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Does Your Business Really Reflect Your Ideal Client?

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Does Your Business Really Reflect Your Ideal Client?

When it comes to designing a client experience, we tend to approach from the ‘inside looking out’, focusing on the needs of our clients and the communications and activities that we can provide to support them.  Not a bad plan.

I’d argue, however, that you also need to approach client experience from the ‘outside looking in’ and focus on if and how you’ve structured the business to support the needs of those clients. It’s the difference between sending communications that will be helpful to your ideal clients and building your business around the needs of your ideal clients.

Before digging in, however, I should make my bias clear. If you read this blog regularly this will come as no surprise. I believe that you cannot build a truly extraordinary client experience around the needs of everyone. You can deliver great service, but a great experience needs to be tailored to the needs of an ideal/target client or niche.

The question is this. What does it mean to tailor a client experience to the needs of your ideal clients?

Today is about stepping back, looking at your business from the outside in. It’s about asking if the choices you’ve made fully reflect the unique needs of your clients. To that end, let’s dig into seven parts of your business and evaluate each to uncover opportunities to shine.

When you think about each aspect of your business, there’s a litmus test to let you know if you’re on the right track. Ask yourself if each of these areas of your business would be different if you worked with a different ideal client.

More specifically, for each area of your business ask yourself the following:

  • What are the needs of my ideal client?
  • Where are the gaps between those needs and what I provide today?
  • What would need to happen to close the gaps?
     

I’ll look at each in detail and you can download a worksheet here if you want to complete your own assessment.

#1 Client Acceptance

Perhaps the first and most obvious place to start is with your client acceptance criteria. And the question is this. Will you draw a line in the sand when it comes to who you will and will not work with?

Defining clear client acceptance criteria means you’re drawing a line in the sand and saying that you’ll walk away from clients who don’t fit. It’s like pulling the velvet rope across your door and only allowing those in when you know they are clients for whom you can do your best work.

Consider the following:

  • What are your client acceptance criteria today and how does that need to change going forward? Which are preferences and which are deal breakers?
  • What is the process for determining if a client is a good fit?
  • How will you manage expectations when you meet with a new client or are referred to a client? How will you say “no”?
     

#2 Products and Services

Next, look at the products and services you provide. The key question is this. What products and services do you need to provide to meet the unique needs of your niche?

This category could literally include the products you use, but equally the scope of advice you provide or the value-added components of what you might offer. For example, I’ve recently talked to two advisors who want to focus on the integration of health and wealth. While they’re both planners, their service is being broadened to include support on health. That’s an example of how the scope of service might change to reflect a particular niche.

Consider the following:

  • Is the scope of your offer exactly right for your ideal client?
  • Does your offer need to go beyond the core of what you do in order to support your ideal clients?
  • Is your fee structure appropriate for your ideal clients?
     

#3 Team
 

Next let’s look at the team. This is a big area, a difficult area and one that will have a significant impact on your success. The key question is this. Do you have the right people all pulling in the same direction?

Consider the following:

  • On Recruiting:
    • Do team members share the same passion for your vision?
    • Do team members have a strong understanding of the unique needs of your niche?
  • On Vision:
    • Do all team members have a clear understanding of the business vision?
    • Can the team communicate your vision/niche easily?
  • On Engagement:
    • Has the team been involved in creating (or given an opportunity to review and contribute to) the client experience?
  • On Structure:
    • If appropriate, do you have team members that reflect your niche (e.g., age)?

#4 Skills
 

Continuing with the team theme, you’ll also want to look specifically at skills, which leads you to consider training and development. The key question is this. Do you and your team have specialized knowledge that is tailored to the needs of your ideal client?

Consider the following:

  • Do your ideal clients have unique needs that demand (or could benefit from) specialized knowledge?
  • Are there specific skills, certifications or designations that you and/or your team should have to best meet the needs of your niche?
  • Do you have a process in place to stay on top of the issues that affect your niche (beyond investments)?
     

#5 Partnerships
 

An offshoot of the team discussion is partnerships. The key question is this. Should you establish outside partnerships to add greater value for your ideal clients?

Related: Advisors Are Not Keeping Pace With the Disruption of Client Engagement

Those outside partnerships might include professionals or experts in accounting, legal, insurance, business consulting, lifestyle (e.g., health), specific needs (e.g., aging parents) or family (e.g., financial literacy). Who you need around you is driven by the needs of your clients. Not everyone makes a good/right partner for your business.

Consider the following:

  • Do you have an ‘extended team’ that helps you to add greater value for your clients?
  • What support do you want/need to provide internally vs. referring to other professionals?
  • Do you have a defined process to identify and vet potential professionals?
     

#6 Technology

Next let’s look at technology. The key question is this. Are you using technology to support the unique needs of your ideal clients? Now I don’t consider myself a technology expert so won’t pretend. However, there are key questions I believe we all need to ask:

  • Does your technology stack reflect the needs of your niche (e.g., automation, self-service)?
  • Do you have an understanding of how best to communicate with your niche (e.g., during or between reviews)?
  • Are you able to communicate with clients using technology that meets their needs (e.g., web meetings)?
     

#7 Office Environment
 

Now let’s turn to the office environment. The key question is this. Does your office environment reflect a style that is relevant for your niche?

There are countless examples of younger firms that are focused on millennials creating very unique and modern environments. But that might not be you. You don’t necessarily need a vending machine and foosball table in your office, but you will want to examine the messages you’re sending with your office environment.

Consider the following:

  • Does your niche have needs that need to be reflected in your office space (e.g., room for larger meetings)?
  • Have you taken a walk in your client’s shoes to understand how your environment is perceived?
     

Final Word

OK, so it feels daunting to rip the business apart. It takes a high level of confidence to question what you have built and ask if it needs to be tweaked. But if your goal is to become a magnet for exactly the right clients, then you need to be built to serve those people.

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