quicker than you ever thought possible. If you’re well established, it can overlay your existing business model to supercharge your results.
As someone who has built a financial advisory firm from nothing to $50 million in assets under management in just three years, here is my proven growth advice.
1. Find your niche.
A niche, or client base, is a group of people with a particular problem that is strongly felt. Every advisor needs to consider a niche. A niche will allow you to create a highly specialized offer, a focused marketing strategy and sales process, and an amazing client experience.
Unfortunately, many advisors get this wrong. Some define their niche as anyone who has a certain amount of money. As a result, their marketing, operations, and sales have no focus or direction — which leads to subpar results. You shouldn’t simply be looking to work with anyone who has $5,000 or more to spend. Instead, you should focus on becoming the go-to financial advisor for your ideal clients (for example, board-certified plastic surgeons in California, which has more practitioners than any other state).
Others choose a niche without doing due diligence on long-term sustainability. Getting over-specialized won’t automatically pave the way for growth. In fact, the key is to be realistic. Work with a group that has a real problem and the means to pay you. Then test your ability to reach decision-makers in a way that’s reliable and financially feasible.
2. Build your offer.
Once you figure out who you serve, engineer your entire client experience to speak to that person.
It’s so important to define your offer before you start to sell. This allows you to communicate to your niche that you are a perfect fit for them. It also makes it easier to productize the offer, which is key for future marketing and sales efforts.
Don’t be put off by the terminology. Productization is just the act of positioning your service to speak to the specific, relevant pain points your market faces. This immediately differentiates you and positions you as the perfect — and premium — choice in your market.
Taking our previous example of plastic surgeons, say you’re offering advice that will help them pay back student loans, start a strong savings program, and assess whether they have appropriate insurance coverage. You might productize this service by positioning it as the “plastic surgeon financial accelerator program,” for instance.
3. Crush your marketing.
This isn’t just about running ads.
Marketing in financial services is all about delivering value so you can capture the attention of the right people.
Financial advisors sell a relationship, and that relationship is built on trust. For people to trust you, they have to understand who you are first. You need to find your niche and share yourself with them — what you believe, what you disagree with, and your personal stories and experiences that are relevant to building a relationship with these people.
LinkedIn can be a great channel to start. You can reach plenty of people by searching for professional affiliations. Remember to include professionals who provide services to plastic surgeons, such as practice management consultants or pharmaceutical reps. That way, you can grow your network and eventually share audiences with them.
You’ll also want to interact inside of LinkedIn groups, jump in on conversations, and add value. You might share videos posted on your YouTube channel or blog posts related to how plastic surgeons can improve their financial situation, for instance. Facebook groups can be relevant here, too.
Different niches call for different strategies. The key is to understand where your niche spends time and gets their information (online or offline). Learn who serves your niche; then build relationships with both prospects and other professionals by creating a lot of value for them.
4. Magnetically attract prospects.
Once you’ve started marketing to your niche, you need to get them interested in your offer.
A highly successful way for advisors to do this is through a give-to-get offer. Offer a freebie that gets your target in the door — while creating immense value for them.
For a plastic surgeon, it might be a free financial evaluation of their practice. You can offer a gratis consultation where you walk them through a risk assessment or evaluate their tax strategy.
The goal of your offer is to add value, get a better understanding of their problems, and secure “micro-commitments” from them on the challenges they face. With an established understanding of the prospect’s pain points and the goodwill built through delivering value up-front, you will find that the sales process will move forward organically.
5. Automate your processes.
Once you have leads coming in the door, you will need the right technology, processes, and automation in place to make your practice run like a machine.
Automation can offer a significant boost to efficiency; however, not everything should be automated. Don’t try to automate the client experience. Clients need to feel like they’re the only person in the world. But other workflows such as trading, rebalancing, and reporting should be automated to free you up and allow you to focus on delivering exceptional hands-on client service.
This includes using cloud-based technology to automate processes and workflows, and training staff in creating and following standard operating procedures. That way, if you lose an employee, you can bring another person in and train them quickly.
6. Create raving fans.
Finally, tie it all together by providing uncommon service that turns clients into raving fans — and gains you referrals. This type of service isn’t easy. It requires going above and beyond the call of duty.
Shower your clients with attention. Show them you are grateful for their business. Think outside the box. Dial in on a client’s personal obsession, like music or art. Offer to take them to a show or exhibition.
This type of customer service doesn’t scale. It also can’t be automated. It’s the opposite of the logical delivery side of the business — but it’s just as important for growing an advisory practice that succeeds.