A blueprint for identifying your ideal client
By Warrick Hanley – Practice Principal and Lead Adviser
Are you clear on which clients you add value to and best serve?
Are your clients likewise bringing value and enjoyment to your career?
If your clients are not a match for your skills, passions, curiosity and finances, you’re likely not living your ideal life.
Creating alignment between you and your ideal client can resolve several other business-related challenges, so it is worth the investment to get it right and manage over time. As businesses evolve and devolve, we can find ourselves serving a cohort of clients we have outgrown or vice versa. Managing this flux is the challenging part, as it requires a level of discipline and planning.
In our business, refining this over the last twelve years has been a game changer. When we discovered the importance of aligning our values with our ideal clients, it transformed how we operated. From a specialist SMSF transactional firm working around the clock to a fee-for-service business that could scale alongside our life stage.
Together with the Lead Adviser frameworks, we have adopted a set of principles that I will share with you below. Whilst the list is not exhaustive of our work, it may provide you with unique ideas to identify and attract your perfect clients.
Suppose you have been working at building a solid career or business, focusing on specialist skills and delivering a unique offering; it’s not uncommon to discover that after several years of continued growth, you’re off course with your ideal life. Growth takes on its own evolution; your life changes, the world changes, and there are new team members and client opportunities shaping outcomes.
In 2005, we held an AFSL while specialising in SMSFs for high-net-worth clients, and the team worked long hours to deliver on our service promises. Fast forward to 2010, my life/business partner and I now had young children, and our designed model started to feel unsustainable. Amplify that feeling with a crisis, we had the GFC and were selected at random for an AML/CTF regulations audit, and tough decisions had to be made.
In 2010 we also completed Lead Adviser and dared to look at what we had worked so hard to build with an honest lens on our future. Realising we were now at the stage where we could add more value by providing strategic advice rather than pursuing our CVP in portfolio management and technical advice required some letting go. We invested heavily in that specialisation but now needed more flexibility from a business model.
From then on, we wanted a business that would grow with and support our lifestyle stages. We completed a 10/3/Now on our business and personal life and have done so every two years for the past 12, which has been transformational in placing us ahead of the curve. Identifying what we needed from the business was the first stage in determining the ideal client we wanted to attract.
Where does value lie for your ideal clients?
Armed with your 10-3-Now insights, you can begin to align with what your ideal clients value. Do you know? When was the last time you asked them? Most business owners go off the assumption that they know what their clients are happy to pay for, but as with business growth creep, we can be sidelined by what the vocal 1% of our clients deem of value.
Before Lead Adviser, when we started to charge fixed fees for our client engagements, we spent time understanding where value sat for our ideal clients. In consultation with a business coach, we hosted a networking event that served two purposes:
1. let them know how much we loved working with them, and
2. we wanted feedback to continue offering the best service.
In one of our more vulnerable moments, we had to leave the room and wait for feedback as the coach led the session. The results paid off – it turned out an independent AFSL wasn’t that important, and neither were birthday cards and newsletters, among other things.
With clarity on what was most important to the key clients in our business, we overhauled our offering. Knowing what key satisfaction indicators are for your ideal client is powerful information. When you overlay that onto your ideal life as laid out in a 10-3-Now it creates a unique blueprint for your business model.
Dealing with the flux
As your 10-3-Now evolves, so does your clients’ so staying abreast of both changes helps keep track of business creep and gives you that edge. We’ve now introduced NPS as part of our follow-up process and there are other ways to get data on your ideal client such as the plethora of research now available at your fingertips. I’ll link to a few below:
- ‘Value of Advice‘ survey conducted by the Financial Planning Association and MYMAVINS which helped to uncover some of the non-financial benefits of having an adviser such as greater general wellbeing and a more active social life, some of the findings could help you understand your niche.
- The 2022 Advisable Australian Established Affluent report by Netwealth has robust findings around high net worth clients which could prove useful if you are in that space, such as on page 14 which indicates the key drivers of satisfaction.
- Griffith University conducted The value of professional financial advice for consumers in a crisis: Experiences of financial advisers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helps to shed light on what clients get out of advice under crisis scenarios and could help build your ideal client’s value profile.
Refrain from assuming that what your ideal clients value remains consistent. Instead, invest in staying abreast of the changes to their values, not just their day-to-day lives, as well as any relevant social and broader economic influences at play.
Check your commitment levels
Developing your personal commitment is one of the key drivers in ideal client acquisition that doesn’t get talked about enough. Unfortunately, it is all just theory until you’re prepared to focus on serving your ideal client.
It’s the state we regularly refer to as “what you have to let go of to get what you really want”.
The Lead Adviser program helped us clarify our ideal life, the type of advice we wanted to provide, and the kind of client we were keen to serve. The critical factor in making that vision come to life was the discipline we adopted and, importantly, clarity on what we don’t do.
Adhering to change is challenging during transitions, especially those early stages; however, taking a committed approach paid off for us. Once we understood we had the relevant experience to deliver a sought-after advice model with more prosperous client relationships, we committed to the transformation process over 18 months with the following tactics:
- We had a clear agenda and set aggressive targets to create a 4 and 40 lifestyle to accommodate our young family – working four days per week, forty weeks per year, and the third part of that equation is 40%+ EBITA.
- We were all in and invested heavily in the business transformation, hoping to reap the lifestyle rewards – it worked.
- We made sacrifices and tough decisions like letting great clients go to more suitable referral partners and maintaining only a small handful of ideal clients. The reward for remaining clients, our business, and our lives were evident.
Such change was made possible by knowing whom we wanted to serve, and we committed to transforming the business. The level of commitment needed cannot be overestimated – there will be enticing offers and what appear to be great opportunities that fall outside of your plan.
Know your worth to price accordingly
The next piece of the equation is yet another soft skill, although it belongs in the hard bucket if you are anything like me. Pricing based on product or ‘content’ in ‘Lead Adviser’ speak feels safe and justifiable to most financial advisers. However, transitioning over to charging for your experience and advice, the ‘context’, or whatever it may be that your ideal client deems meaningful can be daunting.
Many advisers particularly struggle to implement this aspect of the Lead Adviser principles. It comes down to understanding the switch from industry to profession – think about what lawyers charge for in terms of service and outcomes.
Working with peers and coaches, it took some time for us to develop the skills necessary to own the knowledge, experience and value inherent in what we bring to the table. Realising we can charge for it is one thing; having confidence takes practice. It involved some peer discussion in relation to pricing new client engagements and experiencing a few stumbles by undercharging. The importance of pricing correctly becomes very clear pretty quickly when you undercharge and overdeliver.
Expect to go outside your comfort zone as you upskill in the emotional intelligence tools necessary to charge confidently. Utilising concepts inside the Lead Adviser handbook, like the PIES model, to go beyond political and intellectual subjects into the emotional and spiritual with clients is essential to positioning you as the expert. In addition, aligning with regular peer support and professional coaching will have a powerful effect on enhancing these skills.
Community alignment plays an important role
By default, community alignment from your licensee and referral partners to any outsourced coaches and your peers all play a role in shaping a business that will support you in attracting and retaining your ideal client. For instance, our research revealed that while clients valued our boutique offering, it was only necessary to them that we were not aligned with large, poorly reputed institutions. For us, the AFSL was about freedom from restriction; hence we determined that what gave us the desired outcome was a values-based alignment to a branded corporate engine – not the AFSL itself.
Likewise, when we began offering more strategic advice to families with complex structures including family trusts and companies, we reached out to other businesses providing integrated advice that we could work alongside. The brand, peers, and support network you align with will impact how well you can attract your ideal client so include this factor in your overall strategy.
As you evolve in your business so will the people you most want to serve. Be mindful that you remain aligned with your values at each interval and avoid getting swept up in the allure of specific client segments. I find it essential to allocate quiet time in the diary with a blank sheet of paper and start from scratch on whom I want to work with, how I can add value to their family, then what working solely with that client might mean to my business. When all of the pieces fit together I ask myself ‘what am I prepared to give up to get what I want’, then commit. The Lead Adviser Alumni portal is a great resource to help keep you on track.
ABOUT WARRICK HANLEY
Warrick Hanley is passionate about helping successful individuals and their families get well organised. After years spent running a small advisory firm while his children were growing up, he and his partner now run offices in Brisbane and in Sydney specialising in family CFO advice. Warrick is embarking on further expansion with plans to have a significant footprint on the eastern seaboard working with a great team of people who are passionate about enriching lives. Warrick has used the Lead Adviser frameworks to scale his business down and then up, according to his family’s needs, creating a successful business by design.
To connect with Warrick, reach out via LinkedIn.
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