For those familiar with the film The Usual Suspects, the name Keyser Soze will no doubt be immediately recognizable – and wholly unforgettable. Yet, while the illusive Soze is the driving force of the film, he remains an invisible phantasm throughout. As the character Verbal Kint explains it, “nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but…anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power.”
In fact, the power of Keyser Soze is something that every advisor can replicate – a power so strong that it has raised certain individuals in this business to almost celebrity status – it’s the power of reputation.
Have you ever asked yourself how it is that principals of certain smaller firms garner such high visibility and attention, while others with billions under management barely register a blip on the radar screen? The primary difference is that those individuals and firms have achieved two critical success factors – they’ve been able to carefully craft a highly-focused niche, and they’ve mastered the art of effectively communicating their attendant value proposition.
Armed with those two weapons, every one of you has the ability to build a mystique around both yourself and your firm – a mystique that can go a long way towards generating a steady stream of qualified introductions from both existing clients and professional advocates. So, where do you begin?
- Avoid being generic! When asked to define their firm’s niche, most advisors will state something to the effect “we cater to retirees and pre-retirees” or “we provide holistic wealth planning services to high-net-worth individuals and families.” Statements like these are the financial planning equivalent of a Miss America contestant voicing her desire for world peace.
- Be exclusionary! It may seem a bit counter-intuitive… that to gain clients you need to appeal to fewer of them, but for a niche to gain traction, it needs to be laser-focused.
- Think narrow and deep. A key benefit of a highly-focused niche is the quickness with which you can develop a deep understanding of the unique challenges and issues your target clients are facing, and the corresponding corrective courses of action. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, you’ll find that you have more time to dig deeper into the nuances and complexities of your target clients, building a solid base of expertise.
- Demonstrate your niche expertise. If you encounter an interesting client challenge, write and disseminate a white paper on the subject. Request speaking opportunities with relevant trade and/or industry organizations and make every effort to reach out to other professionals who may be focused on providing services to the same niche.
Your goal in carving out an effective niche should be more along the lines of: “Our firm specializes in catering to the complex financial needs of senior executives who are concerned with managing the short and long-term tax consequences of their equity positions.” Is that a narrowly focused niche? You bet! But assuming that you can deliver superior service, it will strongly position you as THE go-to firm for executives with complex concentrated equity issues.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be aspirational. Remember that highly-focused niches tend to quickly become self-fulfilling prophesies. By thinking narrow and deep, you’ll be well on your way to building a reputation for effectively and profitably catering to a niche of “unusual suspects.”
Coaching Questions from this article:
- Think about your firm’s current positioning statement. Is it so generic that ANY prospective client would think they’re a good fit to work with you?
- What can you do at your next team meeting to engage the team in focusing in on your ideal target client and redefining your firm’s niche and value proposition to better connect with that type of prospect?
- Look across your book of business. Are there certain services you provide that many of your more profitable client relationships seem to highly value? Can these capabilities be leveraged in defining your niche?