Facebook and Twitter are becoming increasingly important to wealth managers and their clients, but a new survey released by Advisors Trusted Advisor makes it clear that old-fashioned word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool for financial advisors and their firms.

The survey, which queried 262 financial advisors in November and December, found the most successful way to land new clients was via referrals from existing clients. The second most fruitful source of new business was referrals from other advisors.

When it came to marketing campaigns and tactics, respondents said the most common and well-received tactic was hosting events that allowed for face-to-face networking with potential new clients followed by speaking at events and attending client seminars.

Most intriguing, particularly to financial advisors and independent broker-dealers that have been told over and over that social networking sites hold the key to their financial futures, among the provided list of marketing tactics, social media came in last and in a tie with "cold calling" among respondents' most successful methods of attracting new clients.

If it seems as though the survey results are what one might have expected in the 1970s or 1980s, that's mostly a reflection of the antiquated policies, techniques and applications most financial advisors and their firms are still employing despite overwhelming evidence that social media and interactive online applications deliver new customers and better overall customer service across the financial services spectrum.

"Comparing these data ATA's 2009 survey on business building, LinkedIn use has more than doubled and, more significantly, those responding that their firm disallows social media uses has been halved to 33% from 65%," ATA principal Mike Slemmer said in the report. "Moreover, the comments reflected a wide range of uses for social media that we didn't see in the 2009 results."

When it came to building business and finding  new revenue sources, 52% of the respondents identified the firm owners or principals as the ones responsible for generating growth, down from 56% in 2009.

More and more, firms are relying on a dedicated sales executive to drive new business, up to 16% from 10% last year.

"This reflects what we are seeing -- that more advisors are realizing that effective sales skills, and those people who have them, are increasingly necessary to growing a business in the very competitive wealth management industry," Slemmer added.

On the customers relationship management front, ACT! was the most popular application among financial advisors and their firms with a 24% usage rate.

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