In a world of prospects, it’s difficult to know where to start when developing leads. New Jersey-based estate planning attorney Gary Garland says, “Keeping business flowing is the Holy Grail of the estate planner.” So how do advisors and planners develop leads and keep the pipeline full? Following are five surefire ways to stir up business.
One of the most popular lead generators is the seminar. Most advisors cite this as a tried-and-true method to attract new clients.
Catie Fitzgerald is the founder of Financially Savvy, a company that conducts public seminars and one-on-one coaching to educate investors in making their own financial decisions. These public and private seminars deal with budgeting, selecting investments, retirement planning and debt management.
She invites people — about 40 percent of her audience is seniors — to seminars through direct mail, advertising, networking and partnering with other professionals.
“In exchange for access to [other professionals'] mailing lists and a letter of introduction, I give them the opportunity to speak at my seminar. I also give them space in my online newsletter to promote their business,” she says, describing her mutually beneficial alliances with other professionals.
Fitzgerald says there is a fundamental mistake advisors make when it comes to planning and conducting seminars.
“Many financial advisors think they should give the seminar for free. After having conducted seminars that I gave for free and ones for which I charged, I found that the quality of prospect increases when you charge for the session,” she says. “For a two-hour session, you could charge a $25 donation to your favorite charity. The prospects I’ve interviewed on the topic indicated that in their mind they knew that free really meant they would face a sales pitch.”
Keith Johnson, vice president of the business development and branch development divisions of AIG Financial Advisors, suggests using seminar marketing as the primary way to meet new clients. AIG uses a non-profit speakers bureau to provide financial education to the public. Advisors may not sell while leading one of the workshops, but they usually develop relationships with potential new clients.
Networking and alliances
Networking with other advisors at industry events is another inexpensive way to develop leads and is very common among advisors. Developing trust is often the best way to lay the groundwork for future business dealings. These relationships then blossom into recommendations that spawn more clients.
Salem, Ore.-based Willamette Financial offers continuing education seminars as an alliance with CPAs. These eight-hour classes are interactive and cover various subjects, and are taught by professionals. The sessions are offered to CPAs, product company wholesalers and business consultants. The classes are credited with the creation of business connections and sales.
Larry Klein, a Certified Retirement Financial Advisor in Walnut Creek, Calif., says smart advisors align themselves with other professionals.
“The right way is to contact the other professional and explain what you can do for them. Many advisors call and ask what the CPA or attorney can do for [them] — not a good approach. If the advisor starts the relationship by showing where they can add value to the CPA or attorney, this bears fruitful referral relationships,” he says.
Fitzgerald attends at least one networking event each week, introducing herself to as many people as she can, identifying the kind of referral each person needs and tries to find someone who matches that profile. She says giving referrals often means getting them in return.
“I also always ask my clients for referrals at the conclusion of every contact,” Fitzgerald says. “Simply ask, ‘Who else do you know that might appreciate an invitation to my next workshop?’ With-in the first year of being a financial advisor, 50 percent of my new clients came from referrals, either from professionals I met at networking functions or from other clients.”
Direct mail programs
Sending monthly or weekly newsletters keeps your face and message fresh in people’s minds. Garland sends out a turnkey estate planning newsletter on a monthly basis to “any advisor who falls into my estate planning web.”
Johnson, however, says these campaigns must be more tailored to a specific type of client to be effective. He says advisors with AIG include material that appeals to the target market.
Klein says advisors often use postcards offering booklets on topics of interest to recipients. He thinks this approach often fails, though, because people are being pitched a product they don’t necessarily want.