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Finding the perfect client fit

The top financial advisers understand a key fact: You can’t be everything to everyone.

When you work with a smorgasbord of client types — with different financial situations and goals — you need multiple service models. Different clients may receive different and better (or worse) service than others. Juggling the many disparate needs of these clients can quickly leave you feeling stressed, overworked and burned out.

To move your practice to a substantially higher level of success, you have to be intentional about which clients you serve. You need to specialize.

Working with exactly the right type of client will enable you to accelerate your success in a way that working with every type of client never can. I know because I have seen the impact that client specialization has had on the practices of hundreds of the top advisers we have had the privilege of coaching over the last 15 years.

Many top advisers say the decision to specialize was the single most important factor in vaulting their practices into the ranks of the elite.

For many, the choice to specialize was the single most important factor in vaulting their practices into the ranks of the elite.


Any viable client specialty area must have five key characteristics:

1. A distinct market with shared client traits. Specialty niches should be clear, distinct markets consisting of prospective clients who share one or more important traits. For example, they may be in the same profession, have the same employer, be in the same stage of life or even share a love of the same hobby. Above all, the people in your specialty market should share similar financial challenges and issues.

2. The ability to address financial challenges. You must be qualified (or be able to become qualified) to effectively address the key financial challenges that the people in the specialty market have. In fact, to be truly great at serving a specialty market, your qualifications and client service should be world-class, exceeding those of any other adviser who attempts to serve that client specialty.

3. A strong potential for growth. The specialty area should be big enough to offer plenty of potential clients whom you can serve well. You want abundant opportunities to grow your practice to exactly the size you wish.

4. The potential for higher income and profit. To remain in business and continue to serve your clients well, your practice must be profitable. To enhance your quality of life, you probably need to grow your net income and practice equity. In nearly every case, this means that the specialty area you choose must be made up of affluent individuals or families who can pay you appropriately for the high level of service you will deliver.

5. Enjoyable. The client specialty area should be aligned with your own interests and skills. You should be challenged and engaged by the financial issues you are addressing. But even more important, your specialty should be made up of people you genuinely like working with.

I work with advisers to help them identify and serve the client niches best suited to them and their practices. Some of the client niches that these advisers have chosen to serve include:

· Executives in the oil and gas industry in the Houston area.
· Members of the yachting community in and around Newport, R.I.
· Female executives approaching retirement age in Silicon Valley.
· Radiologists practicing in South Florida.
· Women in transition — widows, divorcees and inheritors of unexpected
wealth — in Asheville, N.C.
· Affluent patriarchs and matriarchs in the Phoenix area whose top priority is
caring for their families’ financial security and long-term legacies.


When we surveyed 2,104 advisers last year, we found that a majority (56.4%) specialized in one or more niches. These advisers told us that they recognize one or more of the following benefits of specialization:

Examples of client niches advisers have chosen: Houston oil and gas executives, members of the Newport yachting community, executive women in Silicon Valley approaching retirement age, radiologists in South Florida.

Better incomes. Specialization has had a significant positive impact on these advisers’ incomes. Seven out of ten surveyed advisers who specialize told us the effect on their incomes from specializing has been either tremendously positive or very positive, while 27.4% said it has been somewhat positive.

Better client service. Specialization enables advisers to more easily, efficiently and consistently provide a superior client experience. When they focus on one select community of clients with similar needs, they are able to create a single, high-quality, streamlined service model. They realize the benefits of scale while providing personalized service.

More satisfied and loyal clients. Advisers who specialize are also able to develop deeper expertise in addressing their specific clients’ needs. They become the authority those clients seek. Of course, when clients consistently receive excellent service backed by expert problem solving, they generally become more satisfied and loyal.

Better business relationships. Specialization has helped many advisers build strategic alliances with other professionals, with 44.6% saying that specialization has had a tremendous or very positive impact in this area and 47.7% a somewhat positive impact.

Strong business growth. Happy and loyal clients tend to give their advisers additional assets to manage and introductions to qualified prospective clients. Among advisers we surveyed, more than three-quarters (76.1%) of those who specialize reported that doing so has been either tremendously or very positive in helping them build their practices. Nearly all the rest (22.7%) said that specializing has had a somewhat positive effect.

Better marketing to affluent investors. Specialization also positions advisers to more effectively attract affluent individuals and families. By narrowing their focus to a single type of client, they no longer need to spend money and time trying to reach large numbers of individuals in the hope that a few will respond. Their marketing budgets shrink, yet their marketing becomes more effective because it is focused.

A great majority of advisers in our survey who specialize said that it’s helpful in attracting affluent clients. Nearly six in 10 (59%) said specializing has been tremendously positive or very positive in helping them attract affluent clients, while 37.1% reported it has been somewhat positive.

More enjoyment at work. The benefits of specialization extend even into how much advisers enjoy their work. We have found that advisers who choose to work with a particular type of client that they truly enjoy have more fun at work. Indeed, eight out of 10 surveyed advisers who specialize say that doing so has had a tremendous or very positive effect on their enjoyment of their practices. Nearly 18% said it has had a somewhat positive effect on their enjoyment.

This is not just a “feel good” benefit, but a true business benefit as well: Happy and positive advisers are less likely to burn out.

Your clients, and future clients, need an adviser who is fully knowledgeable about their particular challenges and needs. You owe it to them to be that adviser. You also owe it to your partners and team to build the value of your practice, and to your family to provide the quality of life you all want. And you owe it to yourself to enjoy your work as much as possible. Specialization is fundamental to achieving all of those benefits.

You can learn more about zeroing in on the ideal niche market for your business with my free webinar on the topic: www.cegworldwide.com/webinars-fp.

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