The Personalization Equation

Headshot of Bob Holcomb

Bob Holcomb, Chief Marketing Officer

December 4, 2023

Know-What + Know-Who + Know-Why = Know-How


The word ‘dentist’ evokes palpable experiences for many. For some, those experiences are less than favorable. The ominous mood in the waiting room. The scent of fluoride in the air. The faint hum of Muzak. The anxiety-provoking sound of the dentist’s drill. Feelings of nervousness — even dread — about what lies ahead once your name is called.

But I happen to love my dentist. Why? Because he personalizes my experience. He makes me feel special. Seen. Heard. Even though most of our conversations take place with metal instruments in my mouth, he’s managed to learn my likes and dislikes — and has created an entire customized experience for me every visit. But it’s not just him. It’s his entire team.

They call me Bob, even though my paperwork says Robert. They know about my kids and their schools. They know my preferred appointment time and other unique preferences associated with my treatment. Better still, they understand why all that is important, making my experience feel very personal.

As financial professionals, knowing who and knowing why will boost your know-how in serving clients.

Know what

In this era of unprecedented wealth transfer, where approximately $84 trillion is changing hands, the stakes for financial professionals are higher than ever. It’s not just about preserving and growing the wealth of existing clients; it’s also about positioning yourself to benefit from the massive disruption (read: money in motion) taking place.

I believe personalization is critical to succeeding and perhaps the most important differentiator in capitalizing on this incredible opportunity for growth. By tailoring your services to your clients’ unique needs, preferences and goals, you enhance their financial well-being and create a deep sense of trust and loyalty.

Clients are not just looking for a financial professional; they are seeking a partner who understands their financial journey. Personalization is a vital ingredient in becoming that trusted partner. When your clients feel seen and heard, when their financial strategies align seamlessly with their aspirations, they are more likely to stay with you as their financial professional.

Personalization is a magnet for new clients. In a world where consumers are inundated with generic messages, those who offer personalized financial guidance stand out. The statistics speak for themselves: 72% of consumers engage only with personalized messaging,1 and 78% are more likely to refer friends and family to companies that personalize their services.2

Personalization isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the key to serving your current clients better and thriving in a competitive market by attracting and retaining clients during this massive wealth transfer.

Know who

Understanding your clients — truly knowing them — is the cornerstone of personalization. It’s important to remember that today’s client can represent multiple people. Consider, for instance, a middle-aged married couple. It’s imperative to grasp their retirement plans and what retirement signifies to them. You know if they have kids and whether they are thinking about college savings. You may even know how they want to deal with estate planning. But imagine the possibilities if you knew more:

  • Are they dealing with aging parents?
  • Do they have siblings involved in caregiving? What are the siblings’ roles?
  • What are their children truly like? Are they academically inclined? Aspiring artists who may need financial support? What about their medical concerns impacting insurance costs once they’re off parental coverage?
  • If your client envisions travel in retirement, do you know where, why and with whom?
  • Are you following them on social media platforms?
  • Are they content with their current employment?


Behind these questions are people with intricate, complex stories. Knowing those stories translates into a deeper level of personalization. Learning about a client’s network of family and friends (and their unique stories) not only influences your approach to the client but also opens opportunities to engage a broader network and expand your business.

Know why

Consider those who will inherit substantial wealth in the coming years. Many harbor concerns about finances despite their impending windfall. Some worry about covering emergencies, while others fear they will never achieve retirement.

Understanding this inner conflict and anxiety is essential for financial professionals. It allows you to ask insightful questions and gather the information needed to craft personalized financial strategies. Additionally, embracing the power of a simple Google search can yield valuable insights:

  • Gen X values stability, as evidenced by their tendency to remain in secure jobs. You can leverage this by emphasizing stability in your financial plans and showcasing how your strategies align with their preference for financial security.3
  • Gen Xers often define themselves through hobbies such as sports, music or photography. Forge a connection by engaging with them on these topics. Consider dropping them an email about an upcoming concert or sharing articles about photography, showing that you understand their interests beyond finances.
  • Gen X is drawn to platforms like YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.4 Ensure your communication strategies align with their preferred channels, making it easy for them to engage with your services and advice.


Personalization builds trust. The more Gen X clients trust you, the more responsive they become to your communications. They will answer your questions, proactively reach out when priorities shift, and recommend your services to others. They won’t talk about your spreadsheets and pie charts, but they will share with their peers that you genuinely ‘get it’ and ‘get them.’

By understanding the ‘why’ behind their financial decisions and preferences, financial professionals can build stronger connections with Gen X clients and tailor their services to meet this generation’s specific needs and aspirations effectively.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Bob, these ideas are fantastic, but how do I go about profiling clients and implementing these strategies effectively? And what am I supposed to do when it works?”

For help putting your strategy into action, reach out to our Marketing team at

1 SmarterHQ
2 McKinsey and Company
3 Mental Floss
4 McKinsey and Company