Rich Coppa and Darin Gartland, his partner at Wealth Health in Roseland, New Jersey, have tried a number of marketing tactics since they launched their advisory firm in 2004. Many have met with less than resounding success.

“The level of client we’re trying to obtain,” Coppa says of his firm’s target of those with $1 million or above in investable assets, “. . .I don’t think you do it through seminars.

“I’ve tried and I don’t think you get a lot of real good responses from high-net-worth people. I think there’s a lot of people just fishing for some advice and free food.”

Speaking of people looking for free stuff, since they had worked with many pharmaceutical executives on compensation and benefits, Coppa thought it might be a good idea to exhibit at pharmaceutical industry events. It wasn’t.

“It’s difficult to get people in that [venue],” Coppa laments, “especially if you’re in the exhibition hall. They walk by to see what you’re giving away and take six of them for the grandkids and don’t really focus on why you’re there.”

And don’t get him started on buying mailing lists. “I’ve tried lists,” he says, “and I’d tell you it’s not worth your time.”

He says that he thought that buying a mailing list by Zip code of people who had expressed an interest in financial advice would give him some good targets with the right demographics. Not quite. The financial questions asked in the survey the respondents took part in were probably very general and a small part of a questionnaire that may have also asked about shampoo preferences and radio listening habits. “When you buy these lists you’re excited, but when you call them up–and since this is a two-person firm, I was the one doing the calling–they couldn’t remember the survey or they weren’t really interested. You have to ask yourself, is your time better spent elsewhere?”