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How to Get Clients by Following Your Acquisition Trail

February 12, 2020

When ants are hungry, they search for food by walking in random patterns. And this might get you wondering why ants don't get lost. Why don't we see ants wandering all over the place? It’s because as they walk, they lay down pheromones. When they find food, they take a piece back toward their colony on the same trail and lay down more pheromones, reinforcing the trail. Then the other ants follow the trail to the food.

Likewise, you find clients in a variety of random ways. You may leverage personal relationships, community involvement, educational events, etc. As you turn prospects into clients, you’re leaving an acquisition trail. But unlike ants, advisors often forget about their trails. They start completely new trails to find prospects. By taking time to evaluate the trails you used to acquire top clients, you can create an ideal prospect profile that can lead to your best prospecting opportunities.


What We’re going to cover:

  • What's an ideal prospect profile
  • How to create one
  • What to do with it


First, what’s an ideal prospect profile?

Many advisors are happy to go after any prospect they can find. But marketing 101 taught us that if you’re trying to market to everyone, you won’t be relevant to anyone. In a 2017 survey, 96% of advisors said they didn’t target a specific target market.1 A target market is group of consumers most likely to buy their products or services. For example, a target market could be divorced men, ages 55-65, that live in the city and have more than $500,000 of investable assets. An ideal prospect profile provides even more focus than a target market.

Source: The Science of Goal-Setting and Goal-Getting webinar poll, Hartford Funds, 2/17


An ideal prospect profile is a description of the type of client you serve best. Think of it as describing a person rather than a group of people. The profile should describe why you love to work with them and why they love to work with you. It should describe their age, priorities, and challenges.

Here’s a sample prospect profile: Mary is 55 years old, parenting teenagers, in her second career, providing care for her dad, and remarried. The profile gives you focus, which is important. Without focus, prospects may perceive you as just another financial advisor.


Let’s face it, financial practices are becoming more and more commoditized

All financial advisors have access to great investment products these days. They can choose from more than 3,100 four- and five-star-rated mutual funds.2 Plus, there are more than 80,000 advisors with the CFP designation who can create a quality financial plan.3 As a result, it’s difficult to differentiate your practice based on the products you offer or your ability to create financial plans. But you can differentiate your practice by focusing on a specific prospect profile.

It’s Difficult To Differentiate Your Practice Based on the Products You Offer

Source: Mutual Funds Results, Fidelity.com, 11/18

If you focus on a specific prospect profile, prospects will see you differently

When you have a conversation with a prospect that matches your profile, you’ll naturally bring up topics they care about most. They’ll sense that you don’t just care about their money. You’ll build trust quickly because they’ll feel like you “get them,” and they’ll become loyal clients who won’t go elsewhere for financial advice. If ideal prospect profiling sounds pretty good, how do you get started?


Second, how to create an ideal prospect profile

You could just brainstorm the type of prospects you’d like to pursue, such as by profession or assumed income level. But you might not have the knowledge to serve these prospects. A more effective approach is to look at the characteristics of your top clients, then pursue similar clients.

Start by evaluating your top-25 clients. These don’t have to be your clients with the most assets. Just identify 25 clients or couples you’d say are great clients. You’ve already demonstrated your effectiveness to acquire and maintain these types of clients, so that should give your confidence a boost.

Next, look for shared characteristics within this top client group to create your ideal prospect profile. You can download the worksheet below to make this task even easier.


Identify the “-ates” of your top clients

In the second column of the worksheet, identify the “-ates” of your top clients. By “-ates” we mean, where do they:

  • Congregate: Where do they meet and socialize with others? Do they meet at faith-based communities, community events, or clubs?
  • Recreate: Identify where and how they relax. What are their hobbies?
  • Educate: Make notes about their education, including college, armed services experience, or vocational training. Are they retraining or going back to college?
  • Donate: Finally, indicate where they donate—not just money, but also where they give of their time and talents. Where do they volunteer?


The Four -ates

The four –ates give you a way to identify what’s really important to your top clients. You’ll use this info to create your ideal prospect profile.


Look for commonalities and patterns with the “-ates”

For example, in your top-25 clients, do you have many golfers, swimmers, or clients who enjoy yoga? Do they go to the same restaurant or fitness club? As you find these patterns, realize that you’re finding out what’s really important to your top clients. Plus, it’s reassuring to recognize that you’re pretty good at building relationships with these specific types of clients.


Find patterns in your acquisition methods

Next, write down how you acquired each of your top-25 clients. Was it by referral, a client event, or did you just ask for an introduction? If you find that you’ve acquired several top clients the same way, that’s a sign that you’ve got strong skills to acquire more clients using that method. For example, if you brought in several top clients by leveraging your LinkedIn connections, then you’ll want to increase those activities.


Consider the demographics of your top clients

Look for demographic commonalities among characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, and occupation. For example, in your top-25, are there several business owners, women, or baby boomers? Do they have kids or grandkids? Demographic factors help shape your profile.

For example, 60-65 year-old boomers may not realize they’ll have 20-30 years in retirement. They’re not sure if they should keep working or just relax. They’re likely concerned about caregiving, for themselves, their parents, their kids, or even grandkids. They want a financial advisor that understands them and knows all about these unique challenges. If you’ve got several pre-retirement boomers in your top-25, maybe you’ve proven your competence to meet their needs.

Review your top-25 client worksheet and the patterns you found when you evaluated lifestyles, acquisition methods, and demographics. Then write a short description from each section. Combine those descriptions to form your ideal product profile. It’s basically a description of the types of clients you serve best. Some sample prospect profiles could be “60-year-old business owner, widowed, met at a networking group,” or “54-year-old IT project manager, divorced, attended a client seminar.”

Third, what to do with your prospect profile

Now, use your ideal prospect profile to create some goals for 2019. Below are some goal ideas to help you get started:

  1. How many clients will you bring in that match your ideal prospect profile?
  2. What types of acquisition activities will you use to acquire these clients? Determine how much to increase these activities each week or month in 2019.
  3. Create a sales goal that will result from bringing in new clients that match your prospect profile
  4. Review your marketing material and refine the messaging to clearly connect with your ideal prospect profile. Will your material appeal to your ideal prospects?
  5. Identify ways to expand your knowledge about needs, wants, and desires of your ideal prospects


Won’t I be limiting my practices by focusing on only one prospect profile?

Focusing on prospects that match your ideal prospect profile could mean you’ll miss out on some clients that don’t match the profile. But that’s a good thing. You’ll know that your services match up with the prospects you’re pursuing. Clients will be more satisfied because they’ll believe they’ve found the right advisor for them. And, they’ll probably be sending their friends your way.


To summarize, we’ve covered:

  1. What's an ideal prospect profile
  2. How to create one
  3. What to do with it


Follow the paths to what you want

Rather than going after random prospects, examine the pathways that led to top clients. You’ll find the clues, like the ants’ pheromones, you can use to build your ideal prospect profile. Focus on the profile and you can replicate your best client relationships.


Next Steps:

  1. Download the worksheet below
  2. Fill out the worksheet for your top 25 clients
  3. Look for patterns to create your ideal prospect profile



1 The Science of Goal-Setting and Goal-Getting webinar poll, Hartford Funds, 2/17

2 Mutual Funds Results, Fidelity.com, 11/18

3 IBDs with the most CFPs, Investment News, 2018