Marketing financial planning services to women as though they are a niche market is a strategy that advisors should reconsider. The hype over this "niche" centers around statistics such as “females have over 50 percent of the market share” and “women are less confident when it comes to money than men.” These facts have been proven, but by narrowing market share solely based on gender, advisors may be chasing their tails until they come to the thoughtful conclusion that what they really need to do is modify the way they conduct business.  

A more relevant fact that will help grow your practice successfully is that women experience more life events that trigger a need for planning compared with men. Some prime examples of situations more women than men might face are: becoming suddenly single with a marginal career track record, not quickly remarrying after divorce or widowhood, returning to school later in life for advanced education, and being caretakers for parents while supporting adult children. Many women may lack confidence in their ability to make sound financial decisions because they lack the time and resources to analyze, understand and implement sound advice.

The focus, therefore, should be less about marketing to females and more about seizing practice opportunities. Simply put, consider the subject matter of the financial planning to be the niche and the women to be the nuance of your planning practice.  

Moreover, an assumption is often made that all females gravitate to the same type of service. Not true!

Merriam-Webster’s definition for niche is "a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted (finally found her niche)." An advisor should pick a niche that can bring attention to him/herself and then develop a personal public relations effort around that. Unless you are one of the lucky and successful advisors who rely on knowing a bunch of “like-kind” people who all have similar needs, you must develop your own personal brand. Instead of marketing to a specific demographic, advisors are more likely to be successful bringing the business to them if they focus on themselves first, population second. When people think of you, specific images and characteristics should come to mind that then predisposes those individuals to want to do business with you.  

How Do You Build And Maintain A Strong Brand Presence?  
Develop a “look and feel.” Identify qualities that you would like to be remembered for and determine how you would like to be perceived relative to the competition. This may require dressing the part, modifying your office space and updating your Web site, among other things.

Focus on consistency in your messaging. Know your client! Brands looking to win engaged clients need to listen, understand and act. In other words, do what you say you are going to do. In nurturing a deep and personal relationship, advisors need to stay relevant in their client’s or prospective client’s lives. Make them feel special and act like you really mean it; be authentic. Don’t assume that if the client or prospect is not communicating with you that your assistance isn’t necessary. Most people simply “don’t know what they don’t know” until you engage in an open dialogue.

An advisor should search for keynote speaking opportunities, stay connected in local events and implement a sensible social media strategy. Messaging succinctly across all internal and external mediums promotes that image referred to earlier.

Advance your core competencies. Now here comes the obvious: Do your homework.  Stay on top of client and potential client priorities and needs, and further your education in those areas. Marketing “advisory services” to the general population and performing a needs analysis only to find out that the prospects’ needs do not correspond with your level of expertise is a waste of everyone’s time. Align yourself with targeted centers of influence with a specific subject-matter expertise. Narrowing your field of expertise will attract a niche. Consider writing an article or authoring a book about things that resonate with your target market’s everyday living.

Today's clients aren't looking for average -- they can get that anywhere. Prospects and clients want to know they are dealing with an advisor they can trust who is better than average. By establishing a consistent brand, you become someone who can provide unique and relevant knowledge specific to certain situations.

Attract Through Life Transition Stories
Whenever possible, showcase your success in transition planning by telling stories. These stories will help reassure and provide comfort that current and potential clients should expect to have a similarly positive experience. This helps build trust in your capabilities and shows commitment.  

A client of mine lost her husband in a tragic boating accident right as they were embarking on retirement. She was angry, confused and untrusting. We worked through those emotions during the estate settlement process, even though in many instances she wanted to avoid rational decision-making. Today, the client and extended family members are grateful for the trust and guidance that has grown over the course of our relationship. She has developed a new confidence by transitioning to a new lifestyle and reinventing herself—she began painting and showcasing her artwork.  

Here are a few of many planning opportunities in life-transition planning:

• Divorce. Learn the nuances of financial settlements and present the alternatives to the client in an easy-to-understand way.

• Retirement. Understand the complexities and opportunities regarding Social Security and medical benefits.

• End-of-life planning. A couple may approach you because they want to know that one (usually the wife) will be in good hands when the other dies. Listen to their wishes and help frame a drafting memorandum that they can present to their estate attorney.

• Health-care options and education planning. Generation planning is key. Help your clients by helping them help their family members. Learn the tax rules for health care, explore local community facilities for long-term care options, and provide guidance on opportunities for funding education.  

Develop Successful Tools
Somewhere in those quests for building a client base, the entire purpose behind how one provides a service gets overlooked. Software integration and cloud-based capabilities are essential in the midst of technology advancements, but the most successful tool can be as simple as modifying the way in which you communicate.  

Learn how to better educate and consider rethinking how you present recommendations. Try sketching your ideas. Take a look at some common-sense solutions by Carl Richards at  Particularly, during a major life transition, it can be difficult for anyone to determine what they control and what they can’t.  Carl explains it best with illustrations.  This may help both you—the advisor—and the client focus on what’s important.

Strike a balance between educating and directing. The most successfully implemented approach is accomplished by empowering your clients to make their own educated decisions.

Creating A Strictly Female Niche: Asset Or Detractor?
There are many advantages to working with female clients to grow your practice. Savvy women practically demand that their advisors engage with them in a deep and meaningful way. In doing so successfully, you are able to gain trust and secure a lifelong relationship much faster than with a male client. For these and other reasons, female clients are said to refer twice as often.

Women want connections, so engage in those senses. You can capitalize on that need by organizing special events. Appeal to a woman’s social comfort level so she feels secure inviting a friend.  

The way you brand yourself is vital. Avoid promoting—it is condescending and demoralizes women, making them feel weak or uneducated. Instead, create a message of camaraderie, strength and empowerment.

Marketing And Branding Are Interrelated
Your brand is what you should be marketing and you must market yourself for success. Some clients look for someone who delivers services in a certain way (i.e. educator, communicative, empathetic) with knowledge about certain life events (i.e. divorce, death, elder care). It is incumbent upon you to turn your attention to those events that a client and/or prospect can relate to and then will be able to identify you as the one who can help solve the problem and/or help them through the pain and confusion, whether they are male or female.  

By focusing on your brand instead of a niche, you avoid projecting that your target market has certain characteristics, and you avoid the possibility of insulting them.  Rather, put the responsibility on you, the advisor, for what exactly your value-add consists of. It’s not a niche, but rather, a life event!

Catherine Seeber is a principal and senior financial advisor with Wescott Financial, based in Philadelphia. She is responsible for assessing the needs of all new prospective clients as well as coordinating their financial objectives for further review and analysis. She has a special concentration in issues concerning women in transition as a result of divorce, widowhood or a large cash settlement.