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Adviser toolkit: Move forward by exploiting your niche

In considering how to build a successful independent financial advice practice I have been following the elements of a conventional business plan:

• Environmental analysis and market overview, including social, technological, economic and political (Step) and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Swot) analyses.

• The client proposition, including the value of independence and the first, second and review meetings as critical elements of the proposition.

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• The system and process involved in service delivery

• People, and other business costs.

• Charging structures.

There are conventionally two further chapters in a classic business plan; Marketing strategies and planning an exit route. This month we will look at simple ways to enhance your offerings and how to attract new clients.

Clearly when considering the viability of a business there is always a tension between supply and demand, and while we have spent a great deal of time looking at what kind of services we might wish to supply to our clients, we should not ignore the demand side.

Old and new

This means thinking about existing clients, what services they want from us and how many will stay on board if we are restructuring the proposition or our charging structures. It also means thinking about new clients and how a firm will generate new demand for its services.

Put simply we can offer one service and find clients who will buy that service. A business working in this way will be extremely focused on finding ‘the right sort of client’. Many enquiries will be received and many will be rejected, with an absolute obsession on finding the individuals who meet the very detailed set of criteria that makes them the ‘perfect client’, ideally suited to the proposition that has been created. This may be framed in terms of occupation (for example, doctors), life stage (divorcees), likely planning requirements (retiring business owners) or assets (over certain levels available for investment).

Repurposing

Of course, having created one service, the business can then engage in ‘brand extension’. Müller Light now makes ‘Greek style’ yoghurt, Special K now provides many variants of cereal and snack bars, Dyson uses the same cyclone technology to create a variety of incarnations of floor cleaning equipment. Using extremely similar core systems and processes, these companies can provide different offerings, with different pricing structures, targeted at different markets extremely cost effectively.

The brand is still the same, and it is strong. The brand values are still the same, but the firm’s core expertise is applied to different propositions for different clients.

A similar approach can easily be applied to your business. A financial planning firm can also create a brand, identify its values and apply its core expertise to create a core proposition and then offer variations on that service to different sets of clients whose needs and interests differ from those of the core clients.