From the September 2004 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

September 1, 2004

An Advisor to Advisors

Ron Carson spends about 85% of his work time managing his financial planning firm, Carson Wealth Management, in Omaha, Nebraska. The rest of his time is devoted to Peak Productions, an 11-member consulting firm (housed in the same building as his planning firm) that provides coaching and marketing guidance to about 200 advisors across the country. Each line of work benefits from the other, he says: Carson takes what he's learned working on his own firm and shares it with his coaching clients, and he can sometimes take back tips he's gleaned from coaching clients to use in his own firm.

Carson's recent foray into TV advertising, for instance, was less an attempt to market his planning firm than a science experiment for the benefit of his coaching firm, although it did provide some marketing exposure. "I've always told people that in my experience, TV and direct mail don't really work; you want to get new clients from referrals," he says. "But my new coaching members need to get a critical mass first, so I decided to do an experiment." Carson signed on with Minneapolis-based Redtown Productions, a company that enables advisors to run high-quality, customizable television ads about their services in local cable TV markets. At the group's annual meeting in November, Carson will report back on the results: how much he spent on the ads, how many leads resulted, and how many of those leads actually resulted in new clients. "It's great information for advisors who can't seem to break through that certain level and establish a core group of clients," he says.

Being his own marketing guinea pig sometimes raises his planning clients' hackles: Why are you running ads, they ask, when you've turned away the referrals we sent you? The mixed messages can sometimes be confusing, but Carson simply explains that he's experimenting on behalf of his coaching program. "I don't go out of my way to share that with clients, but if they ask, I'll certainly tell them about it," he says.

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