It seems like there are no “new” financial advisor prospecting ideas any more. It also seems like every prospecting method has a tribe of raving fans and a matching tribe of haters. Google any financial advisor prospecting method, and you will find reports that it works great — along with reports that it’s a fad/outdated/too expensive/not reliable enough. Who do you trust in all this noise?
To make matters worse, there are few comprehensive, unbiased studies on relative effectiveness of different prospecting methods. And even if there was such a study, so much of success is determined by an advisor’s personality, skill in execution, budget, and persistence. After all, there is no “marketing” separate from the advisor in an industry that runs on people liking and trusting other people for financial advice.
In this blog post, we walk through 5 financial advisor prospecting methods that we are doubling down on, at the Model FA and at our RIA, SurePath Wealth. Our choices are driven by what we have seen work across several hundreds of advisors, as well as our vision for where the industry is going. Read on and consider your next steps for niche marketing, digital communications, active lead capture, social media, and educational workshops.
Where do financial advisors go to get clients these days?
Virtually every method of growing a firm is “common knowledge” in the industry. Ask for referrals, write a column for the local paper, put on a seminar… and when it all fails, there’s always cold calling.
But which methods actually work these days?
That is a tougher question than it seems. There are few (if any) comprehensive studies on the relative effectiveness of marketing methods. As a result, advisors know what they (and perhaps their immediate circle of colleagues and study group partners) have personally tried. At the Model FA, we have an advantage of having a team that has seen hundreds of advisors… But even though that gives us a larger sample size, it’s far from perfect.
Another problem is that even if we had a perfect study, the degree of success of any prospecting method cannot be “divorced” from the advisor who’s using it. So, when you try social media marketing for a couple of months and don’t see immediate payback, it’s hard to say whether social media marketing “doesn’t work” — or whether your efforts weren’t good enough to build a compelling presence on social media. Similarly, some advisors can see amazing results with dinner seminars, while others might use the exact same materials and fail.
So, it seems that the best we can do is tell you what we at the Model FA (and also at SurePath Wealth offices across the country) are doubling down on for financial advisor prospecting in 2020. And, for those of you who want to explore any of the 5 prospecting methods along with us, we have included 3 “first steps” you would need to take for each one.
Please dive in for the 5 financial advisor prospecting ideas that we will be using in 2020!
Although niche marketing is not a marketing channel, per se, it’s important to start the conversation about prospecting there.
According to the research published by Cerulli Associates, nearly two-thirds (64%) of RIAs use or have used niche marketing, and 37% consider it to be extremely effective (with another 57% who have found it to be somewhat effective). In other words, only 6% of advisors thought that niche marketing was NOT effective.
And that’s worth paying attention to.
We have covered the importance of choosing a niche for a financial advisor in several blog posts, videos, and podcasts (check this video and this podcast interview with Josh Patrick to start). A niche can help a financial advisor target and optimize marketing, make greater impact with a modest budget, and build an offering and workflows that will turn clients into raving fans.
Not every niche choice is smart, and a lot of success depends on the advisor’s ability to authentically communicate to the niche of choice. Geographic location of the practice matters, as does the target audience’s ability to pay for the service.
1. Come up with a clear brand statement. It should summarize what you do, who you do it for, and what your key differentiator is. Choosing a niche means that at least some of your efforts will focus on one specific audience at the expense of others. A compelling value proposition is a prerequisite for success.
2. Test your value proposition. Until you have conclusive proof that your offering is resonating with your target audience, all you’ve got is an educated guess. Be wary of putting a lot of money behind it without at least some testing.
3. Know your audience. In order to powerfully attract prospects, you will have to put your marketing materials where they get their information.
Some studies and reports have indicated that being a host or a guest on a TV show is an effective prospecting activity for financial advisors. I would bet that in 2020, that translates into hosting or guest-appearances on a podcast, as well as blogging.
Combined with a niche marketing strategy, podcasting and blogging can supercharge your visibility — and put you top of mind for your ideal prospects. If the information you are sharing is genuinely helpful (or educational, or fun… or all three), then your prospects will happily “spend time” in your virtual company.
Which is why SurePath Wealth will be doubling down on podcasts in 2020. We are planning several podcast launches for our partners, and will continue to grow The Model FA Podcast.
Launching a podcast may sound daunting. Many advisors hold back because they doubt their ability to build a huge audience. For those advisors, I am about to say something that may sound counter-intuitive.
It doesn’t matter.
You don’t need an audience of millions to be successful in attracting great prospects to your financial services firm. All you need is a solid sense of your target market, an understanding of their pain points, and a commitment to publish quality content regularly. Plus a small investment in podcasting equipment, which, all things considered, is not that expensive.
1. Brainstorm a list of frequently asked questions, common mistakes, or biggest opportunities for impact when you think about your target audience and money. At this stage in the game, there are no “bad” ideas. As you continue to develop your vision for the blog or podcast, each of these points can turn into a piece of content (or even a series).
2. Think about your natural, comfortable way of expressing ideas. Some people are “natural writers”. Others are good conversationalists or speakers. It is rare that an advisor is naturally great at both (and if you are, feel free to choose whichever path is likely to be more effective or more enjoyable for you). Remember that either path will probably involve a learning curve… But if you choose something that’s a better fit for your talent and preference, you will be more likely to stick with it.
3. Choose a comfortable content publishing frequency. Some advisors get hung up on publishing daily/weekly even when it’s obviously not sustainable, which can lead to burnout. It is better to choose a less frequent publishing schedule if you get extended staying power in exchange.
Virtually every advisor these days has a website. Now, not all of them are equally good… But that’s a longer conversation for another time.
So let’s assume that you have a relatively-recently updated website that accurately reflects your audience and offer (you’d be surprised how many advisors don’t). If that is the case, you may consider adding active data capture on your website to encourage prospects to share their contact information.
What might you offer in exchange? We have seen success with newsletters and lead magnets.
A lead magnet might sound daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be 100 pages long (or expensively designed) to be effective. A simple one-page checklist can work well if it hits on a known pain point. Consider creating several lead magnets and rotating through them seasonally. If you are looking for a list of tools and plug-ins to help you gather prospect information, this blog posts has 8 suggestions for building a financial advisor email list and a blueprint for making the right choice for your firm.
1. Come up with 2-3 compelling reasons why your prospect should part with their contact information. Remember that each and every one of us is already overwhelmed with incoming email. The exchange has to be worth it (and also secure).
2. Test different pain points and motivators to see what works best for your audience. An entrepreneur might be interested in an opportunity to lower his or her tax bill. A retiree might be driven by making sure he or she doesn’t run out of money. Pain points may shift with the seasons, and you should expect that some of your initial guesses will be less accurate than others.
3. Set up a tracking system. Without it, there is no way to iterate on your data capture strategy in a meaningful way. Allow your experiments to run for a reasonable amount of time to draw conclusions. And set up proper KPIs to monitor progress.
Can social media help you get clients?
In our experience, yes. And some financial advisor marketing surveys back that up. In this Putnum Social Advisor Survey, more than nine out of 10 advisors (92%) who use social media for business have reported that social media has helped them get clients. And in case you think that those must be super young clients will no AUM, the median age of a new client gained through social media is up to 40, and median new accounts were around the $500K mark (average asset gain over the most recent 12-month period surveyed was an impressive $1.4M).
Out of the social media platforms, LinkedIn seems to be leading as the site to improve referrals and cultivate prospective clients. Facebook is seen as an opportunity to advance client relationships. Twitter is another popular platform to consider, used mostly to promote thought leadership.
1. Build an active social media strategy. Creating a profile alone won’t get you new clients (which, no surprise, was backed by the Putnam survey: out of the advisors who reported a passive presence on social media, none reported adding new assets).
2. Be prepared to invest time and resources. That might mean splurging for a premium account, assigning team members to perform social media responsibilities as part of their jobs, and carving out time to respond to comments, send messages, and share your thoughts.
3. Build an audience for the advisor — not for the business. Let the prospect get to know the human behind the business first. This approach can save you significant budget dollars — and it’s likely to be more effective, too.
Seminars and educational workshops have long been prospecting staples for financial advisors. Standing in front of a room filled with prospects is a great way to showcase your expertise, deliver value, and fill your pipeline for subsequent discovery conversations.
It all hinges on one important element, though: Filling the room with the right prospects. Which means that seminar promotion really can make or break the event.
We have seen tremendous success with advisor seminars, where our clients brought in 25 buying units, had an 80% appointment schedule rate, and added $2M in AUM within a week of hosting an event. We have also seen complete flops (2 RSVPs, both of them no-shows).
From running workshops for our clients for over 2 years now, we can report that personal brand-forward seminars that prominently display the advisor in event marketing can work well… for about 10% of advisors. Individually branded workshops can be a powerful tool for building a presence in your community and getting visibility. However, they are usually slow to build up momentum.
If you are hoping for quick ROI and momentum, then individually-branded workshops may not be right for you. It may be better to join an existing platform of educational financial seminars. It helps to choose a national brand that will line up event marketing to support your workshops and provide all the materials (presentation slide deck, handouts, mailers, etc.) This approach won’t build your brand visibility, but it can be very effective in filling the room.
To support the advisors within the Model FA and at SurePath Wealth, we have built a stand-alone, education-forward national brand to run all workshops. We offer tax-centric, retirement-centric, and healthcare planning workshops under the new educational brand. You can check out the website here.
1. Define your audience and the pain point that will become the focus of the seminar. A well-defined audience will make it easier to target your marketing efforts, and the right-fit topic will help you fill the room. It can also help you reduce the number of non-prospects who get attracted to the event.
2. Set up proper KPIs to help you make data-driven decisions. Without the KPIs, you won’t have the information you need to fine-tune your promotion efforts or to judge the relative success of the seminar. Failing to keep a close eye here can lead to unpleasant surprises on the budget side, too. We monitor (1) Cost Per RSVP, (2) Conversion Rate on Landing Page, (3) Show Up Rates, and (4) Appointment Rate.
3. Develop and execute a marketing plan for the event. Posting about the upcoming seminar once on your firm’s Facebook page does not count. Your plan has to include multiple channels (Facebook ads, social media posts, email blasts, mailers, personal calls, outreach to your centers of influence, etc.) The plan must have flawless execution, so be sure to set up a system to assign responsibility for each task and to supervise your staff.
One final thought before we close out the article: Remember that clients introducing you to prospective clients is yet another powerful way to grow your practice. And, unlike some of the other strategies on the list, this one doesn’t require a big budget. All you need is a systematic way to remind your clients that you are open to helping more people.
On the tactical side, there are dozens of ways to do that: from the traditional “I get paid two ways” angle, to asking the client to think of others who may benefit from working with you, to the softer “Here is the list of my services, because I would hate for someone you care about to need my help and not know I’m available”. It is important to know that you have choices, and that it’s possible to develop a way of asking for referrals that will feel right for you (and also for your clients).
1. Make sure you deliver the kind of a client experience that’s worth referring. This should go without saying… But before you ask clients for a referral, make sure that you are delivering the kind of client experience that turns them into raving fans. Remember that in making an introduction, your clients are taking a social and emotional risk. Their confidence in your value, discretion, and tact must be solid.
2. Have a system. No matter which words you choose to ask for a referral, build a system that will prompt you to do it regularly. That way, you don’t have to wonder who got asked and who didn’t!
3. Stay positive. This point is last on the list, but foundational for making this (and any other) growth strategy work. Reaching out to new prospects always carries a risk of rejection (and, unless you are a sociopath, you probably don’t enjoy rejection). Advisors have to develop tools for keeping a positive mindset in order to have the staying power it takes to succeed.