Not long ago, an advisor who had seen me speak years ago called for some marketing advice. He was considering another marketing company’s product and I told him what I thought. Then he asked in total frustration, “Well, give me a marketing solution that works!”

What do you mean by one “that works,” I asked? He replied that he was looking for a marketing strategy that would cause total strangers to pick up the phone, call him and want to do business with him. I responded, “I’ve spent the last 15 years evaluating marketing solutions and haven’t found anything like that.”

What this advisor was looking for is referred to as direct response marketing or lead generation marketing. Both are as dead as disco right now in the financial services world.

In recent years, hugely successful financial services brands that were built using lead generation programs have completely shut those programs down. These are companies with over 10,000 representatives—Fortune 50 companies. They can’t make lead generation work even with their gold-plated brands. You probably don’t have any experience with lead generation techniques, probably have a limited budget and probably don’t have as influential a brand as New York Life or Ameriprise—so what makes you think you can make lead generation work?

Here are some of the lead generation techniques that I hear batted around in the industry:

  • Direct Mail: Purchasing 5,000 “names” and sending letters or postcards to them.
  • Radio: Purchasing 30-second or 1-minute “spots.”
  • TV: Buying and producing 30-second commercials
  • Google AdWords: Purchasing AdWords such as “retirement planning” or “financial planning” so when local investors search using those terms, your website comes up.
  • Public Seminars: Very different than client seminars—you invite people you don’t know to eat a free steak as you talk about investments, retirement, IRAs, etc.

In all sincerity, I have probably seen nearly every potential marketing technique in the industry. I have run hundreds of effective marketing campaigns and worked with thousands of advisors, and I would never even consider the above techniques if I were an advisor.

Probably the most effective marketing strategy is called prospect nurturing. How many people (clients, friends, family, friends of friends, people at board meetings, charities, parents of your children’s friends, etc.) have you met since you started in the business 10 or 20 years ago? What if you had maintained constant contact with every one of them via informative and educational email and direct mail monthly? Would you have gained “top of mind status” as a financial advisor? (Yes.) Would many of them have contacted you regarding a financial problem they have? (Yes.) Would you have more clients than you have right now? (Yes.)

Say the following to every person you meet: “I put out some very good educational pieces on the economy and investments to my clients. Would you like to receive them as well? May I have your business card or contact information?” Once you get it, put them on a campaign resembling the following:

Low-Touch Contact Campaign: Annual birthday cards, quarterly economic updates, quarterly prospecting letter or email with call to action. Here’s a sample call to action: “Whether you or someone you know needs help on financial matters small or large, please call me—if I can’t help them, I’ll refer them to someone who can.”

Moderate-Touch Contact Campaign: Like the low-touch campaign, but increase reports to monthly.

High-Touch Contact Campaign: Like the low-touch campaign, but increase reports to weekly.

The prospect nurturing campaigns listed above aren’t earth-shattering; however, they are the most effective form of marketing. This campaign may only cost a couple of hundred dollars per year, but it will generate the best results of your career.