In last week’s In the Game column, I gave you a glimpse into my conversation regarding finding and serving a niche with Kirk Hulett, senior vice president of strategy and practice management at Securities America.
Hulett gave us plenty of insight into where you can look for a niche market to serve (hint: you may already have one), as well as how to know if focusing on that market can be profitable.
In the second part of this series, Hulett shows us how to become an expert in the niche you’ve chosen and how to show your clients—both new and old—that you’re the best man (or woman) for the job.
Q: Ok, so once you’ve found your niche and see that it can be profitable. What’s the next step?
A: Once you determine there’s interest and opportunity, then position yourself as an educator or an expert in that niche. Do educational seminars specific to financial issues within that niche; write articles in publications or speak at events that cater to the eyeballs of that niche. Whatever you do, you have to repeatedly communicate “I understand the unique needs of the niche.”
When it’s an employment-related niche, for instance, you can become an expert on that company’s benefits plan. Then you will probably learn the ins and outs of the retirement plan more so than the company’s human resources department does. You start building a reputation where you get one to two clients to that niche and then they tell their friends and so on.
Q: Oh, so a niche can be a company?
A: Yes, a niche can be a company. A niche can be a profession, a hobby, an affiliation in a club—it can be an expertise. For example, if I’m an expert in helping charities structure legacy gifting for wealthy people, it’s really around a planning expertise.
Q: Is something like small business owners too large of a niche?
A: That’s a pretty broad niche. Unless the advisor has some special planning knowledge that is particularly useful to a small business owner—such as, if they were an expert in family business transitions—then I would say yes, that’s too large of a niche to focus on.
Q: Ok, now back to making the people in this niche clients…
A: Don’t sit down and try to make these people clients. Instead, have a conversation with them about wanting to serve that niche, telling them you want them to “help you understand it.” Ask them where these people gather, what they want in terms of education, what the biggest opportunities and challenges they face are. Just like Coke and Pepsi, do your target market research.
Q: What do you mean by target research?
A: As you start getting traction in that niche, you must make sure everything about the marketing material of your practice is aligned with communicating how you serve the unique need for that niche. That will bolster your communication so that when you finally do get to sit down with that client, it’s just continually reinforcing that you know him and his needs better than someone else down the street. That’s because you really got down to something that’s core for him, whether it’s his benefits plan or his insurance needs.
Q: Is it easier to do this in a big city than a small town?
A: Certainly. Metropolitan areas will create more opportunity and more targets than a smaller town. That said, I met an advisor in Norfolk, Neb., who has a very successful niche—one of the steel processing plants. He has become a real expert in that business and does basic financial plans for a basic fee for people who turn a certain age in that company. It’s certainly possible.
In next week’s In the Game column, I will provide the rest of my conversation with Hulett. He will give you tips on what challenges you should expect once you decide to serve a niche market, including what to do with existing clients who don’t fit into your new market focus.