In business, you never want to look exactly the same as every other person or company offering the same service. You need to stand out from the crowd. We have used this example in the past, but people often expect someone in financial advising to be sat behind an oak desk wearing a JC Penny suit with a bookshelf in the background. While oak desks and JC Penny suits and bookshelves may appeal to some, blending into the background and looking like a carbon copy of your competitors is like business suicide.
Blend in vs Stand out
As Michael Kitces once said: “It’s sad when your differentiator is people choose a financial advisor by zip code” and “you want to be unique, you want to be different, and you want to pick a niche.”
We understand that certain trends come in and out of fashion. Oak desks and JC Penny suits and bookshelves may be a perfect example of something that is in fashion. However, once a fashion trend becomes commonplace, it often goes out of style rather quickly. In comparison, finding your own sense of fashion that works for you and only you offers a more consistent second glance from the public.
From a purely marketing point of view, it makes far more sense for you to pick a niche. I’m going to work with plastic surgeons, or I’m going to work with Procter and Gamble employees, or I’m going to work with Microsoft employees, or I’m going to work with tech industry CEOs. Whatever your niche may be, it is much easier to choose a market if you choose clearly. You can pick a niche based on an occupation, a hobby, or a group of people that you want to target. You should then look to build affinity with them and, eventually, rifle shot your marketing. The ideal scenario would see you build six different front end marketing projects, each targeted at a different niche.
We talk to a lot of people about marketing and a lot of them tell us they want to market to the whole world. We have said it before, but we can never say it too many times; that is a really bad idea. The worst idea you can have. Unfortunately, adopting this method will likely see you disappear into the background, relying on your zip code for new customers.
Specialist over Generalist
What we want to talk about is how showcasing your personality and making yourself look different to the guy with the oak desk, JC Penny suits and bookshelf can enhance your marketing potential. You do not want to be generic – you want to be different enough that you stand out and can market to the exact kind of client you want. After all, the more specialized someone is, and the rarer their skillset is, the more highly compensated they are. That is a fact that remains true throughout all walks of life.
You can specialize in what type of problem to solve, thus opening yourself up to a range of potential customers. However, what we actually see the most success with is when someone takes the problem they solve and finds a niche within that. As we explained above, this could be an occupation, a hobby, or a group of people. You can quickly become the go-to person for that problem-solving service for an entire company, or group of people.
Imagine you were an Amazon executive and went to a financial planner for help with your retirement plans and this advisor told you they specialize in working with Amazon retirement plans. Suddenly, you are hooked. Because of the niche, this advisor seems like the best person in the world for you. Whereas, if they had just told you they specialize in financial advising, you may have still shopped around for alternatives. Someone who works with everyone does not make you feel special. Someone who only works within your hobby, company, or group makes you feel important and comfortable.
Let’s take a dive into the world of medicine for another example. Imagine you had a carpal tunnel problem. Would you want a carpal tunnel specialist surgeon? Or would you want a surgeon who tries their hand at all kinds of stuff? If you had back problems, would you want a back specialist? Or someone who offers a wide range of stuff, including backs? Specializing builds authority and uniqueness, both of which draw in new customers. By condensing your market, you can actually go on to build a much bigger one.
Develop your “avatar client”
We have one friend who does finances for doctors, but even more specifically for dentists. He has almost found a niche within a niche and he is thriving because of it. This friend has a very clear avatar that he is targeting. Someone else we know has an effective marketing plan designed to get chiropractors through the door, as well as a second plan designed to get dentists too. The content itself was the same. The same presentation, the same marketing, just different words changed from dentist to chiropractor. So, even though they have targeted two different professions in the medical world, they have opted against advertising to ‘anyone in the medical profession’. It makes far more sense to set up six targeted campaigns aimed at niche customers than one campaign serving as an umbrella to cover them all simultaneously. You may even be providing the exact same service to every group of people, but it would have been harder to attract them as ‘all medical professionals’ compared to ‘dentists’ and ‘chiropractors’, etc.
Be the expert in the field that you want to be the expert in. The one-way ticket to doing that is marketing and building authority.
We know a couple of other people who specialize in showing people how to position their business for sale, and how to hold onto money after a sale respectively. The first teaches the client how to sort their finances before the sale, the other teaches them how to manage the money from the sale. Once again, this is a targetable audience. You target towards businesspeople at a certain age level, people with businesses worth a certain amount, etc. In fact, there was recently a customer who used the first person pre-sale and the second person post-sale. Because one is a specialist in setting up a business for sale and the other is a specialist in setting up money after a sale, they go hand-in-hand.
Niches are a wider road than you think
Unfortunately, many people avoid this kind of niche tactic because they think it will narrow their business. However, that is not necessarily true. It will narrow the type of client you attract, yes. If you only target dentists who need financial advice, you will only get dentists who need financial advice. However, you have the chance to expand your business with this targeted marketing because more people are actually going to respond. After all, if you target 200 medical professionals and get 5 clients versus targeting 100 dentists and getting 10 clients… you are going to take the second option all day long. It’s all about becoming that go-to guy for your niche. And as we have said above, you don’t have to keep to one niche. You can market as many different niches as you want, as long as they have different targeted marketing campaigns.
Another common mistake is making everything about credentials. It is not about credentials, although that is a base level requirement. The base level is they expect you to be competent and they expect you to be well-educated and they expect you to be knowledgeable. However, what so many people try to do is market their credentials, rather than market their expertise or their uniqueness in a given way. That is a mistake. Because it is likely that every single one of your competitors has the same, if not similar credentials, to you. In fact, most people won’t even know which credentials, numbers and letters are better than others. If you ask the average person what a CHC is, or a PCFB, or a Series 7, they are going to have no clue. What they care about is can this person take care of the problem I have? When the dentists see that you specialize in dealing with dentists, that requirement is going to get a big old tick.
Most people do not do research into which doctor to pick, for example. When I was assigned a doctor for my carpal tunnel procedure, I just assumed they were the right person for the job and didn’t look into it any further, even though I should have done. It was just the doctor who my orthopedic surgeon recommended for carpal tunnel surgery. Looking back, this could have just been a good mate of his or someone he knew from the golf course. I should have done a little more research, but that was just how the process worked. However, you do not want to rely on this kind of client stream if you want to be successful. You will get some business that way, but not enough to survive and definitely not enough to thrive.
Stand out from the crowd
The people who you remember are the idiosyncratic ones, the quirky ones, the ones that stand out. In many sectors, especially wealth management and financial planning, people almost try to push against that idea. You want to look conservative and dress conservatively and act conservatively because the last thing you want to do is annoy people. However, a pursuit against being controversial can go too far the other way and you become boring – just like everyone else. You need to figure out who your avatar is, who your prospect is, and market yourself accordingly. Dress how they would want you to dress. Look how they would want you to look. Act how they would want you to act. If you are going to be idiosyncratic or controversial, do it in ways they are likely to agree with. We are not telling you to be rude or a jerk, just stand out in a way that your clients like to stand out.
Talking of controversial, this may be a controversial example. We have gone through thousands and thousands of financial advisor profiles on LinkedIn and what we are seeing more and more is the use of banners/backgrounds that promote Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+. And if you are targeting professors teaching at Berkeley and liberal, open-minded clients, this could work great for you. However, if you are targeting 55-year-old dentists from Tulsa, it likely isn’t going to help. What we would say is choose that stuff based on who you are targeting. In Tulsa, for example, we would have wanted to be in the congregation of the First Baptist Church, with a particular set of beliefs. Of course, that is not saying that you should not have certain beliefs and should not live your life according to your values. Don’t join a religion because it will help with business. Don’t suppress your political views because of business. Be consistent, but don’t be afraid of being controversial and saying what you think. After all, that is going to make you happier anyway. Better yet, find where you stand and then pick an audience that aligns with your views. If you are a passionate supporter of BLM and LQBTQ+ matters, target people who also fall in that category.
If you are going into the wrong person, at the wrong time, and are also incompatible with them, it is unlikely to lead to a new client. And we are not talking about sexual orientation, gender, color of skin, or anything like that here. If your underlying system is out of sync with theirs, then they are unlikely to give you their business and you are going after people who are going to suck the joy from your life anyway. It is far better to surround yourself with people who think more or less in the same way you do. That makes for a successful business and a happy life.
We always say, if you go through your current client base and there are people who you hate, they should be gone.
And, in marketing, conduct your business ethically and continue that method through your client’s business. If you find a client with whom you sync well, in turn, go and find clients for them with whom they will sync well. That is always the first thing we look to do, create enough of a pipeline for people that they no longer have to tolerate people they do not like.
There was a high-profile LPL deal where an adviser got fired because she made a statement on a Skype call. But if that individual advisor felt like she had clients that were going to be offended by somebody who was a different color than they were, or whatever it might be, she may have wanted to get better clients. This was symbolic of somebody who was not particularly good at targeting a client base that she was going to feel comfortable with.
In my other business, I fired a bunch of clients with problems like that. You have to be consistent with who you are when targeting and go find an audience that you are going to click with. The biggest mistake is not looking for an audience that you’re going to click with. We have had conversations with several advisors whose closing ratio was not very good, before we quickly found they were talking with people who did not speak the same language as them – they weren’t even in the same universe! That is all part of being idiosyncratic, of being controversial, of finding a niche – finding people who speak your language.
Find your niche
Ask yourself, who do you want to work with? Let’s say your target market is 55 and up who are retiring with a lot of money. That is okay but it is still a pretty broad group. Could you target a tighter niche? Is it widows? Is it single women? Is it married couples? Is it divorcees? Is it a professional background? Is it managerial background? Are they dentists? Is it ex-military people? If you can narrow down your target pool and then figure out what they like, you can develop a plan to stand out in their eyes.
Look at Jerry Spence. For those of you who do not know, he was a high-paid lawyer who usually wore a suede jacket and his hair in a ponytail. He was not just high profile but regarded as one of the best and most famous lawyers ever. He wrote a load of books and made a load of money off being good at his job, but also being himself. He was quirky and that made him interesting. It’s okay to be interesting. The trick is being interesting to your dream clients. As long as your personality, fashion, and speech matches with your clients and what you are offering, you really cannot go wrong.
Speak their language in words and pictures
Of the hundreds, if not thousands, of websites we have looked at over the last few ones, just a couple of them stood out – one of them being a guy who went to the University of Texas. He now serves University of Texas alumni, of which there are a whole lot! Not only that, but many of them also have a decent amount of money. The website contained all the University of Texas Longhorn stuff, including the correct color scheme and details like that. With the Texas alumni client pool, he could go after alumni and people that graduate with medical degrees as they have a big medical program there. He could go after lawyers or people that graduated 20 years ago. He can target all these different but very specific audiences.
The website banner is a photo of the guy fly fishing because that is one of his hobbies. There is even a fly-fishing blog attached. All of a sudden, this makes him really unique. That doesn’t mean all of his clients are going to be fans of fly fishing, but it makes him stand out at the very least. So not only is he providing a service, but he is catering to the niche of University of Texas alumni and is standing out with his passion for fly fishing. Let’s be honest, him being a fan of fly fishing won’t necessarily earn him clients in isolation, but it just gives him an idiosyncratic look. He doesn’t look like your run of the mill character. It doesn’t seem as if he grows on trees. He looks and sounds unique, which makes him naturally appealing to a potential client. Allow yourself to be different and develop your personality in these kinds of cases.
This gives the guy a backstory and everyone loves a backstory. Look at all these superhero films, Marvel, DC, all that kind of stuff. All the best characters have a very unique origin story, which allows you to be drawn into the character more and more. When you think of iconic characters like James Bond, you instantly associate Omega, Rolex, Aston Martin, etc. You can go through all the famous characters throughout history and pick out unique things about them, because that is what we are drawn to. They are successful because they are unique, and the quirky things are the things that stay with you.
I want to look at Neil Peart as an example here, who sadly passed away recently. One of his unique things was his passion for motorcycling. I read all of his books and he would tour motorcycling from place to place while writing all these different travel books. However, he also had this car collection, including silver Aston Martin, a silver Corvette, the Silver Surfers, and more. It was these unique, little things that made you gravitate towards him and made him stand out as a personality. Essentially, he was opposed to being like everybody else.
Be the expert in your niche
One of the most important things to take away from this chapter is be an expert in your field. You want to be an expert who specializes in certain fields. Do not try to please everyone and appeal to everyone, because who will end up being nothing to anyone. You already know your sector or area in which you work. This could be accountancy, for example. But how can you stand out from the crowd? Accountancy for divorcees? Accountancy for the elderly? Accountancy for sportspeople? Accountancy for stock traders? Accountancy for accountants? Who knows?! The important thing is that you are an expert in a particular field, which instantly makes you intriguing and appealing to people who fall within that field. An elderly person is going to see your marketing for accountancy and think you are a perfect match because you deal with common elderly-related financial issues on a daily basis for your clients.
It could also mean that you’re the person for plastic surgeons or you’re the person for Microsoft executives, or you’re the person for Google employees. You want to pick a big enough niche that’s worth messing with.
We once helped a client with their martial arts schools. They were never going to sell their business. That just didn’t line up with their unique needs and situation. Therefore, they needed to create wealth from the actual income stream. In order to do this, you need to pick a group to appeal directly as an expert in the field, or you have an affinity with them. You may find that the most unlikely group of people turns out to be your most potent client base. It can be surprising like that. As we have said throughout this chapter, it is all about choosing a type of client or group of people that aligns with your personality and your language, before targeting their niche. In this case, the clients felt comfortable attending the martial arts school because they felt an affinity with the person who ran it. It’s as simple as that. There is specialization expertise and specialization affinity.
Standing out to your avatar client
Assuming you have already chosen your avatar client to be congruent with you, it is then about showcasing all the things that are unique and memorable about you and your business. These things should make you stand out from the crowd and definitely separate you from any rival businesses. It could be that you are into classic Corvettes. Suddenly, a boring old accountancy firm becomes ‘that accountant with all the cool Corvettes’. And this does not have to be a hidden hobby, get photos up on your website and market them. Market to the Corvette clubs. Go to the Corvette shows. And when we say go to the shows, we don’t just mean attend and walk up to people introducing yourself as a financial planner. Push the boat out and hold your own events at these events. Be active and give yourself a chance to talk to people about what you really do. That’s what we aim to help you with, turning these ideas into really productive events that eventually lead to clients.
If you are doing meetings via Zoom, think about what your background is. It’s the little things that count. The first thing we told our friend who is a huge Star Wars fan was to move his Zoom meetings into the room with all his Star Wars memorabilia. Everything people see in the background should be Star Wars. Why? Because it will make him unique and memorable. Those people are instantly going to remember you and associate you with Star Wars from that day onwards. Of course, you have the expertise and know-how to help them, but now you are also unique and stand out from the crowd. That is a powerful combination. Even more so in the modern-day and age when everyone has the same boring Zoom background – take the chance to stand out. This is so much better than using those amateur virtual backgrounds that make your hands disappear and look fake. Trust us, if you are trying to pitch to someone about how trustworthy you are and your hands keep vanishing, that is a bit of a strange look and a hard sell. We have seen a lot of bad backgrounds in our time and this kind of stuff is up there.
In summary, it is extremely important to pick your niche and target the clients who fall into that sector. Pick a very specific group of people to target, preferably one where you are the only, or one of a few, experts on offer. Once you have done this, take a look over your existing hobbies, interests, and connections, and be the person who wears them on their sleeve. Take advantage of whatever quirky details you have to make you stand out. It does not matter how nerdy it is, whether you are into Star Wars, Star Trek, or model trains. Sell what makes you different! Whatever it may be, wear it on your sleeve and start thinking about things like Jerry Spence.
Stand out and be you
What is unique about the way you dress?
What is unique about what you wear?
What is unique about what you drive?
What is unique about where you live?
For example, I live at the top of a mountain at 8,000 feet. We use that all the time, including pictures of me sitting at the top of the mountains with beautiful views in the background. We even have one with a herd of elk in the background. It makes people think… Where is he? What is he doing up there? Does he live there? Does he work there? Is he into hiking?
Whatever your thing is, use it to your advantage. You want to reach the point where people connect you and the thing almost instantly. It makes them remember you, it brings you up in conversation, and it definitely secures you new clients. In an increasingly boring world, clients want to do business with people who stand out and have a great personality. Be that person.
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