As social media and and other avenues of communication become flooded with noise, a growing number of advisors are focusing on specific areas of expertise to help them stand out and attract their ideal clients. This strategy is called developing a niche market.
One advisor who has found success in the niche market is NAIFA board member and industry award winner, Brian Haney, founder, CEO of The Haney Company. The saying that “the riches are in the niches” is true, he said, simply because in today’s digital marketplace, mass marketing and “spray and pray” simply don’t work anymore.
People looking to work with someone financially are not looking for “someone close by” with a certain set of credentials, he said. Instead, they are looking at professionals based on values, a demonstratable, unique value proposition that speaks to them individually, and a significant amount of potential synergy.
“Properly developing a niche accomplishes most of those things for you,” he said. “You develop a personal brand, built not on what you do but why, giving potential clients the chance to connect with you on terms important to them. You stand out in a niche as a subject matter expert, instead of just a professional who markets to said niche. Imagine what it would be like for your practice if the major players and influencers in your niche all looked at you as the “go-to” for the industry. It’s the difference between selling to versus selling from within.’
So how does an advisor create a niche market in his practice. They can start by becoming involved in groups that focus on a particular area of planning, according to David Appel, with Appel Insurance Agents, LLC. For instance, he said that he is involved in a group of professional advisors that work with international clients – either non-US citizens or expatriates who live outside the U.S. “By being involved in this group and bringing them my expertise, we have developed a niche in the international life insurance space, helping non-U.S. citizens or expatriates who are living abroad obtain U.S. life insurance products.
Targeting prospects for your niche market
Which prospects make the best clients for a niche practice? For Haney, the best prospect is the one who fits an agent’s business approach the best and is ready to work with him.
Synergy is the key, he added. Most advisors fail to really capitalize on their practice’s marketing because they never properly define their ideal client. And Haney does not mean their age, income and demographics. Instead, he is referring to their digital buyer persona, personal values, and beliefs about money and its purpose. “When you find synergy with clients based on these components, your chances of success are substantially higher,” he said.
Haney’s largest niche is the association marketplace –membership organizations across the U.S. whose executives and professionals are members of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which is essentially the association of associations. His firm delivers insurance and benefit solutions for these associations, provides strategic advice for their executives, and often helps to support their members through education or by developing member benefit programs.
Haney and his team are so dedicated to this marketplace that the firm’s three principals have earned their Certified Association Executive (CAE) designations and have authored the chapter in the CAE Study book on Risk Management. “We are recognized as much for our association expertise and insights as we are for our financial-services acumen,” he said.
Shifting your approach
To promote a niche area, Haney said that advisors need to make four key shifts:
Stop speaking to a market and start speaking like your market.
Move from “I specialize in this market” to “I understand what a day in the life of looks like.”
Move away from being seen as a vendor/consultant/financial practitioner towards being seen as a “thought leader.”
Move away from touting your technical competence towards “takes market-based knowledge and marries it with finances.”
Strive to become the gold standard
The best way to build an effective practice in a niche market is to strive to become a “gold standard” and a known commodity in that niche, added Haney.
There are several methods advisors can use to build their brand to help them become the market expert that people go to. They are:
Produce market-specific content such as whitepapers, contribute articles, be a guest on podcasts and become a requested market expert. “Don’t make it just about financial or insurance-focused content though,” he said. Instead, you should be willing to speak to your market on topics they find valuable and are already engaged in.”
For example, Haney said that he has written several articles and he will be speaking at the 2023 ASAE conference on the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion best practices. This is something that he is passionate about, something that is a value of his practice, and something that is a highly significant topic for the association marketplace.
Get help from celebrities. Who are the existing celebrities in your market, Haney asked. Who do people already see as standout leaders? You should work to develop strategic relationships with them to benefit from their exposure and endorsement.
Build brand ambassadors. This involves “developing referrals on steroids.” “When you have an army of people marketing for you, you’re set,” Haney said.
Make sure your digital brand reflects your market-brand. “When people find you online,” he said, “it should be obvious that you are a market expert, not just a financial advisor or a practitioner.”
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at amseka@INNfeedback.com.
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