Here’s one way RIA firms can measure their firms’ success: they can see everything from where their revenue is coming from to total assets under management —benchmarked to other firms — the same way you’d look at dials on a car dashboard.

That’s how Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, custodian for RIAs, designed their new web-based customizable benchmarking tools for RIA firms. In addition to the visually streamlined dashboard-like design — RIAs can see where they stack up compared to peers just by looking at where the needle on the ‘dashboard’ is pointing — the tool also allows the RIA firms to input their own firms’ goals for things like marketing expenses and client acquisition costs.

And it allows RIAs to compare themselves not just to firms of similar size, but also to smaller or larger firms, if they choose, David E. Canter, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ vice president and head of practice management and consulting told Financial Planning in an interview.

The tool is provided free of charge to firms that use Fidelity Institutional’s services, Canter said. “Many firms want to fine-tune their marketing and business development plans but don’t have the resources or the time to define and track them,” Canter said in a separate statement. With the new benchmarking dashboards as well as other consulting support, “we’re helping advisors set specific goals around key metrics like new client wins, marketing expenses and acquisition costs.”

According to the 2011 Fidelity RIA Benchmarking Study, advisors are projecting median revenue growth of 12% in 2012. The study also showed that a majority of firms see marketing as critical to future growth, but fewer than 30% have a written marketing plan.

Though a majority of firms also said they rely on the firms’ principal or principals for generating new business, half of those firms do not have succession plans in place. And finally, though 78% of advisors say they recognize the importance of client service as the largest business opportunity and source of referrals, 91% of advisors surveyed do not measure client satisfaction annually.

The study, which Fidelity conducted with help from Quantuvis Consulting, collected data from more than 375 RIA firms with more than $200 billion in combined assets under management.

Danielle Reed writes for Financial Planning