Play to your strengths: How building a targeted offer can spur growth

Play to your strengths: How building a targeted offer can spur growth

Play to your strengths: How building a targeted offer can spur growth

Learn how to maximize your firm’s strengths to generate new business. The Colony Group, LLC shares its experience launching an initiative focused on the type of client it serves best.

Some firms try to be all things to all investors. However, as clients expect more-personalized services, focusing on a specific group can help distinguish your firm and open the door to long-term growth opportunities. But how do you capitalize on the right segment?

Nina Mitchell, Principal, Senior Wealth Advisor, and Co-President at The Colony Group, LLC, helped her Washington, D.C.-area firm find a promising answer to this question. In October 2016, Colony Group launched Her Wealth®, an initiative serving female investors that has quickly become a major source of client referrals and is strengthening the firm’s reputation.

Colony Group’s success is the result of strategic planning and marketing. For firms looking to build specialized practices, Her Wealth provides a great road map to follow:

  • Build on your natural strengths.
  • Establish a clear vision.
  • Make your marketing touchpoints meaningful.
  • Stay true to your purpose.

Step 1: Build on your natural strengths

Advisors at your firm already possess unique specialties cultivated throughout their careers. Maybe your firm has a knack for relating to professional athletes, connecting with Millennials, or serving medical professionals. Understanding your firm’s inherent strengths will help you carve out your specialized market segment.

Analyze current client relationships. Where is your firm’s organic growth coming from? Looking into your firm’s data and existing relationships can reveal opportunities to nurture a niche. In Colony Group’s case, its initiative evolved from conversations between Mitchell and President and Vice Chairman Ron Rubin. “We saw that our female client base was growing steadily, and we had an amazing group of advisors already leading the charge on women investors’ needs,” says Mitchell. This signaled an opportunity for the firm to take this momentum further and empower women with financial knowledge.

Does your firm have a core set of clients with a common area of focus? Do any advisors have a personal passion for working with a subset of clientele? Asking questions like these can help your firm recognize and begin to tailor an experience that plays to your strengths and complements your overall business strategy.

Solidify the business case for your approach. Are more of your target investors moving to your local area? Are your competitors pursuing the same segment? Research can help you determine whether focusing on a market segment has the potential to propel firm growth. Mitchell and her team explored the market potential for serving female investors to help build support for Her Wealth—and found promising results.

“We could point to the rising ‘gray’ divorce rate among women over 50 and projections that by 2030 about two-thirds of the nation’s wealth will be in women’s hands,” she says. “That added weight to our value proposition around empowering women to better understand their own financial picture.”

Carving out your firm’s niche based on proven skill sets, business relevance, and passion also helps ensure that your firm is invested in the approach and committed to nurturing your client base into the future.

Energizing growth strategies with Schwab Business Consulting Services

Colony Group sought a specific strategy for driving future growth before Her Wealth existed. The firm found inspiration through Mastering Strategic Planning, a tailored engagement from Schwab Business Consulting Services (BCS). During the engagement, Colony Group’s Schwab relationship manager and a senior business consultant led the firm through a process that helped senior leaders:

  • Align on a clear purpose, set of values, and vision
  • Analyze the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Solidify the firm’s strategic differentiator, ideal client persona, and client value proposition
  • Map short- and long-term goals for growth
  • Set clear roles and responsibilities at all levels for achieving key goals

Working with Schwab to develop the larger firm’s strategic plan laid the foundation for Her Wealth and helped Colony Group leaders ensure that the initiative would fit into their overall business strategy. “Schwab’s tremendous support enabled us to stand up Her Wealth in ways that give it lasting value, a much longer life, and far greater reach,” says Lisa Poff, director of marketing and communications. 

Learn more about how Schwab Business Consulting Services can help you.

Step 2: Establish a clear vision

Once you’ve identified a focal point, the next step is to formulate a clear plan to grow that segment. If your firm’s past growth comes from a broad approach, you may not know how to sharply focus on a niche. Counter this uncertainty by mapping out a specific vision for your initiative.

Lisa Poff

“All the different voices get heard, and you can pull them together into a singular impactful vision.”

—Lisa Poff 
Director of Marketing and Communications, The Colony Group

Leverage expertise and industry know-how. Exercises such as settling on the right name or solidifying your differentiator in the space can help your firm formalize your plan to capture your niche. Colony Group chose to enlist a marketing agency to help flesh out the firm’s Her Wealth brand extension. The agency interviewed many of the firm’s senior advisors who had expertise in serving female investors. This process helped form a more complete picture of the initiative. The result was a compelling tagline, “Empowering women with financial knowledge and confidence,” that conveys the initiative’s purpose in an accessible way.

“Doing that kind of deep dive is really important,” says Poff. “All the different voices get heard, and you can pull them together into a singular impactful vision.”

Taking the time to create a detailed plan can set up your firm to capitalize on more opportunities that resonate with your target segment as your initiative evolves.

Define the clients you want to serve. Who exactly is the client you plan to pursue? Documenting a description can give your firm a guidepost for decisions down the road. In Colony Group’s Mastering Strategic Planning engagement, a Schwab senior business consultant led the firm through the process of creating an ideal client persona. The exercise involved defining the demographic characteristics of ideal clients—such as age range, total investment assets, and level of financial knowledge—as well as their psychographic characteristics, such as attitudes, values, and lifestyle. Then, when the Her Wealth initiative was being formed, the consultant helped Colony Group build out that persona into a detailed client profile.

Think about how your firm would define its ideal client. Consider using the many online resources available, or ask a Schwab representative for related materials. When you align on a vivid and specific picture, your firm can develop a differentiated client experience and value proposition that caters to the investors you’re after.

Invite influential supporters to weigh in. Do your advisors have relationships with people in the world of your ideal clients? Draw upon those relationships to help your firm stay responsive to your target audience and to determine where you should invest your resources. Colony Group stays attuned to its target clientele through the Her Wealth advisory board. The board is composed of 14 women with diverse backgrounds and professions who are champions of the firm and are well connected in the community.

“These women have deep business expertise and connections in the same circles as many of our ideal client prospects,” Mitchell says. “They bring us extremely valuable perspectives from outside the firm about the types of issues that women investors encounter, so we can make sure we’re responding to those needs.”

Look for opportunities to consult people related to your niche as you plan out your specialized practice. This can help your firm stay in the know, pilot ideas, and test responses to tactics such as a new website or sensitive messages.

Step 3: Make your marketing touchpoints meaningful

Personalized attention holds a powerful appeal. Take your niche’s characteristics to heart as you craft marketing campaigns. A willingness to understand and address this group’s specific interests can create powerful trust that feeds long-term relationships.

Pinpoint unmet needs—and fill them. Where might your target investors feel underserved? Addressing these areas can help your firm make a memorable impression on potential clients. Colony Group’s purposeful planning helped the Her Wealth team develop a marketing approach that speaks to female investors. “We saw a need among women to get financial management information from a place that feels a little more familiar to them,” Poff says.

In response, Colony Group has built an extensive Her Wealth website with articles, step-by-step guides, blog posts, and links to other recommended resources. “Our team is able to provide the right touches at the right time to help women make confident choices about their financial future,” says Poff.

As you get to know your target audience, you can identify specific areas of service where they may not currently have support. Filling those gaps can help your firm stand out among the crowd.

Meet your target clients where they are. The people who make up your niche move through life in particular ways. Determine which moments are opportunities for you to show up and engage them. Many of the professionals whom Her Wealth seeks to attract spend an hour or more commuting each day. With the help of a PR consultant, Colony Group secured weekly live interviews on a D.C. radio station during peak drive times that feature Mitchell and senior wealth advisor, Dawn Doebler. While these interviews focus on financial topics of interest to women, they have a broad appeal to men too. Visitors to the Her Wealth section of Colony Group’s website can replay these radio segments on demand.

“We’ve developed that relationship with WTOP into a weekly focus on investing and other financial subjects,” Poff says. “We also write articles each week that are published on the radio station website.”

In addition, Her Wealth has presented several events in the local area. “It’s a chance to start a conversation that often leads to new client relationships,” Mitchell says. Her team takes care to select topics that appeal to female investors, such as planning for the long-term financial and health care needs of aging parents. They thoughtfully choose special venues and create atmospheres that make their target clients feel comfortable and understood.

Explore the opportunities your firm could seize by having advisors share their investment expertise and perspectives through print, broadcast, or online channels—wherever your niche client group shows up in the world. And you don’t need an in-house marketing team to pursue these strategies. Consider engaging a local PR or media consultant.

Use PR to help boost credibility and brand awareness

Building a successful niche practice requires strong credibility among your target group. A well-crafted public relations (PR) strategy can help you establish yourself as the go-to expert for insights to solve your segment’s problems. 

Think about where your ideal clients are spending their time. Start small by focusing on a single channel, such as a publication, that puts you in front of them. Explore the potential of being interviewed for an article. 

Build your firm’s PR plan with easy-to-use templates and samples from Schwab’s PR toolkit.

Step 4: Stay true to your purpose

Early in the process, spend the time to align on your higher purpose. When you build your initiative on that foundation, your firm will be poised to stay on course when challenges or vital decisions arise.

Focus on what moves you. Discussing your target segment should get your team excited. That feeling is what drives advisors to go the extra mile and to build momentum for your initiative. Mitchell says that, as Her Wealth looks for opportunities to expand on initial success, its higher purpose will continue to be a guiding force. “Everything we do is built on passion, and that’s the advice I would give to any other firm,” she says.

Passion is a key driver for keeping everyone at your firm invested in your niche. It’s important to continue to fuel that inspiration over time.

Nina Mitchell

“When a $2 million or $3 million prospect hears you on the radio and calls in, that’s powerful.”

—Nina Mitchell 
Senior Wealth Advisor and Partner, The Colony Group

Turn one opportunity into two, and two into three. The connections you make as your initiative expands can open doors for new ways to capture clients. For Colony Group, recognition gained through its Her Wealth outreach has led to other invitations for executives to speak at regional and national conferences. And the firm’s focus on providing women with relevant information has enabled Her Wealth to stand out among competitors.

From a relationship-building standpoint, Colony Group is thrilled with the results of its decision to create this specialized offering. “The majority of our prospective clients are coming to us from the WTOP radio spots, the website, and online searches,” says Poff. The initiative is filling a valuable void and reaching people that Colony Group may never have reached otherwise.

The growing interest in Her Wealth is a source of pride for Mitchell. “When a $2 million or $3 million prospect hears you on the radio and calls in, that’s powerful,” she says. “It’s driving organic growth and enabling us to reach more people who need a trusted advisor.”

The steps that Colony Group follows to make Her Wealth a success can be applied to virtually any target client group. Although carving out a niche is a long-term investment, the time spent can position your firm to grow well into the future. Consider how this type of initiative fits into your business plan. Begin by focusing on what you know well and making authentic connections with a smaller group of investors. The distinctive attention, expertise, and standout experience you provide can move prospective clients to take notice and inspire them to spread the word about your firm, driving referrals and ultimately new business.

We hope these ideas motivate you to explore new avenues for serving a specialized clientele. Talk to your Schwab relationship manager about guidance on creating your ideal client persona and a strategic vision that will help meet your goals.

If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, consider a custodian that invests in your success. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of a custodial relationship with Schwab.