In an ideal world, your book would consist entirely of clients who are similar to your favourite clients — those who are both a pleasure to work with and profitable. But while you can't clone your top clients, you can take steps to duplicate them by courting prospects who share similar characteristics and values.

"To duplicate your best clients, you must target prospects who are similar and most likely to behave as your best clients do," says Krystian Urbanski, senior vice president, business development and associate portfolio manager, private client group with Forstrong Global Asset Management in Toronto.

But you must first do some soul searching to determine the unique make-up of the people you consider to be your top clients.

"Many financial advisors might be surprised to find that their best clients are not necessarily whom their instincts tell them," Urbanski says. "It might be necessary to thoroughly analyze your database for answers." (That is another reason why you should be diligently maintaining your client database, he adds.)

Consider looking at a number of factors, both qualitative and quantitative, to determine your top clients, including: assets under management; longevity of the relationship; rate of repeat business; responsiveness to your advice and marketing efforts; and referrals provided.

The range of variables you use to determine your best clients often goes beyond financial matters. Your best clients might simply be "those who have been the easiest to work with," Urbanski says. Or you might find that you have an affinity for a certain type of client.

Here are some steps to take in attempting to duplicate your top clients:

> Shortlist your top clients
Make a list of about 25 of your top clients based on the variables you've chosen to use to identify them. These clients would represent the type of prospects you will be targeting to grow your practice.

"They should be clients with whom you are comfortable working," Urbanski says, "and who are comfortable working with you."

> Meet with short-listed clients
Invite those top clients individually to an informal meeting and let them know that they fit the profile of clients you would like to attract to grow your practice. Tell them why you selected them.

Knowing that they belong to preferred group would make them feel more involved in your growth plans, Urbanski says.

> Seek clients' input
The next step is to confirm your choice of top clients and that you are prepared to target similar clients. Ask them what they like best about their relationship with you, and what you could do better to meet their expectations. This information should allow you to address any of your shortcomings and refine your client acquisition plan.

> Ask for their assistance
If you make your clients aware of what you are looking for, they might refer you to people like themselves. Openly ask them whether they would be willing to introduce you to their networks and what it would take to facilitate such introductions.

"People don't want to meet their advisor through an ad or a seminar," Urbanski says. "They want to be personally introduced."

You can also ask them about clubs, organizations and other social networks they belong to with the aim of tapping them to find more top clients.

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