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Are you financial advisors focusing on a niche market? You should be, says Alan Moore of XY Planning Network.
Tune in to hear how and why!
I’m going to give it to you straight with no fluff. Are you ready?
For those of you who are new to my blog/podcast, my name is Sara. I am a CFA® charterholder and financial advisor marketing consultant. I have a weekly newsletter in which I talk about financial advisor lead generation topics which is best described as “fun and irreverent.” So please subscribe!
Get a kickin’ niche market, whoo hoo!
0:00:02.8 SARA GRILLO: Everybody, what’s up? So I know that some of you have come in to the profession of financial advising in many different ways. Some of you have been… I had wanted to be a financial advisor right from the jump, whereas others kind of spiraled into it through various hats. Now, I have Alan more here from XY Planning.
0:00:42.6 ALAN MOORE: I’m excited
0:00:47.7 SARA GRILLO: To… What we’re gonna be doing here today is just talking about having your business help you get what you wanna lay out of life at the same time is helping other people. So I guess the question is, have you all of you listening to this define what you want on a life and then try to line that up with how the business can support your version essentially of a great way. So Alan, what do you have to say about that?
0:01:15.7 ALAN MOORE: This is a hard thing, I think for advisors. Get our heads wrapped around. It seems so obvious when you get there, but I remember when I started my firm back in 2012, I was working from a desk from nine to five, because that’s what you do, is you sit at a desk from 9 to 5, ’cause that’s what I thought. As an entrepreneur, you can do what you want when you want… That’s sort of the point. And it was like, I don’t know why I just like blew my mind to think about, if I’m done, I can go home at three, I don’t have to just sit here, it’s not like we get foot traffic in financial planning offices, and that’s gonna lead me down this path of… This revelation that my definition of financial planning is that we help our clients discover and live their great lives, and we use their money as a tool to support their great life, but it’s all about their life, and we don’t do that as financial planners, particularly not as entrepreneurs and honestly, that’s why we do like…
0:02:13.4 ALAN MOORE: It’s why we are entrepreneurs, why we take on the burden and the emotion of being an entrepreneur is because it allows us to actually focus on and build the business so that it supports us, and I think many of us don’t pay attention to what we want, we don’t ask ourselves, we don’t ask our partners, what is it that you want in life? What are we doing? Why are we doing all of the things that we’re doing and where are we headed, and setting those personal goals, and then using the Business and designing the business to support whatever those goals are. It’s not something that we do, but I think it’s critical. Otherwise, if you’re not intentional about the business that you’re trying to build and you’ll build the wrong business, and that’s an incredibly miserable experience…
0:02:58.9 SARA GRILLO: I have so much to say about this. First of all, I totally agree with you. I think, I don’t know what your experience was, but for me, I didn’t… I wasn’t over time when it wasn’t… If you were an entrepreneur, it was like you were unemployed, that’s how people kind of thought of it. I came up through Wall Street, I was… I worked at… We met and I worked on the buy side, and it was about face time, and the whole time I was just kind of sitting there like, I don’t get this, I was always… I was like… I used to leave work early, I used to be working with middle day to go running and be absent for three hours at a time, it was just not for me, and I kind of raised eyebrows and got in a little trouble here and there with it… But I never was really that person that was just happy to have somewhere to go… I always was like, I have somewhere else to be. So I’m grateful for the more modern way of thinking that as you serve that and focus more on results and port activity and unless on the face time aspect of it, but I think, Alan, that a lot of advisors, from what I can tell, gone into the business, not necessarily because they wanted to be entrepreneurs and design their own business and this and that, but more because I feel it was like out of necessity almost.
0:04:20.7 ALAN MOORE: Absolutely. Yeah, we totally see that. It’s the accidental entrepreneur. A very large percentage, you… On XY Planning Network, I would say the majority of advisors did not go out to start a business just because they wanted to start a business, they felt forced to start a business because there was something else, they were trying to accomplish, they didn’t want the flexibility to be able to go for a run in the middle of the day to pick their kids up from school and not get in trouble for it, and not be told to choose between career and being a parent. They wanted to be able to have a career and be a parent. Others ultimately wanted to be able to serve younger clients that they said, Hey, I wanna work with my peers and no one will let me… Other say, Hey, there’s not a feely firm in my town, and I wanna be a full-time fiduciary. And so, how can I do that? So a lot of folks did absolutely get into that, and that’s where we see sometimes the challenges, I think those of us who just really enjoy building businesses, I think we think a little bit more in terms of, okay, where do we ultimately wanna go and what’s the plan to get there.
0:05:24.9 ALAN MOORE: The accidental entrepreneur is really where the trap lies, I think, and that’s… You start a business because you kinda have to… In order to get what you want, and then you get what you want. And then you start to find success and the clients, they just keep showing up in more and more clients, and suddenly like, Okay, well, I have more clients and I can handle… So I guess I’m gonna hire my first advisor and then you look up one day and you realize you have 20 employees and you don’t like having in poles, and you started your business because you ultimately wanted to be able to travel more and spend more time with your kids and you haven’t been home for dinner in three months, and you haven’t taken a vacation in three years, and that’s what can happen because of… This is a business where you can be successful and not an accidentally successful, but you can let success sort of overtake you, and it’s something we see all the time.
0:06:17.2 SARA GRILLO: But I think people are scared to evoke the power of choice.
0:06:22.2 ALAN MOORE: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
0:06:24.0 SARA GRILLO: I see that people… ’cause I think sometimes we get too focused on what the numbers look like or just like… That I see, I have to feel successful now, but I see it a lot with the advisors that I talk to him about their practices, and they’re like… I’m like, What’s your ideal client size? And they’re like, Well, five million, and I’m like, Okay. But what is your idea? What is your average client like right now, and they’re like a 500000 to a million, and I’m like, These are two totally different pictures here… You know what I’m saying? And I’m like, Well, why don’t you go for it? But they get caught up with like, Well, I don’t wanna turn down money, I don’t wanna turn down business, and I… Look, I get it. I’ve actually, in my own business, started to become more intentional, but it was only after I felt like I kind of established myself to where I knew I wasn’t gonna start by doing that, it’s a hard thing to do, it… It’s hard to say no to the things that are not your ideal set up because then you feel like, Well, what am I gonna eat?
0:07:33.2 ALAN MOORE: Yeah, it’s a common thing ’cause Michael Kitces, my co-founder over at XY planning networking, and Michael and I are both huge advocates for financial advisors having a niche market… Anyone who’s met me knows, I’d probably say that word “financial advisor niche” 30 times in a conversation. And the reason that you have that ideal client profile that you say, I’m gonna work with 5 million clients, which I don’t actually think that’s an ideal client profile, that is a way to describe something about your ideal client, but ultimately you have this ideal client profile and in what we see from our benchmarking surveys of our members, because we beat the drum so hard about having a financial advisor niche, and so we test what is the growth rate of financial advisors that have a niche, have that ideal client profile identified and actually focus on serving them and turn away clients that don’t meet their profile versus not, and as expected, year one is slower when financial advisors have a niche because you are turning away business. And so you are saying, Hey, not interested. You’re not a good fit for me. Here’s another advisor, and when you don’t have an inter, you work with family and friends and clients use to work with, and colleagues, whatever.
0:08:36.5 ALAN MOORE: Starting in year two though, the growth rates are exponentially higher for niche-based financial advisor firms and it only gets… The growth rates only increase over time, whereas the growth rates for non-niche financial advisor firms decrease over time, and so it’s really about laying the correct foundation, and I hear this from advisors on, Well, I don’t wanna pick an ice ’cause I have to turn clients away and it’s like, Well, look, you either build the correct foundation, then you build a house on top of it, or you build the wrong foundation, and then you build the house, and then you have to rip out that foundation in order to be able to keep the things standing. And I can promise you that is a whole lot more expensive, they’re just building it right the first time around…
0:09:15.2 SARA GRILLO: You know why I think a lot of advisors, a advisor, you’re listening to this, I’m talking to you advisors, I think that a lot of times, that is said, because people do not want to actively call on a market… It’s so much easier to just say, Well, my clients are business owners. With blah, blah and this and that. And because you’re accepting the referrals and the word of mouth reads that you get, because those can be all over the place, so you know what I’m saying? You wanna be like… They’re like, Oh, I don’t wanna go, you know, I don’t wanna say like, I’m all for… I think it guys just should get the queries, it possible like… For example, dog lovers, I’ve had so many advisors blow up their social media because they put their dog in their video, it would be such a fun hobby to work into your business, and I think people… Like for example, I had Michael on my show and he was talking about fly fishers, sport fishers people like that. Yeah, those people are making like 20 million a year, some of them, and they go to these tournaments and stuff like that, but sometimes there’s not the vision of, well, how deep this market, how do the market can really go…
0:10:37.1 SARA GRILLO: And there’s fear, there’s like, well, what if your person doesn’t like me. What if I can’t get to them? You know, I just the fear of not knowing how to get to the people in the financial advisor’s niche, I think is what the fear is, but it’s like technologically, it’s just technology is working to your advantage if you wanna have a nice… There’s so much you could do Twitter list and you’d have to research, it was why I think year one would be slower, but there’s so much to be live in the information age. You can find them.
0:12:49.4 ALAN MOORE: There’s almost no substantive argument against financial advisors having a niche except for… Well, I think I would be bored only working with the same type of person over and over, it’s like, oh, okay, fine.
0:12:59.6 SARA GRILLO: Interesting, if you really get into people’s minds, human being to very complex and fascinating… Absolutely, every person is different. I mean, I know I put four of them on the plan.
0:13:13.2 ALAN MOORE: Is it true that all four can be so different despite having the exact same upbringing.
0:13:19.0 SARA GRILLO: And I recommend a multi-pronged approach when someone’s finding their financial advisor niche, ’cause it’s the next question when someone are going to do is they say, Well, how do I find it? what I recommend is trying two or three different markets at the same time, and then seeing it… I think you can do maybe two really well, but I don’t think you can do more than that, but I think trying three at a time when you first start and then naturally you’ll just kind of filter into what naturally works best. Do you agree with that?
0:14:28.5 ALAN MOORE: I think there are multiple ways of doing this. I do think you have to go back to… What are we saying? When we say a financial advisor niche, are we just saying I’m just gonna market to business owners because they’ll see my website and realize I work for them, we’re really not like versions definition of a financial advisor niche, which is really what’s the problem that you are the expert in solving. So what is the unique problem that you are going to be the one to solve, so I don’t know that you really have to test an itch, you know if you can, what the financial advisor’s niche is or what the right one is for you to be able to focus on and serve, because this isn’t like, Oh, I guess I’ll try doctors and I’ll also try business owners and sort of see what works out, like What is your expertise and what are the problems you’re passionate about solving, do you wanna look… Do you wanna be the expert on street loans, do you wanna be talking stock options, Do you wanna be talking about running a business and all of the pieces that come in that do you wanna work with people who are recently divorced, those are four completely different skill sets a completely different knowledge bases, and all four can be wildly successful, all four of those have whatever, a million plus people in that grouping, if you can find your 75 to 100 clients, so people want a menu of financial advisor niche options…
0:15:46.7 ALAN MOORE: Okay, give me the menu. And I’ll pick the one I like. It’s like, No, no, it doesn’t work like that. So you start with one, do you already have any unique expertise or what expertise are you really interested in developing, what are you passionate about? You’re not gonna learn something just to learn it, you need to have a passion for it. Do you have any natural in… You know what I think about people like Lauren Williams, who is a prior Olympian, the only, I believe, maybe American, but maybe in the world that has ever medaled in both summer and winter games. Alright, she is amazing. She works with Olympians and professional athletes, she has an in to that network that I could… That would take me decades if I could ever actually get it, She gets to go speak in the Olympic Village and the training centers to these Olympian hopefuls. I can’t do that. Okay, you may say that, Oh, that’s really obvious, but it’s like I think we all have something like that, that we have this natural network, sometimes I joke like if I was gonna start a financial planning firm today and start serving someone, you know who I would serve financial planners because I have it in there, I know how to market to them, I know how to build a service model that financial planners would actually adopt, I can come up with tag lines and I know where to go to be in front of them, and so I think you just really need to focus on who’s your natural network, who do you either already have an in with her or what network can you develop depending on your timeline and just go all in
0:17:18.0 SARA GRILLO: On… Yeah, it’s a matter of self-awareness and self-knowledge, definitely, the better you know yourself, the more quickly you will get to that right answer. Absolutely. When I first started, when I was a financial advisor, there was one point which I said, Okay, I’m gonna work with women, I tried two markets, right? I said, ’cause I have this one client that she and I just clicked like, I mean, awesome. She actually has become one of my good friends in life, and I’m not even a financial advisor anymore, but I’m still in touch with her, we just have this amazing connection, I think everyone listen to just kinda knows what I’m talking about. Where you at least have one client like that probably… Yeah, so she was about rage, obviously female, and she was a high-powered lawyer and she had a young kid, so I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna take those three things and I’m gonna dissect it, I asserted it into a can and try to work with professional women. I’m gonna try to work with the lawyers, and I’m gonna try to work with people that just had a young kid, and… So the natural in that I have is that I…
0:18:25.9 SARA GRILLO: At that point, I had a one-year-old and I was pregnant, so I was in all kinds of parent groups, so that market worked kind of well, but then they weren’t necessarily qualified people all the time because I was meeting people, but then they weren’t necessarily at that higher level of affluence that I was doing, the lawyers were all homes at the level… Almost all of them were qualified. They were a little hard to break into, but I actually ended up working better with the lawyers than just with the Professional Women, which kind of surprised me, but when I think about it, like one of my personality traits is that very direct to the point kind of snarky, maybe a little bit cynical, and these lawyers were great.
0:19:08.6 ALAN MOORE: Eat that up.
0:19:10.8 SARA GRILLO: Wait was like a sisterhood. It was like we met our match, you know I’m saying, it was like I could beat them to the punch, I knew what they were gonna say half the time when they were like going… And then once we got through that level of screening, I kind of broke through the force field, so to speak, and it was awesome, so… Anyways, alright, I won’t listen tags. I always like to conclude the podcast, even though I never do, I never do this all the time, but I try to… I say, I always do it, that I do, but it’s my podcast so I can do anything I want.
0:19:48.3 ALAN MOORE: That’s it, that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur. Right, and what you wanna do…
0:19:52.5 SARA GRILLO: Well, see, here’s the thing about entrepreneurship, you get to do what you wanna do, and you get the flexibility and everything, but when that client calls you with an emergency situation, you get… That client comes for your life.
0:20:05.4 ALAN MOORE: Yeah, which is a great point to circle back to, what type of business are you building is that you know, you may really enjoy that or you may say like, Hey, being on call for my clients, 24/7, where I do have to drop everything for this client situation, may not be ideal for you. And I’ll say, If that’s not ideal, then you hire a team around you, because when I was a solo… Now, Lincoln or kind emails, I’ve gotta be available. Vacations were hard. I really enjoyed the flexibility where I didn’t have anyone else to answer to.
0:20:48.6 ALAN MOORE: It’s very different right now. I have about 60 team members now here at XY Planning Network and advice pay our sister company, and so yeah, my day-to-day is very different. I don’t quite have the flexibility that I used to, but whenever this recording drops, but in about a week and a half, I’m leaving for six weeks on sabbatical, and I will have no slack, no email, no text messaging, people cannot get in touch with me unless… Basically, they’ve been told they’ll contact me unless I have no company to come home to… I can do that, I could have not done that, I didn’t feel like I could have… I shouldn’t say you can’t, but I didn’t feel like I could have done that, and so again, that’s when I was a solo practice, and so that’s why it’s so important to be intentional about the business that you wanna build to support the life that you wanna have, because there are trade out there gonna be pros and concert is not perfect, but it does look very different depending on where you wanna end up.
0:21:43.6 SARA GRILLO: Alright, Allen. Well, thanks for being on the show.
0:21:47.0 ALAN MOORE: Well, now you have to ask me the question since you said you almost never do it, so…
0:21:50.8 SARA GRILLO: What’s the three things you want people to take away?
0:21:53.8 ALAN MOORE: Three things, One will be really, you take the time either with yourself or if you have a partner, sit down with your partner or spouse and really think through and define what is it that you want out of life, do your own financial planning, your own visioning, really understand what is it that drives you and what you’re wanting? And then the second piece is intentionally build the business to support that lifestyle, and if you wanna build an empire, build an empire, if you wanna be a boutique firm with 10 to 20 people so that you have a team around you, but you’re not too big, do that, that’s the beautiful thing about this business, is you can make a lot of money and have a ton of flexibility and be able to build the business that you wanna build. And I guess thirdly, it’s hard to not… Since we talk so much about it, it’s hard to not go back to the mission is be really clear on who you want to serve and who are you the best at serving? I ask groups of advisors that were several hundred advisors in a room together and say, Okay, what makes you different, what makes you better than for a certain type of client than the person to our little left and your right, and 99% of advisors can’t tell me kind of differentiate themselves from other advisors, certainly consumers can’t differentiate them, we all look the same, and if you can’t compete on value, then all you can compete on is price.
0:23:19.0 ALAN MOORE: And that’s not a game I’m interested in being in. So really define your value and what value you provide that other advisors don’t, and then really focus on working with a target market.
0:23:31.1 SARA GRILLO: Alright. Okay, everybody. Hey, listen, Alan, thanks for being on the show. And everybody listening, please subscribe, rate and review this podcast.
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Podcast transcription edited from its original recording.