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Making Time for Financial Advisor Marketing

A look at strategies to help you grow your practice

Morningstar Staff


Corporations put millions of dollars and thousands of hours into finding a marketing plan that accomplishes any number of goals—awareness, engagement, sales, and more. But for independent advisors, throwing money at the problem isn’t necessarily the solution. We talked to two of Morningstar’s leading voices to get practical ideas for financial advisor marketing that can help you build your client lists and create stronger relationships with clients and prospects.

How financial advisor marketing has evolved

When Sheryl Rowling opened her own practice 30 years ago, the independent advisor and financial planner started with what was right in front of her: the people in her community. But as the practice grew, her marketing approach evolved.

“I had no clients whatsoever, and I basically told everyone I knew that I was looking for clients,” said Rowling, a CPA and Morningstar’s head of rebalancing solutions. “I had lunch with as many people as I could and asked them if they liked their current CPA, and to please keep me in mind if anything changed. I also asked if they knew anybody that was looking for an advisor, and that I would appreciate a referral.”

She currently uses a combination of that same basic approach and new techniques.

“When I started out, practices would have websites, but they were really like business cards. Over time, search engines have turned websites into things that actively bring in clients,” Rowling said. “Now, advisors need a very robust website that differentiates it from others. At our practice, we also do blogs and keep a presence on social media, because that’s how younger clients look for advisors.”

The psychology of asking for help

But finding new clients, especially those who have never had a financial advisor, can be tough.

Money is a highly personal topic, and there’s no simple way to build trust with prospects to make them bare their financial souls to you.

Morningstar behavioral economist Sarah Newcomb, Ph.D., author of Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead without Leaving Your Values Behind, researches the psychology of money and investing. Newcomb provided some insight into why people are wary of financial advice, and what advisors can do to help.

“There are a couple things that keep people from getting professional financial advice,” Newcomb said. “First of all is fear of shame and fear of judgment. People fear being judged for not having enough money or having mismanaged what they have, and they also fear being judged for not knowing enough about investing.”

Other barriers to financial advice include feeling overwhelmed or apathetic, which can go hand in hand.

“If someone is overwhelmed and paralyzed, they will not seek advice because so often when we don’t know what to do, we don’t do anything,” Newcomb said.

“There are plenty of people who have $50,000 or more in cash accounts or, at best, CDs, and they know they need financial advice, but they don’t know how to go about interviewing advisors,” she said. “They are afraid they’re going to have to pay each advisor for their time; they’re intimidated by the idea of choosing an advisor.”

These internal obstacles can create inertia. But, Newcomb said, “An advisor can be an external force that says, ‘Here you go. Here is one free consultation with me. No strings attached. Just come in, bring all your questions. No judgment.’ That can go a long way to making people take that first step.”

This blog post is adapted from the white paper "Marketing for Modern Advisors."  Read the full paper.  

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