If you are suffering from poor growth, join the throng of wealth-investment advisors who have had the same dilemma. You can learn lessons from them.

The answers are probably available, if advisors query the attitudes of their clients. Hint: It’s all about branding to build trust as a financial partner.

Registered investment advisor (RIA) firms might want more clients, but 95 percent have been lacking in marketing and business development.

Worse, 70 percent didn’t even have a strategic plan to grow.

These were some of the salient results of a 2014 study by Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services entitled, “Firing on all cylinders: fueling growth with benchmarking insights.”

“Three-fourths of firms see improving their marketing and business development as a top strategic initiative, but they are struggling to make progress,” said David Canter in a press release.

He’s executive vice president and head of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

The study’s key findings:

1. High-Performing Firms are focused on telling a consistent firm story, while half of RIA firms are still struggling to establish one.

Only 56 percent of all firms agree that they have a clearly defined and differentiated firm story, and only 43 percent agree their stories are tailored to the specific needs of target clients.

High-performing firms are 1.7 times more likely to tell a consistent firm story, with all client and prospect-facing associates describing their firm and its key differentiators in the same way.

As a result, high-performing firms are also more likely to agree that the majority of their clients know the fundamentals of their firm story, which can help clients become advocates for the firm.

2. While firms are making progress when it comes to targeting the right clients, high-performing firms are almost twice as likely to effectively communicate their target client profiles to help generate the right referrals.

Firms with a target client profile reported that 90 percent of new clients added in 2013 fit this description, compared to only 75 percent of clients on board prior to 2013.

High-performing firms are almost twice as likely to agree that they effectively describe their target client profiles to both clients and centers of influence (COI).

This may help clients and COI identify the most appropriate referrals, which may lead to a higher percentage of clients fitting target client profiles over time.

3. Few firms have an “advanced” referral process; high-performing firms are four times as likely to leverage COI referrals to the fullest.

Referrals from existing clients and centers of influence are important channels of growth for RIAs, accounting for 75 percent of all new clients.

However, less than one-third of firms rate their referral processes as advanced, or even fairly strong.

Only 14 percent agreed that they have analyzed their client base to focus on the clients most likely to make referrals.

High-performing firms are 4 times more likely to say their COI referral processes are advanced.

This includes activities such as always thanking sources for referrals and working to understand their centers of influences’ target client profiles so they can send reciprocal referrals.

In addition, they are more likely to review centers of influence data, such as referral status, at least monthly and keep data up to date.

4. High-performing firms have the talent and resources in place, while one-third of RIA firms are pursuing business development officers.

High-performing firms are approximately twice as likely to be pursuing strategic initiatives to develop talent-management plans or change firm compensation plans – signs that they may be managing talent more proactively.

They are also less likely to see lack of internal sales and marketing capabilities as an issue and, possibly as a result, are less likely to be hiring business development officers (81 percent not pursuing vs. 66 percent of other firms).

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips for growing your professional service firm:

Want a Wealthy Clientele? Lessons from Investment Firms – If you want a wealthy clientele, lessons from investment firms show you must focus on your relationship skills. Trust is a vital component to build relationships. For wealthy clients, you need to provide exclusivity, special client experiences with generosity and product quality.

11 Web Site Strategies to Grow Your Professional Service Firm – If you want to grow your professional-service firm, don’t ignore your most-visible marketing vehicle – your Web site. To retain and add clients to grow your practice, compelling thought leadership and other qualities that generate trust are key factors for your Web site. Of course, your treatment of clients should reflect exemplary client-service policies.

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings – Signs you have good client relationships: They’ll thank you regularly, pay your invoices promptly, and will respond well to your recommendations. If you don’t have all three of these, here’s what to do.

6 Tips to Increase the Quality, Quantity of Your Client Referrals – As a professional, you can ease the pain and save time in making sales calls, if you’re a good steward of your already-existing circle of associates and clients – potential centers of influence. That’s a term that refers to people who can and will refer business your way.

“Finding good partners is the key to success in anything: in business, in marriage and, especially, in investing.”

-Robert Kiyosaki


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.