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Prospecting Has Gone to the Dogs

Only 11 percent of advisors claim to know whether their clients have pets. Doing so provides a unique emotional connection.

SCOTTSDALE — “Something inside me tells me that you’re on the money with this idea that the affluent are crazy about their pets…” chuckled Josh with a wry smile, then adding, "but as far as using this to my advantage, I don’t know where to begin.”

This advisor is not alone. Most have spent their careers focused on clients’ financial affairs, not their clients’ pets. According to our affluent research, only 11 percent claim their financial advisor even knows whether or not they have any pets. 

Why is it so important to focus on your clients’ pets? Recently I’ve written a number of articles about the importance of establishing an emotional connection with affluent clients. Doing so creates the ideal client, and an ideal client is an advocate. By simply asking about a client’s pet (ask by the pet’s name) you’re likely to build and/or strengthen the emotional connection. The subconscious translation — you care enough about them to ask about their pet.

So let’s take this one step further. Few things get talked about more by affluent pet owners than a personalized “pet gesture.” How so?  Easy—affluent pet owners are always talking about their pet(s). If it’s a dog, the odds are they’re walking Fido in the morning and evening in their affluent neighborhood. During these walks, they’re consistently bumping into affluent neighbors also walking their dogs. And, you guessed it, often these encounters result in a conversation revolving around their dog(s). If the advisor does something special for the pet and their owner, it will be discussed. 

Now that we’ve covered the “why,” let’s get into the “how.” I’m going to walk you through what I suggested to the advisor:  

  1. First, you need to do your homework. Determine which of your affluent clients have pets. 
  2. For those who have pets, you want to get as much information as possible; cat, dog, bird, etc., name, breed (not all affluent pet owners have purebreds, many affluent dog owners have mutts rescued from the pound), age, birthday and a little bit of information about the pet’s personality. Yes, the pet’s personality. 
  3. On social media, snag a picture of your client’s pet. Use the photo for a surprise-and-delight gift. For example, at a minimal cost you can get the photo on a couple of coffee mugs or a sheet of stamps. Or, you can frame the photo with a trophy-like little name tag.

Each of these steps will serve to strengthen your emotional connection and stimulate word-of-mouth influence. You can also do what a friend of mine did; throughout the year he had taken photos of all the dogs in his neighborhood. Then, he created holiday cards using all of the dog photos. He addressed the card to each neighbor’s dog, “from” his dog. Talk about word-of-mouth influence—and he’s a cardiologist! 

Creativity around the theme of pets has no limits. Knowing the pet’s birthday enables you to send a birthday gift and card to Fido, and this gesture gets even more traction if it’s from your dog. Something along the lines of …

“Happy Birthday, Fido!! 

I hope you like the bone I picked out for you—it’s one of my favorites. 
Maybe one day you can come to my house to play!


Sounds goofy because it is goofy—but goofy is good with today’s affluent and their pets.    

I know one advisor who epitomizes prospecting’s gone to the dogs. In addition to the above, this advisor invites all clients and their pets for an afternoon social outing in his backyard each year. He hires a professional photographer and has a photo op for the clients and their pets. I know, you’re probably doing an eye-roll at this point—but as I explained to Josh, there’s a reason that this advisor is one of his firm’s leaders of net new money. So on that note—as I told Josh, it’s true, prospecting has gone to the dogs.  


Matt Oechsli is author of "Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients."

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