How Building Personas Helps You Help Your Clients (And Get More of Them)

Mar 26, 2015

If you build your personas well, you can literally bring your ideal clients to life (well, almost). 


It is no secret if you read this blog that on top of sharing best practices of advisors, I love looking at surveys, articles, and research reports searching for trends and ideas to help advisors grow their businesses. Typically, there’s one statistic, chart or factoid that sticks with me for a few months until it becomes part of my almost daily conversations with advisors. I usually end up talking, ad nauseam, about an idea that just makes so much sense to me that I have to passionately share it with everyone that I know and meet. (Sounds like I would be a lot of fun at a dinner party, right?)

My current obsession: according to FA Insight’s 2014 Survey of Advisors: Growth by Design, standout firms (top 25% in the survey) allocate less to marketing relative to peers. Let me say that again, the firms that grew the most in the survey actually spent less on their growth than the firms that didn’t grow as well.

Who knows the client better?
If you dig down deeper in the survey, you will see that the standout firms had a lot of things in common:
• They knew exactly who their clients were and the obstacles they faced
• They developed a value proposition that resonated with their clients
• They executed against their value proposition consistently

It would seem that the standout firms focus on their clients. Clearly, they segmented their book by what is important to the client and not what is important to the firm. But what about the advisor who doesn’t have a book of business that’s easy to segment? What about the firm that is just getting started? If all the publications say “Focus!” and your book does not comply, what do you do?

Build your persona
Assuming you have gone through your book every which way and can’t find any similarities, commonalities or segments, advisors should think about creating a persona profile. Simply put, a client persona is a fictional, generalized representation of an ideal customer or customers. The profile will assist in understanding your prospective clients better and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups or segments.

The strongest client personas are built with a typical client (or clients) in mind. To start, you could do some research with current clients or prospects that fit that mold, asking them about their needs, interests, etc. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest you would create more than two or three personas, but as you get started, you could do a few more to find out what works for you.

Say my name…
Start by naming your persona and filling in basic demographics. Let’s call him Gary. (Why Gary? Because that name is going to become extinct if no one does anything about it.) Think about education, where Gary works, how often he wants to meet with you, and how you would communicate with him. By starting here, you are building the basics of your service model and communication methods. You are also starting to think about what is important to Gary.

Once you have Gary’s demographics down, think about what he is going through in life. What stage of life is he in right now? Is Gary long-term oriented (planning) or mired in the noise of the markets? Is he a delegator or a do-it-yourselfer? How is his investment knowledge and general demeanor with regard to advice? Is he hands on, a delegator, or a validator?

Lastly, focus on Gary’s challenges. What are the obstacles that he faces with regard to financial matters? What education does he need/require to successfully navigate those challenges? What value proposition would resonate with our friend Gary?

Now what? Use it!
The persona is your benchmark, your template for every marketing and client service-related activity going forward. Use the persona as your guide to think about if Gary would be interested or motivated by the activities you are considering. Ask yourself:
• What types of materials or websites would Gary be reading?
• What social activities or events would he be attending?
• What would worry Gary (what keeps him up at night)?

What you are trying to get at is “If I held an event, would Gary attend?” More importantly, “Does my value proposition and services resonate with a person like Gary?” If the answer is no, then you should either change your target client or change your marketing and services.

Standout firms execute based on the knowledge of their clients’ needs. If you are still building that book, start by creating a persona or two so you can really tailor your services and marketing around the type of book you want, not the one that you have. If you want a sample persona to get you started, email me at


Upcoming SEI Webinar featuring Brad Bueermann of FP Transitions 
Don’t miss “Growing an Enduring Business: Finding Your Ideal Path” coming up on Monday, March 30th at 4:00 pm. Let us help you put the right tools in place. The webinar will walk you through how to:
-Forecast the future value of your business

-Identify the strengths and challenges of the enterprise you’ve built, and

-Implement a timetable for building your ideal succession plan while accelerating your business’s growth. 

You won’t want to miss it!

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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