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5 Steps to Attracting Entrepreneur Clients

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If you want to join the ranks of elite advisors, you want to think about pursuing one group in particular: affluent business owners.

There are now about 28.2 million businesses in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau — the highest number ever recorded. What’s more, 49% of the top advisors that my firm, CEG Worldwide, has surveyed focus their businesses on serving successful entrepreneurs.


The reason advisors court business owners and entrepreneurs is simple: They represent a prosperous group.

Joint research by CEG Worldwide and Wealth Engines found that:

  • One-third of U.S. households with investable assets of $1 million to $5 million own businesses.
  • Three-quarters of households in the $5 million to $25 million range own businesses. 
  • Among those with $25 million or more, nine out of 10 are business owners. 

The business revenue behind this wealth creation ranges from a median of just over $750,000 for the business owners with $1 million to $5 million in investable assets, to a median of $371 million for owners with more than $25 million in investable assets.
Our economic system offers significant opportunities for entrepreneurs at every level and, therefore, for advisors who serve every level of business owner.

If you want to work with affluent entrepreneurs, you have to be clear on how you can be extremely successful. The affluent business owner is a complex type of client — so you have to deliver great value.

That means knowing how to become the go-to advisor with this niche. And it means knowing how to play nicely in the entrepreneurial sandbox to generate an endless stream of introductions to business owners.
Here are five key steps to succeed with this group:

1. Define your ideal entrepreneur or business owner. Who among the business owner community do you want to work with? To figure that out, you want to create an ideal client profile. Next, need
consider key characteristics to develop that profile:

  • Personal details. This includes such factors as marital status, the number of children and personal values.
  • Geographic location. Where in your area are entrepreneurs concentrated?
  • Amount of investible assets. Will you pursue mass affluent business owners or aim upmarket to the ultra-affluent?
  • Key financial challenges you can help to overcome. What are the issues they face that you are adept at solving?

This information will drive your client service model, your marketing and other key components you will offer. Write these details down; this will increase your clarity of purpose.

2. Select a market niche. Business owners are already a niche, of course. But the narrower you can define your ideal target market, the better you will be at meeting this population’s needs and marketing
to them.

So, for example, is there a certain size business that you would like to focus on? Would you be better at serving young upstart companies or older established firms? Also, where are the pockets of wealth in your local area that are part of this niche and, in those pockets, who are the people you could serve well and serve profitably?

3. Find the right affluent entrepreneurs. When you know your target client in depth, analyze your existing client base. Are there any entrepreneurs you currently work with who are highly satisfied with you and match your ideal business owner profile? If so, offer to add value to their peers.

Another great resource is to network through mastermind groups, strategic partnerships, professional organizations and influential people in the niche you’ve chosen.

Working with entrepreneurs means building relationships; this won’t happen by doing a mass mailing or emailing campaign.

What business owners want is to be around other successful entrepreneurs. That’s why they join mastermind CEO groups, where they trade tips and compare notes with others like themselves.

Get in front of them as a speaker at these meetings, and you’ll find you have an attentive audience ready to explore working with you. This is especially so when your presentation is about solving their big financial challenges like making smarter decisions about their money, mitigating taxes and taking care of their heirs and family.

4. Deliver a personal CFO experience. Many entrepreneurs have a CFO to bring them ideas and to help them make smart decisions about their company’s capital. Likewise, by having a personal CFO client experience system in place, you can position yourself as the best advisor for helping them make smart decisions about their wealth.

The elite advisors I coach tell me that entrepreneurs love this concept. They say business owners connect emotionally to it. That’s important because we know that 84% of the affluent want to connect with you emotionally and then justify working with you through logic. So this is a great building block.

That said, you have to be able to deliver that personal CFO experience — it can’t just be a marketing gimmick. That means having a system in place that allows you to address a owner’s investment challenges as well as his or her key noninvestment issues like estate planning, business succession, tax mitigation and so on.

This system needs to be well-organized. It should include a series of meetings and contacts with owner clients so that they are wowed by your level of detail about their complex lives. It also means you need to work with groups of other experts who are adept at solving business planning and succession concerns.

5. Offer a second opinion service. This step can happen only after you have delivered lots of value and proved yourself in your client experience.

When that is the norm, it’s time to seek new business. This is not about asking for referrals — that makes many people uncomfortable. Instead, it’s about offering yourself as a second opinion service for the people your clients care about.

With a second opinion service, you will provide these people with an examination of where they are now financially, where they want to go and where gaps must be closed. If you’re the right advisor to help them, you’ll say so. If you’re not, you’ll also say so and help point them to someone who would be ideal for their needs and goals. Do this at every meeting with your happy clients, and you will have more new business than any referral strategy could match.

John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.

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