David Rae is harnessing the power of niche marketing to grow the financial advisory firm he launched last summer.
Already, the Los Angeles-based advisor’s clients number some 100 households. Although many had followed him from his previous advisory job, his media blitz, including appearances on “The Today Show” and “Nightline” also caught prospects’ eyes.
Rae’s new firm, DRM Wealth Management, also has a cachet: It serves a gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or questioning (LBGTQ) clientele. Rae often meets with clients at his home in L.A.’s upscale Beverly Grove.
Over in Boston, Eric Roberge, founder of financial planning firm Beyond Your Hammock, also serves a niche audience. He targets clients in their 30s and 40s who have at least a six-figure income and an active lifestyle. “Many of my clients travel multiple times during the year,” Roberge says.
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Roberge, 38, personally relates to his clients and their issues. “I am a high-income earner but not yet rich,” he said. “I want to save and invest for the future but also live well today.”
These are two profiles in a rising trend: advisors angling for clients based on their demographic and personal traits. These include clients’ age and generation, gender, sexual preference, marital status, religion and/or activities.
Today, “there’s less emphasis on defining the clientele financially and a growing interest in clients’ personalities, lifestyles, hobbies,” says Vanessa Oligino, director of business performance solutions at TD Ameritrade Institutional.
Sure, the practice of serving clients in a defined demographic may shut out many potential clients. But proponents say its benefits can more than compensate. The strategy not only stamps advisors with a strong identity in a crowded field, but can also tap into underserved markets. And since advisors would be zeroing in on a target audience, it could help them streamline their marketing and client servicing — saving time and money.
Beyond that, there’s the personal draw of dealing with clients advisors understand and enjoy.
Relate To Your Clients
“I love this job,” says Michelle Morris, owner of BRIO Financial Planning, which specializes in serving single women. “My clients appreciate the fact that I listen to them and address their issues in ways others may not have in the past.”
New data from TD Ameritrade Institutional underscore the popularity of niche marketing. They also highlight the dip in more traditional categories such as clients’ assets or occupation. In the TD Ameritrade report 2018 FA Insight Study of Advisory Firms, “levels of investable assets” tied for first place (61% of survey respondents) as advisors’ most popular client niche. But that 61% was down from 70% in TD Ameritrade’s 2010 report.
During the same time span, the niche category of “occupation” fell to 30% from 40% in popularity among advisors surveyed. Clients’ “income” as a niche dropped to 29% in the latest survey, vs. 43% eight years earlier. In contrast, 59% of respondents now have a “lifestage” client niche — up from 54% eight years ago, according to TD Ameritrade.
The firm’s 2018 FA Insight Study cites a payoff from niche marketing. According to the report, advisory firms that “truly serve target markets” had a median 35% higher growth in clients than firms that didn’t, while revenue growth and profit margins were a respective 25% and 17% higher.
As Haleh Moddasser, partner at Stearns Financial Management, sees it, “If (advisors) pursue their passion and are authentic, I’m convinced they will be more successful.” And evidently, she’s embraced that credo. Moddasser is an advisor to women clients — especially divorcees over age 50. She’s also the author of “Gray Divorce, Silver Linings” and is a divorcee herself.
How can advisors find and nurture the right niche — especially one (or more) targeting personal traits?
- If you’re an established advisor looking to add a niche, consider the characteristics of your current clients. If you see a common theme, consider building a niche around it, says Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, which provides growth solutions to financial firms.
- Understand your target audience, experts say. Read up, or attend related classes, workshops or webinars. Join organizations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, for educational and/or networking opportunities. And in your promotional material, clearly display any relevant credentials. In the demographic/personal area, these might include Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or Certified Senior Advisor. Check Finra.org for a list of professional designations for financial professionals.
- Get specific. The more finely you hone your niche — with perhaps more than one client specification, such as pre-retirees living in the Midwest — the easier it will be to reach your target audience, experts say.
- If you’re starting an advisory business, seek practice management experts that can help with everything from defining the clientele to building revenue, suggests Kenton Shirk, director of wealth management research and consulting at Cerulli Associates. Locate such experts through home-office programs and third-party consulting firms.
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