27 Tips to Succeed as a Financial Advisor

(The Advisor Coach) Financial advisors often lack the knowledge of how to market themselves, although they bring a passion to the business that others don’t.

This is understandable as marketing doesn’t come naturally to everyone and it involves a lot of trial-and-error. Most financial advisors believe it’s easier to work “in” your business than working “on” your business and marketing.

In the hopes of helping financial advisors and planners in getting more clients, here are 27 tips to succeed as a financial advisor. 

1. Set Goals. 

This may not fit into your typical mold of marketing advice, but it’s incredibly important. Nothing matters without a goal. Setting goals makes all the other financial advisor marketing ideas fall into place. 

Why do some people seem to work so hard for so little? While others don’t work as hard, yet seem to have everything? And yet, there are also people who just have the “magic touch”. The difference is the goals. Some people (a very small percentage) actually have goals, while others don’t. People who have goals succeed because they know where they’re going. It is simple and true.

2. Know Your Target Market.

Every financial advisor should be able to describe their ideal client. You should know their demographics (age, gender, locale, profession) as well as psychographics. Marketing to everybody is a bad idea and a major cause of failure. Specializing and finding your niche will make understanding your perfect client that much easier. 

Many financial advisors focus on entrepreneurs, divorcees, retirees, widows and company executives. You could go even further and be the financial advisor for dentists or the financial advisor for plumbers.

Don’t believe that if you “cast a wide net”, you’ll get more business. In reality, the opposite is true. As you go narrow, you will get more business. 

3. Believe in Yourself and Your Company.

You must believe that both you and your company can provide the best service for the client and that the client will actually be at a disadvantage if you don’t help. Trust yourself and the difference your business can provide to another person. 

Don’t hesitate in making those calls, sending those flyers, etc. You might be afraid of rejection or want to remain humble and modest. However, a tremendous shift occurs when you are doing a disservice by not marketing! It will eventually become your duty to take massive action and get your face in front of as many prospects as possible. If you don’t market, not only are you missing out on the extra money, your prospects are missing out on the best possible service they could get!

4. Understand Your Client's Needs.

Almost every financial firm says that they provide customized, high-quality service. Most firms don’t have the slightest idea of how to customize their service for their clients. Yes, you might be able to get more bonds for a client with a more conservative view, but can you really connect with them on a deeper level?

Doing this requires that you understand the motivations of high net worth individuals. Understanding where they’re coming from and their personal investment goals will allow you to establish a profitable, long-term relationship. Remember, it’s not the money. It’s about the reasons behind the money.

Most people’s primary goal with investing is to take care of their family. When you’re talking to clients, don’t talk about the investment product itself. Instead, ask about how it can meet the family’s needs of education, retirement, weddings, travel, and so on. This can give you clues as you get to know their family, kids, and college planning.

Once you figure out a motivation like this, you’ve got the rest cut out for you. Just involve key family members and remember family occasions. Show them how important your own family is to you, emphasize your experience in working with families.

Some clients aren’t comfortable discussing investments or finance at all. They’re not knowledgeable about the field and would rather not approach the subject. Imagine being the idiot using complicated jargon with these folks! They’ll leave you faster than you can say “derivatives”. These people will focus on building rapport, and they’ll talk about anything they possibly can besides investing. With these clients, simplifying concepts and providing support is the best way to go.

Figure out what your client’s motivation by these asking questions:

  • What would you like to achieve via investing?

  • What does money do for you? (This is a tough question for most clients to answer, but it’s golden if they can give you a straight answer.)

  • How involved do you like to be in the investing process?

Once you figure out their true motivation, you cater your approach to them. If their family is their biggest concern, you explain how you’ll focus on their family and really take care of them. If they only care about accumulating more money, you tell them how you enjoy working with clients like them and how you’ll do your best to make the most money possible. If they don’t want to talk about investments, tell them that you get the feeling they aren’t comfortable with investing, but you are, so you’ll do whatever it takes to meet their goals and eliminate any doubt.

5. Send Out Birthday Cards. And Holiday Cards...

Be thoughtful and make a note for your clients’ birthdays in your client relationship management software and send out birthday cards.

If you really want to take it to the next level, you can send out cards for EVERY holiday. Joe Girard, regarded as the world’s best car salesman, sent out nearly 13,000 greetings cards per month to his customers. Yes, that’s per month. This guy celebrated everything from Christmas to Groundhog Day. Clients viewed Joe not just as a salesman, but as a member of their family. Imagine the type of influence he had!

When you send out these cards, they aren’t just paper and ink. They are a symbol that you’re someone who cares enough to recognize and honor your relationship with them. It evokes a sense of loyalty – a loyalty that pays dividends several times over.

6. Send Thank-You Letters.

Sending thank-you notes is one of the best financial advisor marketing ideas that has been proven to work. It is so easy, yet so powerful. When was the last time a service professional sent you a thank-you letter? Your clients will appreciate this more than you’ll ever know. It’s a nice touch. You can keep it short and sweet. Say something like, “Thank you for choosing me and ABC Firm to handle your financial affairs. I appreciate your choice and will do my best to serve you.”

Make it sincere and handwritten. Even a post-it note on top of their paperwork will do it. It takes maybe twenty seconds to write one of these notes, but when your competitors knock at their door, they’ll remember this and stick with you. Handwritten notes also go a long way in getting your clients to give you referrals.

This is one of the best low-cost, high-reward strategies when it comes to marketing for financial planners. I believe every financial advisor and financial planner should make this part of their overall marketing strategy.

7. Understand Your Clients' Complaints.

Change your thinking about complaints, because a customer complaint is like a diamond in the rough. A relationship that’s had problems handled well is a stronger and more profitable relationship that has never had a problem. 

A study done by The Technical Assistance Research Programs Institute in Washington D.C. revealed that for services, 55-63% of unhappy clients won’t complain. These are people that can help you improve, but they’re not saying anything!

Another study, conducted by The Strategic Planning Institute, revealed that the average business never hears from 96% of unhappy clients and 70% of clients will do business again if a complaint is properly resolved. Is your 70% walking away?

Listen to your clients’ complaints! If you don’t figure out their complaints, you can’t fix them. Plus, if one client is having a problem, it’s likely that others are having the same problem. If your customers aren’t complaining, they’ll quietly sneak over to your competitor and tell all their friends about their bad experience with you. 

When you receive a complaint, apologize, listen and try to find a solution. Resolve the situation quickly and thank the client for bringing it to your attention. They will know that you value their input, making it likely they’ll immediately tell you the next time something goes wrong.

8. Get Featured In Trade Magazines.

It’s especially important that you specialize, so you can take advantage of these trade publications. If you’re known as “the dentist’s financial advisor”, you can get some space in dental trade publications. You know that dentists are reading the thing – why not plaster your face in front of them?

You don’t have to do paid advertising either. These trade publications are constantly looking for fresh content. Send an email to the editor or call them cold and say you would like to contribute an article about how dentists can better manage their finances. 

Be sure to make it specific to dentists! Otherwise, there’s a 99% chance that you will get turned down. Pitch the editors several ideas, have them choose one that they think will provide the most value and then get to work.

The reason I tell you to pitch several ideas is not just for convenience. You need to pitch more than one idea so that it increases the likelihood of the editors choosing one. Once they’ve chosen an article idea, they’ve made a commitment, which is good! It will be much harder for them to reject you past this point. If you call them and pitch them one topic only, they could just straight up turn you down. When you present them multiple options, you’re appearing to give them control of the situation.

9. Speak At Meetings.

Local clubs and organizations are constantly looking for speakers to come to visit their groups. I’m talking about educational institutions, churches, charities, outplacement services, special interest groups, hospital auxiliaries, the whole shebang!

I’ve seen several advisors charge a fee to attend the speech/seminar and then donate it to the group they are speaking for. More people will visit because they’ll view it not only as an educational opportunity but a charitable one.

If you are cold-calling CFOs, it might take you weeks to get in contact with fifty of them. If you book an event or workshop specifically for CFOs, you’ll have all fifty of them focused on you. Talk about high efficiency and enormous payoff!

When you speak at these meetings, a lot of them will tell you over and over “NO SOLICITING”! And that’s fine because you won’t be there to solicit anyway. You’ll be there as an expert looking to add value to the group. Besides, you won’t need to solicit anyway.

By speaking at the group, you’ll receive an implied endorsement. When the leaders of the group book you to speak, they’re essentially saying that they view you as a trustworthy expert. Not many marketing ideas will allow financial advisors to get into a room of pre-qualified prospects quite like this one. 

10. Use An Evaluation Form When You Speak.

Check with whoever booked you to speak and ask if you can use an evaluation form. If they seem hesitant, explain that you want to become the best speaker you can possibly be and that you would greatly appreciate it. After all, how can you fix what you don’t know is broken?

Because you can’t (and shouldn’t) solicit during your presentation, the evaluation form helps you subtly sell the audience members on meeting with you. Briefly explain how you’re passionate about helping your clients solve their problems and that you’re always looking to improve, so you’d appreciate their feedback.

On the form, you get their name, number, address, and the best time to call. All very important information to keep in your CRM! You ask them what they liked the most, what they didn’t like, and what they wish you focused more on.

Here’s the kicker: at the very end of the evaluation form, say: “By completing this workshop/seminar, you have earned a complimentary consultation with me” and then have options for them to select. The options might say, “I want to get started immediately. Call me as soon as possible”, “I’d like to find out more first, please call when it’s convenient”, and “No thanks”.

Let’s say you speak to fifty people – thirty might say no thanks, fifteen might want to learn more, and five would want an immediate appointment. This must be better than cold-calling!

11. Know How Much Money You Make Per Direct Outreach.

In financial advising, you have the incredible ability to control your income. Don't take this for granted! 

For example, you call a hundred prospects and get ten appointments. Out of those ten appointments, three people become clients. You make five hundred dollars from each client, so you make $1,500 for every hundred calls you make. It never ceases to amaze me how many financial advisors don’t think of this stuff! This means that every single time you pick up the phone, you’re making $15!

Figure out how many calls it takes you to make an appointment. Then figure out how many appointments it takes to get one client. You should know approximately how much you make per client. From there, you can figure out exactly how much you make per phone call.

Do you want to make an extra hundred bucks? Pick up the phone. You’re behind on your bills? Pick up the phone. This is an incredibly motivating thought to hold in your mind. Whenever you feel any call reluctance or if people give you a hard time over the phone, you can think, “Thanks for your $15!” and hang up.

You need to keep track of these three things:

  • The number of calls you make.

  • The number of completed calls, aka how many people pick up the phone and speak with you.

  • The number of appointments you set.

When you're implementing these financial advisor marketing ideas, knowing your numbers can keep you from getting discouraged along the way. Knowing your numbers also makes setting goals (the most important tip) a breeze.

Figure out for yourself what numbers you want to make. Find out how many appointments you have to set every week in order to make the total number of sales every month. Once you have the numbers, the rest becomes basic math.

I’ve always liked the “thanks for your $15” style, but there’s another interesting way to think about making phone calls, one that made me more comfortable back when I had call reluctance. I found that it was a lot easier for me to picture my prospect list like a big deck of cards. I would imagine that every single King I’d pick out of the deck would net me $100, while every other card would net me $0. I knew that if I kept plugging away, I would eventually get the Kings. This kept me from getting discouraged when I kept drawing twos and threes.

12. Call "One More". 

At the end of the day, right after you’ve packed up your papers and put on your jacket, call one more prospect. When you can make this a habit, you’ll be a sales superstar. Assuming you do this every day, you’ll get way more appointments over the course of a year.

The difference between success and failure is often razor-thin. In a horse race, the second-place horse might be only a split second behind first place but it will still miss out on the huge first-place purse. You need to understand that this “one more” phone call will mean the difference in your career.

13. Build Your Prospect List At Night.

Don’t waste your time building your list during the day. So many advisors will get to the office and get straight to work on building their list. The truth is, the list should’ve already been done the night before, or possibly the week before! 

During the day, you should be doing the two M’s: Marketing and Meeting! You need to be in that office, either prospecting or working with a client. Don’t ever forget that. If it is a weekday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., you need to get your butt in gear and hit the double M.

Building a list is what’s called a “zombie task”, meaning it’s not a cognitively demanding task. You can sit in front of a computer at 9 p.m. and put your list together. Other zombie tasks include organizing, cleaning, sending email responses and entering info into your CRM.

Zombie tasks serve as major distractions for those with call reluctance. They’ll tell themselves that they’ll call as soon as they enter all the information into Excel or their CRM, but they never make the calls.

14. Always Leave a Voicemail.

If you saw an unknown number on your phone, would you call it back without a voicemail? No! You figure if it’s important enough, the person will leave a message. That is a huge mistake!

Start leaving voicemail messages and be a little vague. I would tell them my name and what I wanted, but I would leave a hook that would nearly force them to call me back. I would say something like, “Hello, this is James from XYZ. I’m giving you a call because I know that you’re a financial advisor at ABC Firm and I wanted to give you some valuable information about how I’m helping others at the ABC Firm expand their marketing and get more clients.”

This worked like crazy! People started calling back in droves because they couldn’t stand the vagueness of my message. They had to find out what I was offering.

Here are a few reasons why you should always leave a voicemail:

  • When the person calls back, you have zero chance of being perceived as an interruption, because they are calling you.

  • Difficult-to-reach people won’t always answer the phone, but they tend to listen to their voicemail messages when they can.

  • When the person calls back, he/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say. You’ll have his/her undivided attention.

15. Understand The Difference Between Response and Results.

Know the difference between response and results! The ONLY reason you should be marketing is to get results, aka conversions. Responses feel good because it tells you that people are seeing your marketing efforts, but it’s all an illusion.

Some financial advisor marketing ideas can produce a lot of responses, but little results. Responses might feel like results, but your bank account can tell the difference. Make sure you can too. 

16. Look For Movers And Shakers In The Newspaper.

Look over your local newspapers and publications every so often to spot the movers and shakers in your area. Did anyone get a promotion at a major company? Is anyone receiving recognition for their contribution to academia or business? Reach out to these people and say congratulations. Use their accomplishments as an excuse to call. 

Don’t try to sell anything; just say you’re a financial advisor and you work with clients like them, so naturally you found them in the paper.

You should also consider sending them a few copies of the article, complete with a couple of your business cards. They probably have their own copy, but it’s a nice gesture and it’s way better than going straight for your pitch.

One of the best ways to market to the affluent is to use their accomplishments and awards as leverage. These people tend to be accomplishment driven. For example, John Smith might be a successful dentist with tons of offices around your state. He’s got more money than he’ll ever need, so what makes him happy? 

​Mr. Smith likely gets happiness from recognition among his peers. So when you see his name in some dentist publication or in the news, be sure to stroke his ego a bit and let him know. It goes a long way.

17. Make Your Website Look Professional.

Please, please, please don’t have a crappy website. For most people, it is the first impression they get of your business. Financial professionals are notorious for having the worst websites in all of humanity. 

Now, I’m NOT saying my website is the most beautiful website in town, but after extensive A/B testing, I am finding what works.

I’m not saying that you need to hire an expensive web designer, but I am saying you should strongly consider having one look at your website and giving you their honest opinion. Just find one of the best, send him/her a message offering to pay them a few hundred bucks to get them to tell you what to change and how they would change it.

I am by no means a web designer, but I know what works, so here are a few ideas.

  • Take a good look at your fonts. Your fonts set the tone for the entire website. What are they saying about your style and company culture? Use fonts that are easy on the eyes; this means they’re not tiny and don’t have bright colors. Lots of advisors assume that because Times New Roman looks great in print, it will also look great online. Wrong! People hate Times New Roman online. I’ve found that the best fonts for online are Arial, Courier, and Verdana.

  • Make sure your background matches your style and company. Try to err on the side of simple and sophisticated. Something too colorful and overwhelming will turn your visitors away.

  • Put your face on your website. Tons of studies have been conducted to demonstrate that having a human face on your website will increase your conversions. Having a human face increases the likelihood of an emotional connection. It’s more of a driver for people to connect with you rather than a nondescript logo or icon.

  • Use the squint test. Get up front your desk, walk a few feet away from your computer screen and squint. You want to make everything blurry, so only the most prominent features (large and colorful) are noticeable. When you do this, you are seeing what a first-time visitor may notice when he/she scans your website. If you’re not happy with what you see, change it!

18. Focus On Conversions, Not Web Traffic.

Web traffic does matter, but not nearly as much as people think it does. You should allot your energy towards your site’s user experience. Traffic is worthless if it’s not converted into paying customers. I’d much rather have high-converting sites with 100 visits per day than a no-converting site with 10,000 visits per day.

To improve user experience, make your site easy to navigate with easy to follow information. Don’t use any financial jargon. Don’t have any broken links and have a welcoming design.

​Be sure to have your contact information on every single page – don’t EVER make your clients search for your contact info. If it takes longer than three seconds to find your phone number or email, they’ll leave forever.

Also, take extra care to maximize your “above-the-fold” use. This is the area of your website (the top of the page, they’ll see it without having to scroll down) that people see as soon as the page loads.

19. Get Familiar With Employers In Your Area.

Most employers will have 401(k)s and other benefit plans. If you network with employers and human resources in your territory, you can gain the name of employees nearing retirement age. From there, you can get referrals to their coworkers.

At least offer to come in and speak to their employees about investing and retirement. Get a list together of large (and small too, I suppose) companies in your area and get in touch with human resources.

LinkedIn is great for this because you can narrow your search by keyword and geographic area. Call or email them cold to introduce yourself. Explain that you want to come in and talk to their employees, completely free. They’ll be wary about you soliciting, so if you assure them that you won’t solicit, you can come in and talk. Just have a presentation ready in case they ask to see it.

​When you go to speak with the employees, put your name, email address and phone number on every piece of material they see. Papers, PowerPoint slides, everything. You won’t be soliciting, but you’ll keep your contact information visible at all times. Ask the company if you can do an exit survey. If they let you do one, you can get the employee’s information and contact them at a later date.  

The reason this particular tip is so effective is because all the steps are ready-made. You don’t need to do much work to find the human resources. You shouldn’t encounter much resistance, because the employers will view it as a benefit they provide to their employees. The employees who attend obviously care about their finances/investments, so they’re already qualified. All you need to do is go in there and knock it out of the park so you can go home with a few warm leads.

If you're a financial advisor who lives in an area with large employers, this can be one of the best marketing ideas for you. 

20. Use A Three Letter Referral Campaign.

This is a classic financial advisor marketing idea. I think that direct mail is so underrated. Even the advisors that don’t send out anything could benefit from sending out three referral letters, spaced two or three months apart. I am just saying three letters as an example, but the idea is to position yourself as the “go-to” person for financial services help.

Your first letter should be sent right after your client review meeting, ended with a subtle request for referrals.

Your second letter should let your clients know about a client appreciation event you have coming up. Let them know that you want them to bring a guest.

The third letter is more direct, where you ask if they know anyone who fits your target market. Again, this doesn’t have to be on the third letter. You can mix more educational pieces in there. You just want to make sure that you remain top-of-mind. ​

21. Improve Your Hold Music.

What does your hold music sound like? My personal attorney does this beautifully. His hold music is an advertisement for his services and his podcast. I’ve noticed that there are a few levels to hold music – where does yours stand?

  • Some companies have no hold music at all. There’s just a beeping noise or complete silence. I used to handle marketing for a casino that had silence when they put people on hold. I begged them to promote giveaways and slot tournaments on the hold music, but they didn’t do it. What a shame.

  • Some places have actual music. Jazz or classical music is the most popular because they’ve been shown to be the most calming. If you’re a customer service rep dealing with an angry customer, you want to have everything possible to calm that person down.

  • Other places promote their products and services in their hold music. Bingo! You might say something like: Have you scheduled your annual financial review? It’s critical to make necessary adjustments if your situation has changed and if it hasn’t, to make sure you’re on track to reach your goals.

22. Have a Movie Night. 

Partner with a local movie theater (or rent it out) and throw a client appreciation event. It can be a private, family-friendly movie night with popcorn and the works. This is incredibly powerful with your family-oriented clients because they can bring children and grandchildren. It’s just something fun you can do to strengthen your client relationships. It costs more to rent out a theater on a Friday night versus a Monday morning, but you shouldn’t pay more than about $600. It’s well worth the cost.

23. Sponsor Youth Sports.

Through a sponsorship, you will get your name in front of the youth sports market of parents, coaches, program organizers, players, and fans. Plus, it isn’t likely to get tuned out. People in this market, especially the parents, like to check out the companies are supporting local sports.

I really like this marketing tactic and I think it goes beyond dollars and cents. When you sponsor a youth sports team, you are helping to keep participation fees low, which means more families can afford to sign up their kids. When you sponsor a team, you are allowing more children to receive the many benefits of sports.

24. Donate To Charities.

Similar to sponsoring a youth sports team, donating to charity allows you to do some good in the world. The kicker is that you should send out a press release when you donate. Let the whole world know that you’re so nice. Or you could send out a card or letter letting your prospects/clients know that you’ve made a donation on their behalf to a particular charity.

Another way to do this is to partner with a charity. If you host a holiday party, ask your clients to bring a toy to the party that will be donated to a charitable organization.

25. Set Up A Golf Clinic.

A lot of advisors tout the importance of meeting prospects on the golf course, but they do it casually. I’ve seen financial services companies sponsor golf tournaments, putting contests, longest-drive contests, etc. but golf clinics seem to be the most effective.

The idea is to appeal to your prospects’ passion for golf and do it in such a way that adds educational value. You meet with golf pros at your local club and set up the clinics. The people at the club love these clinics because it creates revenue for them. It gives them an opportunity to showcase their expertise and possibly book extra lessons from the people you bring, who, if they aren’t already, may become members of the club.

After the clinic, you can conduct a brief presentation and serve refreshments. It’s truly a win-win event because your prospects/clients get a golf lesson (and investment information) and the golf pros get exposure to new customers. You can also do these clinics with other sports, like tennis.

26. Send Postcards.

Whenever you travel (such as on vacation or to conferences), pick up postcards to send your clients. One advisor I know of boxes up the postcards and takes them with him, just because he wants to get the postmark from the place he visits.

When you send a postcard to your clients, you further increase your visibility and credibility with them. After all, it’s not up to your clients to remember you. It’s your job to consistently remind them that you exist and reinforce why they have a relationship with you.

27. Get On The Welcome Wagon.

Welcome Wagon is the world’s largest welcoming service. It’s a business that contacts new homeowners after relocation, providing them with coupons and advertisements from local businesses.

One of your common denominators for prospects is change. How can you locate people who are in the midst of change? All you have to do is pinpoint new people moving into town. Welcome Wagon literally does this for you.

Contract with Welcome Wagon to be included in the mix when they visit new families. A good item to give these families, in addition to some literature and your business card, is a refrigerator magnet. Most people eat every day (or if you’re like me, several times per day) so they probably go to their refrigerator several times per day.

Once the Welcome Wagon visits a new family, you can get their name and number. Then you just pick up the phone and introduce yourself to welcome them to the community.


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