Our annual 100 Best list is 100 percent reader-generated and offers insight into what’s working for working advisors today. Thanks to all of you who made this list our best ever. Make your voice heard and vote on the top ideas or add your own in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you!

1) Niche Market
I have specialized in working with teachers for 18 years. Becoming a specialist in this niche market has allowed me to grow my business. This is still a very untapped market that is waiting to be serviced. I will never run out of new prospects.
-John Bustrum

2) No pressure cooker
A low-pressure sales style along with very informative dinner seminars works for me.
-Dino LoPresti

3) Volunteer
Volunteer your time to assist seniors stay independent.
-Robert Keane

4) Coffee Talk
We conduct a “Second Cup of Coffee” public meeting at a local restaurant. We specifically note in the ad that we are there to feed their mind with useful information. We detail the next two month’s topics for discussion. We also list the name of any professional, i.e., elder law attorney, CPA, etc., who may be on
the agenda. We take reservations for 40 and are consistently booked.
-Anonymous

5) Get a PR Pro
Hiring a public relations firm part time to get local TV interviews and articles written in local newspapers has been instrumental for our positioning as the local financial expert.
-Matt Golab

6) Show You Care
While there are many technical skills that we need as advisors, the thing that rings in my mind is that we must be client-centric. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. When I sit down with prospective clients, I spend at least two meetings, spaced a week apart for about two hours each, before I even let them give me a list of their assets.
-Kenny Main

7) Info Bingo
Put questions to basic insurance topics on a bingo-style card so attendees can then win prizes for providing answers. (This is used after a seminar.)
-Cassie Monson

8) Target the orphan policy holder
I personally work with orphan policy-holders from different companies. An already sold customer is easier to do business with than a new prospect.
-Arthur E. Cambridge

9) Focus Groups
-Mark McKay

10) The annual review
Right now, annual reviews and service calls are the best.
-Anonymous

11) Adult Education
What has been the most successful for my practice is teaching an adult financial educational course in the evening at a local university. My most significant and largest high net worth clients base has come from people enrolled in my class who provide me “introductions” (referrals).
-James R. Veal

12) Master the Media
I do two radio shows as well as running ad spots on the radio. This, in combination with two to three client events annually where I invite my current clients to bring guests, has resulted in good ROI for my marketing dollars.
-Brian Singer

13) Radio Guy
I host a weekly radio show addressing important issues in retirement and brand myself as the “Retirement Guy” in the Denver Metro area. I find great success through a weekly call to action to request one of my free “Special Reports” mentioned in the radio show.
-Stephen Geist

14) Internet Leads
We book appointments from our Internet lead program. The following day the prospects receive a Federal Express package with the annuity information and other materials. This appears to solidify the scheduled appointment, since the prospects are very impressed with the speed and service of my firm.
-Steve Delott

15) Take Along the Kids
Ninety-five percent of my business is with mature clients. I found after 30 years in the business, my prospects were beginning to dwindle. My baby boomers were getting older and their incomes and investments were usually invested with me. I began to invite their children to sit in on reviews at least once a year. I found they became clients as well.
-Stephen Jorgenson

16) Sense of Urgency
Regular and consistent emailing to my customer, prospect, and networking list has produced fantastic results. The key is to be relevant, topical, and instill a sense of urgency into each message. This type of messaging practice makes you a trusted and sought-after resource of information.
-Gregory Durette

17) Gifts
Find out what the individual really likes and keep track of it in a CRM system. For holidays and birthdays I send them gifts that they love and will use. I’ve received a number of referrals that indicate the reason they want to work with me is because they have heard I really listen and care about what is important to them, including their non-financial life.
-Amy Irvine

18) Many Mediums
Market in more than one medium. For example, direct mail, referrals, clients, ads. This will give you more names coming in that you can contact.
-Bill Campbell

19) Network with Market Associations
We market our products through both AARP and ASBA. Also I find volunteering at the senior booths at state fairs, church health expos, etc., gets my face out there.
-Kim Theobald-Stark

20) Do What You Say You are Going to Do
Sounds simple, but to guarantee completion, write it down, give it to your wife or fellow employee with a date that you will have completed it. Have them check on you and reward them with lunch for doing so.
-Bob Kasse

21) Give Thanks
I never send holiday cards to my clients except at Thanksgiving, the appropriate time to thank them for their business. It gives me the extra opportunity to get referrals. Clients really like getting a card at Thanksgiving, when no one else is sending them anything. It doesn’t get lost in the end-of-year holiday shuffle.
-Suzanne Hopkins

22) Above and Beyond
One of the most important aspects of this business is treating your client as if it were yourself. This, in turn, helps make clients more at ease and they will feel you are authentic and trustworthy. In return, you have a good referral partner/client that will be selling you to all of their friends and family members. But you have to be you and go above and beyond the call of duty.
-Alejandro Chetto

23) More Than an Advisor
The most important sales and marketing ideas are the ones that show you and your firm as a provider of valuable and timely information, apart from the role of advisor. Providing CE classes to CPAs that are relevant to the people they work with that is not directly or indirectly tied to life insurance, long-term care or other services you offer is important. If you have specific knowledge about family business issues, such as a CE course about the challenges they face, that’s a great way to start.
-Thomas P. Donahue

24) Crossing Over
Selling annuities as a cross-over sale after selling long-term care insurance to a senior.
-Otis Manning

25) Direct Mail
Do direct mailings that offer free booklets or reports regarding information on retirement planning, alternating with IRA and annuity information.
-Guy Cornette

26) When There’s a Will …
I have found that many individuals and couples have not yet completed their necessary will, living will, healthcare power of attorney and durable power of attorney-related documents, and don’t fully understand the implications of not having these documents completed. Offering them an explanation of these documents and the importance of getting them completed is a way to built credibility and trust with potential clients.
-David Vanasse

27) Private Client Dinners
I will contact a group of four to six clients and let them know that I want to keep them up to date with what’s going on in the economy and would like to invite them along with their family and friends to a complimentary dinner seminar. Most clients bring two to five guests each and I’ve been able to acquire new clients as a result, all with no marketing costs.
-Anthony A. Saccaro

28) Establish a Need for LTC Sales
While every statistic points to the high probability of needing care (70 percent of us over 65 years of age), most of us are in denial and think it will only happen to the “other guy.” It is important to help the client picture themselves and their spouse needing care. It’s important to help them understand how this would impact their family if it happened to them: What if their health changed? What if the unthinkable happens?
-Diana Renton

29) Get Referrals
There has not been, nor will there ever be a better way to meet people then the referral you get from the prospective client’s friend.
-Peter Bickelhaupt

30) Each Client is Unique
I look at the whole client and not a part of them. I then put a unique plan together to help them reach their goals. I believe each client is different and so their plan should reflect their goals and objectives.
-Tim Fitzgerald

31) Mind the Gap
I stay in contact with all of my clients by telephone, mail, and email. I bring them up to date on their policy particulars. I compare the benefit amount with the going amount in the local area, and sometimes they ask about getting another policy to fill the gap.
-Katharine Jacobson

32) Veteran Affairs
My most effective marketing idea for 2011 (besides referrals) is veterans’ benefits consulting.
-Paul Gierten

33) Listen
Always put the customer first by listening to the client/prospect and by asking comprehensive questions to get the overall view of their assets. Together, you can map out a retirement plan that works for them.
-Roger Gorman

34) Get the News Out
Send out mailers to very select clients or future clients as a newspaper piece.
-John Grant

35) Sell, sell, sell!
-Bill Wenner

36) Medicare Supplement
We have found that a perfect gateway to the annuity business is through the Medicare Supplement business. Therefore, we mail Medicare Supplement leads and assist those that respond with their Medicare Supplement choices. Once an agent/client relationship is created we cross sell annuities. It works.
-Edwin Oom, Jr.

37) Do Not Call
In 40 years in business and at age 67, I have found one thing that works: buy a good list with “do not call.” I use turning 65 for med supps and final expense life. Send yellow postcards (cost 24 cents), and then follow up three to five days later asking for an appointment. I know it’s an old system, but it still works.
-John E. White

38) Book It
Follow up the initial meeting with a new prospect by mailing them a short, easy-to-read book or booklet, mailed in a book box. We use a financial parable book. Follow up with a phone call a few days after the book has arrived and your second appointment ratio will increase significantly.
-Steven G. Johnson

39) Make the Time
You need to take your time with seniors.
-Annette M. Quillan

40) Constant Contact
Keep in constant contact with clients, either through email, snail mail, telephone, or in person. The more contact you have with your clients, the more they will remember you when their family and friends have a need for any of your services.
-Dennis Profaca

41) Happy Anniversary
The best way to generate new sales with an existing client is when the fixed indexed annuity comes up for the reallocation review. The insurance company sends out a letter to let the client reallocate their strategies each year before their anniversary. I have found that the client has additional money that they didn’t tell me about in our initial sale. They will get another annuity because they see how good the original annuity that I sold them has done without any loss.
-James F. Cadle

42) Put it in Writing
I personally send approximately 50 hand-written letters, with a personal label and a real stamp out weekly. In my letter, which includes my picture, I say that I am their local “senior specialist” and that if I do not hear from them I will be stopping by next week–no exceptions. On the outside of the envelope in a huge green lettering I also write, See you next week. This grabs their attention, too. After my mailer I get a few people who call me and say, no thanks. Then I go to my PO box to see whose letter might have been returned because of moving or passed away, etc. Then I hit the road that week and have been closing at least two annuities a month and about 10 to 15 final expense appointments.
-Renee Merckx

43) Have a Great Fact Finder
Create your seminar around it. My fact-finder is six pages long and somewhere in those six pages is someone’s hot button issue or problem to solve. If they fill out the fact finder and bring it in you have a 95 percent chance of getting a client. When you use a financial software program and make it personal and bind it in a binder for them with the solution you have a 100 percent success rate.
-Charles Clarkson

44) Go Team
I moved from Buffalo, N.Y. to Jacksonville, Fla. about three-and-a-half years ago. One thing I noticed after moving to Florida was the huge amount of former New Yorkers, especially from the western New York area, that were living in North Florida. As a big NFL football fan, I joined the local chapter of the Buffalo Bills Backers club and watch my favorite team with some hometown fans. I decided to start my own website that caters to former New Yorkers who now live in North Florida. I am working on a “Service Provider” section for us former New Yorkers who have professional services/businesses to offer to the other members. All I ask the providers to do is treat our members fairly and to network and share referrals with other former New Yorkers.
-J. Plachta

45) SendOutCards.com
It has been the single best marketing tool I’ve ever used. The system is so easy to use and is fully automated. When I get a new client, I just enter them into the system. I have a thank you campaign and one for referrals, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and anniversaries. I get three to four referrals a month using this system.
-Tony Rake

46) Valentine’s Day
I have found sending a simple Valentine’s Day card to my lady clients (widows usually) is successful. I include a $5 Starbucks gift card. I’ve had a couple of widow clients remarry this past year and sent cards to them. Amazingly, in both cases, the new husbands thanked me. Also, I received three referrals from the husbands and will do/have done business with both. This year we mailed 42. I have received phone calls, e-mails, notes, and personal “thank you’s” from 40.
-Bob Adams

47) Event Planning
Client events have increased our production dramatically. Sponsoring these programs puts both you and your client in a very relaxed atmosphere. We also encourage them to bring a friend or two to these events. No selling issues are discussed, just a good time is had by all. After these events we usually make appointments with not only our clients, but the friends as well.
-Michael T. Papa

48) Avoid Jargon
Ask questions first and determine the client’s expectations, then listen to the response. Present the best alternatives in plain English.
-Dale Jensen

49) Focus Groups
Maximize your impact and relationships with new clients by creating focus groups. Invite recent seminar attendees that became clients to your office in small groups to get their feedback on your presentation. Run through the important points of your seminar and new ideas that you’d like to present at upcoming events. It keeps your clients engaged with you and sets the stage for future referrals. The bonus is the feedback you receive should help you become a better presenter as well.
-Frank Jaksa

50) In Their Best Interest
I just treat my clients with respect, and develop an open and honest relationship with them. I try to build a team atmosphere that lets them know what I propose is going to be in their best interest.
-Kevin Dougherty

51) Informal Meetings
I ask clients to bring a friend to breakfast or lunch. It’s a great time to say thank you to your existing client and a nice warm introduction to someone new. I rarely discuss any product during these informal meetings, but rather look to set an appointment with them.
-Jeffery Lillie

52) Advisory Board
I have created an advisory board consisting of seven clients. Each client serves a two-year term in order to suggest ideas and see them in action. We meet once quarterly as a group to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of what we do every day. These clients are more engaged and more apt to refer someone they know to someone who treats them exactly the way they want to be treated.
-Stuart Augustine

53) Speak Up
Sign up to speak at a Senior Networking Alliance (or a similar organization’s) event on a non-proprietary topic of interest, such as the history of Medicare, Medicare Advantage financing, the way in which the “doughnut hole” is being closed, or other subjects of interest to seniors.
-Thomas K. Blomain

54) Join Groups
Join community groups and national associations so your face and name can be the picture of the product in your community.
-Karey Anderson

55) Follow up, follow up, follow up
-Karen Johnson

56) Keep your lead pipeline full
-Marilyn Kelson

57) Ask Questions and Shut Up
A producer should be more interested in what the client is saying. If you listen closely they are saying, “Here is what is important to me. Pay attention and you will make the sale.”
-Bruce Dickes

58) Back to Basics
If all else fails in getting business, I go back to basics: Go door-to-door, knocking on businesses and residential homes to generate appointments.
-Alejandro Chetto

59) The Death Plan?
Ask the clients that you are working with, “Have you made any death plans?” When you get the dubious glance, explain, “Many of my clients will have plans in place for when they are living, but very few discuss what the other spouse will do at the time of death.” This opens up opportunities for life insurance as well as annuity sales.
-Wendy Swanson

60) Identify everyone in your natural market
That is, people who know you and you know from various circles. Call all of these people and offer to buy them a cup of coffee so you can share with them more about the work you do and how you help people. Tell them you want to position yourself as a resource for them and others they know.
-Scott Craddock

61) Ask Questions
I believe asking questions is the biggest missed sales step out there. I believe the greatest tool an advisor can focus on is not charts and graphs, but the skill of asking questions.
-Matt Golab

62) Referrals
-Jeff King

63) Portfolio Opportunities
Amazingly, I have found that it is most effective to ask current clients about other needs. It opens ups a discussion about other opportunities in their own portfolios.
-Joe Tillman

64) Give Them the News
I do a quarterly newsletter that gets in front of people enough to not bother them.
-Kenneth Peterson

65) Family Connections
Connecting with the adult children of boomers through my company’s online trading platform, thereby getting them to think about using an advisor.
-Elizabeth Howarth

66) Visit Senior Care Clinics
I partner with my old colleagues in the medical field and pinpoint new senior care clinics. The first visit is a simply an introduction, followed by a second visit in which I bring snacks or breakfast. This builds trust, and with trust come referrals.
-Mario De La Rosa

67) Cold Calls
Take a few minutes each week and cold call the medical offices in your area. It’s amazing what you can run into. One-on-one, in-person meetings beat reading a lead letter any day.
-Randall Krug

68) The Golden Rule
Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
-Nancy S. Stokes

69) Value-add
Using discount health products as value-add services or voluntary benefits.
-Mark Roberts

70) Set Goals
Get a ratio of presentation to sales. Figure out your average commission per sale, then you can figure out the number of sales needed to reach your goals and then the number of presentations needed each week to make those sales.
-Todd Riley

71) We All Scream for Ice Cream
Have an ice cream social at a prospective client’s home and do a seminar at the same time.
-John Fauzey

72) Build Alliances
Work with elder care attorneys to provide free insights to seniors.
-Paige Joyner

73) Put a Label on It
I place my labels on dental brochures, because people who take care of their teeth usually take care of their health. If someone calls for a simple $13 to $25 dental plan, I have a client. I can get referrals and I can up sell other products after I do a fact finder. I put my brochures in plastic door hangers and canvas neighborhoods. I also put stacks of brochures at local libraries, hair salons, and various businesses. I think about where people have to wait for things, and then place my brochures there. I get calls once or twice a week from it, and it’s practically free.
-Jane Rowley-Bowen

74) Split Annuities
The split annuity is really compelling right now, especially with low interest rates on CDs.
-Paul Irving

75) Recognize the Referring Client
Most of my work results from referrals. I always follow up with a thank you note to the person who refers me. If they do a lot, I recognize them with a small gift.
-Paula Q. Wallace

76) Public Broadcasting
Try to get on a local PBS TV station to do educational segments or shows about senior planning and long-term care. Generally, it’s the right demographic and it’s free exposure.
-Tom Martin

77) Help With Drug Plans
I specialize in Medicare and am a certified Long Term Care Planner. If you truly want to help seniors, help them with their drug plans. They will love you for it.
-Keri Bateman

78) Facebook Time
We have found that Facebook is one of our best sales and marketing ideas. We are building that community to source referrals and sell product. It is amazing how clients can post on their wall how much they appreciate us and friends of theirs will comment to us for the same products. I am stopped several times a week with comments about how informative our Facebook page is.
-Theresa Baker

79) Ask about an IRA
A simple way to get a conversation started about a client’s retirement nest egg in your fact finding process is to ask, “Have you started taking distributions from your IRA yet?” The answer will either be “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t have one.” If yes, they are short on income, and have to take money from their IRA. If no, they have plenty of discretionary income, and can afford other products. If they don’t have one, you have a client with problems.
-Patrick Monahan

80) Public Speaking Engagements
Do lunch and learn seminars for corporations.
-David Driggers

81) More Than Money
Focus on issues beyond the client’s finances. For example, our firm process looks at the impact that an individual can have on his or her family, business, and community. This naturally ties in with why it is
important to have asset protection and secure income as part of the financial plan. Showing a client the impact that they can make to their family and community can be a wonderful motivator to take action.
-Greg Hammond

82) Plan Management
In exchange for a minimal fee, offer to actively manage a client’s/prospect’s retirement plan (401K, 403b, SEP-IRA, etc). Baby boomers need assistance with this, especially in this volatile market. Most employer-sponsored retirement plans are passively managed.
-Diane Brewer

83) Target Seniors Turning 65
They will need a Medicare Supplement. When I deliver the Medicare Supplement policy, I then get into a discussion about their savings, CDs, etc. I have been fortunate to write an annuity sale for just about every supplement that I have placed.
-Marty Rohde

84) The Devil is in the Details
Follow through on everything. Details matter.
-Eva Valentine

85) Free Advice
I hand out cards with a thank you on the back that says: This card is good for a cup of coffee and free advice.
-Sammy Harrell

86) Find Their Sweet Tooth
I send out birthday cards, handwritten and hand addressed to my book of business. At every seminar I do, I make sure that everyone gives me his or her information, so I can increase my book of business. I also find out each customer’s sweet tooth and then send it to that person unexpectedly. It brings a smile to their face.
-Jayne Sandler

87) Client Appreciation
I host client appreciation dinners and ask my clients to bring a guest. I speak for a few minutes, a wholesaler will speak and then we have dinner. It builds relationships. I have never hosted a dinner without getting benefits. They are awesome.
-Scott Stooksbury

88) Fire Drill
I ask prospects that say they don’t want to buy long-term care insurance because they may not need it: “Have you lost a lot of sleep lately because you haven’t had enough house fires to justify your homeowners’ insurance?”
-Michael Petrilli

89) STP
See the people.
-Mike Masiello

90) Become a Guest Speaker
Most seniors are members of local churches and senior centers. They all look for speakers on various topics, especially with the conflicting viewpoints on the new medical plans for seniors and Medicare programs.
-Robert M. Eichner

91) Don’t Exaggerate
We have adapted a completely new approach to advertising to seniors/boomers. The ads now focus on services versus transactions. Too many of our competitors’ ads focus on exaggerated claims and returns, and fail to provide full disclosure (even when called). This tactic, while widely used, is unethical and only makes the rest of our industry look bad.
-Rich Vandermolen

92) Human Connection
Meet face to face with your clients and be patient. Listen attentively even when it may not pertain to the reason they have come to you. Humans need to be connected.
-Judy Kooyman

93) Follow the Paper Trail
Contact the beneficiaries of existing clients and share thoughts on retirement and final expenses planning.
-Raj Shenoy

94) Own It
Truly “own” your client relationship: When you do your first fact finder, be sure to capture the details–maturity date and return rate of CDs, surrender periods of existing annuities, and their penalty free dates–and enter it into the system.
-Melanie C. Alexander

95) Educational Seminars
Provide complimentary educational seminars to pre- and post-retirees through local colleges, trade schools, and universities, on topics ranging from mistakes to avoid and solutions to increasing retirement income distributions from qualified and nonqualified accounts.
-James R. Brown

96) Ask a client to pass your name around
I also ask for them to give me names of persons that they intend to talk to. It is always good to be referred by one of your satisfied clients.
-Joy Haltom

97) The College Angle
Offer seminars on “How to save for college education funds.”
-Sangeeta Malik

98) Special Delivery
My five-year-old son and I have enjoyed father-son bonding while making May Day baskets for my best clients over the past several years. He’ll even help me deliver them this year. Often, my voice box is full of “thank you’s” from grateful clients before I even get back to the office. I’ve touched my clients in a unique and special way.
-Scott Wirtz

99) Business Card Mojo
I carry my business cards with me everywhere. I meet seniors at the grocery store, church, the mall and other places. I give them out whenever I can.
-Macy Fry

100) Circle of Friends
Invite five good female clients to a coffee hour and ask each one to bring at least one friend. Over coffee, we talk about the financial concerns they have. At least half of the guests end up becoming clients.
-Louise Coleman

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