Deploying certain technologies can be more effective at business development than hiring an additional planning professional.
Systems that help financial advisers find connections to appealing prospects and digital marketing tools that automatically cultivate leads can make advisory businesses more efficient and free up existing advisers for serving clients, said Greg Friedman, co-founder of Private Ocean.
"A referral here or there isn't going to get you where you need to go," said Mr. Friedman, speaking at the Financial Planning Association 2017 Retreat conference near Atlanta. "The financial advice business is now so competitive you really have to be engaged in marketing automation."
San Rafael, Calif.-based Private Ocean, which has about $1.1 billion in assets under management and 24 employees, generated about 14% of its new business last year from digital marketing, he said.
Prospecting technologies are an area that are new to many advisers.
For instance, Relationship Science allows advisers to download information about the people they know, like their client and prospect list from their client relationship management system, as well as those they'd like to know, such as high-income earners or top executives of a particular geographic location.
The tool pairs the backgrounds of the lists to find connections, such as identifying that an existing client sits on a board with a valuable prospect.
"Some advisers have been able to use LinkedIn for this kind of thing, but that takes a lot more time," Mr. Friedman said.
Advisers should test these types of connecting tools by entering their own name and looking at the quality and accuracy of the results the system generates, he said.
As for digital marketing, Mr. Friedman recommends hiring professionals and then letting them guide the firm as far as search engine optimization, website changes and using social media. His firm is using HubSpot.
"We gave our vendor a year to show results, and I just tried to get out of the way," he said.
Automated marketing involves creating an impactful website, attracting interest to that site, building trust with visitors and then offering something that prompts interested parties to submit their contact information. The process needs to counteract the natural human inclination to keep that information private.
It also should result in prospects whose service needs match very close what the firm does best. In other words, the best leads coming through digital marketing channels should resemble the firm's ideal clients.
That takes time, though, experts warn.
Tracking tools are another key to helping a firm grow without necessarily adding to headcount.
Firms should be measuring where all new business is coming from, which advisers are bringing in new customers and from what source, as well as all advisers' business development activity, Mr. Friedman said. Such tracking provides insight for the adviser to see what's working and what's not.
Although Mr. Friedman is a fintech proponent (in addition to being an advisory firm head he co-founded Junxure CRM system), he stipulates that technology will only help if the people at the firm are using it the right way and working hard themselves.
"Technology is so oversold to all of us," he said. "It's what supports the technology you use that makes a difference to your business."