With so many breakaway advisors bolting from wirehouses and large banks to go independent, competition for clients and their assets has intensified and put more pressure on firms and individual advisors to step up their marketing and business development efforts.

To give its 3,000-plus independent advisors an edge, Fidelity Investments introduced the Business Development and Marketing Planning Toolkit, an interactive PDF that advisors, firms and advisor teams can use to better define themselves, identify exactly the type of clients they want to attract and retain and, perhaps most important, ensure their customers know enough about them and their services to provide a meaningful referral to potential new clients.

"Where do advisors get their business? It's overwhelming referrals," said Ross Ozer, vice president and head of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ marketing consulting team. "It was easier in the past to get referrals. But the market has changed and even the high net worth investors are shopping around more."

"Advisors are much more focused on marketing and business development now," he added. "They come to us looking for specific answers and this one of the tools we're providing to them to help get them to the next level."

While many advisors claim they're too busy to devote a ton of time to marketing plans or figure it's too expensive to advertise at the level they'd need to derive any meaningful results, Fidelity's new toolkit purports to slow things down a bit and get advisors and their firms to walk long before they start to run.

The toolkit takes advisors through a step-by-step process that begins by making advisors and their firms define what they really are and who they really want to serve. Are you swinging for the ultra net high worth crowd? Older folks looking to generate some retirement income and properly manage their retirement accounts? Younger, mass affluent investors? Anyone and everyone with assets?

Once this self-assessment is completed and your firm's story is established, the program asks advisors to consider if everything from their website to their marketing materials to their pitch book is saying the same thing. Having an easy to understand, repeatable and, hopefully, memorable story will not only clarify the firm's strategy but make it easier for clients and the people who provide referrals to deliver the desired clients to your door.

Next,  it asks the firm to measure the quality of its relationships with existing clients. Do you know who your promoters are? Are you really providing good customer service? Where are you falling short? The toolkit then provides third-party support and advice to help implement ways to effectively measure and record your clients' experience and galvanize your vision of what the ideal client looks like.

It also helps advisors thoroughly explain and define their personalities, services and objectives to centers of influences, the attorneys, accountants and other professionals from whom many of these critical referrals are derived.

Getting your message out, be it by calling clients on the phone or using a website or blog, is particularly important when it comes to dispensing financial advice and services.

"Those who were more proactive at communicating with clients beyond the events and the newsletters they're already doing are the ones that are most successful, especially when there's volatility," Ozer said. "It's about varying that communication and targeting it effectively."

Finally, Fidelity's new business development and marketing program helps firms and advisors establish actionable steps to execute all these new tactics to ensure the strategy is executed with maximum impact.

"We're thrilled with the feedback we've been getting on this so far," Ozer said. "It's about getting the conversation started and helping advisors understand what they're doing well today, where they want to go and figuring out what they need to do to make it happen."

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