Niching Outside of Your Area Code

Can remote work help you get new clients? Advisors should consider niche marketing beyond geographic boundaries, but note licensing and certifications.

Do you remember the good old days when we went to restaurants and the movies, masks were for Halloween, and working from home was a rare luxury? Well, aside from the gas and EZ Pass (or public transit) money we’re all saving, it turns out that the widespread work from home orders may have another unintended side effect: businesses, and people’s concepts of work as a whole, are beginning to decentralize. Though not everyone loves working from home (or, in some cases, what feels more like living at work) it does offer many opportunities for advisors to expand their network outside of their immediate, local community.

Now that we’re six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are realizing that remote employees are still able to get their jobs done regardless of locale (with caveats related to expected pandemic-related productivity killers, like at-home summer vacations and online schooling, or caring for sick loved ones) and some are beginning to settle in for the long haul. Our entire cultural idea of what business looks like has drastically and suddenly shifted, and while emotions on this may be mixed, it nevertheless provides a number of opportunities that were previously considered unthinkable, like marketing across borders.

If a client can’t meet face-to-face with their local financial advisor and has to go digital anyway, what’s stopping them from finding not only the best advisor in town, but the best in the state, or even in the country? Now that they’re unhindered by the constraints of physical proximity that may have formerly informed at least part of their decision making, advisors can market to a wider pool of investors and therefore be more discerning in their chosen clientele, something that can vastly improve an advisor’s business and their quality of life, as we’ve discussed at length before.[1][2] Even better, advisors can now target a niche demographic over a wide geographic area to both save time and increase the probability of better return on the investment (financially and otherwise) involved in advertising and networking.

However, advisors should, as always, be mindful of the scope and limitations of their licensing and certifications. Not only would it be a waste of time and money to advertise to clients with whom an advisor is unable to work, but state regulations vary, and some states may have additional requirements in order to conduct businesses in other states. Many states (including PA) allow advisors to conduct a minimal amount of business elsewhere, which is generally considered to be four or fewer clients per state. However, once that number is five or more, advisors will need to register in that state and pay the associated fees. Staying in-state is usually the safest bet with the least complications and makes it easier for advisors to leverage their local networks; a strong reputation in Philadelphia will obviously go further in Pittsburgh than it does in San Francisco. This also makes time differences easier as well, as only thirteen of the fifty states are in more than one time zone, and having clients within an hour of your local time (rather than three hours, per the example above) can help advisors maintain stronger work / life boundaries; it can be hard to say no to a client who’s emailing you at 5 PM their time, even if it’s 8 PM in yours.  

Especially for advisors with a very particular specialty, utilizing this time to expand business horizons can have long-term benefits, help business gain a foothold in locations where this was previously unthought of, and insure against the future. As Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a-changin’” and if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that being prepared and having a backup plan is always pertinent, so it follows that being able to pivot to expanded remote work will help advisors keep their businesses afloat (and even thriving) as we all navigate the continued uncertainty ahead.



These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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