Hannah: Well thanks for joining us today, Adam.
Adam: Thank you Hannah. Glad to be here.
Hannah: So I have heard your name in lots of financial planning circles for the various coaching that you do for financial advisors. And the FPA just opened up their Coaches Corner program and you are one of the coaches, you and Susan are one of the coaches for marketing.
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Hannah: And so, we are excited to have you on here to kind of pick your brain some more about marketing and what we can do as young planners to really – I don’t want to say be good at marketing, but essentially be good at marketing.
Adam: Absolutely. Yeah, The Coaches Corner, it’s pretty fantastic. It’s really a pleasure to be a part of it and for those of you that are just now learning about it, it’s simply OneFPA.org/coachescorner C O A C H E S corner and there’s 6 different coaches with a variety of experiences and specialties that are available exclusively for FPA members.
Hannah: So, pretty cool stuff. I know I’ve been spoiled and looked at some of it and was like, “Oh. That’s helpful for me in my practice.”
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Good.
Hannah: So, let’s talk about young planners and really when it comes down to marketing. So we have, I mean, there’s lots of different groups of young planners, but we have you know the planners who are starting their firms, and then we have planners who are working for somebody and not sure that they ever want to start their own firm, but they really do love financial planning, whatever that looks like for them. But that underlying idea of marketing. What would be your advice to both of those groups, or what do young planners need to like, fundamentally` understand about marketing in order to be good at financial planning?
Adam: That’s a great question, and you know, it’s interesting. So my background is in marketing and that’s what I got my degree in, and for a lot of people they think marketing as simply advertising. I remember when I was choosing my career that’s, everyone thought, “Oh marketing. That’s the same as advertising, right?” And it’s really not. You know, there’s – we’ll test my knowledge here but there are the 4 P’s of marketing and it all relates to what is the client, or the individuals needs and what is it that the advisor or the sales person or what have you, what are they doing to meet those overall needs?
And what’s great about the planning profession of course, is that there’s – we’re doing such a great job now, especially compared to how the industry used to be, in terms of meeting those needs. It’s pretty fantastic. I’ve been in the industry, in fact my mother was an advisor when I was in grade school, so I’ve been around it pretty much all my life and it’s been fun to kind of watch and see how it’s changed. And now we’re doing such a good job of focusing on people’s goals and really providing the right value, but sometimes we get away from finding out a good way to articulate that value to our prospects, and for that matter our clients as well, so they can see it.
It’s an intangible, and selling something that’s invisible or intangible, makes life a little bit difficult. So we really have to work at, “How can I communicate the value of what I do,” or “How can I tell the story to virtually anyone that I speak with?”
Hannah: I always get sucked into watching those silly, you know, Facebook ad videos that you know, show some kitchen gadget or whatever and you’re like, “Oh!” You immediately see that, but you don’t get that with financial planning and telling that.
So, how do you tell that story of financial planning to people that really resonates with? I mean my gosh, our clients, but also like our family and friends who don’t really understand what we do?
Adam: So yeah. That’s a great way to talk about it, and you know one of the things I’ve always believed, and my company Pathfinder truly believes this, is you always need to examine what you do through the perspective of the client. So what’s that lens that you want to be looking through?
And so when it comes to telling your story, there are really 5 elements to consider, and I can spend a little time, and I’ll walk you through each of those 5 elements and kind of, hopefully provide a couple of examples of how this works.
So let’s say I’m talking to you Hannah, and I want to tell my story. I want to tell you a little bit more about me, what my practice does. The very first thing that I want to start with, is I want to make a connection with you. I want you to feel like, “Oh, he gets me. He understands me.” And so the way to do that is start by talking about your existing clients. And there’s lots of different ways to do that. So, one of the easiest ways to say is, “My typical client looks like this,” and so they’re retirees or they’re approaching retirement or they’re well into their retirement or maybe they’re corporate executives or whatever your particular market is. So that’s one way to do it.
But then you also can get into, “Let me tell you what their life is like.” And sometimes you can use words that are probably universal, but don’t necessarily sound universal. They don’t sound universal to the people that are hearing them. So let me give you an example. So I could say to you Hannah, “Like most of my clients, you are smart, busy and successful.” Now as soon as I say that to you, you probably start to think, “That’s right! That’s me!” You know? And it’s like, well who doesn’t want to be thought of as smart, busy and successful? So already I’m starting to make that connection with you where you feel like, “Oh yeah! Adam, he gets me. I like this.” And then I can go on and talk about you know, something about families or professionals or entrepreneurs. I can talk about you know, what’s important to you. What some of your personal goals are. But by drawing this picture of what my ideal client or my typical client looks like, you’re going to start to see that and you’re going to say, “Oh, I fit there. That’s a good spot for me. That looks just like me.”
So the second part, of course, is then you want to kind of speak to your perspective clients specific concerns and challenges. And one of the best ways to do that is through the form of questions. And you want to ask questions the same way your clients would express them. So, let’s say for you, I could say you know, “For a lot of my clients, some of the concerns that they have and some of the questions you may be thinking of yourself is, what is my retirement going to look like? When am I going to be able to retire? How much money can I spend in retirement if retirement is a big focus for you.” You want to be able to start laying out those questions, so that the prospect hears that and thinks to themselves, “Gosh. You read my mind. Those are absolutely the same questions I’ve been having up here. In fact, you even named a couple of questions I hadn’t even thought of yet.”
Hannah: Yeah, so you’re saying we need to like, basically give words to what’s going on in our clients head because we know people like them.
Adam: Exactly. And think about how different that is from a lot of what financial advisors do. I was looking at somebody’s website the other day, and I saw you know, kind of that laundry list of products and services that they’re offering, their offerings or their services. And one of them, was risk management services. And I guarantee you Hannah, there’s no one walking around out on the street and says, “Gosh. I need some help managing my risks.” No one` talks like that. But advisors will think, you know they put that on their website and think, “If I say risk management people are going to know what that means.” Talk in real life terms. Talk about the sorts of questions that they honestly have been asking themselves.
Hannah: So, that’s interesting, because I see that again, like on a lot of websites where you know, we say like, “Here’s what we do. Like here’s what our process is, you know, risk management.” So what would be another way of saying risk management?
Adam: Another way of talking about that question is how do I know that the investments are right for me. Or how do I know my investments are on track to help me meet my goals. Or, what am I missing out on when it comes to my investments? Or,
Adam: Go ahead.
Hannah: Oh no, I was going to say, this is where I think career changers or people new to the profession have sent, I forget what we call them, but like, we know too many of the words and so it’s hard for us to communicate in those ways.
Hannah: I know my assistant who was not in financial planning or financial services, she just naturally explains things better than I do.
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Hannah: Because again, she can just use those words. Like I get so stuck in this lingo. And so she has to edit, she edits it out. She’s like, “I don’t understand what this means.” And it’s like, such a valuable perspective.
Adam: And so it begs an interesting question, so do you use those words – there’s probably 2 reasons why you use those, the 50 cent words. One is, that you are wanting to come across as very knowledgeable about your particular topic, or two, you just kind of got into it and forgot that no one else understands what that is.
Hannah: I hope it’s not the first, but maybe. I mean,
Adam: I hope it’s not the first one either, but I’ll tell you, that’s what a lot of people do, right? Because they think, “Hey, I need to use these big sentences, or these big words because that’s going to show how smart I am.” A lot of times we’re doing it subconsciously, but it ends up happening. It’s so easy to do.
Acronyms of course are the worst. You know, we throw out acronyms a lot and we just assume that the other person knows what it is, and we may not. I’m sorry, we would, but the other person doesn’t.
Hannah: It’s almost like I need like one of those like taboo buzzers in the meetings with clients. Like, “You should just hit this.” Or in my office even.
Adam: Yeah! Well, better yet, what you need to do is you need to give it to your assistant, and she’ll just sit outside your office and every time she hears you do it she’ll just, she’ll press the button or maybe have it connected to red light that flashes when you start to use it.
Hannah: Oh that’s great. Well one of the other things I’ve done, so like I have a pretty detailed client persona in my own practice of who I work with. I have quotes, of what they’ve said.
Hannah: So if they ever say anything that’s like, really spot on, I go and add that to my client persona, because it just reminds me of how they talk, how my clients talk.
Adam: It really is kind of really trying to put yourself into their shoes. And realize too that there’s a big element of fear and uncertainty with them when they’re sitting down with you. They don’t want to feel like they don’t know what they’re doing, and so a lot of times, you can talk to them about a particular concept and they’re not going to raise their hand and say, “I have no idea what you just said.”
Adam: You know, they’re going to kind of keep that to themselves. So it’s incumbent upon you, or incumbent upon the advisor to say, “Well let me make sure I’m breaking that down. And I want to explain this again, because I worry if I don’t explain this well you’re going to walk out of here and you’re not going to be able to explain it. You’re not going to be able to understand it.”
Hannah: You know, it’s so interesting, we talk about marketing so much in terms of finding new clients and you know, kind of the pizzazz around that. But really, what this is sounding like is good client communication and good client servicing. And it doesn’t matter if you have your own firm or not. Like, if we can figure out how to talk our clients language, I mean you’re going to be set.
Adam: Yeah! Yeah, absolutely. Another thing we’ve always believed at Pathfinder is, everything that you say and do, as well as everything that you don’t say or do, conveys a message, and make sure it’s the message that you want to convey. And, you know, Susan, my mother and my partner, she’s both my mother and my partner. She and I are always finding instances where, “Oh gosh, if you changed this little phrase, all of a sudden it makes a ton of difference.”
So for example, let’s say I’m talking to you Hannah, about introducing the concept of you know referrals. And I will say something to you like, “Hannah, if you run across somebody who could benefit from these services, will you call me?” And will, is a carefully chosen word, because “will”, that’s indicating a promise. You will call me, as opposed to “would”. And would is much more hypothetical. And so even just that tiny little word, a “will” versus a “would”, starts to make a real big difference in somebody’s mind.
There’s a real good book out there, it’s called, what’s it called? It is called, “Exactly What To Say” and the author’s name is Phil M. Jones. And it’s like 100 page, 150 pages total, and it’s filled with all kinds of little nuggets like that. So for example, you know one really easy way to start a conversation with somebody is to say, “I’m not sure if it’s for you, but,” and when you start a conversation like that, “I’m not sure if it’s for you,” that right then and there, kind of takes some of that pressure off. “Okay, I’m not sure if it’s for you,” so they’re picking up on the message of, “Oh okay. Well then, no pressure here.” And then you throw that but in, and as soon as you throw the but in, their brain’s going to flip and say, “Oh there actually is something here that I need to pay attention to.”
It’s little things like that, but it’s incredibly important, those words we choose to use.
Hannah: You know it’s, there’s such a fine line. You know we hear people talk about things like this and it’s a fine line between doing what’s right for the client and then using manipulation. So can you speak to that a little bit because I mean I know, I mean my gosh, I know some of the people who are listening to this podcast are working for people who might not respect or see them use kind of these, little nuances and tools in a, maybe not positive way.
Adam: Yeah. Absolutely. And so, like I said a few minutes ago, it all starts and ends with the clients. And for a lot of the advisors that I work with, I help them think through, what’s a good metaphor to use? So a real easy metaphor to use for the advisor, is of a lifeguard. So if you look out there and Hannah, you know this really, really well, there is a ton of people that could use the help of a financial planner. A bunch of them.
The problem is they don’t always realize it. Now you think about it from the metaphor of a lifeguard, there are people around you that are drowning. They need your help. But what happens when a lifeguard try’s to rescue somebody that’s drowning? They kind of kick against them a little bit. Right? They’re not used to it. And, if you start with that mindset of, look this person needs my help and I need to figure out ways that they can truly benefit from my help, to me that’s okay. You’re not trying to say, “Look you know, I’m trying to push you into the water and do something that you don’t want to do that’s not good for you. I’m trying to rescue you here.”
Another one of my younger clients, I was talking to him about this concept, and he actually used the metaphor of Neo from the Matrix.
Adam: So as you recall, right, so everyone in the Matrix, they’re, man it’s been forever since I’ve seen it but, everyone in the Matrix, they’re all plugged in right? They’re in those little pods and they’re plugged in. And so he saw himself as the person that went from person to person, and unplugged them from the Matrix, showed them the better way, “Here is a better way for you to do things, and now I’m showing it to you. At this point it’s kind of up to you if you want to come with me and whatever it was, take the red pill or the blue pill, and if not that’s okay. I’m going to plug you back in but then I’m going to go to the next person.”
Hannah: Yeah. You know it’s one of those, you know when you have somebody come into your office and even, again family and friends and whatever it could be, but it’s like when I talk to them, it’s not so much that I want them to work with me, I mean, a lot of people I would like to work with me, but it’s this idea of I hope that what I communicate is you need financial planning. So even if it’s not with me, like that’s what I really like selling people on because I truly believe that there is this power in financial planning that can really make that much of a difference in a client’s life and in their lives.
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah, and so if you’re approaching, say a friend, and friends and family, it’s tricky for everyone, right? Because you don’t want to feel like I’m trading off on our friendship or our familiar relationship and kind of twisting the screws there. And that’s where you can just back off a little bit.
And so if Hannah you were my cousin, I might say to you at some point, “Hey Hannah, can I put my business hat on for just a second? You know, I got to tell you, one of the things that I’ve very consistently seen with people in XYZ situation, and then I would describe whatever situation that would approximate where you are, one of the things I’ve seen for a lot of people is that they think that they are too young to work with a financial planner or they don’t have enough assets to work with a financial planner, or they don’t have time to work with a financial planner. And I see that a lot and honestly it’s something that sometimes is concerning to me, so I felt like I almost owed it to you to at least bring that topic up. If you ever want to sit down, I would love to be able to do so. If not, or if you don’t feel comfortable sitting down with me because we’re cousins, I can give you the name of another advisor in the area who would love to, who would absolutely love to work with you.
Hannah: We’re talking through 5 elements. I’m sure this is going to come up to, a lot of it is who do you want to work with?
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Hannah: Because I know like, for myself like most, my natural market, like my natural friends and family don’t fit with my ideal client. So, I’m not trying to get my family or friends to become clients.
Adam: It makes it easier, right?
Hannah: Oh yeah. It’s great. They actually, come to me I think, maybe a little bit more than I would expect.
Adam: Yeah. And this is actually a good transition back into the concept of telling your story. Because even if you have friends and family that don’t fit into your niche market, you should still be able to articulate to them what the value that you provide to your clients is.
So in other words you should be able to talk to your brother, your sister, your aunt or uncle, what have you, about here’s the sorts of clients that I work with. So let me tell you what they look like. Let me tell you about some of the questions that they typically have, so they can start to see, “Okay. You know what? I know somebody like that. I have to introduce them to Hannah, because I bet they could really benefit from working with Hannah.”
You need to be able to tell your story, in other words to everyone that you talk to, because there’s a decent chance that they are going to be connected to somebody who is in your niche.
Hannah: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Adam: So let’s go back for a second. Let’s talk through where we’re at.
So the first one is simply create a connection with your perspective clients. You want the prospect to feel like “you get me.” That’s number one.
Number two is you want to speak to their specific concerns and challenges, and this is in the form of questions. You want the prospect to feel like, “Gosh. You read my mind.”
The third then comes to demonstrate how you can help. In other words this is your chance to say, “Let me show you what I do.” And the more thoughtful and deliberate you can make that, the better off that you are.
So typically for most planners it’s going to be taking the prospect through the planning process. So we start with this, then we do this, we typically look at that and just kind of walk them through, because they want to see, “Okay. How is it this person works? What does their process look like?”
Hannah: You mean it’s not all just like long walks on the beach, like the commercials?
Adam: No, no. Unfortunately not. Yeah, I mean but that’s where you roll up the sleeves, right? And this is your chance in part to show some of your expertise. And so if I’m hearing the message from you Hannah, I would want to hear, you know, “These are the questions I ask, this is what my typical process looks like, this is what you’re going to receive in the end, this is a little more of the nuts and bolts that go along with it.”
Adam: So then the fourth step, is you want to be able to describe your key differentiators. And so in other words, this is where you’re saying, “Here’s how I am different.” And when you’re talking about your differentiators, it’s usually a little bit more about the how you do something, than the what. The what ends up a lot of times being somewhat universal. I mean there’s only kind of so many different ways to slice it, but it’s more about how you do it. So it could relate to your background, to your experience, to your philosophy, it could be that the way you communicate with people, it could be a part of your niche. It could be a lot of different things.
Hannah: So let’s talk about that. Like, in your experience working with advisors, like what are some of the key differentiators that really stand out to you?
Adam: Well first and foremost, probably the biggest thing is when you can speak to a specific niche. Being able to say, “Look. This is specifically the area in which I focus and you’re not going to find anyone that’s more knowledgeable about this particular area than me.” That’s huge. A lot of advisors out there are generalists. And generalists are good, it’s good to be able to have a generalist, but generally speaking, if you pardon the pun, there’s nothing about them that stands out.
So in other words it’s almost like if you think – I often think about a differentiator as something for people to grab onto like a handle, like a rough edge or something that’s not so smooth and plain that nothing leaps out. So it could simply be, you know you’ve got a specific area of specialty that you work with. It could be that you have adjusted your discovery meeting process to make it incredibly easy to work with, so that you’ve spent a lot of time working in behavioral management, behavioral economics. There’s a lot of questions that you’ve` specifically designed that are very, very different from people.
Other things that you could do, is you could talk about how if you are a virtual advisor, for example. So most advisors they’ll typically have you come into their office once a quarter. My approach is say, “Hey, I a little different here. I don’t want to take up your time. It’s easiest for me if we just simply get on the phone or get on, do a quick Skype call and we’ll talk everything through.” It could be any number of different things and each person is a little bit different, so it’s hard to say, “Oh, here’s a universal differentiator,” because there isn’t a universal differentiator. Everyone’s story is a little bit more unique.
Hannah: Gosh. I talk to so many young planners and I’ll raise my hand and be like, “I, was slash am this advisor, where you’re just itching to get out and start your own firm or to work with your own clients or be that lead advisor.” And I think what’s really cool about what you’re saying here is that time when you’re under somebody or you’re working with clients, like that is such a great time to be honing all of this. To be figuring out who do you work best with? What are the messaging? What makes you different? Like, what makes you different from the other advisors in the firm? Because even if you’re in an office of you know, 20, 30, 50 people, like what makes you special? Because that’s really valuable if you can identify that.
Adam: It is. And probably it’s one of the hardest things to sometimes come up with, because we lack that perspective on ourselves. Especially you know, the younger we are, the less perspective that we have. So if you’re a planner in your 20’s, I mean you’ve got half the life experience as somebody in their 40’s does. And so it’s harder sometimes to really pull those differentiators out, so one of the things you can do is just ask people.
Hannah: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Adam: You know, talk to your family members. Talk to your friends. Talk to your clients. Talk to the other people in your firm if you’re not out on your own, and say, “Tell me what’s different about me? What do you remember about me? What makes me unique?” And have them share that, and then once you start to see it, you can craft that story for yourself. Well look, here’s something about me that’s really, really different. You’re not going to find anyone who’s more X than me, whatever X may be.
Hannah: Yep. That makes a lot of sense.
Adam: And then I think the other thing too when it comes to talking about your differentiator, or differentiators, if it’s plural, it’s really helpful to set it up with a contrasting statement. So in other words, most advisors will do X, but my approach is to do Y. Because if all you do is you start with that second half, my approach is to do Y, the prospects going to hear that and they’re not going to know that that’s different from anybody else. So the more that you can pull that out, “Most people do this, but I do that.” “A lot of people will typically take this approach, my approach is a little bit different. I look like that.” And again, that’s giving the prospect something to grab onto. They can say, “Oh okay. I get it. I understand why Hannah is different in this regard.”
Hannah: You know, you were saying this and one example I’ve used with a number of clients, again that kind of contrasting element, is you know a lot of financial planners, you know they take all of your information, and then they give you this nice big binder that you take home and you’re supposed to implement and then you put it on your shelf and you never look at it again. And it’s funny because clients who really, that resonates with, I mean they’re nodding, they’re laughing, they’re like “Oh, we have one or two of those already.”
Like you’re saying, it’s telling their story.
Hannah: In a way.
Adam: Okay, so how do you prevent your plan from going on the shelf with the other ones?
Hannah: So I say we implement it throughout the process.
Hannah: So we have 6 different meetings and so between meetings clients have action plans and I have action plans and so at the end of our 6th meetings, we have a fully completed financial plan, instead of just a starting point.
Adam: Ah, there you go. Perfect. Right? So now I’m hearing that, if I’m the prospect I’m like, “Oh. Okay.” So it’s not simply like a one and done, stick it on the shelf good luck, but it’s “I’m going to keep working through you. This is a living document that we’re going to be working on together. And it’s not you sitting over here and me sitting over here, it’s us sitting side by side and working on it.”
Hannah: And making progress. Like we want to see progress, throughout the process.
So then the fifth part of telling your story is simply providing next steps. And so that’s where both of you say, “Okay. What’s next?” And you want the prospect to really visualize that and see and understand, if I say yes or if I agree, here’s what’s going to happen now. It’s that call to action sometimes that you’ll hear about. So what goes next? If you’re talking to the perspective client through your website? Okay, what are they do next? What happens next? Do you get together for a, kind of a introductory conversation? Are you going to jump straight into the discovery meeting? What is it that you’re going to do?
But what you’re trying to do there is make it very clear. It’s like you have a big, red arrow pointing at, “Here’s what happens next”. Because one, it’s going to give them a sense of direction, here’s what I’m going to do next. And then second, it’s going to give them a sense of comfort too, knowing that here is the path that you need to start going down.
Hannah: Because we all want that direction, right?
Adam: We do. We do. You know, it’s amazing. Our brains are so jammed full of stuff, that people often take the easy route. Because if you say, “Go this way,” okay great. We’ll go this way. It’s easier.
And parts, honestly, our brains are set up that way. If we had to rethink every single decision in our lives, nothing would ever get accomplished. We have routines and we just kind of go along until we find a better path to go, and then off we go.
Hannah: You know I was listening to a talk from years ago about how to help client anxiety, when they come into your office. You know, and they say like most people would rather go to the dentist, which I hate the dentist, but they’d rather go to the dentist than go to my office. And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” And the example that they gave was, you know if you go to the dentist and you just, you don’t know what’s next. And you have no idea and so you’re completely tense, the whole time you’re there because, when does the drill come out?
You know and so like one of the things they were saying you know in this presentation was, you know when clients come in, you know, tell them what’s going to happen in the meeting. Like let them just be able to breathe and they can kind of know where they’re at in the meeting. And that’s what you’re saying, it’s again that same psychological like need that we have to just know the direction, know the path that we’re going to go on.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. And even when you’re like giving a, let’s say you’re giving a speech or you’ve get something that’s fairly lengthy that you’re explaining to somebody, having things that are numbered, makes a huge difference. We did that right here right?
Adam: I said there were 5 steps to being able to tell your story. So people are listening in on this podcast and they’re, okay. Well they know I’m at step 3 or I’m at step 4 or I’m at step 5, so they have a general gauge of where they’re going to be at. I’ll tell you what, you know on that point about making it easier and reducing the anxiety for people coming in, that’s where visuals can help out a ton too. You know, where you’ve got – you know, here’s a picture of what our office looks like. The first person you’re going to see when you walk in is Dave, here’s a picture of what Dave looks like, and helping them kind of visualize, “Yeah. This is what’s going to happen when I’m going to walk in.” Makes things so much more comfortable.
Hannah: That’s a great tip.
Adam: So one of the other questions that I’m often asked is, can you give me some guidance on niche markets? I call them niche markets. Some people call them a niche market, but to me it sounds better if you call it a niche market, right? And they often wonder, “How do I know that I’ve got a good niche market? It seems so counterintuitive, especially when early in my career I’m trying to gather as many clients as I possibly can. Why on earth would I want to reduce my overall market? Why not keep it super wide, because that’s going to allow me to get more things done, right? And talk to more people.
And so for niche marketing, it’s really more of a question of focus. And it’s a question of focus both for you, as well as for your prospects and clients. So if you have a very specific area that you’re going after, it allows you to kind of shut out some of the other stuff that’s going on around you. So let’s say for example, I am going after corporate executives, that’s my niche market. Well I am going to become an absolute expert in working with corporate executives. And retirement’s a part of it, yeah, but I don’t necessarily have to be an expert at that. 529 plans, don’t need to know a lot about that, but I’m going to be super narrowly focused there.
So it’s good for you, right? Also too, from your marketing efforts, it allows you to be very hyper focused. You’re going to use a lot of LinkedIn, you’re going to do a lot of corporate searches, etc. But also too, it gives focus to the people that are working with you. So, if I’m a corporate executive and I have a financial advisor who I know specializes in working with corporate executives, that’s how I’m going to refer to them. “Oh you know what, you really need to talk to Joe, because Joe specializes in working with corporate executives. It gives everyone the big R, the referral that people are looking for, because they know, kind of how to, I don’t want to say pigeon hole you, but they know how to label you as opposed to, “Oh, work with Joe. He’s a really good financial advisor,” “Work with Joe. He’s a financial advisor who specializes in this particular area.”
Hannah: How do you see people pick their niche markets?
Adam: That’s a great question. Let me start with what people often do and the problem with that. What a lot of people will do, is they will solely focus on something that they enjoy doing. It’s almost more like networking as opposed to a niche. So, let’s go with tennis enthusiasts, right? So my niche market is going to be tennis enthusiasts because I like playing tennis and I go out and play tennis at my local club etc. Well that’s good, but tennis enthusiasts, they run gamut, right? You’ve got young tennis enthusiasts, you’ve got old tennis enthusiasts. Young tennis enthusiasts, they have one set of needs and challenges. Older tennis enthusiasts, they need others. And so they can kind of sometimes miss out on things because they’re not, they don’t have that right overall level of focus.
So to me there’s kind of three things that you should look at to know, do I have a good niche market? Let me take you through each one.
So the first one is it’s all about the people or the potential of that niche market. So the question that you want to ask yourself is, are there enough people in this niche and do the people in the niche have sufficient means to be an ideal client for me? So one way to kind of do a rule of thumb on it, is pick a number. 20%. If 20% of the people in that niche hire me, is that going to be enough for me to have a successful practice? So let’s say if your niche is 55 year old vascular surgeons in Podunk Iowa who went to Villanova. You know what? There’s only one person. So if you don’t get that one person as a client, you’re out of luck. And even if you did get them as a client, you’re not going to be able to build a business around it. So it’s got to be wide, but you also can’t go too wide.
So in other words, it always cracks me up when people, I ask somebody, “Well what’s your niche market?” And they will say, “Women.” It’s just like, come on. Women isn’t even a minority in our country. It’s a majority. And think about all the different types of women that are out there. Women executives, women restarting their career, women that are taking over the finances of the family for the first time.
So the first thing you want to consider is okay, you know what does the size of this niche look like and are there enough people in the niche that I can make a profitable practice around it?
Adam: Second, do you have an affinity with the people in that niche? So in other words, do you have a genuine connection with the people in the niche? So, this is something that you either kind of naturally have, so say for example if you are a, let’s say you’re a widow or a widower yourself. Well that’s a great kind of natural niche for you, because you’ve experienced what life is like after losing a spouse, so you can talk to that. But it’s also something that you can learn. So, you can do a lot of research into the characteristics of somebody that has lost a spouse and dig into that a little bit more.
So you want to make sure though that it’s genuine. You can’t say I’m going to go after, oh I don’t know, corporate executives if you really don’t like corporate America. Probably not a good fit for you, right? So go after something that is naturally going to pull you towards that niche.
Then the third one, and the third one is probably the biggest one, which is that they need to have a common set of challenges that you are well positioned to help solve. And this kind of goes back to what we were talking about a minute ago with telling your story. What are the questions that the people within that niche are asking and am I an expert or can I position myself as an expert in that particular area?
And the reason all of that is so important is all of that’s going to govern your message to the people within the niche. So you want to be able to talk to, if I’m working with say, small business owners, well small business owners generally have the same sets of questions, which is, how much should I save for retirement versus reinvesting in the business. Or if you’re working with widows and widowers as a niche, they’re going to have the same types of questions themselves. “Well, I don’t have a lot of experience, how am I going to handle living on one income? I feel a lot of pressure because I’m the sole decision maker.”
And so by the people in that niche having that set of common challenges, then you can come and say, “Well I’m the expert in this area. I’m really good at helping people specifically here.” And that’s how you can start your marketing efforts towards them.
Hannah: So let me ask you, because you know I have really good friends who are working in firms and you know I’m such a believer that we need to be doing marketing, like even if we don’t have our own businesses. How does that work with firms, like with their marketing message like overall as a firm, versus individuals within that firm.
Adam: That’s a great question. And there’s probably a couple of different ways that you can handle that. I’ve seen some firms where they almost have a separate brand for that niche market. So for example, there’s a firm that I know of that I won’t name here on the call, but they have a younger planner and what she has done, is she’s kind of set up her own little brand, I say own little brand, her own brand, to work with the members of her niche with are generally the people that are in the younger demographic. So they’ve got a separate website for her, it’s kind of all of her branding. The brand colors are a little bit different, it’s completely separate. So that’s one way to approach it.
A second way to approach it is, almost think of it like a law firm that has areas of specialty. So you kind of say, you know you have like on your menu of your website what are the services that you offer, and you can put, “Here’s the work that we do for our retirees. Here’s the work that we do for our corporate executives. Here’s the work that we do for widows or widowers,” to pull them in that way. So it’s kind of like you’ve got these subject matter experts within particular firm.
Hannah: I’m trying to get somebody to come on the podcast and talk about building out your financial plan philosophy, and how important that is to do that. But I feel like that also applies to marketing too. Like what are you comfortable saying versus what are you not comfortable saying?
Yeah, and that needs to align with wherever you work, if you work for somebody.
Adam: It does. It does and it depends, as I’m sure you’re well aware and your listeners are well aware, that a lot of times when you’re joining firm or you’re part of a firm that’s been around for a while, there’s a little bit of, “This is the way that we built our firm and this is the way that we want to continue to build our firm.” And there’s some struggle that goes along with that. But a lot of times if you can start to generate some success, then that starts to open up doors for you, because you say, “Oh, okay. Well shoot, you know. I’ve been working in this particular area and it’s,” calling it more of an informal niche as you start to develop it, and it’ll naturally come.
The other thing too is niche marketing sometimes happens just naturally. There’s an advisor that I know, former engineer and all of his clients are that real, data crunching type. Because people want to work with the people that are like them and so they naturally just start to gravitate towards him, because that’s his style. And so some of those niches, he’s not even actively saying, “Hey former engineers, or current engineers come work with me.” People just kind of naturally gravitate towards him because that’s his style and his approach.
Hannah: You know I talked with a number of advisors who say that their niche found them.
Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Hannah: You know where they thought they were going to be you know, working with widows, or you know what not, and its corporate execs. And they’re just like, “I don’t know how this happened, but apparently this is my niche.”
Adam: Yeah. And it’s pretty fantastic when that starts to happen. And you then the question then comes, okay. Well, going back to the points I made earlier, is that affinity there? So if your niche starts to find you and you don’t like working within that niche, that could be a little bit of a challenge, but usually that doesn’t happen. If your niche finds you it’s because you like working with them and they like working with you. It’s amazing.
It’s amazing the power of liking, right? If I like you, I’m going to like working with you and you’re going to like working with me and we’re going to live happily ever after.
Hannah: What other advice do you have, I mean in your years of experience in the financial services, industry and then profession and coaching advisors, like what would be the biggest mistakes you would hope new planners or young planners would avoid?
Adam: Let’s see. I would say it’s a couple of things, and this is somewhat off the top of my head, and one is nothing ever gets handed to you, and that’s tough because sometimes you think, “Well, as long as I’m smart enough everything’s just naturally going to come to me.” And that doesn’t always happen. You really do have to do the work. And that’s sometimes a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true.
Second is be brave and be confident. This goes back to the conversation that we were having earlier about kind of using the wrong terminology and just kind of getting so, kind of caught up in our own little world that we kind of forget what life is like for other people out there. We think, “Oh gosh. I can’t talk to this person. I don’t have enough knowledge yet,” and you forget that 98 ties out a 100 you have so much more knowledge than the person you’re talking to does, and so you have to be brave and willing to go out there and say, “Look, I can help you. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be able to help you with just yet because I’m just now getting to know you, but absolutely I can go out there an help you.”
Hannah: And it’s not an arrogance confidence. It can be a humble confidence.
Adam: No it’s not. No it’s not. And you know, that’s tough too, right? It’s that humble confidence. It’s the feeling of look, I can help people. As long as you keep that mindset, that mindset of, “look, I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it, but I know that I can help you.” Those conversations become so much easier.
This also too goes back to what we were talking about with being persuading versus manipulating. Now manipulating is trying to push somebody into a path that they shouldn’t be going into. And persuading is a matter of helping them get to the right spot. And when you’ve got that mindset, it’s a wonderful thing.