There are probably few professional service fields where practitioners spend so much time prospecting for new customers as financial planning—especially if you’re new to the business and building your client base.

So what’s the best and most efficient way to find new clients? While many advisors stick to the basics—seminars, free lunches, even (shudder) cold-calling—many advisors are moving to social media—and getting results.

“These platforms have so much data that can help firms target marketing to their future clients,” said Thomas Fink, vice president of institutional sales at Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. in Lincoln, Neb. “Business professionals often think that social media is only used by certain generations, but that is far from the truth. ... Multiple generations use social media to keep up with family and friends, like retirees who love social media to keep up with the grandkids.”

Chris Jackson, founder and CEO of Lionshare Partners LLC, an investment advisor in Los Angeles, uses a variety of social media platforms. On Instagram, for example, he searches hashtags for major life events that might trigger a conversation with a financial planner, with hashtags such as #threemonthsold, #newlywed and #justretired. "I then send a lead magnet that offers a guide or checklist to build engagement with those ready to act,” he said.

On Facebook, he has created a group called “From Billable to Fillable,” where he markets himself as “The JD Advisor.” “I wanted to create an environment to have attorneys engage with one another on the topic of personal finance,” Jackson said. “It builds brand recognition and allows me to see what are the trending pain points where I can help.”

In trying to build his clientele through referrals from attorneys, Jackson has also helped sponsor a non-profit fundraiser called Law Rocks, which raises money through band competitions formed by local law firms. “Going to these events as a sponsor and supporting the local bands is the best way to move from a cold introduction to a warm introduction,” he said.

Michael Sury, now a lecturer in finance at the University of Texas at Austin and a former vice president and wealth manager at Goldman Sachs, said the “most effective marketing tactic financial advisors can use to attract more clients is education. I have always believed that informed and educated clients lead to better, longer and stronger relationships.

“When I was growing my business, I engaged prospective clients by teaching them about how the financial markets work, the relationship between the capital markets and the macroeconomy, and fundamental valuation analysis,” he said. “Importantly, I did no selling during these presentations. Rather, I used the opportunity to help potential clients develop an interest in the markets, learn how to interpret macroeconomic and news events that could affect their portfolios, develop good investment and risk management discipline, and generally become more engaged in building their financial future.”

“Start a blog or insight page on your website with timely educational content,” said Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners in Alexandria, Va., a marketing and public relations firm specializing in the asset management industry. He advises clients to build the visibility of their business through thought leadership. “Talk to local or national journalists about submitting your articles for publication or be a source for articles they are working on. Repurpose these third-party endorsements in your other sales and marketing efforts.”

Jeff Bangerter, president of Bangerter Financial Services in Sacramento, Calif., said media exposure provides him with creditability with new prospects at seminars and other events. “It makes it easier to set appointments,” he said. “And later, when we ask them to do business, there is no question in their mind if I am reputable.”

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