Financial advisors and wealth managers are doing better with their business-building efforts by using marketing and social media, according to a new survey.

The survey, by Advisors Trusted Advisor, a practice management resource for investment advisors and wealth managers, polled 354 advisors from approximately 335 firms about areas such as goal setting, marketing, new business development, client referrals, public relations, and client communication.

The responses show referral-based selling is still the No. 1 way to build an advisory business, but many are missing the mark when it comes to implementing new strategies. For instance, social media is a tool that has been practically ignored.

While 68 percent of the advisors surveyed believe that they have a clear competitive story to tell, the survey indicates that it's not well-expressed in their marketing. When asked, "To what degree does your marketing material tell your story and help you in selling?" only 36 percent responded "excellently" or "very well," while 64 percent said "somewhat" or "not at all."

When asked about activities to generate new business — specifically sales planning and execution — respondents rated their firms generally low. Only 37 percent felt their firm sets and executes new business goals excellently or very well, while 62 percent felt they do an average or poor job. The most-often cited obstacle to new business was "poor marketing," followed by "lack of sales process and tools" and "no clear plan."

Only 37 percent of the survey respondents said they satisfactorily set new business goals, and just 35 percent have written business development plans. On every measure, those who answered positively in these two areas said they were realizing "much higher" or "higher" new prospects and more overall satisfaction in business growth. This more highly satisfied group responded with confidence that their marketing communications were performing well, and they reported higher satisfaction with client referrals and a more satisfactory business-building culture.


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