It goes without saying … but women don’t all think alike. Which makes life interesting when pursuing a women’s niche in your advisory business. Some women are pragmatic, some are idealistic. Some are emotional. Some aren’t. Some own their own businesses. Some are homemakers. A one-size-fits all approach won’t work. Just as it won’t with men!
By taking time to get to know your women clients, you can be the sympathetic, client-centered advisor they need for their unique situation.
- Consider the needs of women business owners.
- Host a women’s forum and luncheon.
- Connect personally.
- Let them be themselves.
In 2006, Laura Biswas left a high-powered job as an executive for a Fortune 500 company to start her own consulting business. Like many mid-career moms, she wanted the freedom and flexibility to spend more time with her husband and three young daughters. She now helps other women making the same journey to entrepreneurship – whether forced by a layoff, or inspired by a personal decision.
”There certainly are women like me who have decided the corporate path is not for them anymore and have voluntarily left,” says Biswas, founder of [[www.embracingyourfinancialpath.com Embracing Your Path]] in Ventura, Calif. “But there seems to be a much larger exodus of people that are coming out of corporate America now because of closure or downsizing.”
Indeed, the economic downturn of the last year means many refugees from struggling companies are looking to start or buy a business out of necessity. And that presents a niche opportunity for advisors – especially for targeting newly-minted women business owners. Entrepreneurship among women is growing at an especially [[http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/james-rickman/women-ultimate-entrepreneurs fast rate]], by some accounts, twice the rate of men.
What do budding women entrepreneurs need?
Here are some key needs of women business owners in transition:
- Financial coaching. Many new business owners, including many women, don’t have the background in finance to make the most of their new endeavors. For example, one husband-wife team quickly created an incredibly successful internet marketing company, bringing in a million dollars in revenue. But they failed to analyze the relative profitability of their various business segments: out of their four programs, one was a huge money loser. “I helped them see they were dumping profits into a program that wasn’t making any money and they had been wasting money for three years,” Biswas says. Helping entrepreneurs catch such problems early on, and teaching them how to create a standard [[83163 process]] through the year to track the profitability of the different pieces of their company, can lead to greater success. Using your own experience with business budgets, and cost analysis, you can help them become more profitable. “Business owners are smart. They’re capable. But sometimes they just need a little education,” Biswas says. “This is an area where financial advisors can play a big role.”
- Transition plan. For those making the journey from a steady paycheck to the risk of their own enterprise, they will need help knowing how much money they are going to need to launch their business. They will need to decide how to finance their new endeavor, what type of corporate structure to establish, how to manage their [[78443 cash flow]] effectively – as well as frank discussions about their new job demands. “When you have a corporate job, you have a role, you have a list of responsibilities to fulfill,” Biswas says. “But when you have your company, not only do you have all those roles, but you’re the one on the face of everything and so it’s a very personal endeavor. You’re really putting yourself out there. For a lot of women, they don’t realize until they step into it, how much fear of the unknown can creep in.”
- Entrepreneurial mindset. A new venture entails risk. Entrepreneurs must be willing to learn from failures and follow their own your path to success trusting that there’s always an open door somewhere. You can help them nurture that faith in themselves and confidence. “The [[79870 entrepreneurial mindset]] makes the biggest difference,” Biswas says. “If you step into a new venture from a fearful place and doubt whether you can be successful, you just cannot give your best to your clients. People can just feel the place you’re coming from. It’s like when you meet somebody and their stressed, even if they don’t say it, you know it, right? Alternatively, if we work on staying in a positive place, then everything that’s created has so much more power and impact.”
Catering to successful women in transition
For financial advisors looking to target women entrepreneurs, starting a new niche can be equally daunting. You may not know many members of your new niche. You may worry that focusing your efforts will foreclose opportunities among other groups of people. But rest assured, by focusing your marketing efforts, you’re increasing opportunities, not decreasing them. “You don’t have to focus your entire business around your chosen niche,” says Wendi Webb, director of Niche Programs for Horsesmouth. “You can still take on business from other folks outside of your niche but they will come because they will hear about you through your niche. They will be referred to you.”
Remember the golden rule of niches: the more you learn about your potential new clients and their needs, the more ready you are to serve them. In choosing to work with a women entrepreneur niche, you will have a much more specific, targeted marketing message. “You can spend your time working within that niche and really getting to know the folks and vice versa, and they’re getting to know you,” Webb says.
So where do you find women entrepreneurs? Largely, in the same places they’re looking for clients: through [[83158 networking]]. “I can’t think of an industry or kind of a market where networking isn’t valuable,” Biswas says.
Here are four ways to network with and market to women entrepreneurs:
- Business and community groups. Look for groups in your community that attract women business owners. It might be the [[http://www.soroptimist.org/index.html Soroptimist]], [[http://www.womenbizowners.org/edu2/ Women Business Owners]], [[http://www.nawbo.org/ National Association of Women Business Owners]]. Identify where your ideal clients spend their time. In the Los Angeles area, for instance, Biswas found many women entrepreneur groups, including [[http://network.ladieswholaunch.com/ Ladies Who Launch]], and [[http://smartypeople.com/ Smarty LA]]. “There are all kinds of different groups for women to connect,” she says. “And I think there is a real camaraderie when you’re in a group that caters to women. Not to say you couldn’t join the Chamber of Commerce or other network groups that are mixed, but I have found women’s groups to be very supportive and women do a great job helping each other.” Commit to attending regular meetings, and see Networking Tips below.
- Strategic partners and alliances. Women business owners rely on the services of other professionals with whom you can build a profitable alliance. Look for CPAs, property and casualty agents, commercial real estate brokers, and business attorneys to discuss how you might help their women clients. Ask your women business owner clients for a list of some of the professionals with whom they work. An [[80056 advisor in Minneapolis]] worked through divorce attorneys to locate women with complicated stock options who were going through a divorce. “People really create a lot more growth in their businesses through partnerships and alliances with other people than they would on their own,” Biswas says. “And women have the tendency to do this very naturally. It can be really profitable for them to spend time looking for partners and for those natural synergies.”
- Custom events. Many advisors are having success with smaller, customized workshops and events designed for women. Create your own Good New Girls Club. Veteran advisor Cella Quinn in Omaha started a [[77730 dinner club,]] inviting 32 high-profile women in her community to dinner and friendship. Judith Cane, a seven-year veteran with Antara Financial in Ottawa, Canada, specializes in working with [[75537 women clients]]. After attending community groups, she invites women into her board room monthly over coffee and snacks to talk about finances. She asks them to bring a donation to a local charity, as an entry fee. “I started talking about financial information, what they knew, what they didn’t,” Cane says. “I would teach them to read the stock pages in the local paper. Often they had no idea how to read the information they were getting from their financial advisors.” She advertised the meetings in the newspaper, and specifically limited attendance to eight individuals. “Exclusivity is important,” Cane says. “It conveys a sense that you are about the personal touch.” She also created a custom e-newsletter appealing to women. You might even consider having one of your women business owner clients write a regular blog for your newsletter talking about the challenges and successes of running a business.
- Referrals. Studies show women take longer to build a trusting relationship with an advisor, but that once they commit they’re five times as likely to refer their friends and family member. In building a relationship with women entrepreneurs, bear in mind that you will have to log the hours upfront to win trust, but the benefits will come later. Cane says she prides herself in taking time to go the extra mile for her women clients, which she can do because she charges planning and consulting fees. “I had a client once call me, she had decided to sell the [[73877family home]] and she was packing and she phoned me and said, “I can’t pack anything. I don’t know what to pack. I don’t know what to give away. And I said, “Say, I’m five minutes away from you. I have a clear calendar for the next hour, why don’t I come over and I’ll help? And we went through her closet and we cleaned it all out and packed it up. And that’s just what she needed. And it had nothing to do with financial advising. And I didn’t charge her for that.”
Cane believes that excellent service does lead to referrals – but she doesn’t leave the introductions to chance. She consistently asks for them: “You have to ask your really good clients for whom you’ve done a great job for referrals. Here’s my two-fold approach: First, I ask these happy clients if they have anyone in their life (through hobbies, work, neighborhood groups) that they associate with, and do they ever talk to these people about finances? Does that discussion ever come up?
”And if they say, ‘No, I never talk to anybody else about finances,’ then I don’t push them for an introduction. But if they said, ‘Oh yeah, we sat around having a cocktail out by the pool or whatever.’ Then I’ll say, “Could you pass my name on if they’re interested?’ And that’s how I’m getting referrals to women in my niche.”
Cane says if someone tells her that they belong to a group of women, whether they quilt together or play bridge and they don’t talk about their finances, she says: “I’m having an evening of wine and cheese. “Would you like to bring them to this evening and I’m just going to talk about the different options for investing? In some cases we’re going to talk about the importance of insurance. I tell them There’s no pressure to buy anything. There’s no pressure to join anything. Just come and have some wine and cheese and I’m going to give them some information. And they don’t have to reveal anything. And that’s been quite successful.”
Like investing itself, however, Cane says consistency is important. It takes years doing the same thing and constantly improving your approach to build your niche.
Biswas recommends the following when [[79090 networking]] with women’s groups and strategic allies:
1. Project confidence. When you walk into a room to network, think of what you bring to the table: your knowledge, your expertise, and your willingness to help others. Build up your confidence by thinking of how you’ve helped others in the past.
2. Forget yourself. One of the surefire ways to [[81755 at networking]], is to think solely about building your business. Instead, find ways to help others achieve their goals, even if it’s not something related to your business. Think: Can I assist them? Can I be a contributor in this group? .
- Differentiate yourself. Find ways to stand out by volunteering to be a speaker or valuable contributor. “When you contribute to the group, you are giving away information,” Biswas says. “People begin to know who you are and what you can provide and that puts you in sort of different position.”
- Become a mentor. People who share generally become more successful. Offering to help other women succeed in their business will help you build your reputation in your niche – and you might just be on the positive end of a karmic transaction. “I’m seeing certain women really emerging as leaders in the women entrepreneurial community who are showing others how to do it – how to find success on their own terms.”