Historically, financial advisors have worked with any and every client they could (or at least, any client who was interested in buying their company’s products or could afford to pay their fees), and in turn, advisor websites (and other marketing collateral) were developed to be appealing to anyone and everyone. The caveat, though, is that in an increasingly competitive advisor landscape, it is more and more difficult for advisors to differentiate themselves amongst a sea of sameness, leading to an increasing focus on developing niches and specializations as a way to stand out and attract ideal clients. Except for advisory firms that have already built a broad-based “generalist” clientele, creating a more focused niche offering – and updating the advisor’s website and other marketing materials accordingly – can make existing clients who may not fit the advisor’s more specialized future question their own fit with the firm today. Which raises the question: how exactly can an advisory firm start to focus more on their niche specialization of the future, without alienating existing clients in the process?
The starting point of making a firm’s marketing more niche-focused – without alienating existing clients – is simply to recognize how ineffective most generalist-based advisor marketing is today. Because in practice, most advisory firms struggle to get more than a few hundred visitors to their website each month, and even amongst those visitors, few get more than 1-2 prospects per month from their website (and many get none at all!). Which means, ironically, that by trying to avoid alienating any existing clients or prospects by being so broad-based, the firm is already losing out on most or all prospects who visit their website. By contrast, “just” having a message that connects with a mere 1% of prospects – with several hundred website visitors each month – could actually produce 3 qualified leads every month. Which means the approach doesn’t alienate… it’s actually a significant improvement from the status quo!
In the process of actually becoming more niche with an advisor’s marketing, there are several factors to consider, depending primarily on the size of the existing firm, how many advisors it has, and how focused it already is (or not). For solo advisory firms, the reality is that once the founder/owner/advisor decides to go niche, that’s all the buy-in it takes, and solo advisors who want to get started simply have to choose whether they want to rebuild their current website into their new niche, or alternatively create a “microsite” that is separate from their existing website, target that very specifically to their niche, and over time as their new niche grows, shift to make the new niche-focused site their primary business website over time (while keeping their existing website to avoid making existing clients feel alienated).
When it comes to larger multi-advisor firms going niche, though, determining a niche often requires consensus from multiple advisors willing to narrow their focus and excel in one area. If the multi-advisor firm can come to a consensus, the firm can begin to rebrand accordingly. More often, though, multi-advisor firms end out with multiple niches – rather than choosing just one – which requires the firm to adopt an approach more akin to regional law or accounting firms, which create “Practice Leaders” to lead each niche within the firm, and the firm’s website then highlights its list of specialized “Practice Areas” (not just a list of all types of clients, but a menu of dedicated services each specifically crafted for a particular type of client, with a dedicated Practice Leader with specialized expertise to lead it). Alternatively, for firms that can’t even decide or commit to a particular group of niches – or even whether to niche, because some advisors wish to and others don’t – a multi-microsite approach is more effective, where each advisor specialization creates its own microsite targeted to its own clientele, as a standalone offering “Powered By” the parent firm.
Ultimately, the strategic shift of becoming niche is not an easy or simple one—gaining marketing momentum, experience, and trust takes time. However, transitioning into a niche can – and often is –accomplished incrementally anyway, precisely because it takes time to be known, liked, and trusted in a new area of specialization. And the framework of developing Practice Areas and/or microsites allows advisory firms to make the transition as gradually as they want or need to. Though ironically, the reality is that for firms that already serve their clients well, the risk of alienating existing clients with a new niche focus is low, as in practice it’s more often the clients who are concerned about whether they will be rejected by the firm, and upon being told of the new niche focus, won’t declare they’re leaving and instead will simply ask “will we still be allowed to keep working together, too?”