You’ve seen the stats. Women already control most of the wealth in America, and our share is only going up (1). Boomer women have started inheriting their husbands’ assets. Millennial women are outpacing men in academic achievement (2). So, if you’re an advisor looking to ramp up growth, it makes sense to target women as clients, right?
If you’re a guy, turn this around for a moment. Imagine you get a phone call from some other kind of professional advisor you might consider hiring—say, an attorney, or a CPA, or a small business IT consultant. The voice on the phone explains the offering, and then tells you, “I think you’ll definitely like our tech support, because we specialize in serving male advisors.” What does that even mean? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Do you plan to spend more on marketing this year? Apparently, your peers do. According to the latest TD Ameritrade Institutional RIA Sentiment Survey, RIAs expect to increase their 2017 marketing budgets by 27%.
I wonder where all that money is going. In the survey, nearly 6 in 10 advisors say they’ll spend more on social media, and 37% plan to change up their marketing and networking to appeal to younger clients. Those trends make sense if organic growth really is slowing down, as some advisors are reporting.
Some of that cash may be going to fight the robo “threat.” As you may have read, Michael Kitces declared that independent B2C robo advisors are dying. Whether that’s true or not, the fact is that robos did disrupt the industry. They commoditized investment management, raised client expectations and catalyzed a new wave of innovation in response. Maybe a higher marketing spend is part of that trend.
But frankly, I’m worried. All those extra dollars could go to waste if advisors make one critical mistake: trying to find a silver bullet. There is no such thing.
Right now, you should be running. At top speed. With a flag in your hand, ready to plant it in the ground.
Get the reference? It’s from Far and Away, that ‘90s movie where Tom Cruise plays an Irish immigrant on a land run in the Old West. He’s running across the open prairie with a flag in his hand, looking for a little plot of land to claim. Then, just in the nick of time, right as a posse of competing land rushers comes riding up over the hill, he and Nicole Kidman plant their flag and stake their claim. It’s very dramatic.
It’s also an apt metaphor for RIAs. You occupy extremely desirable territory in the market. But a herd of new claimants is coming to take it from you, if you don’t plant your flag and stake your claim right now.
If you’ve ever been to an industry conference or read an advisor trade pub, you’ve heard an expert telling you the “best” way to define a target market is by profession. But is that notion true?
Let’s think this through. Suppose you decide to target endodontists—the nice people who give you root canals. They’re affluent, busy professionals, and many own their own practices. Although they’re smart and educated, most probably still need help with financial matters. In other words, ideal client material.
What’s your plan for the next stock market crash?
I bet that question took you by surprise. Judging by some of the conversations I’ve had recently, it’s probably not something you’ve been thinking about very much. As of this writing, the Dow is dancing around its all-time highs. Financial institutions are salivating at the prospect of deregulation. Economic indices are looking good. Nobody is worried about another crash.
But you know one is coming.
I know, I know. Your integrations are real. Not like those other guys. You integrate with more vendors, or you have more APIs, or you’re the one who’s really seamless.
Tough love moment: Integration isn’t a differentiator anymore.
It’s just a buzzword. Jargon. In the past few years, media fatigue has completely drained the word of any meaning or importance. At this point, it’s simply expected.
Some advisors say they want to stand out from the crowd—but they’re fibbing. They really want to look and sound like everybody else. We can help them define their target market, identify clear points of differentiation, and craft a targeted message. They don’t want any of it. They just want a list of generic feel-good words to put on the website. Fiduciary. Objective. Holistic. Whatever. Basic, table-stakes qualities that every advisor talks about.
As I’ve already explained, an exceptional service model can take your business quite far. Add a handful of strong Center of Influence (COI) relationships, and you may have everything you need to drive your growth.
Here are some tips for making those relationships perform their best for you:
1. Don’t limit yourself to only attorneys and accountants.
If you do, you might be raking over the same tired ground again and again—while missing out on huge pockets of opportunity. Suppose you want to target young tech workers starting their first high-paying jobs. Accountants and attorneys don’t know those people. Who does? Parents, grandparents. Recruiters. Maybe leasing agents. If you’re targeting entrepreneurs, cultivate relationships with VCs and private equity firms. Do you serve families dealing with eldercare issues? Get to know geriatric care providers. You may be wondering how to identify all of these untraditional COIs. That’s simple. If you have done a good job defining your ideal client persona, you should have no trouble figuring out who their influences are.
How would you like to get so many referrals that they’re your number one source of inbound leads? You potentially could—if you’re willing to to take an honest assessment of your approach to service models.
If you’re like many other advisors, you probably segment your clients according to profitability. Then you create a different service model for each segment. The most profitable clients—call them level “A”—get face-to-face quarterly meetings, nice leather-bound financial plans, maybe some football tickets. The B-level clients get vinyl, not real leather, and they can’t sit in the skybox. And down it goes. It’s a very typical model (and yes, I’m exaggerating to prove a point). But I have a problem with it.
Here’s where things get awkward.
If I found out I was a “D” client, why wouldn’t I leave and go someplace where I could be an “A” client? If your book is really segmented “A” through “D,” that means you are intentionally giving suboptimal service to 75% of your clients. In an industry that lives and breathes referrals, how is that supposed to help you grow?