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Reimagining clientele

Matt Pais

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With her target market inaccessible during the pandemic, Stewart developed a whole new niche.

“We are wondering how we are going to keep people alive. We’re running out of PPE. It’s more of a survival environment right now.”

This is the message Stephanie Stewart, FMA, FCSI, heard from nurses, a core component of her financial planning clientele, in the third quarter of 2020. She knew that if this was the input from nurses, doctors definitely wouldn’t have time to talk to her. And the seven-year MDRT member from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, understands that the last thing any advisor should do is market to people who aren’t able to hear your message.

Combined, Stewart works with 68 doctors and nurses, which represents 20% of her business. The focus is driven by her own background as a pre-med student, giving her a keen understanding that this group of individuals were under an incredible amount of stress during a pandemic. It wasn’t the best time to reach out for new business.

Rather than resign herself to a growth plateau while waiting to resume contact, Stewart — who also handles retirement planning and works with another advisor and a virtual assistant based in Vancouver — decided to develop another niche of clients in
the meantime.

Here’s what Stewart did to acquire two to three new clients per month for the last six months:

Choosing the niche

First, Stewart had to decide who she wanted to target. She chose engineers for several reasons:

  • There are many oil, gas and information-technology-based engineers in her region. She describes it as “Canada’s Texas.”
  • She determined that engineers are underserved because their analytical personalities can cause them to get bogged down in the details and take a long time to make implementation decisions. They also pride themselves on having the ability to analyze just about anything and often lean toward DIY investing and financial planning — unless an advisor can demonstrate something of value that also frees up their time.
  • As a result of having a few existing engineer clients and a previous eight-year personal relationship with an engineer, Stewart has extensive knowledge of the way these professionals operate. She comes prepared with a sense of what is important to them and where they may see value in what she can offer.

Reaching out

Stewart wanted to develop her engineer niche for years but didn’t start focusing on these professionals until November 2020. A marketer reached out to her on LinkedIn, offering his program on digital marketing to help expand Stewart’s practice. Previously, Stewart had used LinkedIn only as a “digital business card,” occasionally commenting on posts but not actively reaching out to people. She’s more comfortable networking in person through referrals or client appreciation events.

You have to think about what is missing in the marketplace and how to fill that gap. Go out and get whatever it takes to be able to provide that service at the highest level.

With those in-person opportunities no longer possible, she took the specialist up on his offer, paying a flat fee for access to his ideas and support in sparking new online prospecting conversations. He even taught Stewart, who struggles to learn new technology, how to share her screen during Zoom meetings.

Stewart went from 1,000 connections to 2,500 in six months, primarily adding engineers in Alberta. She was shocked at how receptive these new connections were to discussing how they could build their net worth and avoid doing their own research about minimizing taxes.

What to say

With guidance from the marketing specialist, Stewart took a deep dive into the lives of engineers to determine what they know, care and worry about. That meant immersing herself in the website of a local engineering and geologist association; reading newsletters, blogs, popular books and other publications about engineering; and starting to use engineering jargon such as “root cause analysis” and “optimize.”

Stewart has learned to be conversational and not pushy in her interactions, something that can be easier said than done. The first message to her prospects goes something like this:

“Hi __, I saw your LinkedIn profile and thought it would be a good idea to connect. I like reaching out to local engineers who do amazing work. I think networking is the key to discovering opportunities for collaboration. Looking forward to getting to know you. Kind regards, Stephanie.”

After receiving a response, she asks the prospect if their business has been affected by the pandemic and to share their story. She tells prospects that the goal of making LinkedIn connections more meaningful is to actually get to know people. “I feel there’s a lot to learn from each other,” she tells them, “and I’d love to
chat with you sometime.” This leads to scheduling a 15-minute chat by phone or Zoom.

“I didn’t know how to do this,” said Stewart, who now talks to eight to 10 prospects per week. “The back and forth is hard. On my own, I would’ve done it more in bulk through email rather than the LinkedIn messaging system.” But after working through her reluctance, she found success through the new approach.

Next steps

Not only will Stewart continue working with engineers after she can start engaging with doctors and nurses again, but she now feels comfortable with diving into yet another niche: business owners. She is in the process of taking specialized training to provide unique value to owners in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Oftentimes, their business is their biggest asset, and they need help monetizing it to live the lifestyle they envision in retirement.

Through a specialized accounting designation, Stewart will provide informed valuations that can help these business owners sell or divest their businesses.

“In my city, there are fewer than five of these chartered business valuators,” Stewart said. “You have to think about what is missing in the marketplace and how to fill that gap. Go out and get whatever it takes to be able to provide that service at the highest level.”

Contact: Stephanie Stewart


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