For years, independent financial advisors (particularly those who offered holistic and comprehensive financial planning services) had a relatively easy time differentiating themselves from the vast majority of others in the industry by emphasizing the breadth and depth of their financial planning services (as contrasted with competitors that were still primarily in the investment or insurance product distribution business). However, in recent years, the asset management and product placement facets of the business have become increasingly commoditized, and an increasing number of advisors have also come to understand that the real value that they provide for their clients isn’t in the products themselves, but in the comprehensive advice that needed to implement those products (or not). Which, ironically, means more clients than ever actually get qualified financial planning advice… and it’s harder than ever for those who give quality advice to differentiate themselves from other advisors offering essentially identical services.
Which means that, moving forward, identifying and nurturing a clear and distinct niche will only become even more of an indispensable differentiator for advisors (and eventually, might become the only real differentiator!?). Yet, for many, the real challenge isn’t in choosing a niche, but in actually reaching potential clients in a particular target market… or at least enough of them to start building a practice around. And while few advisors are naturals when it comes to networking, the good news is that it is a skill that can be learned, and that there are several proactive steps that any advisor can take in order to connect with members of their niche, which are based on the same principles of any good networking strategy.
In this guest post, practice management consultant Teresa Riccobuono of Simply Organized uses small business owners as an example niche to offer actionable tactics and steps to start building a niche-focused network and provides specific examples of ways you can deepen and expand your own web of connections in the small business owner community.
Of course, the first key in networking is to recognize that it’s all about building a relationship that establishes you as the go-to expert in the community… not necessarily to try to get business from anyone/everyone upfront. Accordingly, strategies that build valuable goodwill for you and your practice through networking include: helping the small business owners in your network connect with other small business owners (e.g., by first making a list of all the business owners in your network, and finding ways that they might be able to work together or help each other), creating an “insider’s” directory of local businesses that your clients use and trust (which can help expand your reach by giving you a great reason for introducing yourself to business owners included in that directory but who are outside your network), and hosting events such as a speaker series or even a full-fledged multi-day expo featuring (local) businesses that provide goods and services to a common target market.
Ultimately, the key point is that an effective networking strategy is based on genuinely providing others value without expecting anything in return… which, over time, builds goodwill and (eventually) trust, to the extent that small business owners (or whatever target market you decide to serve) will naturally turn to you as a resource down the road when they encounter someone who might need your help. Or even to reach out to you when they need help themselves.