Segmenting clients and prospects can be a useful tool to help you effectively communicate with the various groups you want to reach. Tailoring messages and communications channels to each segment is smart and strategic.

That said, it’s important to proceed carefully with segmenting. Without the proper calibration, you run the risk of over-segmenting your book of business and prospect list and falling prey to faulty assumptions about what each segment wants.

Consider digital adoption. It seems like a fairly straightforward assumption that younger generations, and Millennials in particular, are more tech savvy. Working with that idea, you might build a digital tool with words and images that target only younger generations, unwittingly turning off any Baby Boomers who might use it because they’d conclude, “This was not built for me.” You might also follow the conventional wisdom that women prefer high-touch interactions and are less likely to use a do-it-yourself, online tool.

The evidence doesn’t bear these assumptions out, however. In fact, Merrill Lynch discovered its customer engagement with digital tools was more closely correlated to wealth levels, not age or gender. The firm found that high-net-worth investors were avid users of technology, and 85 percent of their customers with more than $10 million in assets were the first and quickest adopters of new digital offerings.

Every year, the Capgemini World Wealth Report produces statistics that demonstrate a similar point. The greatest adoption of digital tools — like roboadvisory services, online trading and digital products and services – has been among ultra-high-net-worth Baby Boomers.

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The pandemic has also changed things for everyone, and it has probably done so permanently. With lockdowns and social distancing, more clients across all ages and demographic groups want access to their accounts and statements online. Advisors who haven’t always embraced technology as quickly as their clients want them to, now need to offer more digital tools. Clients’ appetite for the speed and convenience that technology offers isn’t likely to go away when we can safely have in-person interactions again.

The benefit for advisors is that digital tools free them up from the routine account-servicing tasks they did in the past. When clients can get more basic information on their own, advisors can spend more time on other more rewarding activities, like prospecting for new clients, that create more value for their business.

Avoid gender biases

“Women & investing” has become a staple presentation offered by many asset managers and financial advisors. But it is a huge mistake to think women investors are a homogenous group that all want the same thing. Their needs are as varied and unique as the members of any other group. Women comprise more than half of the investor population. They are not a niche!

To avoid falling into this trap, set aside that gender-oriented PowerPoint and be sure to avoid splashing pink across materials and content you have targeting women.

Focus on behavior and life-stage events

It always helps to track how your clients prefer to engage with you. You may find some Millennials don’t want to rely on tech when getting updates on their investments and instead prefer to hear directly from you. Similarly, you may have Baby Boomer clients who don’t want a call or an e-mail unless it’s an urgent situation and prefer to access a Website or an app for routine news and account updates.

Milestone events in people’s lives also increase their need for financial advice. You have to be thoroughly prepared to help people manage through transitions like the death of spouse, but that work can’t begin when the event happens.

The fact that advisors too often make the mistake of building a relationship only with the spouse who seems to make the money decisions explains why 75 percent of widows find a new advisor. It’s critically important to build relationships with every member of the family, including the next generation.

Given that women typically live longer than men, more often than not it is the woman who is the surviving spouse. Among the Silent Generation who parented the Baby Boomers it was common for the man to be the one who controlled the finances.

Advisors shouldn’t assume that holds true for younger generations. In fact, many Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial women are not only financially savvy, but they are also entrepreneurs or own their own businesses. Many of them are the primary or sole breadwinners for their families. It’s important to remember that all your marketing efforts that promote the services you offer to business owners should be extended to the women in your book and the prospects in your community who have their own businesses.

Address pain points

When marketing your services, whether it’s to large groups or small, it’s best to resist the urge to talk mostly about yourself and the services your business offers. If you’ve recently rolled out a new technology, it can be especially difficult to avoid explaining to clients and prospects all the amazing features it has.

People may like you and even care about you if you’ve met them through a personal relationship. But they don’t want to hear only about you. First and foremost, if they’re turning to you for advice, they want to learn how you’re going to solve their problems. Make sure, with all your client marketing and communications, that you address people’s pain points and do so in plain, simple language they can quickly and easily grasp.

Sharpen those storytelling skills

Stories always resonate with people and stick in their memories, so use anecdotes and case studies whenever you can. You may have helped a client who lost a job in their late fifties, had trouble finding a new one, and didn’t feel their nest egg was big enough yet for them to live on. Describing how you helped a client – even if you have to generalize the details to protect someone’s privacy – will stand out to clients who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Remember the value of one-to-one marketing

While segmenting can help you develop the broad messaging you will need to promote how you can support people through various life events, it’s still important to personalize your communications to individual clients.

Digital engagements offer so much data we can track. We can easily get excited by the number of people who sign up for a webinar or the volume of likes or replies a social media post generates. While those numbers look great on a report, how often do they lead to new or additional business?

You should spend as much time considering how your broad messaging will shift to targeted and personalized communications. With any message you’ve developed to promote the services you offer families going through transitions, for example, you’ll want to plan what you’ll say to each family member, given that what you say to spouses may be quite different from what you communicate to adult children who are inheritors.

Before scheduling a meeting with each member of the family, you’ll want to do your research and make sure you fully understand what their specific needs and preferences are and how comfortable or savvy they are with money management issues.

Think big and small

In essence, segmenting works best when you cover all of your bases. Start with an understanding of the needs of groups that exhibit certain behaviors or are experiencing particular major life events, so that any broad-based communications or marketing to that group resonates. Then maximize the opportunities to reach out to them individually, either in-person or by phone, and prepare yourselves thoroughly before that meeting. That way, all your marketing efforts can lead to powerful communications with individuals as you demonstrate you understand what they need from, and how they want to engage with, a financial advisor.