Registered investment advisor firms that invest resources to have written plans for business, marketing and client prospecting show far better performance than the rest of the industry, according to a recent report.

The top-performing firms — those that rank among the top 20% across a variety of metrics and performance data across various business areas — rely on effective strategic planning, with more than three-quarters of such firms having written strategic plans, Charles Schwab Advisor Services says it found in a study involving self-reported data from 1,218 independent advisory participants.

Having a strategic plan in turn allowed the top performers to see annualized revenue growth from 2017 through 2021 that was twice as high as all other firms, according to the report.

Meanwhile, firms that have a documented ideal client persona, client value proposition and marketing plan were able to lure 42% more new clients last year, as well as 45% more new client assets, Schwab says.

Seventy-four percent of the top performers, meanwhile, had an ideal client persona, compared to 54% of firms with more than $250 million in assets under management and 53% of firms with less than $250 million, according to the study.

Similarly, 73% of the top performers had a client value proposition, compared to 62% of the larger firms and 45% of the smaller RIAs, and 56% of the top performers had a marketing plan, compared to 42% of firms with more than $250 million and 27% of firms with less than $250 million, Schwab says.

Top performers were also more likely to have documented referral plans — and firms that have such plans generated one-and-a-half more new clients than those without, while RIAs with business partner referral plans generated two-and-a-half more new clients, according to the study.

In addition, top-performing RIAs are more likely than their peers to rely on standardization and digital workflows, leading them to spend close to 20% less time per client on operations and administration than the median firm with $250 million or more in assets, Schwab says.

Do you have a news tip you’d like to share with FA-IQ? Email us at