For most advisors, there tends to be a certain type of client who just seems to fit the advisor’s personal strengths and interests. But how does an advisor figure out who that client is? And once that happens, how should an advisor go about finding more of those ideal clients?
Three longtime, successful producers sat down with me this month to talk about their ideal clients and how they go about finding them.
(For part two of this roundtable, see: How to deal with difficult clients)
Q. Even though you may work with many different kinds of clients, how would you characterize those clients who best fit your practice? In other words, what are some of the common characteristics of your ideal clients, and why do they fit you so well?
Jason J. Dudum, LUTCF, chief executive officer of Dudum Financial: My ideal client is someone who shares the same interests and hobbies as I do, such as golf, involvement in his local church and owning his own business. Being a golfer allows me to get to know a person on a more personal level, because I have the opportunity to learn whether he is a risk taker, and in return, he gets to observe my creative thinking skills.
I enjoy working with clients who also share the same values and work ethic as I do. I have found some of my ideal clients through my involvement in my local church. If you meet prospects through volunteering, it can help you better understand the way they work, interact, and deal with situations.
Another main characteristic of my ideal client is that he or she is an entrepreneur or business owner. Since I’m a business owner, this allows us to exchange ideas and share issues that we commonly face. Most of the time in meetings, I’m catching up with clients about their hobbies or interests, and business usually follows.
Mark Jones, president of Remington Insurance Group Inc.: Early in my career, one of my mentors advised me to decide: Am I a business person who provides insurance strategies and solutions, or an insurance agent who sells products to consumers? That’s when I decided to become independent, incorporate myself, become a small-business owner, and work as a legal entity.
That one move has enabled me to attract, develop and retain other small-business owners. Because we connect on a different level, I fully understand their daily issues and challenges. Small-business owners are a kindred spirit, sharing many of the same headaches.
My ideal and best clients are small-business owners/employers who genuinely care about their businesses, their employees and their respective families. They are looking for high quality, consistency and value. During good years, they are savers and utilize certain cash value life insurance policies as part of their strategy. During lean years, when surviving is critical, these insurance cash values have been used to fund other obligations, and no one had to die to utilize the benefits.
They become excellent disability insurance and long-term care insurance prospects and clients. They welcome retirement strategies. They are great centers of influence and become an ideal referral source. They are possibility thinkers and set realistic goals. They value hard work and respect my time and recommendations. Working with their employees usually results in very positive results, because of the established relationship with the business owner.
William J. Rossi, CFP, ChFC, partner at Koss Olinger Financial Group: I think it is important for advisors to define their ideal client so they can focus their efforts toward those common characteristics. Trying to be all things to all people is difficult and inefficient. I recommend focusing on a certain audience to be most effective.
At my firm, the ideal client is typically someone who is an entrepreneur or owns their business, because they bring unique planning opportunities to the table. They bring opportunities with asset and money management, insurance needs, succession planning, estate planning — since their business is typically illiquid — and retirement planning because their business is generally their largest asset. We have not really focused on a particular industry, although that is a common practice for many advisors, most of whom are very successful. Other traits for our ideal client are that they are affluent, are open-minded to going through our fee-based planning process, and are nice people.
Q. As you have developed your practice over the years, have you made a conscious effort to zero in on the kinds of people who represent your ideal client base? And can you talk in practical terms about the steps you have taken to accomplish that?
Jones: Our area in Texas is ideal for strong hard-working entrepreneurship and “linking in” oftentimes is as simple as an introduction from one small-business client to another. Networking through business groups and associations may work for some, blast e-mails may work, or business reply mailings may work, but we’ve found just asking for the introduction from one client to a friend or good acquaintance of theirs works very well.
We want to associate ourselves with people who have a genuine care about something in their life and who pay attention to their bottom line. As our clients have become seasoned veterans in the small-business world, we’re noticing that succession planning is becoming a bigger concern. We have solutions for that.
Rossi: Yes, we do make a conscious effort to zero in on our ideal client base. The steps we take to zero in on them first starts with taking a proactive approach to identifying common characteristics among our current client base. Then we revise those traits and commonalities to focus our efforts on trying to attract more of the similar profile. This is something we look at each year and keep tabs on a regular basis.
See also: How (and why) to target a niche market
Dudum: I do make a conscious effort to focus on finding clients who best represent my ideal client base. Some of the ways I accomplish this are by spending time at places I truly enjoy, such as church, the golf course and my country club. Meeting prospects at these kinds of places helps me find clients who share the same interests as I do, which gives me one way to open up a conversation. I also keep my ears open when I’m in these surroundings to hear whether someone is retiring, changing jobs, etc. I may offer advice, or I’ll put that information in my memory bank, so the next time I see them, I’ll bring information they can review. It’s important to always listen and make the appropriate introduction at the right time.
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