When I first began coaching financial advisors, I found that the majority of people I worked with needed help getting new clients. It's no small task — getting and retaining new clients. It involves several key factors. One often bungled component is marketing.

When it comes to marketing, there are only two gears: forward and reverse. There is no neutral. When conducting an initial marketing audit I found many advisors were in the reverse gear. They were actually working very hard at marketing, but getting bad results because of their mistakes.

To help you get started in earnest, we will focus on:

  • How to find more time to spend on marketing activities.
  • The 12 major mistakes advisors make when marketing.
  • The principles of a good marketing plan.

Getting Started

As I began to work with more advisors, I found one central mistake they kept repeating over and over again. Many senior financial advisors had literally stopped marketing. One of my best clients recently described this problem:

"When you first get in the business you have little else to do but spend time getting new clients. As your business matures, you start spending nearly all of your time on research and client service, and it becomes more and more difficult to find the time you need for marketing activities."

I find this one issue, "spending too much time on administration," the biggest marketing mistake advisors make. So, let's discuss how to slay the paperwork dragon.

Taming the Marketing Beast

Let's start with the obvious: You need to have an excellent workflow system in place. If you are not taking full advantage of technology, you should be. Your administrative assistant should be able to set your appointments with a shared calendar on his or her computer using Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc. She or he shouldn't have to chase you down to put it in your paper diary. You should have a turnkey appointment system (see May 2011 issue). You should be booked two weeks out in advance (minimum), and have time blocked out each week just to prepare your meeting agendas. Your staff should have either paper or paperless in and outboxes for your deliverables. You need systems, systems, systems for everything. It is not unusual for an advisor team to reduce their appointment prep and follow up time by 50% or more through a systems-based approach. The time you free up is then used for your marketing activities.

Now here are 12 key marketing mistakes I see far too often:

  1. Not testing your marketing ideas. Did you ever try a new idea and have it not work out the way you planned? I guarantee there were just as many ideas you didn't try that would have worked if you tested them. TEST, don't guess.
  2. Not having a value proposition. If you can't answer the question, "Why should I work with you instead of another advisor?" in 10 seconds or less you are dead in the water. PLEASE, don't say something like: "I give great service." What do your competitors say, that they give bad service? You need to reply with measurable benefits that clearly make you stand out from the competition.
  3. Using just one marketing system. Let's suppose you tried seminar marketing and it worked. Great. But what if you never tried other types of marketing to see what else works? I see many advisors become one trick marketing ponies and when that trick stops working, the panic sets in.
  4. Stop using a system that works. Ask yourself, are you still using the systems you used to build your business that were successful? All of them? Every day? If they worked, why did you stop?
  5. Continue using systems that don't work. I see this lot in event marketing. Clients come to an advisor's "marketing" event. They have a good time but don't bring any referrals. If this event is for "marketing" and not client appreciation, either change it or stop doing it.
  6. Not targeting the ideal client. My philosophy is this: You want to look at the top 10% of your clients and build on them. Your marketing efforts should be targeting this group.
  7. Not capturing email addresses. Most every firm is now allowing financial advisors to use email. If you are not capturing the e-mail addresses of all clients and prospects, you should be.
  8. Not having a strategic marketing system. Your system should include multiple marketing tactics, starting with the least expensive ones (referrals) first. The more systems you test successfully, the faster you will grow.
  9. Always doing the same thing. Only 10% of the advisors in a group will raise their hand when I ask: "Who has a referral system they use every day?" I almost never get a hand when I ask: "Who uses more than one referral system?" Every marketing tactic, referral, joint venture, advertising, etc. can be done differently and better if you keep testing.
  10. Not analyzing your results. Analyze your top 20% clients. How did you acquire them? Do they have anything in common? Are you maximizing your efforts based on what you learned?
  11. Not surprising clients with over-the-top service. Have you ever had a client's car detailed in your parking lot while they were meeting with you? Did you ever send them a handwritten note for no reason? Did you send their children a card on their birthday? Things that are unexpected go a long way in having clients rave to their friends about you.
  12. Not spending enough time marketing. This is the biggest sin I discussed earlier. Try this. Pick three colors to highlight your calendar; green for marketing, blue for a client service meeting or phone call, and gold for closing sales. Now take out last week's calendar and color it in (this can be done using "categories" in Outlook 2007 or 2010).

How much blue do you see? Now try to plan next week's calendar in advance, with the time you want to spend on marketing blocked out.
Doing it Right

Now that we revealed what you should stop doing let's discuss what you should be doing.

The primary principle of building a marketing plan is to use a comprehensive and strategic approach.

You should begin using the least expensive marketing systems first — like referrals. Studies show that referral marketing is the number one way advisors acquire ideal clients.

What is amazing is that these same studies show that 80% of advisors don't actively ask for referrals. You should have at least three referral systems in place before you start dropping money on other marketing systems.

So your strategy is to begin by testing inexpensive ways to market and then progressively test other systems (reactivating clients, working with centers of influence, seminars, etc.) until you have at least three to six different systems, all funneling new clients into your practice. You need to use good workflow systems to give you more time to market. You also need to stop shooting yourself in the foot by avoiding the 12 key marketing mistakes. Finally, you need to build a strategic and comprehensive marketing plan by starting with the least expensive systems first.


Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching
Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.
You can reach him at
this email address.


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