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Marketing 101 for New Independent Financial Advisors

Jeremi Karnell
May 20, 2018


Today is your first day as an independent financial planner. You've completed all the testing and certifications. The only thing you're missing is clients. Sure, you may have a few “friends & family” leads, but to sustain yourself in your business, you're going to need to do some marketing to build your book.

There are many creative marketing ideas that you may consider to generate leads. However, there are a handful of foundational marketing activities that you should make a priority out of the gates. These include referral alliances, personal introductions, networking, client events, and referrals. Using a combination of these activities can help you jumpstart your business.

Referral Alliances

Alliances with other professionals is a trusted way to generate clients. Connect with attorneys, accountants, and tax professionals to create relationships and maintain rapport. When your customers seek financial advice, your name should be top of mind. Equally important, you should return the favor and make reciprocal introductions when necessary.

Sales is a numbers game- you may have to talk to 50 professionals before you have a core group that you can count on. Matt Oechsli, the founder of the Oechsli Institute, stresses doing your homework before contacting the alliances. Let's say you want to align with CPA's. He suggests researching each of your prospects before asking for a face-to-face meeting. Oechsli's organization provides training and support to thousands of financial planning companies. What they've found is that top performers at prestigious firms research these alliances carefully. Show an understanding of their business before you approach them. You want to know demographic information (age, gender, location) as well as psychographics (how do they think).

Introduce yourself to employers in your area. Most employers have benefit plans that include 401k. Contact human resources personnel and ask if you can speak to employees. Many companies have no solicitation policies in place, so they may be hesitant to let you talk. Reassure them that you won't solicit, but provide beneficial information. Make sure HR knows that this is a benefit that they can offer their employees. You're going to cultivate leads, and the employees leave with a clearer idea of how to invest.

When dealing with employees, you have to believe that you are doing something to help others. Here is where you want to delve into what motivates people to invest. For most people, the primary motivation is family. These may not be high net worth individuals, but it is essential that you understand it's not about the money but the reasons behind what the money means to them.

Personal Introductions

Industry insights suggest that asking for referrals doesn't work with the modern affluent crowd. With references, you're asking your client to do all the work. By requesting an introduction, you will have done the groundwork. You know who the customer has drinks with on Friday nights or who's in the golf foursome at her club. When you ask for an introduction, you want to be direct: "Kate, you golf with Mary X on Wednesdays. I'd like to meet her. Can I tag along next Wednesday?"

When you source a name or names from a client, wait a week or two before you call them to ask for the introduction. You don't want to seem overly eager. When you've received the introduction, treat them as you would any prospect. Research them properly and spend time getting to know what makes them tick. Ask questions about what they want to accomplish. Remember that you want to find out what's behind money, not money itself.


Attend networking events in your area - Chamber of Commerce mixers, Women in Business, etc. Networking is a great way to build your reputation as well as your client base.

Come up with a short speech about what you do. Invariably you will be asked -"What do you do?" Be prepared with information about your services and your business. Be able to tell prospects who some of your clients are and what you've done to help them. You don't want this to sound rehearsed, but you want to make sure you get the information across to the listener. Have business cards handy to leave with the prospect.

Do not get into a full-fledged pitch or you run the risk of turning them off. Pepper your conversation with questions about them - hobbies, family, why they're at the event, etc. If they start asking you questions, count this as a good thing. It means they're interested in what you have to say. Make sure you're not giving the same information that other advisors may have provided. Come up with a fresh, professional approach to your business. Have an arsenal of industry information ready so that you can tailor your conversation to the listeners. Be prepared to answer questions about your longevity in the business or the types of clients you've helped. That is your chance to make a good impression.

Client Events

Find out what your clients' interests are and organize events around those interests. Let's say you have a group that likes wine. Create a wine tasting event and encourage them to bring friends. Hosting three or four client events a year can keep your name in front of customers and prospects. Here are few ideas suggested by financial event consultants:

  1. Private tours -- People always want to feel like they're in the know. Appeal to this by hosting an event at a museum, art gallery, or zoo. Ask if you can tour an off-limits area, which could be a particular storage area at the museum or baby feeding area at the zoo.
  2. Food event series -- Take a look at social media, and you will see how everyone fancies themselves as "foodies" or gourmands. Cooking classes, wine tasting or themed dinners are an excellent way to make your events memorable. Experts suggest having a progressive series ranging from appetizers to desserts. Come up with a theme like foods around the world. Progressive series encourages prospects to attend all events. If you have clients that own restaurants, wine or beer shops, or wineries, they may even be invited to use this as a promotional event for their business.
  3. Food truck event -- If you're hosting an outdoor event, kick it up a notch by inviting food trucks. Depending on where you live, you could showcase anything from fried mac and cheese to Mongolian barbecue.
  4. Movie screenings -- Check with local theaters about screening a themed movie. Make it a family friendly invite and encourage clients and prospects to bring their families.
  5. Beer tasting -- Think wine tasting but with beer. Industry experts say that beer is increasing in popularity with the Gen X and Gen Y crowd. Depending on your community, you may have one or more local breweries or microbreweries nearby. Let the brewer talk about his beers. That could count as one of your behind the scenes events.

The important thing is to skip the pitch. Your prospects know why they are there. Don't ruin their moods with a sales pitch. If you've done your homework, you should have prospects and clients in attendance. Spend your time getting to know your prospects and building rapport with your customers.


Ask every prospect or client that you pitch for a referral. That is how you quickly build a client list. After all, people are more inclined to talk to you if they are aware that someone they know has referred you; this can work hand in hand with personal introductions. Friends and family members are the first places to start. Let them know that you're a financial advisor and ask who they know that would benefit from your services.

Keep in mind that modern affluent clients may not like giving referrals. Some people don't want to give their colleagues' names to you. Others may mention names without you asking. Asking for referrals is a tried and true method of building a client list. You will find that senior financial advisors will swear by this approach or they will tell you to find other ways to get clients. Either way, the responsibility is yours to ask or not ask. Personal introductions may work better.

Final Notes

There are hundreds of ways for you to make an impression. You have the knowledge and training to support your decisions. All you need to do is apply creativity to generating clients. Becoming an independent financial advisor can be lucrative and rewarding. It's up to you to keep a steady stream of customers. Bear in mind that you're not going to have leads fall into your lap. Work the phones, nurture your email list, start blogging, use social media, and most of all, talk to people. The more individuals who know what you do, the bigger your client list will become.







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