Years ago, in a meandering conversation on what advisors need to be successful, the successful advisor and author Susan Hirshman caught me up short by telling me that it’s only one thing that advisors want and need to be successful: new, good clients.
SmartAdvisor appears to be a convenient, affordable and efficient way for advisors to meet that need.
A new offering from SmartAsset.com, which provides personal finance tools and education to online consumers through its website and through partnerships with popular financial sites, the genesis of SmartAdvisor came when CEO and co-founder Michael Carvin and his team realized that many of those consumers “wanted to talk to a person” about their finances. “The idea to connect investors on the SmartAsset program came from people asking for it,” Carvin said simply in a March 14 interview.
There are many client referral programs, of course, offered by advisor custodians and broker-dealers, by associations like the Financial Planning Association and NAPFA and by financial publishers and standalone companies.
Carvin sums up SmartAdvisor’s intent this way. “Our goal is to build a fund-raising machine for financial advisors; to build the first white glove local marketing service for advisors.” The platform, he says, allows advisors to “tap into all of that intent that investors have on the web to work with them.”
There are three things that seem to set apart SmartAdvisor from those other referral sites:
1. For one, advisors who sign up for the program don’t need to make a long-term commitment. “They can hit the ‘pause’ button at any time,” says Carvin, and for any reason. “We thought about it this way: if you compel an advisor to sign up for a year, it doesn’t sound like you have a huge amount of confidence” in that referral program.
2. Second, these are not cold leads that the advisor gets, but rather ‘high-intent” leads, as SmartAdvisor calls them. “They opt in” by responding through a “little link on a retirement calculator or on a CNN Money article,” says Carvin, that asks ‘Are you interested in meeting a financial advisor in your neighborhood?’ The prospects then have to answer 20-25 questions about their financial assets and goals, including queries like ‘Do you have kids? How close are you to retirement?’ which Carvin says help “weed out those who don’t want to work with an advisor. Then we get on the phone.”