The Power of Niche

By: Adam Carolan
Xentum

Around five years ago, Adam Carolan noticed a trend in his business: an ageing client base dying or losing capacity and a struggle to engage with the Next Generation.

At first our idea was simple: we decided to engage the children and grandchildren of clients and build services and pricing around their needs. We started to look at couples as families. After doing this for about a year, we started to notice a trend in this approach.

Many of our successful clients had successful children, often doctors, dentists, lawyers and business owners. They didn’t have the assets to work with them independently in the traditional sense, but we took them on as part of the bigger family picture. Many of these clients are extremely profitable clients today.

What started as a protectionist business decision turned into opportunity to build our client base with the next generation of existing clients.

We make a point to offer to educate children and grandchildren at an early age. We often invite them into our business to do workshops or even work placements to start to understand business.

Going Deeper

The other thing I started to notice was that our approach seemed to attract younger tech minded business owners.

One client introduced me to his son who ran a successful digital creative agency that he wanted to sell. His turnover and profit were strong but he was hopeless with finances.

Developing the Niche

All marketing was focused on business owners in digital and tech creative industries, 28s – 42s, married with children, tech savvy and time poor.

This did not in any way stop me getting existing client referrals from a job done well for existing clients.

Understanding the Issues

I learn in every meeting I have. The whole client experience will never stop evolving.
I learnt that my audience had businesses and struggled to decide whether to scale them to sell them or build management teams to walk away. This became a huge part of the conversation and the planning that I would do.

I understood that they often wanted me to deal with their professional network to make sure that everyone is on plan.

My clients were often uneducated on traditional investments and often struggled with risk taking outside their business.

They disliked the jargon and paperwork that traditional advice created. I learnt to take complex ideas and explain them in simple ways. This would sometimes take a few meetings.

I learnt not to push my agenda on these people. Often their minds were full of running a business, so timing and location was key in delivering new information. I often do introductory meetings with new clients at coffee houses as many of them work remotely. Everything seems chaotic but is built around the desired experience of the way my audience preferred to work.

Communication is often short, to the point and includes different ways of delivery such as instant messaging services. Financial Planning is a big time and energy commitment for business owners so making it easy as possible to consume has become a bit of an obsession.

We have a strict process that we follow but we stay away from forcing people to conform to our approach 100% of the time. Personalisation is important to our clients.

Initial Process

We operate the usual planning process, but we try to use introductory meetings much more efficiently to explain the next steps and how we work. We use a 2-page document to explain the process and clients love this simplicity.

Following this introduction, we are asking for data and information to build the Financial Planning software before having a 2-2.5 hour meeting in what we call a “financial strategy meeting”.

In the first hour or so, we question clients and then at the end of the meeting we build their financial plan collaboratively with them in the meeting. A Financial Planner drives the conversation and an associate planner drives the software and takes notes. Our audience comes into the experience knowing what to expect and are always keen to progress quickly.

We then deliver a straight-to-the-point Financial Strategy Report, some simplified supporting documents and a fixed-fee quote to research, recommend and implement their financial plan. Once agreed, we crack on behind the scenes.

Ongoing Service

We want plenty of client touch points whether it’s a blog, newsletter, thoughtful birthday present or a purposeful meeting.

We also do the standard Annual Planning Meetings, but the circumstances of our clients often move quite quickly.

All business owners get tax planning and business planning meetings at relevant times in each calendar year and we often liaise with their professionals.

Our job is also to simplify the financial lives of our clients. Many of our clients understand the value of their time (both in business and personal life) and the cost benefit of paying us to sort their stuff out.

The fees for our ongoing service depend on wealth and complexity. We have many clients who would not fit into a traditional AUM advice process as they have valuable businesses but not much in investments, so we charge them annual fixed fees (paid monthly).

Everything is built on what works for the clients and Xentum and if either doesn’t fit then we seek to change it or walk away from the relationship.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

Develop relationships with families as soon as possible. Offer to educate children and grandchildren at an early age: workshops or work placements are good ideas.

Keep learning about your niche: what they like, what they don’t like. The whole client experience should never stop evolving.

Following a strict process is good but keep it flexible and personal.


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