Middle-class clients traditionally first approach planners to evaluate pension options. Employees of utilities and telecom companies still get plump buyout offers, and often one of the 80 partners in the Hanson McClain Retirement Network is called upon for help. The potential clients aren't high net worth - the typical account is $400,000 - but a planner can serve many by studying one company's offer.
The network provides one-on-one training and workshops, online tools and access to unions in return for 20% of revenue from clients. Scott Hanson's own firm, in Sacramento, manages about $1.2 billion, with half coming from clients in this niche, his main source of growth.
"You want to target industries with an older workplace and rich benefits. Look in your own backyard," he says. "Most companies have a policy of not letting advisors into the office. We find managers who don't care about the policy and let us in at lunchtime with a pizza."
To accumulate assets, planners should target companies where it could make sense for employees to take their pensions as a lump sum and get a higher investment return. "AT&T has 18 different pension plans," he notes. "For a couple of plans, you'd need 9% to beat the plan. On other plans you'd need only 4.5%. For the last five years, there have been insurance companies that would guarantee 5% to 6%."
When it comes to municipal buyouts, he advises nearly all clients to take the offer presented to them. Such deals can offer a guaranteed return of 7% to 8%, compared with 3% on a private annuity.
Despite his focus on marketing, Hanson isn't on the social networking bandwagon. "Facebook doesn't interest me that much," he says. "It's not necessary. It may become necessary, though. Our firm has always had a system in place to ensure that we reached out to our clients, rather than just waiting for them to call us."
For example, during the 2008 market crisis, he and business partner Pat McClain invited clients to listen to their weekly radio show. The firm also posts newsletters and a quarterly video.
Hanson says he'd like to find about 20 new partners in major cities, adding that they should be prepared for guerrilla marketing. "We'll show up outside with doughnuts when employees are starting their day."