Why Do Many Advisors Fear Niches?

Saturday, May 22, 2010 14:18
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Why Do Many Advisors Fear Niches?

 

Advisors are poor marketers in general, and one of the silliest things they do is fear targeting a niche. What are you thinking?

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If I went into the website business in 1996 by making websites for any schnook, I would not have been able to compete with Intuit, Google, WordPress, and other giant technology companies aiming for a mass clientele. By specializing in advisors, I’m able to add content and technology tools that my niche group needs and values. I can provide solutions that the giants cannot afford to create because serving my niche is too much work for them.

To me, the case for specializing is so easy to see, and I just can’t understand why advisors have so much trouble with it. Yet over the years, advisors’ fear of niches has come up again and again.

Once, and I promise this is true, I was working with an advisor on the phone, reviewing marketing copy I had written that would move him into a niche. He yelled at me. “I don’t want to be different! I just want to sound like everyone else!”  

Another time, I was on a conference call with a very high-powered firm whose chief investment officer told me in front of the firm’s executive leadership that he didn’t want to describe his process in detail to me. “You know a lot about the investment business and that’s why we hired you!” he barked. ”We do what everyone else does. Just write about that.”

Just this past Friday, at a webinar entitled,
Successful Marketing For Advisors, John Anderson, of SEI this past Friday did an excellent job of telling advisors how to market their practices.

Sure enough, during the Q&A period, an advisor chatted in a question raising her fear that marketing to a small niche like divorcees might scare away other potential prospects. Such fear is totally misplaced.

Having marketing copy on your website that emphasizes your niche will gain you clients in the long run, assuming you are good at working with that niche. Here are some reasons why.

Commoditization Of Investment Advice. The Web is relentlessly commoditizing investment advice. Online brokers are better at serving the mass affluent. Segmenting the investor market to differentiate your services can be a source of competitive advantage. Specialized advice will command a premium price and make your clients more loyal.

The Web Favors Niche Marketers. If the keywords used in marketing copy on your website are terms like “financial planning” or fee-only financial advisors,” you stand little chance of gaining high rankings in search engines. However, if your marketing copy contains keywords like “financial advisors serving Indian hotel owners” or “estate planning for shopping center developers,” you have a far better chance of gaining favorable natural search results. If you want to learn more about this topic, see this recent
webinar on Search Engine Optimization conducted by Advisor Products.

Professional Satisfaction. Serving a niche enables you to help people in more meaningful ways. If you are an expert in understanding the wealth management needs of layers, doctors, owners of bakeries, car dealers or other small business, or some other market segment, you will find yourself going far deeper into their financial lives and advising them on business issues as well as personal finance. Your advice becomes more meaningful because it is so targeted. The professional satisfaction you’ll gain can make your job more satisfying.

If you need some help thinking about a niche, start by considering whether the answer is obvious.

Three weeks ago, I was speaking with an advisor I’ve known for many years. When I asked him to tell me about his firm, he never mentioned that he had a niche. In an elevator speech that sounded a lot like many other wealth management firms, he told me he uses DFA Funds and provides financial planning.

He is from India, and I felt I was treading on delicate ground, but I asked him if he targeted Indian immigrants. That’s when he told me that 60% of his clients are doctors of Indian descent.

This advisor is not marketing to Indian doctors currently and did not realize that he can probably get a lot more Indian doctors as clients by sharing the specialized knowledge he has gained by working with this niche.

Many Indian doctors are first-generation Americans or emigrated here from India. They have common experiences and financial issues. For instance, they almost all had little money during their residency and are tempted to spend crazily when they start making money. Many of them have parents and siblings still living in India that they need to assist financially. Many accumulate great wealth and fear raising spoiled kids. The expertise of this advisor in dealing with financial issues of Indian doctors is valuable.

To me, creating marketing materials for this niche is a no brainer. Yet this advisor and others like, I suspect, don’t realize they already have a niche and can capitalize on it with just a bit of strategic marketing and planning.

To figure out your possible niches, download the market segmentation worksheet we have made available on A4A. In segmenting your clients, you may find some obvious commonalities among them. Are a few of your clients:

 

  • working for the same local company?
  • working in the same industry?
  • of the same ethnic group?
  • in the same profession?
  • in the same socio-economic group?
In a story that will be published in the upcoming issue of Financial Advisor, I interviewed several firms that only serve doctors or that specialize in doctors. I realize that pointing to a few firms won’t convince you. But it is such a clear example of how niche marketing works. When it’s released on the Web around June 1, please take a look at that story.

Though I hope I am helping you, maybe I am missing something. Maybe there’s a good reason why advisors avoid niches. If so, please let me know by posting a comment.

And if you have had success in working on a niche market, please also post a comment and share your ideas.


 

 

Comments (1)

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mrowland
This is a great blog, Andy. Had I not read it, I would have felt just like the advisors you quote who don't want to scare away clients with general needs by declaring themselves niche planners or specialists. Yet, like you, I doubt if I would have found the success I did in our field had I not specialized in business and investment journalism and particularly in writing about and for financial advisors.
mrowland , May 23, 2010

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