Create a client persona to better connect with prospects and referrals


Attracting clients and referrals takes rapport. And rapport starts with “you understand me.”

If an ideal prospect stop by your website is that how they would react?

To better connect with the right people, whether through your marketing or through client or center of
 influence referral, try creating a client persona. A persona is a hypothetical description of your ideal client, an avatar for the kind of person you most want to attract. It goes well beyond the description of a target market. It is not just age and profession, and net worth may not even be a factor. It does not represent all of your clients and is not a composite of all your clients. It is just the segment you especially want more of. Being more specific will help you understand how better to communicate with those people. More important, it will help those people more quickly relate to you.

Here are some items you might include in the description of your persona:


  • Family life – Are they single or married? Do they have kids at home? Do they spend a significant amount of time driving the kids around to activities, or do the kids have their own drivers licenses? Do they spend more time evaluating vacation destinations, prospective colleges, or trips to see the grandkids?
  • Work life – How much time do they spend at work? How much meaning do they get from it? Do they spend more time thinking about the next promotion, the next layoff, the number of days until retirement, or how they will sell their business? Do they get invigorated or worn out by the challenge?
  • Values – Where do they invest their time? What is important to them about the people they interact with? At a recent client advisory board meeting, we were discussing the fiduciary standard. One of the board members opined “I see the work (the advisor) does through the church we go to and as long as I know he accepts God as his Savior I know he will take care of us.” If a significant number of his ideal clients have a similar opinion, he might choose to reference work with his church’s prison ministry, for example, in his web profile or in conversations with prospective clients. A different advisor I know features the orphanage he sponsors in Haiti prominently in his social media. SignatureFD in Atlanta has a firm wide initiative to help clients explore philanthropy. What is important to your ideal client about who you are?
  • Goals – I don’t mean the date they intend to retire or the house they want to buy, which, of course, you will help advise them on. Do they want to dedicate more time to family? Do they want to achieve a different level of success? Do they want to make sure their kids (or parents) are taken care of? Are they making plans to improve their health?
  • Experience they desire – Now we begin to get into their specific preferences as it relates to what you can do for them. How do they want to interact with an advisor? How often? In person, by phone, email, text? What level of detail are they comfortable with (or do they demand)? Many advisors include in a description of their ideal client being a “delegator.” When we explore why, however, it often comes down to the fact that customer service takes a lot of time and, to put something of a point on it, the advisor would like clients to leave them alone to do their work. Delegation requires trust. My observation is that the more experience a client has with an advisor the less time they require in update meetings to review the portfolio. So the bigger question becomes not whether the client is a delegator, but what needs to happen in the relationship so that level of trust can grow.
  • Experiences they have had – There are two categories that can be important: personal and family experiences, and experiences with other advisors. What are their money stories and how do they relate to their finances? What did their parents teach them about money? Did their parents have financial struggles or setbacks? Do they feel other advisors have taken advantage of them? Or not treated them well? What do they like about other kinds of advisers like accountants, attorneys, coaches, trainers, or consultants.


You could interview current clients who fit the ideal description to inform your persona. As you gather the facts and stories, create a dossier. Give the persona a name. You might even go find a stock photo of someone who looks like your persona. Whatever you can do to help you and your staff think of your persona as a real person. Create separate personas if you have different target markets. Try to put yourself in their position and understand the story from their perspective.

When you create marketing campaigns, consider adding services, even brainstorm about what kind of client event you might host, ask yourself or your team what your persona would think about it. Would Joe be interested in this?

Empathizing with your client, standing in her shoes, and imagining the client experience you provide from their perspective, can take you a long way to understanding how to communicate it and how to improve it.

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