Don't we all hope that our clients tell their friends about us and that our prospects are referred by our current clients? While this has traditionally been true in the investment business, the difficult investment climate has quieted the lively cocktail conversations, and investors are increasingly sheepish about recommending their advisors.

So if there are fewer cocktail conversations and fewer recommendations these days, how is an advisor to grow his/her business by referrals? The economic climate has become more challenging for investors, but there has never been a better time for advisors to find investors looking for something they currently are not getting from their advisors. How?

After implementing every new marketing approach to come along over the past 30 years, we are convinced that no one thing alone works, but rather a number of inter-related tactics -- which can be customized for each advisor -- done consistently over time is the key to all professional service marketing. When we ask investors who contact our clients how they came to hear about them, they usually have more than one interaction that ultimately leads them to call. They usually say something like, "I have a friend who told me about you, but I also see you quoted in the news all the time, I read your newsletter from time to time, and I just saw your name pop up when I Googled something last week."

So instead of recommending the latest and greatest cure-all marketing concept, we think it's better to think of this process as you would an ecosystem. In other words, each tactic alone will not likely make anything happen, but when done together, each tactic helps each other, and together they trigger just the sort of reaction you are hoping for. Think of this as the Krebs cycle for financial advisors.

To make our point, we will start at the beginning and tell you everything we would do as if we were you.

First, we would make sure your business and message were very focused. It's hard to attract new clients when you seem to offer everything in general, but nothing specific. Be an expert, not a generalist, and people will seek you out. If you sound like everyone else, chances are no one will want to replace their current advisor with a new one who does the same things. If you only work with divorced women and know everything women go through financially during this difficult period, chances are half of all married couples (as sad as it is) will be looking for your services one day. If you're a generalist, there's no time better than to get focused than now.

Second, we would make sure you have an interactive Web site where both current and prospective clients come regularly to become better investors. When your current clients come to your site, you'll be able to tell they were there, see what they looked at and figure out what they need. You will need to set up and check out Google Analytics each week, but this is easy and free! When people you don't know come to your site, you should offer three valuable things (perhaps a book, a just-released research report or simply access to your monthly newsletter) that you will give them free if they provide you their e-mail and basic investor profile. Everyone who fits your target client profile should get an immediate follow-up call or e-mail from you so you can begin to build a relationship. Just one new client with a $500,000 portfolio will pay for many years for this kind of marketing!

Third, we would store all of your current and prospective clients in a simple database (Salesforce, SugarCRM, Highrise, etc.), which will help keep track of every interaction you have had with them, and you would have this database open every time you interact so you can reference your recent conversations. "I see that when we spoke in May, you were considering how to save for your kid's education, and I was wondering what you thought of the information I sent you about 529s." This sounds so basic, but it makes a big difference when it sounds like you only have one client on your mind!

With these ecosystem basics done, now you can start doing the really interesting stuff.

The fourth thing we would do is what is best known as inbound marketing. In other words, marketing that helps people who are looking for advisor services exactly like yours find you versus someone else. To do this, make sure your Web site includes the most specific keywords people would search on Google to find you, such as "wealth management for athletes." These keywords should be used on the site itself as well as in the metadata behind the scenes. Once you have this done, we recommend search engine optimization for your Web site, pay-per-click advertising and "remarketing" with Google, and action-oriented landing pages for your keywords.  For example, investors who Google "passive investing" or "Modern Portfolio Theory" are more likely to go to the Web site of a passive advisor than a brokerage firm.