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RIA Marketing And The Client Experience Go Hand In Hand

But you have to put in the sweat equity to make it work.

Most financial advisors got into the business to improve their clients’ financial lives, not to do marketing. But the RIAs winning right now are the ones who put marketing on the same pedestal as the client experience.

It’s not hard to find independent advisors who treat marketing like a necessary evil: something to check off the to-do list, like buying a new office chair. WMIQ, the research arm of WealthManagement.comsurveyed more than 400 advisor firms and found just 35% of respondents used digital advertising tactics. Twelve percent did not use social media at all!

The thing is, we understand the rationale. “My clients are the foundation of my business. If I do right by them, the referrals will roll in. Everything else will take care of itself.” Quality referrals are as good as gold for RIAs. But even they can’t sustain your business as they could during the boom years. According to DeVoe & Co., average organic growth was 9% in 2017. By 2022, it fell to 4%. When you factor in the headwinds of inflation, the average RIA has spent the past few years treading water.

Of course, “average” doesn’t mean “everyone.”’s survey found the advisors who poured more resources into marketing saw their efforts rewarded with greater overall growth. We see two factors at work here.

Hope isn’t a plan. Referrals should always be a part of an RIA’s growth strategy. But a referral is beyond your direct control. You can suggest and encourage and make it as easy as possible for a client to give a glowing recommendation, but it is ultimately their choice. A referral’s greatest strength—independent validation—is its most significant limitation. It’s not enough to do great work and hope your clients brag about you to the right people.

Good marketing shows the world who you are. You may be the RIA industry’s gift to client service, but if you’re one of the 12% of advisors who won’t even open a browser tab to LinkedIn to prospect, how will anyone know?

Marketing is how you externalize your client experience. Marketing for differentiation lets your prospects see what sets you apart from other advisors and lets them decide if your strengths map to their financial needs. It helps to consider it the active counterpart to passive growth you earn through referrals. These two strategies, in tandem, form the bedrock of a successful organic growth engine.

But you have to put in the sweat equity to make it work. Whether that means an external partner, in-house staff, or more hours in the week devoted to stand-out marketing, a savvy RIA will find returns for the resources they pour into standing out from the crowd. And if you’re still unconvinced, consider: If referrals alone were enough, we wouldn’t have an industry-wide organic growth average of 4%. More organic growth means less reliance on M&A and a stronger position at the deal table. This isn’t a time to rest on your laurels. There is plenty of new business out there to be won. But you can’t get it without investing in your own business.

Joseph Anthony is President & Co-Owner, and Mark Grandstaff is Director of Content Strategy, Financial Services, both at Gregory FCA.

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