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Specialize—And Succeed!

If you want to double or triple your production, it’s time to narrow your focus.

By Peter Montoya

Here are two all-important questions that will help you move your practice forward:

No. 1: Who are most people interested in hiring to solve any given problem: a generalist or a specialist? If you chose a specialist, you’re right.

No. 2: Why are so many advisors promoting themselves as generalists—trying to be all things to all people?

To succeed in this business, you must specialize. Specialization builds perceived value. When you specialize, you are promoting the thing you do best—and hopefully promoting it to the most receptive audience. That ideal, receptive audience is called a target market.

Choosing your market
One way of targeting a market is to choose specific kinds of businesses with defined parameters. You can target businesses by industry, revenue, number of employees, ownership type or company event. So you can say, “I specialize in manufacturing companies that have less than $10 million in revenue, fewer than 100 employees, and are independently owned and currently downsizing.”

The second way to target a market is by consumer. That market can be subdivided into any number of characteristics. You can look at lifestyle—golfers, skiers, auto enthusiasts. You can also appeal to an interest group defined by such parameters as political affiliation, age, gender or occupation (firefighters, attorneys, engineers).

Meet their needs
After choosing your target market, the next step is to design your products and services for it. Remember, the fundamental function of marketing is to find an unmet need and fill it. In contrast, most financial professionals operate from a sales paradigm. A sales paradigm is not about filling the need of the marketplace, but filling the need of the salesperson. The mentality is this: I need to eat this month; therefore, you need to buy my product.

That mentality will get you only so far. It will get you to about $150,000 a year in financial-services terms. But if you are really serious about $200,000, $300,000, a half-million or a million-dollar business, I suggest you start focusing on the need of the marketplace.

Some of the most successful corporations anticipated a need and met it better than anyone else: Domino’s began the first home-delivered pizza; Williams-Sonoma, the first high-end kitchen tools’ store; and Charles Schwab became the first discount broker. What do you do better than any of your competitors?

Most likely, your uniqueness is a matter of packaging or how you integrate your services.

The truth is that the financial services business is very mature and very saturated, so it’s unlikely that you are going to offer a product or service that is unique in the marketplace. Most likely, your uniqueness is a matter of packaging—the consumer perception of how you’re different—or how you integrate your services. It’s the way you deliver a product or service that makes you unique.

To identify how you can do this, I suggest you talk to your clients, prospects and professional referrals. In doing so, you find out what their unmet needs are, and you can start to develop your products and services to meet those needs.

The bottom line: You must craft your marketing, specialization and services carefully to appeal to the right market—not everybody, but your desired clients. Doing so will have a powerful, career-changing effect: You will do away with the time-wasting, soul-draining clients and pick up those you truly want. Your life and business will be better for it.

This is an excerpt from a speech given at the 2005 MDRT annual meeting. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Peter Montoya is president of Peter Montoya Inc., author of The Personal Branding Phenomenon and The Brand Called You, and publisher of Personal Branding magazine. To subscribe to his free e-newsletter, go to, send an email to or call 888-730-5300.


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