Your ability to prospect is the most important component to your success as a financial advisor. Even the smartest and best would be completely ineffective without a client. And before anyone becomes a client, they are a potential client. But who are these potential clients — and, more importantly, where are they?

There are basically two methods of prospecting. One is by word of mouth through referrals, telephone calls, email or even snail mail. All other methods require an expenditure of marketing dollars. If you have time but no money, then try the first method. If you can identify a marketing budget, then it’s a matter of wisely spending those marketing dollars.

A recent conversation with a 61-year-old producer yielded some interesting truths. He has been a million-dollar roundtable producer for many years. He sells life insurance, primarily. His prospecting method has been by personal contact and telephone follow-up. He has discovered that he neither has the energy nor the drive to continue to prospect under the one card system. He finds himself in a very unfamiliar world, a world of websites, social media, economic uncertainty, smartphones, Google and SEO. A plethora of options hits his email every day so he’s confused and concerned.

And he should be concerned. This combination of communication noise and changing landscape can be very intimidating, but there are solutions.

First, eliminate the noise. By locating, deciding on, and executing a plan of attack, you can be nimble and effective.

Since I own a seminar marketing company, I’ll use seminars as an example of how to be marketing wise. You must be very careful to select a subject matter for your seminar that is marketable. You can’t be dishonest on a mailer. One producer’s seminars were no longer working for him. He called me for help. I asked about his practice. His seminars weren’t broken; his practice was broken and as a result he couldn’t fix the seminars. He wanted me to give him bullet points that would draw a crowd. Since the bullet points must be compliant, you can’t sensationalize the subject matter on a mailer. He wanted me to come up with some catchy words or a fancy mailer that would draw people in spite of the fact that what he was selling had lost its appeal to the public. I suggested that he change with the times. He was offended, and rejected my advice. Oh well.

Annuities are very powerful products. Under the right circumstances, clients are well served by annuities. However, the right circumstance is the key phrase. The product must fit the client’s needs. It needs to solve a problem, or improve a financial situation. Just because someone is over 65 and can fog a mirror doesn’t mean they should own an annuity. We must find the right clients for the product. We can’t just sell the product to anyone.

Here’s my next question: Is your practice structured so that it solves problems? Keep in mind that the solution must be marketable. I don’t mean simply that you need to have a great solution. I mean that you need a marketable solution that is great. A solution that grabs the attention of the potential client. If you don’t have marketable solutions, then fix it. Find problems to solve. Solve them. Then market the solution.

It’s time to call the baby ugly if it is. If your idea of success in this industry is $40,000 per year, and living on your spouse’s income, that’s ridiculous. Six figures is minimum, not a goal. Fixing your marketing will fix your income. Fixing your practice will fix your marketing.

In our times you can go fishing, with a laptop and cellphone and make money if you know how. Don’t allow the world to pass you by. Keep up!

For more from Kim Magdalein, see:

Timid producers will go broke

Fishing for clients

Why prospecting is changing (and how to keep up)