By Michael Byrnes

The Internet has an abundance of free information that can be used for client prospecting, but few advisors are taking advantage of the opportunity, according to speakers at IMCA's Winter Specialty Conference in Vail, Colo.

"We recognize the power of utilizing online resources to discover new clients and business development opportunities," said Brett Wright, chair of IMCA's specialty conference committee. "In today's rapidly changing technological environment, many financial advisors struggle to stay proficient in the latest tools to help grow their businesses."

Kip Gregory, founder of The Gregory Group, spoke to IMCA members about online client prospecting, noting that there are around a trillion pages of indexed content on Google alone. That's a lot of useful information that can help advisors grow their businesses, he said.

Here are some of the tips Gregory gave to advisors:

Using Google

Gregory offered ways to more effectively use Google and generate focused and manageable search results:

    Put names and phrases in quotation marks. This tells Google that you want to find the phrase as it is written, not in any combination of the words.
    Limit your time horizon.
    Focus your search on a specific site.

Gregory said these small changes can shrink results by 99.99%. As an example, he searched Google using the terms "chief financial officer" and "California pacific medical center," and, a command which instructs Google to only search that specific site.

The Google "Advanced search" form, accessed by clicking on the gear symbol on the upper right of the Google page, lets one be specific about search criteria, he said.

Searching Google "News" in the top navigation bar is also a way to go about finding the right results from news-related sites.

"It is a specialty search engine," he said. "It is cool and it doesn't cost a penny."

Gregory also shared how Google alerts work. Simply put in an individual and/or a company name and Google will routinely send you information on what you are looking for when it shows up on the Web.

Beyond Google gives advisors access to a searchable database of more than 55,000 organizations, Gregory said. He also recommended, saying,  "Plug in somebody's information and find the person you are looking for." It also has contact info, photos, videos, social networking profiles, publications that individuals have appeared in, Web pages on which they appear, etc. "And it doesn't cost a penny," he added. is not as comprehensive, but has more of a business focus, Gregory said. "It is compiled profiles. It is like a clipping service and they go back five, ten and sometimes 20 years," he said.

LinkedIn, meanwhile, is the largest business-oriented social media site on the Internet, Gregory said, "[LinkedIn] is transforming the way business is done, not just in this industry," he said.

The information is out there, Gregory said. Advisors just have to take advantage of it.

"This is powerful stuff," he said.

Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at