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Why Specialization Makes Sense

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Specialization is everywhere. We see it in medicine, dentistry, law, even technology; seemingly everywhere we look, some company has cultivated a carefully marketed niche within their profession, and limited their expertise to just that service or specialty.

In the 23 years that I have been in financial services, I have seen many an advisor become overwhelmed by trying to be all things to clients of all ages and incomes. As fast as our markets are changing, this has rapidly become an unsustainable business model. It’s challenging enough to keep up with product improvements across a dozen companies in the same product line each month. Keeping pace with changes in the equities markets, mutual funds, variable annuities, ETFs, index funds, index annuities, VA and IA income riders, long-term care solutions (both traditional and asset-based), life insurance (term, permanent and as an asset class), health and disability insurance, Medicare supplements, trusts, wills and estate planning — and now also tax preparation — strikes many seasoned niche advisors as the definition of insanity and a sure recipe for career burnout. Staying abreast of the ever-changing regulatory landscape in just one of those areas is challenging enough. Doing so in each area would require a full-time staff person, weekly staff meetings and regular psychotherapy.

The preferred model

Specialization is a much-preferred and simpler career model. Practitioners cite fewer headaches, contented clients with more reasonable expectations, streamlined business flow, efficiency and profitability, and even happier staff. Repeat after me:

“We are a boutique firm in a niche market, serving risk-averse retirees and pre-retirees, specializing in guaranteed income-for-life, guaranteed legacies to children and charities and tax-favored yields without market risk.

It’s simple. It’s focused. It’s guaranteed. You can say it in an elevator, on the golf course or at a dinner party. It’s intriguing and invites further inquiry. (Did I mention that it’s guaranteed?) You may want to elaborate:

“…Many of our clients discovered that the advisor who got them to retirement — by risking their assets — is often lacking the skill set that will get them through retirement, safely and with guarantees…And they’ve since hired us to do so.”

What are you within this profession? Does your “What We Do” list overwhelm all audiences while attracting none, or is your specialty like a focused beacon, drawing and reassuring your ideal client, the very person for whom your skills and expertise can do the most good? Your specialty, like your brand, should be strong, clear, simple, inviting, identifiable within your community and reflective of your values and strengths as a firm. What you do is as important as how you do it, subjects we’ll cover in my next 12 columns. (Yes, I’ve planned that far ahead.)

For more from Thomas Brueckner, see:

Branding Your Practice

Your Mission Begins with a Statement

Are You Transactional or Relational?