You don’t have to look far to find a solutions provider or a tech vendor that has suddenly started fixating on the phrase “organic growth” in its marketing. And I don’t blame them. They have correctly identified one of the industry’s biggest priorities right now. Everyone wants to show how they can help advisors capture new clients.
But let’s cut through the noise.
In the 23 years I have spent in this industry, I have seen only a handful of strategies that consistently move the needle on organic growth. And believe me, it’s not from a lack of trying. During my time at United Capital, I was very fortunate to be part of a culture that embraced trying new things. And when you experiment with new solutions, partnerships, or technology, you find out what doesn’t work.
No one likes to talk about the experiments that never panned out. I think that’s a mistake. This period of experimentation showed me what kinds of programs will reliably move the needle for advisors who want to attract motivated, interested, and qualified prospects. These lessons have served me and my advisors throughout my career.
1. Partner with Corporations and Their Employees
Employee benefits are an overlooked goldmine for financial advisors. By providing financial planning and education benefits to employees, RIAs can build strong, lasting relationships. But it’s not just about rolling out a program; it’s about aligning with the corporation’s values, being transparent, and genuinely caring for their employees.
Yet few employers and RIAs have managed to crack the code. Metlife found that overall employee satisfaction with their benefits packages fell to 61% this year, the lowest grade it has measured in the past 10 years. People are stressed about their money, and let’s face it, a K-shaped recovery, inflation, and soaring interest rates have created a challenging financial environment. A good financial wellness program can help employees manage their finances more effectively, reduce stress, and improve their quality of life.
A good financial wellness program is not easy work. But I have seen advisor teams put in the sweat equity that builds trust, creates more referrals, and genuinely produces better outcomes for employees and their employers. The respect you earn for your services will lead to new business partners, and new individual clients as employees’ financial needs evolve.
2. Leverage Intermediary Channels
Or to put it more plainly, “talk directly to your prospects.” The steak dinner seminar is kind of a cliche at this point, but it’s hard to deny the staying power it has had as a strategy. In the past, this might have meant getting radio time for a regular show that resonates with an audience’s financial lives and needs. Today, it’s social media, digital marketing and podcasts.
The SEC’s redefinition of their marketing rule opens new frontiers for organic growth that RIAs are only now beginning to explore. The ability to share testimonials and endorsements, within the SEC’s guard rails, allow you to build trust and validate your work with prospects right away.
But the secret sauce for any kind of intermediary channel is your ability to follow through. If you reach your audience, that’s only half the battle. How do they reach you? What’s your online persona? What can you do to make it easy for prospects to act on their curiosity and take the next steps?
3. Utilize Retail Referral Programs with Custodians
If you haven’t given much thought to your custodial partners’ referral programs, I encourage you to look at your options. It’s likely you’ll have to pay some kind of referral fee. But when done right, it’s a win-win, creating satisfied new clients and growing everyone’s bottom line.
“When done right” is the key phrase here. A referral program isn’t fire-and-forget. Your custodians must consistently understand who you are as a business. You have to clearly describe the kinds of prospects you are best equipped to serve, and how you will engage with them. You have to measure and monitor the process and work in partnership with the custodians to manage the relationships. Your priorities, strengths, and target client profile are likely to change over time but as long as your custodial partners are confident your service model evolves as well, you will have success.
These strategies work. I have directly seen how they can lead to organic growth at RIAs of all sizes. Don’t take this as dogma—like I said, experimentation is key to growing as an entrepreneur. I am never going to tell an advisor not to try something new to see if it will work. But when everyone is suddenly promising me that they can help my firm grow, it helps me to recall what actually produced results throughout my career. The closer your efforts or your partners can get to one of these three strategies, the more I believe will be able to support your own organic growth over time.
Casey Bates is Managing Director of Strategy and Growth at Concurrent.