2013 is right around the corner and everyone wants to make it a better year than the last. Advisors are putting final touches on their marketing plans and making critical decisions on how to expend their energy and capital. What will it take to succeed in the new year?

First, Lay the Groundwork

Before you spend a single penny on your marketing efforts, you need to take a hard look at your practice through the eyes of a prospect seeing it for the first time. Everything that represents your firm – from the entrance of your building to the way your receptionist answers the telephone – needs to make a powerful impression.

There is a lot of propaganda floating around out there that says you don’t need a professional brand, a glossy brochure, or a fancy website to attract new clients, but don’t believe it for a second. Our industry is highly completive and top advisors know they need every advantage. Make sure your marketing materials do a good job positioning you and your services when you aren’t there to do it personally. Your messaging should be easy to understand and consistent across every platform. The last thing you want is for a client to give someone your name, but when they Google you, they find an outdated template website that disappoints.

We know beauty is only skin deep, and these things aren’t what’s most important; it’s better to be a great advisor who looks terrible than a terrible advisor who looks great. Ultimately though, the most successful advisors will be the ones who do an amazing job for their clients and look amazing doing it. By laying the groundwork in advance, all your efforts will yield better results.

Second, Keep in Touch

Many studies have proven that lack of communication is the number one reason clients fire their financial advisors. Not only will frequent communication help you hold on to existing clients, it will help you get new ones. Here’s how: By keeping yourself top-of-mind, your clients will think about you more; when they think about you more, they’ll talk about you more; when they talk about you more, people will hear about you more, which means you’ll get more referrals. So what kind of communication really works?

First, ask your clients how often they want to hear from you and through what channels. If a client wants an e-mail from you once a week but you only e-mail them once a month, they’ll feel neglected. Conversely, if they only want one e-mail per month, but you send one every week, they could become annoyed. Simply put, a good communication plan is a customized communication plan. Survey your clients and ask them how often they want to hear from you by mail, phone, e-mail, and through social media, then customize your communication plan accordingly. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem; there are plenty of survey tools and marketing programs that do this for you.

The second thing you need to remember is that different clients will respond to different types of communications. Some clients won’t care about economic research, but will love receiving lifestyle tips; more analytical types won’t care about lifestyle communications, but will love receiving market commentaries and whitepapers. This means you have to cover all your bases. A well-rounded communication strategy will include e-mails, newsletters, whitepapers, videos, and conference calls on a variety of topics.

Third, Set Up Introductions

Think about the two steps we’ve just outlined: You lay the groundwork by projecting the right image, then keep yourself top-of-mind through frequent communications. With this underpinning in place, you have an optimal model to introduce prospects to because they’ll like what they see and they’ll remain engaged. The next step is to ask your existing connections for introductions. Here are three effective ways to do this:

§  Direct request: “I know you’re friends with so-and-so, and I’d really like to meet him. Do you think the three of us could have lunch together next week?”

§  Intimate Social Activities: “I’m playing golf at my Country Club this Friday, and I’d like you to come along. How about if you invite a couple friends, and I’ll pick up the tab?”

§  Client Events: “Our monthly wine tasting is this Wednesday, and we’re featuring Argentinean reds. Will you be joining us? ... Great! Who are you bringing as a guest?”

Granted, this is an oversimplification for brevity’s sake, but focusing more of your time and energy on finding creative ways to facilitate introductions is vital to keeping your pipeline full.

Realign Your Priorities

Over time, it’s easy to allow non-essential activities to creep into your schedule. Completing paperwork, reading the news, doing stock market and economic research, using social media, and having lengthy conversations with C-clients can all rob you of valuable time.

If you want to take your business to the next level, you must shift your priorities so that 100% of your time is spent on things you are uniquely qualified to do. If something can be outsourced, delegated, or eliminated, get it off your plate. This is absolutely critical to your success and it’s one of the things that sets top performers apart. Granted, it costs money to do this – you’ll have to employ assistants, pay for quality research, and hire outside firms to help you – but it’s a vital investment in your business. The only activities you should engage in are the ones directly connected to managing existing client relationships and creating new ones.

To gauge how well you’re doing in this regard, look at your calendar for the past 90-days. On average, how many hours did you spend meeting with clients and prospects each day? If the average is less than 5 or 6 hours, your priorities need realigning. Allowing 2 to 3 hours per day for planning time is more than enough. Every remaining second of your time should be spent talking to clients and prospects; the main driver of revenue.

There is no silver bullet for success, and what works for one advisor may not work for another. But if you take the steps we’ve just outlined, you can make 2013 your best year ever!