Traditionally, financial advisors built their clientele by working with anyone who had the financial wherewithal to buy whatever products or services they had to offer. And as advisor platforms have become increasingly open architecture, advisors have had an increasing number of offerings available to work with an ever-widening range of clientele. However, at the same time, the fact that ‘any’ advisor can offer almost ‘any’ product has made it more difficult for a particular advisor to differentiate themselves from other advisors. For many advisors, the solution to this challenge is to get more focused – which means choosing a specific niche or a specialization and differentiating themselves by offering an even more specific offering for their particular clientele. The idea may seem simple in concept, but implementation of a niche or specialization can feel daunting, risky, and even downright scary!
In our 79th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss how to begin the process of finding a niche, ways advisors can conduct research to decide if a chosen niche is a good fit for their firm, and, once a niche is chosen, how to begin attracting new clients.
As a starting point, it’s important for advisors to understand the types of clients they already serve. Compiling a list of existing clients and differentiating them through qualifiers such as occupation (and whether they have enough revenue to be financially viable) can give clarity as to whether a potential niche already exists. From that list, advisors can then choose 5-10 (reasonably remunerative) clients they like working with and decide if they would like to work with more of that same type of client. A good way to approach this is to consider whether there is a common problem these clients face, and if the problem would be interesting for the advisor to solve for more prospective clients who face the same challenges.
Once a set of clients has been chosen, advisors can set up meetings over coffee or lunch with the intention of learning more about the types of issues these clients face, and what it would take to attract more clients like them. By interviewing these clients and asking a predesigned set of questions, advisors can gain an understanding of the viability of the proposed niche. Taking this a step further, information gathered can be used to write a white paper that can serve as both a reference for market research, and as a handout back to the interviewed clients so that they may share it with others potentially within the same niche to help attract future clients.
Ultimately, the key point is that financial advisors considering a change in their business focus may not have to look far to find their niche or specialization. Communicating with current clients gives an opportunity for advisors to discover how they can not only help them, but future clients with similar financial planning issues. Which means choosing a niche doesn’t have to be a grandiose declaration that feels foreboding and irrevocable; it can be as simple as just taking a renewed focus on a segment of clients that are already “working” for the business and pursuing more clients just like them!
***Editor's Note: Can't get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we've released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
- Seth Godin
- Why It’s Easier To Market To A Financial Advisor Niche
- How To Find Your Niche As A Financial Advisor
- 6 Types Of Niches For Financial Advisors To Differentiate Themselves
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Good afternoon, Carl.
Carl: Greetings, Michael. How are you?
Michael: Doing well. How are you?
Carl: I'm great. Yeah, things are good.
Michael: Fantastic. I see that the blue couch is really...it is enveloping you today. For those who are listening on audio, I'm not quite sure what the actual setup is. Carl's...it's as though he's sitting in front of the blue couch, but the blue couch is as high as his head, and it's not actually that high-backed of a couch. So I'm envisioning the old Lily Tomlin in the giant rocking chair sort of image of little Carl in a giant blue couch. So it's just enveloping him, and of course, it's a thing of beauty being all magnificent blue couch that it is.
Carl: Yes. Any opportunity that sort of...what would we call this on Twitter? Would we call this troll? Any opportunity to mess with you just a little bit. So I put the couch up on my desk, and I sat in front of it today. That's how we’re doing it.
Michael: Fantastic. Fantastic. So for those of you who are curious, we do actually put these on the kitces.com website. They're also out on YouTube. So just if you have the sheer morbid curiosity because you'd heard us blather on so long about the blue couch and you want to see what the deal is all about, the blue couch is in this episode. So this is episode 79, go grab episode 79 on YouTube or on kitces.com, and you can see the beautiful blue couch in all of its glory.
Carl: And send my wife a note about how much you love the blue couch.
Michael: Yes. And let her know. And let her know.
Carl: Yes. Perfect.
Michael: So, Carl.
Carl: What are we talking about?
Michael: So what are we talking about today? So I thought, for today's discussion, as we often do on the podcast, we spend a good time talking about niches over the past year or two.
Michael: For our European friends, sure. So as we've been talking about niches, I find that, for most of us, at the end of the day, this basically comes down, "Okay, I sort of get it. I get it. You pick a thing, you get known for the thing, and people start finding you for the thing." How do you pick the thing and make sure you don't pick the wrong thing? I find for most advisors at the end of the day, the problem isn't even, "Should I do a niche?" It basically comes down to, "I don't want to pick the wrong niche, and therefore, I'm not going to pick one. Because if I don't pick one, I can't pick the wrong one." And so I thought it would be a good discussion today of just how do you actually advocate going about doing this, actually picking a thing to make it your thing.
Carl: Are we just going to...because you and I both feel insanely strong. Insanely strongly. You and I both feel very strongly about the idea of picking a niche, right? Do we need to cover that at all, why we feel that way?
How To Decide Which Niche Is A Good Fit [3:20]
Michael: Yeah. I think, for at least today’s discussion. Let's assume, this is for all of you that have gotten to, "Okay, I buy the proposition, but seriously, how do you do this and not go and screw up your business because you pick the wrong one and go down the regret train?" How do we not put someone on the regret train while they're thinking, "Okay, maybe I actually want to try this?"
Carl: Yeah. So, look, this is one of my favorite topics because there is a lot of fear wrapped into it. And I think that fear, largely, is a hiding place because what you're being asked to do to pick a niche or a specialization is, as Seth Godin says, "You're going to put yourself on the hook," and that feels a little scary. I work with these people feels a little scary. Because it feels like you're saying, "No.” We've covered this in other episodes. You're actually just saying yes with an exclamation mark, not no. So I think it'd be fun to talk about how do you pick one and then how do you take the initial steps of developing it. And let's go...if it's okay, I think it'd be fun to go super nitty-gritty tactical. Is that okay?
Michael: Sure, yeah. I'm still a hopelessly, socially awkward person at the end of the day. So, yes, just give me the words, Carl, please. Just give me the word. I'll make it my own, but please just give me the words.
Carl: We've taken thousands, probably, but close to 1,000 people through this process, and so I know it works, and I know we can make it as easy as possible even though it still feels a little scary. So in terms of picking, let's assume...the thing I want to say at first is you just guess, you know what I mean? I know we want to get close to that. So we can do some things to make it an educated guess. Have you taken people through, current client base, finding a niche from your current client base? Have you gone through that process much, Michael?
Michael: I have. We've written about it on the site. I don't know that we've actually covered in on them.
Carl: So how would you explain that to somebody? Let's pretend like you have a client base. How would you find the niche that you want to explore out of your current client base?
Michael: So I tend to start with it this way. The starting point to me really is just come up with...I usually find maybe 5 to 10 clients that you just like working with. They're good clients. And good here isn't...well, I'll just say, good here is not just friendly and pleasant to work with but are reasonably remunerative clients as well, right? If you clone your least profitable clients may be very pleasant, but you may not be able to pay your bills. So they have to at least be reasonably remunerative to be economically viable. It does not necessarily have to be your top three most amazing clients so that you can certainly put them into the group here as well. So find 5 to 10 of your clients that you already like working with that are reasonably remunerative where it wouldn't be bad to get more like them. And I'm a fan of starting there and saying, just take them out to lunch and start the conversation. And to me, look, it basically starts something to this effect, "Mr. and Mrs. Client, we're doing some new things to expand our business, and I would love to buy you lunch and just talk a little bit about how else we can serve you and how else we can serve other people like you, because we want to be better at serving people just like you. We want to do more for you. We want to do more for people that are like you. And I view you as an expert in your field, in your domain," right, whatever it is, you're a doctor, you're a lawyer, you're whatever the thing is, "And I'd love to just ask you some questions to better understand all the things that you and people like you are dealing with."
Carl: Yeah. Yeah, awesome. So let's back up to the...so here are some really tactical things you can do about the client thing. Take your entire client roster, throw it into an Excel spreadsheet. In the columns...
Michael: You’re singing to my heart, Carl.
Carl: I know. I know. So in the columns, just create columns, and one of the columns should be revenue, right? Because what we're really thinking of doing is we want to find a group of clients that we can replicate, and we would be happy if we had X. And for me, it was always 100. If I had 100 of these, this would be a good business. So revenue is one of them. I like to make one of the columns be occupation. So I think anytime we talk about niches or specialization, I think the shortcut is occupation, right? We're just really trying to find a group of people who have a similar problem that we can solve. And I like to think of the problem as I like to think of, "Am I interested in solving that problem," right? Because if you're going to do it for a while, you want to be interested in it. The shortcut to finding a group of people that have a similar problem that you can solve is...obviously, the quickest shortcut is occupation. The other thing that's nice about occupation is we know where those people hang out, we know what they listen to, we know what podcast they might read. So let's just say...
Michael: They tend to have publications. They tend to have associations. There are things you can join to find them.
Michael: They collect in natural places that makes it easy to go where they are once you decide you're focusing with them. If you decide you're focusing with them.
Carl: Yeah. So we should clarify that upfront. You've bought in the niche, and for the sake of this conversation, you've bought into an occupational niche. If you need convincing on that, find other episodes or we'll talk another time. So an occupation. So you got a column for revenue, you got a column for...so I'm thinking quantifiable columns...sorry quantitative columns at first that we can actually put revenue in, we can put occupation in. And then there's a whole series of columns that I like to just think of as subjective, qualitative. How much do you like working with them? And I always just did it 1 through 10. So I just literally put a number down. Would I like to have 100 of them? How often do I have to meet with them? What service model? So you just come up with a couple of things that allow you then to sort, right? And then just notice, like Michael said, that's how you could find those 5 or 10.
That's the nitty-gritty way of finding those 5 or 10. And particularly, if you notice, "Oh, that's interesting. I didn't realize I had three dentists that I like working with that turn out that, if I had 100 of them, I'd have a really good business." Let's assume something falls out of their dentists, and it literally is you're not going to get more. I know you want more. I know I want more. How do I pick the niche that I'm not going to make a mistake? We're going to take a little bit of a risk here, right? Now, we're going to say, "Oh, interesting. There was four architects. I didn't even know that. They're all partners at small architectural firms. That's really interesting." And we're just going to treat that as tailwind for the next step. We can't know yet. We don't have enough information.
So we're going to make a small bet or another way to think about this is we run a small experiment, and the small experiment is I've got four architects. And I'm picking architects on purpose because I don't know anybody who has a niche on architects. I'm not using ER doctors, or radiologists, or anesthesia because I don't want to lead you in a certain path. So let's just say architects. So then, to me, the next step is what Michael pointed out. Let's go interview these people. Let's go gather information. It's just an experiment. I'm a researcher. So at this point, take your marketing hat off, if you even have one. Most of us don't even have one, right? If you even have a marketing hat, take it off.
Michael: If I had a marketing hat, I wouldn't be listening to this podcast about how to pick one of these niches. I'd just be...that's why I need the help. Marketing is not my strength.
Conducting Research To Find The Right Niche [11:47]
Carl: Right. So take the business building hat off, take the marketing hat off, and put on the investigative journalist hat or the academic hat. You're interested in how you can help those people. And the best way to find out how to help those people, and this is going to be amazing, and you'll find this later, the best way to find out how to help those people is, it's crazy, ask them. So let's do some scripting, literally, word for word. And I think this can be done via email or a phone call.
Excuse me, a little cough. Don't worry. No, I'm not contagious. And even if I were, you won't get it by watching this video or listening to this podcast. That's a joke, Michael. Come on.
Michael: Appreciate that. Appreciate that.
Carl: Thank you. Okay. So here's what...
Michael: But you did test negative.
Carl: Oh, I've tested 87,000 times negative. So one thing to think about, I think it's helpful, even if you're not going to do it, I think it's helpful to think of this process, the end artifact of this process, is going to be a white paper. Okay. It's just helpful to have that thought in mind. Because here's how that helps. I can call architect number one on my list, and I can say, "Hey, Michael. We're considering some changes at," name of your firm, Persona Partners. What's the name of my firm? Persona Capitals, all right. "We're considering some changes at Persona Capital. And I'm really interested." You don't even have to do the changes thing. Sometimes change is blah. You can just literally say, "Hey, Michael. I'm super interested in understanding," and here's the language, "understanding the unique challenges that partners at small architectural firms face," and you can insert wealth management. Actually, just put there, financial planning and wealth management. Well, financial. "The unique financial challenges that partners at small architectural firms face. And given that you are one, I knew you would have insight into that. Would it be okay if we meet for..." Now, here's...this is very, very intentional. I would suggest coffee. I don't even drink coffee. But coffee, the reason I would suggest coffee is it lowers the pressure on you and the other person. If you suggest lunch and you ran out of things to say, and the food hasn't even arrived yet, that's scary. How long, Michael, how long is the average coffee meeting? How long is a coffee meeting supposed to be?
Michael: Twenty, 30 minutes of sipping, maybe.
Carl: Yeah. You don't even...
Michael: It can go longer, but it's totally acceptable...if the conversation's not going well, I just drink my coffee a little faster, "Oh, I'm out. I got to go." Cool.
Carl: Could it be 20 minutes? Of course. Could it be an hour and 20? There is no supposed to be. So I just want to emphasize this, the worst thing, the worst-case scenario here is that you have a nice 20-minute coffee with a client. That's how we're going to paint this. That's the worst outcome. That's it. That's a good outcome, and that's the worst outcome. So, "Michael, I'm super curious about the unique financial planning wealth management," insert whatever word you want to use there. I always use wealth management. I probably now use financial. "The unique financial challenges that partners at small architectural firms face. And given that you are one, I know you'd have some insight into that question. Could we meet for coffee, and I'll just ask you a few questions." Okay. Don't ask anyone who would say no. You should have 100% yes.
Michael: Because I'm asking existing clients. This is friendly territory.
Making Connections And Conducting Specialization Research With People Who Are Not Clients [16:05]
Carl: Yeah, existing clients. Yeah. And just if there are clients that, for some reason, you don't think would say yes to that, just don't ask them, right? Now, let's talk about how to ask people who are not clients, because that's really important here. So that's the question. We'll talk about what to do when you get there in a minute, but that's the question. And that's not that hard. "I'm interested in the unique financial challenges that, insert name of niche, face. Given that you are one, I knew you'd have some insight into that. Would you mind if we meet for coffee, and I'll ask you a few questions?"
Okay. Now, let's talk real quickly. Let's pretend like there are some people that you don't know. Okay. And here's how you find those people. Because, ideally, I think you want 10 of these interviews. And the material you get from these 10 interviews, that's why I like you to think about, it's going to inform your content creation strategy going forward. It's all reusable, right? And I like the idea of framing it on a white paper. If I knew I was going to write a white paper, this is how the request would go. "Michael, I'm super curious about the unique challenges, unique financial challenges that senior partners at small architectural firms face. And I know that you would have some insight into that problem because you are one. One of my goals is to write a white paper with what we find, and I'm curious if we could just meet for coffee." Actually, probably do the coffee part first. "Given that you are one of them, I know you'd have some insight into that question. Could we just meet for coffee, and I'll ask you a few questions? My goal, based on what we find, is to write a white paper, and I'll make sure I get you a pre-publication copy." That's why the white paper thing is so nice is because it's a thing that you can give them, and it gives some structure to what you're talking about. Now, you don't have to. You can do the first version. Okay. Cool.
Now, we show up, we ask them questions. We'll talk about that more in a minute, because I know people are going to want to know those questions. The last question we're going to ask is, "Michael, gosh, it's been super informative. Who else do you know that might have unique insight into the problems that partners at architectural firms face?" Now, you can prompt them a bit, "Hey, you mentioned that there's a chapter of the architect/owner society. Do you happen to know anybody over there?" So maybe they know the president of the society, maybe they know the editor of the... "Hey, do they produce a newsletter?" Those are the kind of people we want to get on this other list.
So the other list we're thinking about is distribution, right? So a list of people who are in the profession that can give you interesting things, starting with clients and people you know, a friendly territory. The other people we're hoping to find are people that can help us, again, just using the white paper as a placeholder, please don't get too concerned about that, but they can help us with the distribution of what we learn. So I can give you example after example of how this works, but let's say the editor at, for us, what happened, the editor of the Southern Nevada Dental Association. Okay. So we get that name. So let's go back to the invite. With someone that you don't know, okay, so somebody gave you a name. "John, my friend, he also owns an architectural firm," or, "Hey, Sally is the editor of the Architectural Firm Digest." "Gosh, could you introduce me to Sally?" "Oh, yeah, for sure." "It sounds really interesting. For me, it'd be really interesting if you'd introduce me to Sally."
Okay. How do we approach Sally? We just say, "Sally. Thanks, John, for the introduction," in the email, "Thanks, John, for the introduction. Hi, Sally. I'm really interested in the unique challenges that partners at small architectural firms face. And given your role at, as the editor, John and I both thought you'd have some insight into that problem. Would it be okay if we just met? I can stop by your place even. I'll bring coffee if you want. But could we just meet for 15 or 20 minutes so I could ask you some questions? My goal with what I find is to write a white paper."
Now, if somebody...I want to just introduce this, why are you interested? I used to...I never had anybody ask that. Never. I don't know anybody who we've taught to do this has ever had anybody ask that. But if they do, there is nothing wrong with saying, "We have a number of..." All right, now, you can't say this if it's not true. We're not allowed to lie and call it marketing. But we have a...single, "We have a number of architects, and we are always looking for ways to serve them better." There's nothing wrong with just being upfront. "We're looking for ways to serve them better," or even, "We've really enjoyed working with them, and we'd like to work with more. And we know the best way to work with more, we want to make sure we can serve them well." So that's the...anything scary in there, anything confusing, anything we need to clarify, review?
Michael: All right. I think I'm still wondering, in part, just what are the questions you'd like to ask when we get in this meeting with John?
Carl: Sure. But are you okay with getting the meeting?
Michael: Yeah. I think so. I'm thinking about this as well, just the parallel for those who maybe go through the exercise and either still aren't sure which clients to go after or, frankly, for those of us who maybe are a little bit newer and "I don't have a lot of clients. I don't have any clients yet because I'm still getting started." Just to know, I've seen another version of this. We actually wrote about a version of it on kitces.com a couple of years ago for advisors who don't have a client base yet to go to. That's essentially a similar script. It's, "I'm doing some market research for a new business or a new line of business that I plan to launch next year. Working with partner small architectural firms, I see you as a very successful partner at firm so and so here in town that is one of the more successful architects in town. I'd love to buy you coffee and learn more about some of the unique challenges that you face. Would it be okay if we met for coffee, and at the end, I'll share some of my market research with you? And if you wish, we'd actually like to highlight you as a case study in the research."
And I find that approaches like that work quite well even out to strangers because, at the end of the day, people like to be honored and flattered, recognized. "I see you as a very successful person in town. I'd like to highlight you in a case study." For a lot of people, just they like the opportunity to talk about themselves and feel recognized. And so you may not get a 100% meeting rate on that with strangers the way that you necessarily will with clients, but you can open a lot of doors that way. And that's not like a warm calling strategy so that you can then ask for their business. You legitimately are going to have to ask a few market research questions and go through that process. You're not trying to get them as a client. You're trying to learn about what it would take to get clients like them. Now, what often happens if you do a good job in that process and you give the market research back to them, and then you say at the end, "I'd love to share with you the initial stages of my business plan for your feedback, would that be okay?" if the first meeting goes well, often they'll say yes. By the time they go through that process with you, you're going to reflect back to them, "Here's my understanding of the market research of what people like you are going through. Here's the business plan of what I'm planning to do for people like you to address the challenge that you're going through." A few of them are going to get to the end and say, "Oh, you basically build something for people exactly like me and the problems that I face. I should probably hire you because I actually have these problems and need this solution." So it may turn into a client later, but it's starting from the same place, right, which is, "I'm doing a white paper. I'm doing market research. I'm trying to create a business plan, and I'm just trying to talk to successful people like you and highlight their stories. Would that be okay?"
Carl: For sure. I think there's a couple of things that are really, really important to emphasize in what you just said. One is you really got to have the market research, academic investigative journalist hat on. This can't be a trick. It turns out that it's the best marketing you'll ever do. But it can't be a trick. It's got to be...you just go in. It's really a mindset. You got to get firmly in place, super curious, "I'm trying to solve the problem." And the problem you're really trying to solve is, what are the unique challenges they face, and what exactly would a firm look like if it was built around to solve those problems? That's the kind of...and if you have that in place... And then the next thing to think about is one step better than that cold would be warm, and I really believe that if you saw that guy, that lady who is that "I see you as a very successful person in town," I'm pretty sure you can find somebody who knows them, right?
So if you can just get one step closer, it is very similar. It's your uncle. They're not a client. And you call your uncle and go, "Hey, I'm doing some market research on the unique financial challenges that architects at small firms face. And you know Steve. Do you know Steve?" "Oh, yeah. Steve and I play rugby together." "Oh, would you mind just...could you just an email intro? Or could you ask Steve if it was okay if you email? And here, I'll write you what I'm doing. I'll send it over to you in email." If you can just get one step closer, everything's a lot easier. But that language is awesome, and sharing market research, another way to say that would be, "I'll share with you what we find. I'll share with you what we learn." So then you've got this added benefit of they're going to get something out of this that's going to be helpful to them.
So, look, I get so fired up about this process that I want to go back and build another business. And if I were to do it, just a little...it's not even a suggestion, but it would be entrepreneurs with a successful exit over X, and I would just pick what X is, and I'd probably even get more specific on an industry. Well, why would it be that? Because that's a problem I want to solve. I like those people. If I built a spreadsheet, those people would get really high scores quantitatively. You know what I mean? So it could be...and what you said earlier too, Michael, about if you're new and you don't have any clients. Well, the range of potential...you're just guessing with a little less information. It's still a guess, right? You're just guessing with a little less information. Because if you could just get one...go ahead.
Questions To Ask During Specialization Research [27:35]
Michael: I was going to say, with the limited time that we've got left, can you dig into just, when I get the meeting after which I'm going to write my white paper and do the thing, what am I asking in the meeting? Do you have particular questions that you like as go-to questions in this meeting?
Carl: Totally, yeah. And I don't think there's anything wrong with you actually having these questions written out. And again, I'm trying to do everything we can to lower the stress on you, right? It's coffee, relax.
Michael: You're doing market research. It's okay to actually have a list of questions.
Michael: When you're doing market research, people actually kind of expect that.
Carl: Yeah. You can just have them literally right in front of you. After you do this once or twice, you won't need them. But until you do, it's fine. So I would ask questions like this. Excuse me. You can just ask to start. First of all, "Thanks, Michael, for coming. As I mentioned in the email, I'm super interested in the unique challenges that architects face, architects at small firms face. And I know you'd have some unique insights. So let me just ask you a couple of questions." The first question you could ask is, what are, just simply, what are the unique challenges that architects face, financial challenges that architects face? Another question, did you learn anything about this in school? Do they teach you about this in architecture school? What financial planning or financial management classes did you take in architecture school? I'm thinking of med school and business school. Even business school, interesting, right? I have a finance degree. There wasn't a single personal finance class at my finance degree. All right. So what classes did you take?
I love these next questions. What are the things you wish you had known 10 years earlier? If you could go back 10 years...there's a couple of ways to ask it. If you go back 10 years from now and talk to yourself 10 years earlier, what would you tell them? What are things you would suggest they do 10 years ago? What do you wish you had started 10 years ago? Those questions of what do you wish. What are the things you did? So this is a tricky...this is unintentional. It's not tricky. It's an unintentional play here. What are the things you've done really well? Okay. So when it's really well, you're asking about them. I've made this mistake too many times. I've done the opposite. If it's really well, ask about them. Because what we really...the question I love is the mistakes question, and I used to say, "What are the biggest mistakes you've made?" And that's fine, and actually, depending on the relationship, it can be really powerful. But it's so much easier to ask, what are the biggest mistakes you've seen other architects like you make? So what are the things that you did really well? What are the mistakes you see all the other architects make?
Michael: Okay. What are the things you did well, and what are the mistakes you see other people make?
Carl: For sure. For sure.
Michael: Clearly, you don't make them as one of the leading architects in town, but what do other architects do well?
Carl: Yeah. You can feel the scars from asking that question wrong, right? So, yeah, please benefit from that. So what are the things you did really well? What are the biggest mistakes you see other people make? And you can break that question down a bit. What are the biggest mistakes you see other people, other senior partners making? What are the biggest mistakes you see young architects making? And so that's the success/mistake question.
Then I also love...this is one of my favorites because it's literally you're asking them. I want to tell you a story about this when we're done. But if you could wave a magic wand and create the perfect relationship with a financial advisor for architects like you, what would it look like? And you can get nitty-gritty here. How often would you talk to the person? How often would you meet? How involved would you be in day-to-day things? How much detail would you want? And you can get as nitty-gritty as you want there, but I love just starting broad. If you had a magic wand and you could create the perfect relationship with a financial advisor, what would it look like?
And then let's wrap up with a couple. So it's really...10 questions is a lot. Don't think you have to have 50 questions. I love asking the what...if you were me, what would you have asked, or questions did I miss? Here's another way to phrase that. Is there anything I haven't asked you about that I should have? This is such a ridiculous process because the reason it's so cool and I get so excited is people literally tell you exactly what you need to know. And you're going to have this experience. If you end up writing a white paper...let me get back to the last question, but if you end up writing a white paper about this, this is the experience you have. I had this experience. I've done this probably 10 times. Every time we handed the paper to somebody, I had this experience at least once, they would look at the paper, and then they'd look at me, and suddenly I was 50% smarter because it was an actual paper with my name on it. Then they would open it. They'd start flipping through mainly just the callout quotes and the headings. They'd kind of flip through it, and they'd look up and go, "How did you know this?" And my favorite response was, "Crazy, Michael. We cared enough to ask you."
Carl: Well, we cared enough to ask some of you! We asked you! Crazy. We asked the people who knew.
My favorite last question was who else, we already talked about this, "Who else do you know that would have unique insight into this that wouldn't mind me spending 15 minutes asking them these questions?" And develop a list of those questions. So then, you do one or two of those, I think you'll start to have a sense. Here's what I think you look for. Tailwind, energy, "Wow, I enjoyed that. I learned a lot." Our first paper with dentists was called "Unchained from the Chair." And the reason it was named that is because, at the first two interviews, somebody used it, "I feel chained from the chair. If I don't go to work, I don't make any money." That was their number one problem they were identifying. The number one unique financial problem was, "My number one asset is the present value of my future earnings." They didn't use those words, but that's what we discovered. So we called it Unchained from the Chair. Well, there was energy from that, "Oh, that was fun." And so, then, that's, do I want to spend more time on this? If I do, keep doing the interviews. That's what I developed.
Sharing Specialization Research To Gain Referrals [34:49]
Michael: The version that you get to at the end as well, just when you come back with the white paper or the market research, the business plan of the new thing that you've been working with them on, is to then ask at the end, "Do you know anyone I should be talking to who would be helped by this new offering that we've been creating together?"
Michael: Right? Not asking them, because that puts them on the spot and can undermine the dynamic that's been built, but, "We've been working on this thing together, you can see the fruits of our conversation. Do you know anyone I should be talking to who would be helped by this?" And sometimes they'll say, "Actually, I think we should talk," but they may refer a colleague because you're now setting up a referral based on they know you, and they trust you, because they know you've heard them, because you can show it to them in the white paper or the market research, the business plan you put in front of them. And they know who needs help with this, because it's their world.
Carl: Yeah. I think that's perfect, and I want to lower the temperature even more just for fun, right? I honestly believe that if you show up with the artifact...and by the way, some of our white papers were two and a half pages. We're not talking about 20-page things. They just called out the problem, what did we learn? Oh, present value of future earnings, chained to the chair, architects, whatever. Calls out the problems, has a transition. The transition is the traditional financial services industry is ill-equipped to handle these challenges. What's the solution? Comprehensive financial planning. And then you just describe not what you do but what an ideal financial planning relationship looks like. You meet, you do this, you could even describe the seven steps, whatever. Of course, they're the things you do, but you don't call them that. You just say, "Here's what it looks like to meet with somebody." I have found that all you really have to do is nail the problem. So somebody feels heard. It's relevant. It's their problem, in their words. And have a good, and by good, I just simply mean easy to read, about the author, about the firm. And no other thing. And then just say, "Look, hey, I'll leave you 10 copies. If any of your colleagues would find this valuable, feel free to share it with them." I always like finding ways to ask people to share it in a way that they would say yes, or sorry, that they would say thank you instead of feeling like it was a burden. "Hey, we wrote this for the people we interviewed, but jeez, John, if you've got colleagues that would find this valuable, don't hesitate to share it with them. In fact, I'll leave you five copies."
Michael: Very cool.
Carl: Yeah. And then, of course, the landing page, the email, all the other marketing stuff we've ever talked about at Kitces & Carl, all can be driven to that thing. Every little sentence in there could be a tweet. You know what I mean? It just expands, but that's how you identify the niche, and that's the nitty-gritty way of finding them. That's, word for word, how to set up the appointment, what to do in the appointment, and then the artifact we've pointed to because we've talked about it in other places.
Michael: All right. Awesome, Carl. Awesome. Thank you for sharing the journey.
Carl: My pleasure. It was super fun.