Here's a completely unique way to attract new clients.
Boulevard R (www.boulevardr.com) didn't start out as a marketing platform for financial advisors; it started as a consumer-oriented financial planning platform.
Created by Matt Iverson and his father, Jon Iverson, Boulevard R is a Web site that creates a "Starter Roadmap," or blueprint for the middle-income client, that gives him the benefits of an independent financial plan for free. "This is a very high-level planning document that serves as a basis for a discussion around a planning engagement," Matt Iverson said. Not a planner himself, but having a strong background in consumer rights work, Iverson wanted to create something that would benefit millions of Americans. "With the Roadmap, we can show people how to move forward -- where to start and what to do next," he said.
Available since October 2007, Iverson said that Boulevard R is built on best practices in the planning industry as well as extensive input from high-profile advisors like Michael Kitces (director of financial planning for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Inc. in Columbia, Md.) and Aaron Coates (a founding member of both his advisory firm--Relevant Financial Planning LLC in Elkhart, Ind.--and the FPA's NexGen Group).
Here's how Boulevard R works: In the first step, the consumer visits the Web site and, free of charge, begins by selecting goals, which are represented as different icons to be clicked on (such as save for college, buy a home, pay for a wedding, max out retirement account, etc.). As each goal icon is clicked, it jumps down the page to a timeline where it can be dragged to the point on the timeline when the client wants to accomplish the goal. Clicking "next" takes users to a series of behind-each-goal tables where further information is input, often by using graphical "sliders" to indicate dollar amounts. In other words, the site is highly visual and user-friendly, even for the least tech-savvy of consumers.
Once the consumer has worked through goal selection and data input, he or she proceeds to create a "Starter Roadmap" that gives a bigger picture of his finances than anything he's probably ever assembled on his own. This part of the process queries the user with more detailed questions, some of which overlap the earlier goal-setting process. "It's intentionally redundant," Iverson said, "though it's easy for the user because redundant questions are automatically prepopulated from the user's earlier answers. And the redundancy is helpful in verifying the accuracy of data previously entered. Also, the consumer may want to adjust some of his earlier answers as he reaches this point in the process." The completed road map includes tips for reaching financial goals and for gaining financial protection, as well as a net-worth assessment and basic investment advice.
Consumers like Boulevard R, according to feedback Iverson's received.
"They particularly like the ease of use," he said, "because the site doesn't feel like a big calculator and it's not at all cumbersome like some other sites."
Under Boulevard R's current business model, when consumers have completed the goal setting and data input process, they are faced with a choice: Starter Roadmap or Professional Roadmap. Those who pick Professional Roadmap work directly with Boulevard R for $79 to get a more detailed picture than the Starter Roadmap provides. The Starter Roadmap includes a free analysis of one goal, an expanded calculation of the "your numbers" section of the interim results achieved after completing the goals exercise, and limited access to the online "Dashboard" with step-by-step expert advice. The Dashboard includes things like steps needed to reach the consumer's goals, articles and other, more passive, forms of assistance. The Professional Roadmap includes an analysis of the rest of the goals, unlimited access to the online Dashboard, and other benefits.