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.
So tell me: What unique problems do endodontists face, and why are you the only person who can solve them? How do endodontists make financial decisions differently from other investors, and how does that process mesh with yours? Are they all contemplating the same difficult life choices as they stare into someone’s molars? Is there anything about you that would make a prospective client walk away from a meeting saying, “Wow, I’ve never met anyone so passionate about endontics?”
We recommend a different approach to target marketing. You’ve heard it before: start with your best current client. The one who’s the most loyal, and with the longest tenure. Find out why they have stuck with you for so long. What do you do for them that no one else could do quite as well? How did they go about evaluating advisors—and why did they choose you? Once you understand your ideal client relationships inside out, then go find more people who look like them.
It’s true, there’s one particular challenge with looking for clones of your best clients: they won’t be quite as easily reachable as members of a profession might be. They might not all belong to the same country club, or subscribe to Tooth Pulp Illustrated.
That’s why your message is so critical. You need to publish content that speaks directly to the needs of your top ten clients—and captures the unique essence of your relationship with them—so they can like it on Facebook and share it with their friends. Make that message central to your digital presence, so that when potential referrals see your home page, there is something to immediately hook them in. As you get more sophisticated, you can focus on SEO, SEM, Facebook ads, testing and so on. But everything all hinges on getting the message right first—and that message is not about what a client does for a living.
I know what you’re thinking. At FiComm, we define our target market by profession, don’t we? Aren’t we just hypocrites? No—because there’s something else going on, something intangible that connects us with our clients. We aren’t some sports or tech PR agency that decided to try our hand with advisors. We grew up in the industry, we speak its language, and we have a genuine passion for the community. I’ve worked in-house as advisors’ right-hand person, and understand how difficult it is to keep an advisor business running. That’s why our clients come out of our meetings saying, “You heard me.”
I suspect something similar is happening with advisors who seem to find success targeting professions. There is something intangible that connects them with their clients—a deep, intuitive sense of their clients’ needs, and how they alone can help.
It’s tempting to go after a shiny new profession with lots of investable assets. But it’s much more rewarding to start by taking a closer look at the clients you already have.