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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Master of One: The Case for Specializing

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There is an old expression that has gone out of fashion in an age when “multi-tasking” is an admired characteristic: jack of all trades, master of none. It describes someone who can perform a number of tasks adequately, but is not an expert at any of them.

Early in your career, the temptation to be a jack of all trades can be powerful. You want and need clients to build your business, so you cast your net as widely as possible. But as your business grows, trying to be all things to all people may create a new set of problems. Rather than having a core client base, you may find yourself trying to manage an almost random collection of clients who have very different financial needs and require varying levels of service and support.

Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, you might consider becoming a “master of one.” By repositioning yourself as a specialist with a focused expertise offered to a targeted audience, you can increase profitability through greater efficiency and more rewarding client relationships.

In addition, specializing can provide a new set of organizing principles for your business, helping you:

  • Deliver a message that resonates with prospects that have specific needs. Generalists struggle to be heard in a crowded field. They offer a message that does not engage potential clients searching for help with specific problems. Specialists engage prospects by offering specific solutions.
  • Provide a meaningful set of filters for determining the type of clients who best fit your value proposition. Not every client is right for your business — nor are you right for every client. Distinguishing the right fit can lead to a productive, mutually satisfying relationship.
  • Identify and build on your strengths — and work with the kinds of clients you most enjoy. As your business evolves, you have developed an understanding of what you are good at and what you most enjoy. Focusing your business on these areas can lead to greater professional satisfaction.
  • Focus on specific developmental needs, including education and professional designations. Specializing can help you build concrete plans to meet specific needs, including identifying and pursuing professional designations and education that can further your specialist skill set and lend objective credibility to your value proposition.

Specializing can take many forms. For example, you can target clients working within specific industries or professional groups that may face common financial problems or respond to a similar message. The focus can be very narrow: One financial advisor we know consults with Fortune 500 executives by helping them integrate their corporate benefits into their overall financial planning.

You may also want to specialize in an event-driven service, such as setting up a trust or investing a large lump sum from the sale of a business. This approach can increase your appeal to prospects who previously did not consider working with an advisor.

According to Spectrem Research, 24 percent of investors with more than $500,000 in investable assets considered themselves to be self-directed, yet turned to an advisor in response to events that left them feeling out of their depth.

Finding your specialty
If you are not sure how to refocus your business, begin by doing a client segmentation analysis. Most advisors earn the majority of their profit from a small core of clients, probably 20 to 35 percent of their client base. Getting a clear vision of your most profitable clients can help you identify the quantitative profile that new clients must meet before you’ll take them on.

Equally important, you can also begin to discern the qualitative characteristics shared by your best clients and align your product offering, service standards, and value proposition accordingly. Communications and client interactions will have greater clarity. The referrals generated from highly satisfied clients, as well as fellow professionals who understand your business goals, will be of higher quality and a better match to your strengths.

Jacks of all trades can prosper, but they may find themselves constantly scrambling after opportunities. The master of a single trade, however, can prosper on their own terms, according to their own plan.

Mark Schoenbeck is the chief marketing office and director of practice management for Genworth Financial Wealth Management Inc. He can be reached at [email protected].


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