In this Business Builder series of articles, we're examining 5 key marketing strategies that are working for financial advisors today.

If you missed The STP Approach to Business Building for Financial Advisors or Publishing, Media Participation Can Boost Advisors’ Credibility, you will want to go back and read them before proceeding with this week’s article on Relationship Marketing. This week, we’ll continue our series with a second installment on Key Strategy #2: Relationship Marketing. Below you will find a real-life advisor story that will bring this week’s concept to life for you.


This is the story of Navigation Financial Group, a 30-year-old wealth management firm based in Dallas.

Clyde Wyatt, CLU, CFS, Managing Director, and his partners, Roger Gekier, John Wolverton and Steven Hagemann, who jointly manage a branch office chain under the Navigation Financial name in six different South Texas cities, determined that they needed a more cost-effective option to group dinner seminar events. Navigation is one of Securities America’s largest branches with more than 25 independent financial services professionals and approximately $1 billion under management.

While group dinner seminars had once been the backbone of their marketing plan, the executives at Navigation began to see that there is a large segment of the population that will either not respond to a traditional seminar invitation or are uncomfortable discussing financial matters in a group setting. In 2008/09, they decided to try a more personal approach and have continued with their “concierge consultation” plan ever since.

They started by crafting an introductory letter inviting prospective clients to meet them for a no obligation dinner to discuss their personal financial situation. They sent the personalized letters to 1000 households. They purchased the names based on demographics from a list broker. In fact, they outsourced the entire process to a turnkey service provider, Seminar Success, a division of Response Mail Express (RME).  


According to the Seminar Success website: Concierge Consultation is a one-to-one lead generation program that uses a "dinner" meeting concept rather than a "dinner seminar." It utilizes RME's experience in seminar marketing, full printing and production services, custom RSVP, telephony and customer service support to provide a one-to-one lead generation and appointment setting product.

The service includes a personalized invitation printed on card stock, a bio card insert printed on matching card stock, appointment pre-screening and setting performed by the RME telephony department and a password protected website that enables the advisor to view and listen to all of the incoming prospective client calls in response to a set of survey questions designed to elicit a response. 

Out of the 1,000 invitation letters that Navigator sent out, fifteen qualified prospective clients agreed to go to dinner and get acquainted with Clyde and/or another advisor in the firm. Usually, a two-person advisor team was present at every dinner meeting; this made it easier to build rapport and keep small talk going during lulls in the business conversation. Typically, both husband and wife would attend as a prospective client unit. Clyde or his colleague would typically use an iPad to show visual elements, which proved to be a great way to explain complex ideas and demonstrate their expertise over dinner.

Of the 15 dinner appointments they conducted, 13 of the dinner guest-units agreed to come into the office for a more formal meeting. Of those thirteen meetings, seven of the original guest-units became clients. The firm’s approximate $8,000 investment paid off handsomely – and the advisor-teams enjoyed 15 dinners at a great steakhouse, to boot.

With time and follow up, my hunch is that they will be able to stimulate some additional interest with the prospects who said, “no thanks, not now” during the first go-round.


In conversations with other advisors, I have heard mention of Power Mailers Direct and The Second Opinion Campaign.

Power Mailers Direct seems to be offering something very close to what RME does, while The Second Opinion Campaign (brought to you by Steve Anderson, who was perhaps best known for his Multi-media Business Cards and Audio Business Cards in the past) is a bit higher tech, utilizing the Web and email communications to supplement traditional direct mail tactics.

While it’s too early to tell if Steve Anderson’s new Second Opinion Campaign system will pay off for the advisors now using it, the strategy seems sound and there are turnkey options that allow advisors to automate some of the process (which is a good thing, in my book, since advisors are typically pressed for time). I have seen some of the customized mailers with DVD inserts that Anderson’s company, Creative Juice, has produced for advisors I know. The printing and packaging look good, although I would say that some of the graphics and scripting may seem, well, a bit corny to more sophisticated clients.

Still, advisors are wise to find ways to systematically and consciously offer a second opinion service. John Bowen, founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, LLC, says in a recent Elite Advisor blog: “Stop asking for referrals. Start offering a financial second opinion to individuals whom your clients care about.” Good advice, and easy to implement, too. A good way to remind yourself to talk to your clients about this is to add “second opinion service” to the bottom of every client meeting agenda.


Matthew Bellis, a marketing coach I think highly of, has a slightly different twist on the second opinion campaign. He suggests that advisors contact their key clients and let them know they have set aside a certain amount of time each week to offer free second opinions through the Retirement Resource Center, a service that the advisor has established exclusively to serve friends and family members of current clients who may not be getting the good advice and attention they deserve. Bellis calls this the “Matt Bellis warm introduction system.”

“Advisors’ best Centers of Influence are their best clients – the top 20% of their client book,” Bellis says. “These clients already believe in them. After all, they trust them with their money. But they must know the advisor’s story to become the advisor’s advocate and introduce the advisor to their qualified friends, family and coworkers.”

While this may sound easy, Bellis and I have found that advisors need help crafting their story, rehearsing their story and internalizing their story in order to be their most effective best. Correspondingly, Bellis works on a weekly or bi-weekly basis with many advisors, helping them perfect their story and client approach.

John Barton, MSW, CFP®, a wealth manager based in Wichita, worked with Bellis over a period of time to craft his Retirement Resource Center message. While John has over 28 year’s experience, he told me recently that his business really began to soar after implementing the Bellis-suggested plan. You can see a short video of Barton talking about the Retirement Resource Center on his website. Note, while you are there, the themed graphics and professional website John has built. This all works in his favor when current clients refer their friends and colleagues to the Retirement Resource Center in Wichita.


Next week, we’ll jump into Key Strategy #3: Event Marketing.

In the meantime, check out this series of video segments: Advisor Of The Future: The Road Ahead. You might also be interested in the white paper transcript. Eight thought leaders in the financial services profession presented their views in a roundtable discussion following the Financial Planning Association’s National Conference in San Diego in September 2011.  I was pleased and honored to moderate the discussion.

I am in the process of completing my final interviews in preparation for the keynote presentation I’ll be delivering at Transamerica Financial Advisors’ national conference in Tampa January 16th. If you’re a Transamerica advisor, I look forward to seeing you there!