Despite rocky times that includes lower client asset levels for many advisory firms, 70% of financial advisors say they avoided making major business cuts during the past six months, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade Institutional.

The areas that saw the most increased spending were technology and marketing, which shows a commitment to investing in productivity even in lean times.

Yet at the same time, travel and marketing were the two areas most likely to see spending decreases during the past half year. In other other words, advisors seem conflicted about whether to raise or lower marketing spending during the current troubled business environment.

"RIAs are in a position to capitalize on an increasing need for advice and a rise in popularity of the independent business model," said Tom Bradley, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional. "Firms that find a way to accelerate marketing and sales will increase their client bases and can reap the rewards when we get to the other end of this cycle."

Among other survey findings, 35% of advisors are forming strategic alliances with CPAs, attorneys and other professionals as a way to boost revenue. And 31% say they're recruiting and hiring new talent. Twenty percent say they're exploring merger and acquisition opportunities, and 16% say they're trying to specialize in new market segments such as business owner and women clients.