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At Talis Advisors in Plano, Texas, advisers don’t reject out of hand the time-worn KISS principle, otherwise known as keep it simple, stupid.

That is because clients often share how they prefer to avoid complexities.

“Clients encourage us to keep it simple. We found that it makes a big impact when you can take a complex explanation and convert it into something that is easy to understand,” says Gina Petrelli Aldaz, wealth management adviser at the registered investment adviser.

“You can accomplish this by incorporating educational tools such as well-designed visuals and by avoiding jargon,” she says.

Extracting from clients and prospects tips about how to better market an advisory firm is an under-appreciated pathway to success, veteran advisers say.

Clients and prospects have meaningful ideas to share about what made them positively pay attention to the firm and what confused, distracted or eluded them.

For instance, some of Talis Advisors’ clients need to simply be reminded of the definition and already existing regulatory obligations of an RIA.

"From a marketing perspective, our clients and prospects encourage us to emphasize that we are fiduciaries. Our challenge is to make sure people understand that we were built on a fiduciary standard,” Aldaz says.

“We see many in our industry in a panic, shifting to it so they can accommodate regulations that will be rolling out next year,” she says.

By listening to their concerns, Talis Advisers knows to underline for clients the fiduciary obligations that have long been part of the RIA world.

Anne Godfrey formalized getting ideas about marketing the firm from clients, and she ranks the creation of a client advisory board as one of her firm’s most effective marketing moves.

“It was the best thing,” says Godfrey who is the marketing and business development director at Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, California.

The firm invited several clients with whom it had good relationships and invited them to serve on the board.

“They give their best advice and ideas. It’s really helpful,” Godfrey says.

The firm created a second website based on the clients’ advice and helped give tutorials on iTunes so that clients could use the application the firm had devised, which previously had tripped clients up.

“It’s things like that you don’t learn about marketing unless you are talking to clients,” Godfrey says.

Even responses that she has gotten from clients’ adult children have helped her recognize when a marketing strategy works.

Godfrey arranged to have professional photos of clients taken when they attend the firm’s annual holiday party. As it happens, many of the older, client couples who attend rarely have such portrait photos taken together on other occasions.

As a benefit, they are typically dressed up for the party so that the photos cast them in their best light.

For the clients’ adult children, those pictures have become treasured keepsakes when the parents die, and has led some of them to the firm. Their responses have clued Godfrey into what otherwise would surely qualify as a less-than-obvious way to market the firm to the next generation.

“It’s sad but nice at the same time,” she says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart strategies for RIAs.

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