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Reconsider Your Picture of a “Typical” Client

February 10, 2017

This time we hear from Katharine Perry, associate financial consultant at Pittsburgh-based Fort Pitt Capital Group. She describes waking to the realization that her firm could benefit from directly marketing to professional women.

I had just started a new job when I found myself sitting in on a meeting with a senior member of the firm. As my boss and one of the two clients -- the husband -- excitedly talked about the fly-fishing outings our firm hosted as an appreciation for our clients, I noticed the wife looking to the ceiling, utterly bored. At that moment I knew our firm had a problem. Since then, my efforts to rebrand our firm’s existing and new-client marketing have changed the way we do business.

As a young female financial planner I was immediately aware of the tendency to focus on a relatively older and often male clientele. It wasn’t that the firm wasn’t aware of potential women clients, but there was a tendency to presume that — at least with more traditional couples — the husband controls the money and the wife has little input. This meant that marketing efforts, including client appreciation events, were often focused around topics or events that traditionally appealed to a male audience, such as fly-fishing and clay bird shooting. It’s not that some women didn’t enjoy those events; it’s just that no effort was made to find out.

I began my career at a large firm, which wasn’t a good fit for someone who had a lot of ideas and would rather push boundaries than just fit in. When I moved to my current position in a smaller firm I was eager to make my mark — and thrilled to find myself in a corporate culture that supported my efforts.

I decided I would focus on expanding the company’s marketing efforts to women, especially young professional women. As a professional woman myself, I understood that some firms’ efforts to “make financial planning fun” often read as condescending; the women I hoped to target were already interested in their finances. It was more a matter of broadening the firm’s willingness to explore this market, and do so in a more conscious way.

After that meeting with the husband and wife I approached my firm’s leadership team and described what I saw. My firm was supportive of my plan to reach out to women more directly — both our existing female clients as well as professional women who made good prospects. This was a shift in emphasis for our small firm — I was the first female financial planner in the firm’s 22 years of business — so I knew I would have to go a little slow.

Katharine Perry

I decided to plan a wine-tasting event, asking clients to sign up in advance. The event was fully booked within 24 hours with a waiting list of 30. I quickly planned a second event to accommodate everyone. I made sure to keep pitching, selling and other business topics off the schedule for that night; it was just an excuse to enjoy good wine and good conversation.

The event was a big hit with women and men, and many attendees personally thanked me for planning it. Afterward, I was surprised (and gratified) when several of the women in attendance approached me and asked for women-only events. That’s when I knew we were on to something.

Since that evening the firm has begun planning events that cater to women and their particular financial needs. These will be part social and part business, with speakers focused on issues pertinent to women. However, they won’t exclude male attendance; we have no desire to exclude anyone.

These efforts are still relatively new for our firm. Even so, I have already had success with small events where I invite female clients who are asked to bring a friend. These events have included a wine and painting party, a nice lunch, or cocktails at a fun new bar. Frequently this results in new business for the firm. Furthermore, I am a dedicated networker and will attend most any breakfast, lunch or evening event where I can connect with potential clients, especially young professional women.

These young professionals are so amazing and they make such great clients for me and for the firm, too. It’s been remarkable to see how simply shifting our firm’s concept of what a “typical” client looks like has already reaped rewards.