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Know Your Market

By Jennifer L. Alford

Are you getting referrals to the businesses you want to work with? If your answer is no, the reason may be this: People want to help you, but aren’t clear about what your target market is. For example, an agent came by my office the other day and said his target market is small businesses. I took him around my office, and asked each person how many employees were in a small business. One said one to 25, another said one to 100 and a newer associate answered one to five. Do you get the point? All of us have a different idea of what small, medium or large businesses are.

Here’s how to narrow your focus so you can increase referrals: When you speak about your target market, include specifics such as the number of employees and locations for each business, the type of business and how long the business has been around. For my part, I work with a very specific market: women-owned businesses in northwestern Ohio that have one to 15 employees. Now, does that mean I don’t do business with anyone else? No way! It just means my target market is my cake and anything else is frosting!

One main reason I chose this market is because my referral partners have access to this market. In case you aren’t familiar with the term “referral partner,” here’s how I explain it: A referral partner must have the same target market as you. She must want to help you and have the resources to help you. You, in turn, must respond to your referral partner in kind or the relationship will end. It’s a two-way street, after all. Keep track of your progress. In my case, I meet with each of my referral partners every other week. We train each other on how to better help one another. For example, my referral partner must accurately explain what I do for prospects. And she must also be able to motivate people to want to work with me.

So remember, for your market to be terrific it must be specific!

Jennifer L. Alford, a founder of Creative Financial Partners in Perrysburg, Ohio, is treasurer of NAIFA-Toledo, and chair of that association’s Young Advisors Team.

For more sales ideas from this year’s other “Four Under Forty” honorees, visit


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