Get smarter about communicating with existing clients — and attracting new ones. Sharpen your overall business strategies, and improve your social media presence.

No matter how successful an advisor becomes, there are always ways to hone a firm’s practices to reach more clients and improve profitability. We scoured Financial Planning’s many Web-only features, blogs and videos to find the best ideas our readers might have missed.

Get some fresh ideas in the list below — or remind yourself of that great tip you never got around to implementing.

Define Your Services

“It is imperative that consumers understand what they are getting (and paying for), as well as what they are not getting (and thus still may need),” says Bob Seawright, chief investment and information officer for Madison Avenue Securities in San Diego. “In my view, financial planning is broader than wealth management, which is broader than investment management.”

Recruiting? Commit to a Process

Deciding how to dedicate resources and sticking to the plan are important in successfully recruiting advisors, particularly from the wirehouse channel, says Neil Simon, founder and CEO of Highline Wealth Management in Rockville, Md. Do it internally or outsource, but designate a director of corporate development, whose job responsibility is to recruit, screen and meet with potential breakaway brokers.

Time Management ... for Everyone

A task or project that takes one person an hour to finish — whether it’s preparing for a review meeting, handling a service request or completing paperwork — may take another colleague twice as long, notes Joni Youngwirth, managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network. Make sure everyone — both staff members and advisors — adopts the same mantra: Make a list, prioritize it, block out time for the most critical tasks, and then review and revise the list.

Set Specific Goals

Use numbers, says Ron Carson, founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group in Omaha, Neb. “Grow my business” is foggy, he notes. “Bring in $10 million of new fee-based AUM” is crystal clear and measurable.

Smart Teams, Part 1: Advisors

Firms that split advisors into teams wind up with better revenue growth, profit margins and AUM per client, says Eliza De Pardo, principal and director of consulting for FA Insight. She suggests that teams of advisors be divided into three levels of advisors: lead, associate and support.

Smart Teams, Part 2: Other Pros

“Clients want specialists — a tax advisor, estate planner, asset allocator and portfolio manager,” says Wayne Badorf, president of Wells Fargo Funds Distributor. “Full-fledged teams are not just simple arrangements between advisors who refer clients needing accounting or tax services. Full-fledged teams are those with several individuals right there as part of the practice with distinct expertise and roles in serving the client.”

Lock in Key Employees

Firms need advisors whom clients can turn to when the owner is away, says Jeffrey Concepcion, founder and CEO of Stratos Wealth Partners in Beachwood, Ohio. Team members who are capable of keeping the business going are critical in boosting value for the practice, so firms need to hang on to them. Larger firms with over $2 million in revenues should consider transferring equity stakes; smaller firms should consider bonuses or other rewards.

Self-Insurance for Long-Term Care

Clients with more than $2.5 million in investable assets may be better off self-insuring rather than buying long-term care insurance, says Dennis Stearns, president of Stearns Financial Services Group in Greensboro, N.C. But location matters, he points out: Such a strategy may be more beneficial in areas with lower care costs, such as North Carolina, than in expensive cities like New York or Los Angeles.

Track Key Performance Indicators

Advisors should measure and track a variety of key performance indicators to enhance the value of their business, says Owen Dahl, president of Gladstone Analytics. Among them: client additions and turnover, clients’ longevity with the firm, age of clients, referral rates, assets under management per client by age, advisors’ use of social media and marketing expenditures compared with new client revenue. These metrics, Dahl says, help advisors “understand the relationship between how they are running the business on a daily basis and the firm’s valuation.”

Tiptoe Into Inheritance Planning

“When you meet with [clients], start asking questions about their children,” says Bob Mauterstock, a retired financial advisor turned author. “Ask them questions like 'Do you [know] what you want to do with your vacation home?’ See how they respond. That will lead into more of a conversation about their children and future.”

Plan for Succession

Transition timelines often take longer than expected to put into effect, says Kelli Cruz, founder of Cruz Consulting Group (and a Financial Planning columnist). Her recommendation for advisors gearing up to hand off their practice: Create a formal three- to five-year business plan.

Capture Website Leads

“If the only way someone can get in touch with your firm from your website is to click the 'Contact Us’ form in the upper right hand corner, you have failed already,” says Ted Jenkin, co-CEO and founder of oXYGen Financial in Atlanta. “Your website needs to have an element that makes a consumer want to engage — a free e-book, a free webinar or a button that will make them want to enter their information in order to get your information.”

Explain the Big Picture to Staff

“One way to involve your employees is to share where your firm is headed — both in the short term and the long term,” says Joni Youngwirth, managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network. “A written business plan for your small business has indisputable value for this. Firms that involve their employees in the business planning process wherever appropriate — or at minimum, share the firm’s strategic direction — are significantly more likely to have loyal employees.”

Donor-Advised Funds for Clients

Donor-advised funds can be used in place of a family foundation to help create family legacies, says Tracy Craig, an estate planning lawyer at Mirick O’Connell. Because donor-advised funds are themselves public charities, they allow clients to set aside amounts for charities and obtain a charitable deduction now, while they delay choosing a specific charity or purpose to benefit.

Segment Your Clients

As an advisory practice expands, determine the type of clients who are driving your business, says David Canter, head of practice management for Fidelity Investments. Then define a strategy to serve this group and allocate resources appropriately.

Continuity After a Sale

To help an ownership transition to proceed more smoothly, have a founding partner maintain a role after a firm’s sale, suggests Kalita Blessing, president of Quest Capital Management in Dallas. Create a title such as chairman emeritus for the founder.

Family Values for the Wealthiest

When working with ultrahigh-net-worth families, create a family mission statement and establish a governing board, says Jane Flanagan, senior consultant at Family Office Exchange. This board can ensure that family values are properly aligned with the mission statement and that all family members are engaged in decision making.

Land Celebrity Clients 

To reach celebrity prospects, network with the professionals whom they already work with, such as business managers and agents, says Doug Wolford, president of Convergent Wealth Advisors in Washington, whose own clients include entertainers, musicians and professional athletes.

Offer Help for Entrepreneurs

For clients who are business owners, advisors can play an important role in helping them sell their firms, says John Brown, CEO of the Business Enterprise Institute. Among the steps: Identify the owner’s exit objectives and prepare a financial and retirement needs analysis.

Merging? Plan Your Org Chart

Once a merger has been completed, advisors should create an organizational chart that looks out three to five years, suggests Glenn Kautt, Financial Planning columnist and vice chairman of Savant Capital Management in Rockford, Ill. Factor in not only existing positions, but also roles that may be eliminated and potential new hires.

Connect Over Charitable Work

Advisors’ own philanthropic activities and those of their clients can create engagement and networking opportunities, says Paula Feinberg, a senior vice president at Raymond James & Associates in Dallas. By participating in a charity that a client is involved in, advisors can connect with their clients on a more personal level and may also generate new connections.

Tap Wealthy Clients’ Passions

An effective way to reach wealthy potential clients is to target certain professions, such as technology entrepreneurs or dentists. Set up meetings at industry conferences, suggests Stacey Haefele, president and CEO of the marketing firm HNW. “You have to connect on the things that give them passion — and for a great many, that is their profession.”

Prospect Meeting? Listen Up

Don’t go into any call with a prospect thinking, “I am going to close this sale,” says consultant Rick Rummage. Enter each sales call with clear goals: Discover what the prospects want; what they know about the services you offer and the industry in general; and what their current situation is. Then educate them and dispel any misinformation they have.

Get Tech Tools Right

Before sinking money into high-priced technology investments, suggests Fortigent’s CEO, Jamie McIntyre, ask clients what types of tools they prefer for communications.

Hiring? Get Better References

Take a 360-degree approach that includes supervisors, peers and direct reports, with both direct references from the recruit and indirect references obtained separately, says executive search pro Jeff Warren. “Be comprehensive,” he says. “Look at everyone in the recruit’s network and consider every angle.”

Video Tip, Part 1: How to Connect

“You are the most important element to your website,” says Ron Carson. “Showcase yourself in a way no one else can. Greet your visitors with a welcome message, teach a fundamental concept or discuss your business philosophy.”

Video Tip, Part 2: Quick Answers

Identify the most frequently asked questions from clients and create quick videos with answers, says Financial Planning columnist Bob Veres. Posting those on your website will free staff members from answering common questions and help clients get the answers they need.

Review Medicare Plans

Remind clients each year of Medicare’s open enrollment period from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, says Jessica Ness, director of financial planning for Glassman Wealth Services in McLean, Va., and suggest they review their plans.


Clarify the agenda: Well-executed meetings can inspire team members and lead to increased office productivity and morale. Use a consistent agenda format so that attendees know what to expect, recommends Chris Kirb, business consultant for Securities America’s Practice Management Group. For each agenda item, focus on four things: what decisions have been made, what the next steps are, who is responsible and what the deadlines are.

Transcribe meeting notes: Use a service like Mobile Assistant or CopyTalk, suggests Robert Sofia, co-founder and COO of Platinum Advisor Strategies. These notes help to keep advisors organized and help them to avoid having to flip through pages in a notebook.


Shift focus by site: Set specific uses for different sites, says Craig Faulkner, CEO of FMG Suite. Use Twitter for aggregating content, linking to articles and quotes that would interest clients and prospects. Showcase charitable work and personal interests on your Facebook business page. And keep more formal information on your LinkedIn profile.

Create a content library: Boost your social media branding while also ensuring that all content is in compliance, says Joanna Belbey, social media and compliance specialist at Actiance. Her tip: Establish a library with preapproved links to articles that are compelling to a firm’s target demographic.

Think about timing: Since nearly half (48%) of social media users are on Eastern time, finding the most effective times to make posts is important for advisors, Faulkner says. Advisory firms should keep track of what times of the day users respond the most and strategize accordingly.

Publicize job openings: LinkedIn and Twitter can be effective tools for recruiting job candidates, says Kelsey Ruwe, director of client and team services at Carson Wealth Management. Job listings on social media can help you fill openings, of course, but they also enhance the firm’s brand by showing its culture.

Use LinkedIn groups: Joining and communicating in relevant LinkedIn user groups will put you on the radar with members and improve your own search results, says Lauren Boyman, head of marketing strategy for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.


Host local speakers: Hold events with other business leaders in the community, recommends Jason Gordo, co-founder of Valley Wealth in Modesto, Calif. A good rule of thumb is to allow speakers 15 to 20 minutes each for prepared comments and then moderate a panel discussion for questions and answers.

Be educational: Attract and educate clients’ children or younger prospects with seminars on such topics as how to construct a 401(k) plan or how bonds work, says Lewis Altfest, head of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York. These people may be less interested in investing, but could provide important business for a firm down the road.

Focus on your niche: Holding workshops tailored to the unique financial needs of LGBT clients will help advisors increase both business and loyalty from this growing investor base, says Steve Branton, senior financial planner at Mosaic Financial Partners in San Francisco.

Have fun: Hold events for clients — such as baseball games, museum trips or golf outings — and encourage children to attend, says Randy Morris, CEO of Summit Wealth Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. Such events can be an effective way for advisors to get to know the next generation in an informal setting.

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