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Tips on Cost-Effective (and Smart) Marketing

By Thomas Coyle August 3, 2016

This is the first of a two-part series featuring advisors’ views on marketing that works without breaking the bank. Tomorrow, part two will examine how to make tech work for your marketing plan.

Publicizing a financial advice practice is tough, time-coming and potentially expensive. But an active approach to marketing seems necessary for the growth of all but the luckiest teams.

Advisors seem to know that. Responding to an FA-IQ poll last year asking where they could improve most professionally, 55% of FAs chose “communication” over “office politics” (27%) and “investing” (18%).

Public relations firm Gregory FCA says the fastest growing RIAs are neck-deep in marketing, with some pushing all the buttons — from the latest social-media innovations to old-line plays like direct mail and cold calling — to get word out.

But uncertainty about what approaches actually work — and work in a cost-effective manner — leaves some advisors stuck.

To break this logjam, we reached out to pennywise FAs in an informal survey to find out what they do — in person, online or by other means — to bring in good prospects or strengthen ties to existing clients.

Kristin Sullivan of Sullivan Financial Planning in Denver gets marketing traction by helping journalists with stories on consumer finance and wealth management.

“Then I search the web for my media quotes and make sure those are featured in my blog and social media accounts,” says the advisor, who works mainly on a by-the-hour or project basis. “It’s free and my clients get a huge kick out of seeing their planner quoted.”

Sullivan has a client who once called to say he’d seen her on CNBC. “I said, ‘I know her!’” this customer excitedly shared, according to the advisor.

Adds Sullivan, “I also have had a prospect call me because he saw a quote in AARP and was looking for a Denver financial planner.”

Kristin Sullivan

To find reporters looking for sources, Sullivan mines online repositories such as PR Newswire’s Profnet and the Financial Planning Association’s Media Query.

With more than $2 billion under management, Wescott Financial Advisory Group in Philadelphia doesn’t feel constrained to operate on a shoestring marketing budget.

But Wescott’s marketing and communication chief Tracy Abriola says the firm’s marketing initiatives are also suitable for firms without dedicated marketing teams, plans or budgets.

Along these lines, Abriola recommends developing and maintaining relationships with centers of influence — professionals who can send clients your way — “through e-newsletters, invitations to our events, attending their events” and, from time to time, springing for one-on-one lunches.

For clients, Wescott is scrupulous about acknowledging “life events” such as “milestone birthdays” and retirements. And when the firm gets a new client on an existing client’s recommendation, it rewards the referrer. These gifts “range from a nice bottle of wine to a gift card to their favorite restaurant or a monogrammed baby gift,” says Abriola.

Pro bono work is the ticket to low-cost marketing for Steve Branton of Mosiac Financial Partners in San Francisco, a firm with $555 million under management.

“I have done pro bono work for friends in our circle who have enthusiastically gone on to refer clients to me and my firm,” says Branton.

The advisor adds: “These referrals are much warmer than ones from COIs” — short for centers of influence — because beneficiaries of pro bono work “see your passion and desire to help, which in turn allows them to feel comfortable enthusiastically referring someone to you.”

Tomorrow, part two of this series examines how to make tech work for your marketing plan.