Becoming the Safe Choice for Your Target Clients

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

When it comes to gaining clients, many advisors harbor this fantasy: Your phone rings and on the line is a qualified prospect with a million dollars, asking if you’re available to meet and talk about the possibility of working together.

For most advisors, there’s only one way to make that happen, and that’s to become the recognized, go-to expert for people in a defined target community. Since you work extensively with members of this group and are an expert in their needs, you’re able to serve them exceptionally well and are seen by clients in that group as the “safe choice.”

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In this recent article, I argued that advisors can learn from doctors, accountants and lawyers who specialize and earn twice the income of generalists. But specializing and narrowing the focus of the clients you serve doesn’t just allow you to charge a premium for your advice – it also changes the fundamental dynamics of acquiring clients. Ultimately, specializing allows you to magnetically attract clients, where they make the first contact. But even early on in the process of specializing, when you still have to take the initiative, this approach dramatically improves the response when you talk to prospects and turns cold calls into warm calls.

My previous article touched on the first two steps to build your practice around a specialty focus – picking the right target and ensuring that you have the appropriate knowledge and capabilities to serve that community in a way that few other advisors can. There are two final steps to successfully building a specialty focus – establishing a profile within your target group and converting that profile into clients.

These two steps are essential to achieve your goal of building word-of-mouth referrals from your group and getting prospects to call you. Today, I will focus on building credibility; a future article will highlight how to use that credibility to get in front of prospective clients.

Building credibility first

Some advisors believe the key to building a dominant position in a target community is through awareness alone. That misses the key point: to become the “safe choice” within a community, it’s credibility that matters – I’ve talked to advisors who advertised in publications serving doctors or paid for booths at tradeshows for business owners, with nothing in the way of results.

On the other hand, I’ve had conversations with advisors who’ve built great practices serving public company CEOs, wealthy retirees and owners of McDonalds franchisees without spending a penny. One advisor who works with physicians told me about going to a convention that featured a number of booths from competitors – he commented that he would never advertise or be at a trade show booth, because that would position him as a supplier trying to sell something. While other advisors tried to engage doctors from their booth, he was on the program for two breakfast sessions – one on the tax and estate implications of setting up professional corporations, the other on how physicians can get the best from their support staff.