12 MIN READ
If you’ve been following XY Planning Network for any length of time you know we love a good niche. Focusing on a niche as you build your financial planning practice, or as you fine-tune your client experience as a seasoned advisor, can help you accomplish several different things:
- Gain clarity in your marketing strategy
- Find your “why”
- Connect with your clients on a deeper level
- Develop unique financial planning strategies and ideas that match your niche-specific client base
Building a practice around a niche is something that many XY Planning Network members choose to do for these reasons and more. But what happens when your niche stops feeling like a fit for your firm?
Although you may have already chosen your niche at the onset of your financial planning practice, time can change things. As you move through the years, you might find that your interests or your vision for your practice have shifted. Unfortunately, while choosing a niche in the first place can be difficult, changing your niche while still running a financial planning firm can be even more challenging.
Give Yourself Permission to Retool
First and foremost—it’s time to cut yourself some slack. Most people who go through a mid-career crisis of sorts and are considering walking away from their niche beat themselves up over it. They feel a moral obligation to stand by their niche through thick and thin, especially if working with this group of people has helped fuel their success. On the other side of the coin, an advisor might feel guilty if their niche has their heart but isn’t translating to big financial wins for their practice. No matter what you’re going through, it’s okay.
You can love your clients and want to change your niche at the same time. You’re also allowed to enjoy the financial success you’ve had but not be fully committed to continuing to work with the type of clients you’ve focused your energy on up until this point. In short, you need to give yourself permission to change your mind.
Change is difficult for business owners to stomach, even if they’ll be happier for it in the long run. To make a niche change easier on yourself, it may be best to find some clarity on why your niche is no longer working for you.
How to Know Your Niche Isn’t Working
Many advisors I speak with who are ready to change their niche don’t realize that’s the solution to their problem. That’s because it’s tough to imagine parting ways with a niche you’ve committed so much time and energy to. Typically, they only come to the conclusion that their niche isn’t serving them after taking a closer look at what’s frustrating them in their practice. So, how do you uncover whether or not your niche is still working for you?
You Don’t Love Creating Content Anymore
Do you remember the days when you loved writing blog posts about the pain points your clients face? Did you enjoy recording podcasts or videos that directly addressed questions that cropped up in client meetings? Has that feeling gone away? If so, it might be time to reconsider your niche. At the end of the day, you deserve to love the type of marketing that reaching your niche requires because you’re going to have days where you don’t love the actual marketing tasks. And on those days it helps to at least love the ideas you’re exploring in your content.
You’re Not Having Fun With Your Clients
I always tell my clients that if there’s someone you dread seeing on your calendar for a meeting, it might mean that you aren’t the right financial planner for that person. Are you feeling that way about all your client meetings these days? There could be a few things wrong here, so jumping to a niche change may not be your first solution. You might be experiencing:
- Burn out
- Difficulty prioritizing
- A lack of interest in the type of tasks you’re performing for clients
These things can typically be solved by taking a break, outsourcing smaller tasks that weigh you down, or shaking up a client service calendar to hold your interest. If you try all those things and still dread talking to your clients, you might need to rethink the type of clients you’re working with.
Remember: dreading working with your clients doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t like them as people! It’s usually a sign of a bigger problem, like you’re not enjoying the type of work that your unique niche requires, or you don’t like a specific personality trait that several of your clients share and that is make financial planning difficult on you. For example, if you’re a passive investment guru and you’re dealing with a group of active investing strategists as clients, you’re bound to be fairly frustrated even if you love joining them for drinks on Saturdays or long bike rides through the local state park. Shake the guilt off. You’re allowed to enjoy a person without wanting to work with them directly.
You may not even actively dislike your clients. Maybe you’ve just found a new type of client that you’re really fired up about! For example, when I first found financial planning, I clicked with the profession immediately. Working with financial planners was suddenly my jam, even though I had never thought of working with them before. It didn’t mean I wasn’t loving my old job or the clients I used to work with. I just knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that financial planners were my crew. If you’ve stumbled across your crew, and they’re not your current niche, that’s okay! Go ahead and pivot.
You’re Not Enjoying Problem-Solving
This ties into not enjoying client meetings. The larger problem that requires solving might not be that you don’t enjoy the people, but that you don’t enjoy the work those people require. For example, if you love learning more about the student debt crisis, and get excited about putting together financial plans that offer student loan solutions, but the majority of your clients are pre-retirees, you might not love the work you’re doing.
Refocusing to take on more clients in an area of expertise that you love is always a good decision, and not just because it will make you happier. When you work with clients on projects you enjoy doing, you’re more likely to do your best work. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon the clients you currently have if you enjoy working with them. It just means that as you take on more clients, you should look to change who you target and what type of clients you accept.
You’re Not Loving Your Financial Situation
This is a tough one because it’s so easy to fall into a guilt trap. As a financial planner, you’re already a superhero. You’re changing the lives of your clients, one financial plan at a time. Many advisors in this profession feel called to help others, which is a really special thing. It’s why I love working with you all so much! This also means that many advisors are drawn to working with less-than-profitable niches, or niches that are tough (but not impossible) to capitalize on.
I’m not being cold-hearted. Everyone needs to put food on the table. If you find yourself stuck in a situation where you’re underpaid for your work, you’re less likely to do your best quality work. You’re also more likely to start growing some resentment toward your clients. Before you start blaming your client base for how much money you’re making (or rather, not making), make sure you evaluate how you’re charging. A few questions you might need to ask are:
- Do I need to charge more?
- Does my fee structure make sense? Working with people who may not have many assets to manage might indicate you need to switch to a flat fee structure, etc.
- Can I still serve my niche with a pro-bono service while focusing on clients who help me reach my own financial goals?
- Can I scale back how high-touch my services are while keeping my prices and my niche? That could potentially help you to scale your business.
Why “Profitable” Isn’t a Good Niche
Although there are times advisors feel the need to walk away from their niche because they’re not making enough money, there are other times when new advisors select a niche solely based on whether or not those clients will be profitable. A few I see consistently are engineers, attorneys, and medical professionals. If you work with one of these niches, I’m not knocking you! There are plenty of people out there who fall into these career categories who desperately need the help of a financial advisor, and there are plenty of financial advisors out there who are passionate about serving those unique niches. However, sometimes we’re drawn to a niche because we think we can solve their problems and they’re profitable. I warn you against this: don’t only select a niche because you’re worried about finances, and you think a specific niche is the solution to that worry!
Working with a “profitable” niche for the sole reason that they’re profitable is a fast track to unfulfilling work. I say this not only to advisors who have already fallen into this trap, but also to advisors who are considering switching from a less-than-profitable niche to a profitable niche only to solve their financial frustrations.
While we all have to be realistic when it comes to how we’re going to make ends meet, it’s also important to build your business around a strong value set and a clearly defined “why.” Finances are always going to be a factor, but allowing them to be the only factor could potentially harm your financial planning practice in the long run.
How to Find a Niche That Works For You
Once you’ve determined that your current niche isn’t a fantastic fit, it’s time to decide what to do about it. I love to walk my clients through a few different exercises to help them uncover what niche is the best fit for them in the long run.
Creating a Scatter Plot
Take a hard look at your current client list. If you have clients you’re still in love with, list what aspects of their personality you enjoy. What about working with them specifically fills your cup? It might be that you enjoy their positive, can-do attitude, or it might be that you’re drawn to the problems you’re solving. If you have a handful of clients you enjoy, and you find a consistent list of personality traits they share, write them down in a list. Now, what aspects of your current niche do you not enjoy? List these too so that you know what to avoid in the future.
Look at Your Natural Environment
Sometimes your niche is hiding in plain site. Are you friends with several people who work in the same field? Do you have first-hand experience with your spouse or partner’s financial woes that are specific to a niche? I’ve worked with several advisors whose spouses are teachers, in the military, or otherwise. Those advisors do a fantastic job of connecting with their clients on a deeper level, and they love working with people who they understand so completely. Your natural environment is often the best place to find the niche you were meant to work with.
List Your Hobbies and Values
My favorite advisor niche success story is a person I met who works exclusively with competitive fishers. Yes, their niche truly is that specific. And yes, this advisor loves his life and has consistent referrals rolling in. He only stumbled across this niche because competitive fishing was something he had a genuine interest in. He understood the ups and downs of a competitive fisher’s financial life and he wanted to combine his love for financial planning with his love for the profession. Is it quirky? Yes. Does it work for him? 100%.
Just as your niche may show up in the people you surround yourself with, you might find your niche by taking a closer look at how you fill your time. If you’re an avid bicyclist like myself, you might find that people who enjoy distance biking are your crew. If you love volunteering at the local animal shelter, you might be drawn to clients who are involved with animals in some way either as a career or through charitable work.
Beyond your hobbies and interests, you should also hunt for your new niche within your value set. Advisors who pursue Socially Responsible Investing, for example, often find clients who are naturally drawn to them because they share those same values and want a financial planner who can reflect that in their work. Bonding with clients over a mutual passion tends to create positive, lifelong relationships. It also makes marketing easier because you’re so excited to contribute to content, events, and other marketing initiatives.
What to Do With Your Current Clients
As far as your current clients go, you have two options:
- Stick with all of your current clients if you like them, but pivot your marketing strategy to focus on the new niche you want to pursue.
- Take this opportunity to explore your current client roster to weed out anyone who makes you miserable. This might be the best option if your current clients have personality traits that rub you the wrong way or that otherwise make you a less-than-perfect fit for them.
There’s a common misconception that when you change your niche, you have to abandon all of your current clients. That’s absolutely not the case. You can work with the people you still adore and not continue to take on additional clients who match that niche. In fact, I’d suggest going that route. The ultimate goal with a niche change is to find fulfillment. If you have clients who already leave you feeling fulfilled with your work, don’t ditch them.
However, if you’re feeling unfulfilled by your clients, now might be a good time to evaluate whether or not you’re still a good fit for them. When you work with people who you don’t feel fulfilled by, there’s likely another advisor out there who would love to work with them and be a much better fit for them. This is where building a network of referrals come into play.
Get to know other advisors, locally and virtually, who work outside of your niche. You can find them in Facebook groups, at conferences, or through social media. Ask them what type of ideal client you can start sending their way. As you build out your referral network, you’ll quickly realize you’re able to find your new ideal clients through other advisors too.
The Best Way to Rebrand
Rebranding is tricky business. Typically, I recommend starting with your website and internet presence. Gear your site’s copy to your new niche. You want prospective clients to feel like they’ve found a home as soon as they land on your page. Learn what problems your new niche faces and frame yourself as the solution to those problems. Pick imagery, fonts, and colors that all match that niche’s energy.
Sound confusing? Do some research! Find other advisors and service-based businesses that serve your niche. What does their branding look like? How can you offer a fresh take that’s true to you while still addressing those same key characteristics?
Your next step will be to tackle your content and broader internet presence. Updating social media profiles to indicate what niche you work with, or what specific financial planning problems you solve (e.g. student loan debt or retirement planning) never hurts. As you start creating content that addresses your new niche, make sure you’re answering questions and addressing pain points.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to rebranding during a niche change is to learn. Read as much as you can from content creators within your new niche, even if they’re not in the financial services industry. Listen to podcasts, subscribe to different YouTube channels, and join communities whose members fall into your new niche.
Surround yourself with these people. Not only will this help you to learn more about the people you’re marketing to and connecting with, it will also help you feel less frustrated with your current niche.
You Aren’t Alone
Going through a niche change can be incredibly stressful. The good news is, you’re not the first person to do this, and you won’t be the last. Now is a fantastic time to tap into your XY Planning Network community. Don’t be afraid to post a question or search our VIP Facebook Group to see how other advisors have navigated a niche change.
Nobody wants to go through such a huge business shift by themselves, and people who have been through it know that better than anybody. They also know how rewarding a niche change can be if you stick with it. Soak up and learn from all the encouraging stories you can as you go through this process. There will be moments where changing your business model so drastically can be frustrating—knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel can help you continue to move toward your new goal.
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.