Practice Management

Marketing for your firm's next level

How an in-house questionnaire, client survey and focus group can point you in the right direction

Jan 10, 2016 @ 12:01 am

By Libby Dubick

Quad Cities Investment Group was ready to rev up marketing but wasn't sure how best to begin. The RIA firm, based in Davenport, Iowa, was created in 2009 when partners Scott Stoltenberg and Laura Swift left the wirehouse firm where they had worked together for nearly 10 years. The first few years they focused on ensuring everything was in place for their clients, and in 2013 they brought on another partner, Christine McElvania. In their first seven years, with minimal marketing efforts, their assets under management rose from $85 million to $150 million.


“We knew we needed a plan that would take us to the next level,” said Ms. Swift. “At our former firm and at conferences we had participated in marketing workshops. They would get us started, but we would never end up with a final plan. We were highly motivated, but needed help.”

While a generic marketing plan is better than none, the best plans reflect a firm's values and capabilities and an understanding of what is important to its clients. To start, the firm's three partners filled out four-page questionnaires that explored the firm's resources and pricing, branding and current client communications and marketing.

“One of the questions was how many referrals had we requested in the last 12 months. We all answered zero,” said Ms. Swift. “We had always been reticent to ask for referrals because we did not want to come across as salesy.”

Next was an online survey of clients. The results were very encouraging. Nearly 40% responded, with 90% of responders extremely or very satisfied. The firm was planning a website revamp, and the survey gave a good idea of how clients used the current site. Comments at the end of the survey were very useful in developing a positioning statement.

Lastly, the firm organized a focus group. They were asked to invite eight to 10 of their clients who represented the types they wanted to work with in the future.

Several clients said they did not understand why the partners did not have as much visibility as other advisers in the area, given their level of service and expertise. And many said they would be happy to provide referrals, but had never been asked. In fact, one client suggested that instead of taking him out to lunch alone, one on one, the firm should ask him to bring a friend. This suggestion — two-on-one lunches — ended up in the final marketing plan.


The focus group was an opportunity to test positioning statements with the group. During the first day of meetings, the team reviewed the questionnaires and survey highlights and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. They also discussed setting goals — asset growth, new clients and new accounts — as well as goals around the types of clients or portfolios they wanted to bring in.

Top-line findings from the focus group included feedback on the positioning. The team then selected marketing activities that made sense for the firm and would achieve their goals.

For example, one of the firm's strengths is that Mr. Stoltenberg is a CPA and has worked as a controller. Members in the focus group, many of whom are business owners, mentioned how much they appreciated his guidance on business matters.

The firm decided to organize a luncheon program where business owners (clients and prospects) could network and hear Mr. Stoltenberg speak, along with a guest speaker, such as an attorney, CPA or banker, who would invite guests as well.

The team also crafted a marketing plan with suggested positioning, goals, strategies and campaigns, and a calendar. For Quad Cities Investment Group, this resulted in a marketing plan they could embrace.

“We have created spreadsheets to track our business development, and shared the plan with our support staff. We are in good shape for 2016,” Ms. Swift said.

Libby Dubick (libby@dubick is president of Dubick & Associates Ltd., a marketing consulting firm for advisers and financial services firms.


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