Marketing professionals are quick to suggest that the best way to find success as a financial advisor is niche marketing. I second this advice. So, what is niche marketing and why should you care?
Niche: A position particularly well suited to the person who occupies it.
Niche Market: A small but profitable segment of a market suitable for focused attention.
Niche Marketing: Can refer to both marketing and business choice. It hinges on:
1. Finding a segment of the general market for a service or product line
2. Developing a solution for the needs of that segment
3. Developing special expertise in order to artfully serve that segment
4. Marketing to that segment to get the word out
5. Positioning oneself as the best and only choice for that market segment
Let’s take a look at a couple examples of advisors who have clearly found their niche.
POP CULTURE / EXECUTIVE KNOW-HOW
“Coke is it” for James Heard, a CFP®, NAPFA member, and principal with Windham Brannon Financial Group who works with a number of current and former Coca-Cola senior executives. Heard, whose company is in Atlanta where Coke is headquartered, took advantage of Coke’s presence there through its community connections. (Roughly 25% of its clients are Coke personnel.)
The firm also brought in principal Amy Merrill from a regional bank that had close ties to Coke. She had developed great relationships with several key people at Coke, says Heard. “When she came to the firm, we made an effort to explain the benefits of our wealth management approach to some of the Coke executives that she knew well. They became clients in time and have been incredibly proactive in referring us to their Coke associates.”
What makes Coke executives special? “They have a strong corporate culture and you find similar values among key executives,” Heard explains. They face common challenges such as stock options, deferred comp, 401(k), incentive compensation, defined benefit plans and restricted stock.
“The purpose of these benefits is to provide the executives with long-term financial security. They are extremely bright and capable, but don’t have experience in developing a financial plan that successfully incorporates these benefits. Developing a plan that increases their chances of achieving all that is important to them is what we do.”
THE ATHLETES’ CHOICE
Wilson Hoyle, AIF, managing partner for Captrust Financial Advisors in Raleigh, N.C., never intended to become a niche master. As a football player at Wake Forest University, he and his roommate, Ricky Proehl, had big dreams about becoming sports stars. After setting numerous records at Wake Forest, Proehl was selected in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He has enjoyed a long and successful career in the NFL.
While Hoyle set scoring records at Wake Forest, his football fortunes were not so great. He tried out for several pro teams, including the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, and played a season in the World League. But the talented place kicker never made it to the NFL. Instead, armed with an economics degree, he went on to become a financial advisor. Proehl became a client and Hoyle began to mine the football field.
Today, as a principal with Captrust, he serves dozens of NFL first-round draft picks—a real feat, according to NFL Players Association executive, Dana Hammonds, given how hard it is to gain access to players and earn their trust.
While Captrust also maintains an impressive roster of wealth management and corporate retirement plan clients, their professional athlete division serves more than 75 current and retired athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NASCAR. Referrals from clients and allied professionals, coupled with a strong networking strategy, have driven the firm’s success. Interestingly, Hoyle shied away from approaching sports agents, preferring to establish relationships directly. NFL relationships spilled over into other sports —metaphorically, they all hang out in the same gym.
While Hoyle was once the primary rainmaker, he has added staff and business partners over the years. For instance, he hired former Chicago Bear John Mangum to support business development efforts. Mangum’s job is focused on turning first-round athletes into clients. Mangum’s educational background in finance and firsthand knowledge of the pressures in pro sports has made him an excellent advocate for rookies and veterans.
While many advisors might envy Captrust’s success, Hoyle is quick to point out that his is not a nine-to-five job. Working with athletes can be rewarding, but it’s tough. Players can be naive about money and may go off on wild spending sprees, ignoring their financial plans. They often expect special treatment, including late night calls or meetings in distant cities. Despite these challenges, Captrust has risen to the top. Score one for niche marketing.