digital marketing for RIAs

The Death of Referrals and the Birth of Digital Marketing for RIAs

As always, the early adopters will reap the benefits. This too applies to the birth of digital marketing for RIAs.

What’s Next on the Marketing Horizon?

Bob Veres is one of our favorite thought leaders and he recently weighed in on the future of marketing for RIAs:

”This was before my time, but they tell me that cold calling was once a very effective marketing strategy — until, of course, it wasn’t. I remember when advisory firms routinely attracted dozens and sometimes hundreds of prospects to cheesy prepackaged seminars, until attendance gradually began to slip away.

Now I’m hearing that the most recent marketing innovation, client appreciation events where clients are invited to bring along their friends, is starting to lose its effectiveness, either because clients are no longer bringing their friends, or because their guests are too far outside the advisory firm’s target market.

Marketing trends come in and go out with the inevitability of sunrise and sunset. The question is: What’s next on the marketing horizon? How will advisory firms reach beyond referrals to attract the next wave of clients?”1

The 2016 Investment News benchmarking study of Financial Performance of Financial Advisors reported that the industry is struggling to find a systematic way of attracting new clients, and the marketing practices of average firms are challenged in many areas.

Bob closed his article with this thought on digital marketing’s confluence of the smart web, personalized media and social media: “This is just a quick look at the new high-tech marketing reality that the planning profession is going to have to learn to navigate. As always, the early adopters will reap the most benefits. Those who come late to the table risk arriving just as targeted ads on social media, freemiums and snackable content have become as ineffective as cold calling is today.”

External Business Development and Marketing Strategies

Last month we had Michael Kitces on our monthly webinar (definitely worth listening to the replay) and he made a big point with our listeners when he said that after you strip away the growth from rising markets and look at the new dollars collected by RIAs on average, they have not grown over the past 2 years.

He added on his blog, “It is “accepted wisdom” that the best way to grow an advisory firm is through referrals. In the latest Investment News 2016 benchmarking study of the Financial Performance of financial advisors, it turns out that referrals aren’t the primary driver of AUM growth for RIAs anymore. Not client referrals, nor professional referrals, nor even both combined. Instead, it’s now all about external business development and marketing strategies instead.2

The New World of Marketing for RIAs

This month we’ll have Stephanie Bogan, performance consultant extraordinaire, on our webinar (click here for replay) with her insights on how to bridge the gap from the “old school” to the new world of marketing for RIAs.

Stephanie says, “Prospects are people too. Their mind-set and motivations drive their behaviors, just as they do for advisers. Once you understand this, it changes the way you message. You realize prospects aren’t visiting your website looking for attributes but for answers to their most important questions. When you know these questions, and speak to them, you get their undivided attention — and a phone call. When you don’t, they leave your website and look elsewhere.

If advisers genuinely believe in what they do, what could possibly stop them from feverishly spreading the message? When I ask advisers wishing to grow why they aren’t doing more to market, common answers include: “I don’t know how,” “I don’t have time” and “I don’t want to look like a slick salesperson.”

Advisers with successful firms claiming they don’t know how to grow? What they usually mean is they don’t want to return to dialing for dollars or hitting up every friend and family member with a pulse. Advisers hesitate to take action because the old way isn’t attractive and the new way isn’t clear. The resulting uncertainty ensures advisers take little, no or inconsistent action.“3

But from where she sits there’s one first step to any successful marketing plan: “Your mind-set drives your marketing far more than your methods. A lack of clarity, confidence and conviction limits advisers’ ability to propel firm growth to anywhere near the levels possible. It’s the equivalent of putting watered-down gas in a race car. It will look good and it will go, but the engine will sputter rather than roar.

To understand how to connect with prospects, imagine a successful couple sitting on the couch finally having the conversation about needing to plan and getting some help. Is this couple passionately discussing their risk tolerance? Or how many years of experience their adviser must have? Or whether they should choose a firm that’s objective and will put their interests first? Do they talk about their need for holistic, customized planning? Unlikely.“4

 The Modernist Advisor

A growing number of RIAs have found a new path to building their ideal business. At the Modernist Advisor we call it sustainable growth.

Firms implementing our purposeful, systematic process are realizing higher levels of growth and profitability.

For over 30 years, we’ve helped leading advisors achieve greater success and we can do the same for you.


1. How to attract the next wave of clients, Bob Veres,, March 27, 2017
2. The Death Of Referrals And The Future Of Business Development For Financial Advisors,, December 12, 2016
3. Doing a better job articulating adviser value, Stephanie Bogan,, March 5 2017
4. Doing a better job articulating adviser value, Stephanie Bogan, March 5 2017

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