Some of the best internal marketing efforts use systematic client surveys as their catalysts. Firms that use Dalbar, the Client Audit, or locally produced, professionally designed survey tools often find that they are gleaning insights into their clients’ needs and wants that didn’t come out in client meetings. As a result, they are able to anticipate and respond to clients in a way that builds a higher fence around these relationships.

A good example of this was an exchange I had with one of our consulting clients. I asked this advisor, “Why do your clients stay with you?” He said, “Performance.” I said I didn’t believe him and asked permission to talk to several of his best clients to get their perspectives. His best client said, “The reason I stay with him is because his staff makes me feel important. They anticipate my questions, they execute on their plans, and they are always asking me what my concerns are so that they can help reduce my anxiety.”

Obviously, that’s good client service. But this firm also had been using a client survey tool to put them in the position of being proactive in the relationship.

As for creating new clients, this effort is often diffuse and low impact because many firms have not defined who their optimal client is. Therefore, it is difficult to know which message to convey and in what forum. For example, if on the one hand you are working with 401(k) plans, and on the other you are working with high-net-worth individuals, how would you position your practice? What would your unique message be? How would you design a targeted marketing effort to capture more of those clients?

We have often found that a helpful exercise is to begin your marketing efforts by profiling your current clients whom you would like to replicate. This doesn’t just mean focusing on their wealth, but instead considering other factors such as:

1. How you secured the client in the first place;

2. Where they live in proximity to your office;

3. What their occupation or preoccupation is;

4. What services and advice you have provided that they value and respond to.

The list of characteristics can be as long as 15 to 20 items, but the exercise allows you to think in terms of what may help you attract more clients like the ones you value most.

1. The rest of the marketing and sales plan becomes much clearer.

2. Begin with who your future optimal client is and identify their characteristics.

3. Examine how you can best reach those individuals and what message you should convey to get their attention.

4. Consider how many new opportunities you need from this segment in order to procure an adequate number of clients.

5. Evaluate the costs in time and money to create these opportunities and measure the return of new business against these costs.

When evaluating the return, consider the life of a relationship–a reasonable rule of thumb might be seven years–and amortize the revenue generated over that time.