For a More Successful Business, Make Sure You “Fit” Your Clients

This is the second installment of my reports from FPA Experience 2012. Tom Reimer, of Accretive Advisor, presented on “The Right Fit – Finding The Clients For Whom You Can Do Your Best Work.” Reimer began his presentation by saying that referrals from existing clients may not be the best new prospects. (He means any referral – there are ways you can address getting a referral outside your target market that I cover in my book.) To do your best work, you need to find clients who “fit.” He also explained that there are measurable indicators of fit.

He identified three critical common elements that characterize successful financial relationships:

  • Providing great advice
  • Empowered clients
  • A perfection of fit

Great advice includes expertise (and your clients valuing the expertise you bring), credibility through listening, having a broad perspective on the client’s situation, putting a priority on service, and be consistent in your representations and services.

Creating empowered clients involves achieving a common understanding of the appropriate levels of partnership, understanding what gaps in confidence exist, having a common understanding of service needs and expectations, and a common communication style.

Perfection of fit includes all “hard” criteria which are familiar – communication style, establishment of economic value, the appropriate licensing and geography – but also includes a range of “softer” elements advisors often miss. These include a match between how the advisor provides advice and how the client consumes advice, aligning expectations for the outcomes of the relationship, and matching the advising style with the client’s communication style.

One sign of a poor fit is inefficiencies in your business. If many clients expect service in different ways, it will be difficult to create an efficient process to deliver it to them consistently. And one hallmark of a good service business is delivering consistent experiences.

Another symptom is having multiple elevator pitches to use depending on who you meet.

Finally, a lack of success at attracting referrals is another indicator that you may have a poor fit with clients. The better the fit, the more compelling will be the referral a client makes for you.

One way to start assessing the fit you have with clients is to ask the question “What is the description of the type of client that takes up the greatest share of your time?” Reimer recommends one way of getting to know which clients fit best is to interview one of your ideal clients.

Migrating to a more “fit focused” practice will enable you to take better advantage of more powerful, technology-enabled strategies for attracting new clients, like social media. These can lower your dependence on older, less cost-efficient marketing strategies. It will enable you to be more effective at attracting clients through centers of influence. And finally, it can increase referrals by motivating clients to mention you at the right time. One memorable comment Reimer made was that your clients do not repeat your mission statement to their friends, they describe their experiences.

To achieve a better fit, Reimer recommends reviewing all your relationships. Which ones fit best? Do you fit them? Map out your ideal business. Develop a blueprint of the ideal client and refine your target marketing. Rebuild your business development around a refined core value proposition and stand out and get noticed for those core skills.

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