Most financial advisors understand the value of an ideal client profile in helping them identify the type of prospects they should pursue to grow their practice. While that may have been useful in the past, it does very little to attract and engage more directly with today’s more digitally attuned high net worth clients. The emerging-affluent millennials can be especially particular about who they spend their time with, especially if it’s not immediately clear what’s in it for them.
In the digital age, financial advisors must identify their ideal client type and communicate in a way they can identify with you. That means going beyond the client profile and using a client persona to develop a much deeper profile of who they are, what they do, how they think and talk, and why they would respond to someone like you.
What is a Client Persona?
The key difference between an ideal client profile and a client persona is that the former is created from the advisor’s perspective while the latter is created from your ideal client’s perspective. A client persona delves more deeply into identifying certain qualities and traits along with factors that influence their decision-making. Essentially, a client persona becomes a composite of your ideal clients, forming the story board that guides your messaging, communication and approach when trying to attract and engage them. Many advisors create multiple personas for each of the specific client-types they want to target.
Creating Your Client Persona
It takes some time and legwork to gather the information for a client persona, but it is worth the effort. Although you are creating a fictional character, it will come alive with an aggregate of the personal data, insights, challenges, goals, concerns, preferences and motivations you gather from your research of your ideal client.
Here are the five steps to follow to create a client persona:
Target specific groups or niches
You may already have a client type or niche you want to target. However, for a client persona, you want to narrow your scope as much as possible. For example, you may be targeting high net worth clients but, if some are professionals or executives or business owners, you could narrow your focus to one or two, or create a separate persona for each.
Mine data from client files
A lot of the demographic and background information can come from your client files. You can build a spreadsheet to model your data based on information such as job titles, functions, age, gender, family status, education, income, and net worth. For business owners, you would need to add information about the business such as the industry, revenue, business structure, and customer base. If you do have information or knowledge of any particular interests, hobbies, or passions, you can include that as well. Although, that is key information you may want to gather directly from your clients as well.
3. Interview your clients
Most of the actionable information you’ll need in your personas can come directly from your clients. This is where you find out what keeps them up at night, among many other deep insights. You’re asking for their help in building a client persona you can use to guide your marketing and your client interactions. You’ll need to schedule brief one-on-one meetings in a comfortable setting to put your clients at ease – maybe over lunch or breakfast.
You can start with questions you have probably asked before, such as those related to their goals and vision for the future. Here is a list of possible questions to include:
- What are your most important personal goals? Why are they so important to you?
- What are your most important business or career goals? Why are they so important to you?
- What are the challenges or obstacles for achieving both?
- What are your biggest challenges at work?
- What excites you about waking up every day?
- What are your biggest fears?
- What do you read for fun?
- Which publications or blogs do you read?
- Which associations and social networks do you participate in?
- How do you go about making important financial decisions?
- What are your most trusted sources for information? Who do you listen to?
- How can someone in my position help you solve your biggest challenges?
- How do you prefer to communicate with your advisors?
As you ask your questions, listen carefully for any particular lingo or expressions they use, which can be incorporated into your messaging.
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4. Surf their Social Media Channels
Facebook is the obvious place to go to learn about their personal interests. LinkedIn has information relating to their professional life as well as potential access to their network which is certain to include more people in your target audience segment. Check to see if they have a Twitter profile and view their Twitter stream. You will be able to see who they are following and what content they are retweeting.
5. Build out the Client Persona
You want to keep your client persona simple, more like a one-page summary broken down into sections, such as:
- Biggest Fears/Concerns
For each section, you want to provide composite information based on recurring data, insights and patterns you find. As you build out the persona, you will be able to hone the information for each section to create a “believable” fictional character. You’ll even want to give your character a name like, Ed Executive.
Making Client Personas Work for You
Your client personas become the framework for how you communicate with your target audience – through your website, blog posts, seminars and presentations – to create a more sharply honed message that will resonate with your target audience. By applying them to all aspects of your business development you can narrow your focus and channel your resources for the most effective and profitable use of your time.
- Increases your niche appeal. You won’t be perceived as an advisor with cookie cutter solutions, which is a turnoff to many market niches.
- Sharpen your presentations. Instead of a one-size-fits-all presentation, you can create more focused presentations in the context of your personas, with distinct messaging and more direct appeal.
- Focus on creating more compelling content. You can create more appealing and relevant content, which can build your reputation as a thought leader in your niche.
- Build rapport more quickly. When you can speak their language, you can more quickly build rapport, which is vital to building relationships.
- More consistency in your messaging. Your client personas enable you to hone your message to focus in on your prospects’ motivations which keeps them interested in hearing from you.
Financial advisors are realizing that their ideal clients no longer respond to one-size-fits-all approaches to their problems. If your web content doesn’t speak to them, if it spews financial jargon about products and services that have nothing to do with their issues, if it says nothing that demonstrates empathy for their needs, they will likely move on. You could experience the same outcome from a phone conversation, an initial meeting, or a chance meeting in an elevator. The point is, if your message or the way you present it doesn’t immediately resonate, you rarely have a second chance.