Client Relationship & Service
7 MIN ARTICLE
Think of the companies that have your loyalty. You consider their products essential for daily living, and their customer service is attentive to your needs. You enthusiastically recommend the company to friends and family.
These companies earned your loyalty by understanding what’s important to you and serving you in a way that’s meaningful to your life. Do you know if your clients would say the same about you?
The most successful advisors do. That’s because they have a clear understanding of who their core or “ideal” clients are, and they are laser-focused on building practices tailored to those clients’ needs.
The most successful advisors seek to build practices that marry their skills to what they most enjoy doing and what their clients value most, says Paul Cieslik, advisor practice management consultant at Capital Group. “Look for where your genius and passion intersect,” he says, “and how that overlaps with what your best clients need.”
Here are four steps to identifying your ideal client and positioning your practice for success.
1. Define the attributes of clients who generate 80% of your business today
You might not even realize it, but it’s possible your practice already serves both the clients you work best with and who value your expertise. Step back and determine which clients generate 80% of your business. Ask yourself:
Next, look beyond net worth and investable assets to describe them in a way that helps you create a persona. For example, clients who are company founders or senior executives could be categorized as “wealth creators,” while those with family money who focus on managing foundations or endowments can be described as “wealth recipients.”
Now, identify three to four common themes or attributes among this group. Are those traits unexpected, or do they confirm how you have been trying to build your practice? Doing this exercise can help you both pinpoint areas of existing strength and uncover potential opportunities for growth, some of which may surprise you.
2. Determine which client services to deliver
Now it’s time to take a closer look at the services you offer and tie those to the client needs you are trying to serve. Here are some examples of advisory services and matching descriptions:
Comprehensive wealth planning and structuring
Our clients are generally wealth creators and are focused on ensuring their hard-earned wealth is working as hard for them as they did to make it.
Concentrated equity management
Most of our clients are founders and/or senior executives of public companies with a significant portion of their wealth tied up in company stock and stock options. They look to us to help them manage the risks associated with those holdings.
Our clients tend to be very busy individuals who look to maximize the value of their time. They value the peace of mind that comes from delegating decision-making to a trusted fiduciary who will care for their wealth as much as they do, allowing them to keep their focus on the most important passions in their lives, such as business, family, philanthropy or leisure.
Lending and credit
Our clients’ net worth is mostly locked up in assets that are not liquid. Even with their paper wealth, they often need access to creative lending solutions to create liquidity for lifestyle and investment opportunities.
We work with clients who are in the early stages of building their businesses, and we have deep expertise in helping entrepreneurs structure the ownership in their companies to achieve their desired objectives — whatever those are.
3. Tailor your value proposition to your ideal client persona
When was the last time you took a hard look at your value proposition statement? In the day-to-day hustle of running your business, you’ve probably not given it much thought since your first days as an advisor.
But revisiting your value proposition can make sense once you’ve defined your ideal client. It’s important to match your client persona with the services you provide them. Here are examples of client personas and matching value proposition statements:
We have dedicated ourselves to working with entrepreneurs and business builders like yourself who are busy building and managing their companies. Our clients look to us to help them simplify their financial lives so that they can focus on what they do best.
We have dedicated ourselves to working with senior executives like you who have accumulated substantial assets, often concentrated in their company stock and options. Our clients look to us to help them manage their complex financial situations so they can focus on professional and personal commitments.
We have assembled a team with 30 years’ experience in providing fiduciary trust services, because our clients want to maximize the value of their time and keep their focus and energy on the things most important to them — often centered on their family and their philanthropic activities.
Also, don’t forget to consider qualitative assessments. Increasing accountability due to stronger regulatory considerations and the significant growth of so many practices over the past decade are leading many advisors to now look past traditional quantitative factors, such as net worth or investable assets. Instead, advisors are increasingly seeking clients who engage in respectful interactions, are aligned with their team’s philosophy, and are committed to using their wealth to positively impact society.
Before you onboard new clients, for example, work with your team to screen them on softer metrics like these:
“Many advisors are becoming much more discerning about who they work with, especially with higher net worth clients,” Cieslik says.
As you revise your value proposition statement, keep in mind that less is more. What you want to do is create interest among clients and prospects. “Resist the temptation to list all the things you do or offer,” Cieslik says. “This is meant to be a high-level statement that encourages the prospective client to probe for more information.”
4. Reorient your practice to serve the ideal client
Now that you’ve defined your ideal client and the best way to serve them, it’s time to make sure your practice is tailored to them. Start with your best clients. At your next meeting, ask them questions like: “Why do you stay with our team?” “What do you feel we offer is best in class?” “What are areas that you think could be improved?”
“The key is you are plugging this process into activities that already exist: annual reviews or onboarding conversations,” says Paul Cieslik, senior vice president of Advisor Practice Management at Capital Group. “You’re not adding anything new to your to-do list.”
It might seem uncomfortable at first, but clients will appreciate the personalized attention. Structuring the conversation around specific topics will make it easier for clients to open up to you. Most important, proactively engaging with clients in this way will enable you to gather key intelligence on which services are most important to them and how often they want to communicate with you.
For example, one client might have a complex financial situation and specific goals for her wealth. Given her position, she actually wants more frequent contact than you’ve had in the past — even to the point where her calls are returned within a two-hour window. In a case like this, you should be prepared to articulate what is included in a “higher level” of service and the accompanying fee.
Another client may tell you she actually doesn’t need three in-person check-ins and would prefer to meet only once a year — and she’s open to virtual sessions. That means, as an advisor, you wouldn’t have to plan and travel for two meetings each year. “You’re not serving them at a lower level, but in a more efficient way for you to operate,” Cieslik says.
The idea is to create service plans — let’s call them platinum, gold and silver — based on what clients say they want. Clients might be willing to pay for additional services above the standard fees if they know what those are. But you won’t know if you don’t ask your clients.
“You can’t be everything to everybody,” Cieslik says. “But you can be less to some and more to others. And if somebody says, ‘I want the world’ and is willing to pay for it, you better be ready to deliver it — and price it.”