Creating Client Personas for Financial Advisors

What are Client Personas?

A client persona (also called a customer persona, buyer persona, or marketing persona) is a profile of an ideal customer of a key segment of your audience, based on information from a range of sources.

Why Client Personas are Critical for Financial Advisors

Some time ago, I met with a financial advisor who asked me if it would be better to hold a seminar to attract new clients at lunchtime or in the evening. Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

Me: Who’s your ideal customer?

Financial advisor: Women over 50

Me: Are they working or already retired?

Financial advisor: Still working but planning for retirement

Me: If they’re working, it could be difficult for them to make a lunchtime seminar. I recommend you hold it in the evening.

Financial advisor: Good point!

It’s simple to see how a basic understanding of your ideal customers makes it easy to make small decisions that lead to business success.

The more you know about your clients, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions across critical business fronts, including lead generation, customer appreciation activities, advertising, and more.

The client persona is an idea that gets your entire team on the same page and helps your marketing programs stay on track.

Further, as you expand your business, your client personas will serve as valuable learning material for new hires to ensure they fully understand your client’s goals and motivations.

It’s important to note that an ideal client in this sense means a fictional person with an ideal set of characteristics. You should avoid basing your client personas on specific individuals as it can lead to poorly drawn profiles.

The development process involves analyzing hard customer data and making educated guesses when data is unavailable.

If you already have a substantial number of clients, you can collect data from one-on-one meetings with them.

And be sure to interview people who weren’t so happy with your service to get a complete perspective.

7 Steps to Help Financial Advisors Create Client Personas

Let’s assume your financial advisor practice has 3 core personas: executives planning for retirement, retirees already drawing from investments, and Centres of Influence who refer new clients to you.

The following seven steps detail the key things you need to create a buyer persona for the first persona, executives planning for retirement.

1. Give Your Buyer Personas a Name and a Headshot

Client Persona for Financial Advisors
Executive Eleanor

As your personas take shape, give them a name and a headshot. You might think it’s corny, but the name and picture bring the persona to life, especially for others on your team not involved in the development process. Use alliteration when naming your personas . . . it makes them more memorable.

Example: Executive Eleanor

2. The Bare Essentials

Begin by establishing a broad-brushed picture of your customers. Are they male or female? Married or single? Young or old? High net worth or middle class? Urban, suburban or rural? University or high school graduates?

Here are the bare essentials for our example, Executive Eleanor:

  • Saving for retirement, and kids’ education
  • Senior executive (or on the fast track)
  • Busy with career and family activities
  • Mostly female; 95% are married
    Children aged 5 and up
  • Household income between $125k and $250k
  • Lives in an urban center

What are Eleanor’s goals when shopping for a financial advisor? Is she most interested in working with someone who can handle all aspects of her finances? Or does she want a specialist to focus only on retirement planning and investing?

Since she’s a busy executive, Eleanor is looking for advice on all aspects of her finances, including life insurance, wills and powers of attorney, education savings plans, and estate planning.

She also needs a realistic plan so she stops worrying about money, including a professional who will adapt her financial plans as her children get older and she and her partner approach retirement.

4. Common Objections

What are the most common objections your personas might make about your service?

Executive Eleanor:

  • I’m looking for a financial planner who can provide me with a variety of investment vehicles—not just mutual funds
  • My assets aren’t large enough for an experienced advisor
  • I’ve resisted meeting with a financial planner since they’re known for being pushy
  • A commission payment structure is a conflict of interest—I prefer fee-based

5. Information Sources

It’s helpful to understand where your personas obtain information about personal finances. You may want to incorporate these sources into a paid media plan or simply use the information as a way to gauge your client’s level of sophistication when it comes to investing.

Example: Eleanor regularly reads the Wall Street Journal, watches CNN and listens to her local radio news station on her daily commute.

6. Social Media Hang Outs

Where do your personas hang out on social media? Are they using Facebook, LinkedIn, or some other platform?

In the 30-60+ age demographic, Facebook is by far the most popular social network according to research conducted by Cowen and Company:

Example: Eleanor uses LinkedIn for business and Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family.

7. Real Quotes

Include a few quotes from actual clients to help ensure your buyer personas reflect real life. The quotes should feel natural coming from your personas. Get the quotes during interviews conducted either with real customers or people who represent your target market.

Example: “If the markets are down, they’ll come back. These things have a way of sorting themselves out.”

Client Personas Combine Both Science and Art

Creating client personas combines both art and science; it definitely takes practice to master this aspect of the marketing mix.

Despite being fictitious, buyer personas are useful tools that help financial advisors be more specific, targeted, and concrete in their messaging. Marketing strategies and tactics developed without the benefit of buyer personas are likely to be generic.

And a lot less likely to encourage purchase.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Shelley Pringle in July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. The most recent update was 6/14/21.

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