Boston: “What percentage of your production do you reinvest in your marketing?” asked a participant in one of our recent workshops.  This question was directed at a panel of advisors who were amongst the best in their firm at bringing in new business.  The first answer came from an advisor who brought in an additional $600,000 in new production last year - wow.  He replied, “I’ve always told people – you can’t save your way to sales.” 

As a new advisor, you’re likely years away from this panel’s production numbers, but studying and mirroring their marketing efforts provides the quickest path to matching their results.  For starters, these participants looked at their marketing budget a little differently than most.  To elite advisors, “marketing” money is set aside as much for current clients as it is for new clients.

They understand that relationship management and relationship marketing must work together.  We’ve yet to meet someone who excels at client acquisition while neglecting client service.  Current clients, whether you have 5 or 500, will be the primary driver of your new business. 

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we thought it might be helpful to share some smart investments to make in your business.  The amount you plan to spend is totally up to you.  But the more time and money you invest in your business (if invested in the right marketing activities), the more business you will bring in.

Relationship Management / Relationship Marketing Investments

Non-Business Lunches:

Non-business lunches are a great way to schmooze clients and COIs.  Your first objective is to get to know them on a more personal level.  What do they do for fun?  How are the kids?  How is their golf game? The second objective is uncovering their connections.  Who else played in that tournament?  Does your sister still live in town?

Intimate Events:

Hosting small events for clients, prospects and COIs is a great use of marketing dollars.  Done properly, you can impact 10-20 people for what you’d usually pay for a nice dinner for four.  Consider investing in monthly events like backyard BBQs, shooting clinics, or a day on the boat.  If you think creatively, you can even find friends or clients with a unique talent they can share like fly tying or cake decorating.  These can make for fun and inexpensive events. 

Sporting Events:

Depending on your location, sporting events can be great for interaction.  If you’re in a major city, this can be tough.  But in most parts of the country, Minor League Baseball or college sports are priced in an affordable range.  Get a couple extra tickets or plan a tailgate party for people you know will be in attendance.  This makes for a very natural introduction to friends of friends.  “I have a couple extra tickets for this week’s XYZ game.  Do you think you and your buddy Tim would want to come?”

Community Events:

Reading through the newspaper, you can often find community events to leverage.  Getting extra tickets for music festivals, wine tastings, or art gallery tours are often an inexpensive way to congregate with clients, prospects and COIs.  The price is usually reasonable and the logistics couldn’t be easier.  You’re not renting a tent or finding a caterer, you’re simply calling around to gather a group for an event.

Dress for Success:

First impressions are critically important. The way you speak, the way you carry yourself and the way you dress all impact people’s perceptions of you.  Good or bad, first impressions stick.  The easiest investment to make in first impressions is clothing.  It takes much more time and energy to refine your presence and verbiage.  Your wardrobe can be fixed with a quick shopping trip.  What do you spend on clothing every year?  Does it make you look like a very high level professional?  What do the executives and elite professionals wear to work in your community?  We bet it’s not a polo shirt and khakis.     

Surprise and Delight:

Finding opportunities to surprise and delight clients is a great way to stimulate positive word of mouth influence and engage the law of reciprocity.  This is sending a sweatshirt when junior gets into college, bringing over a travel guide when they’re planning a big vacation, and so on.  Most advisors get this principle, but put very little structure and money towards it.  To be clear, it isn’t about spending money on any one individual gift.  It’s about budgeting money for the whole surprise and delight process – spreading small gifts far and wide.

As you think about your marketing plan for 2013, start thinking about a specific budget for your relationship management / relationship marketing campaign.  Setting a specific budget in advance makes certain you don’t over or under-invest in your marketing.  Instead of putting money into fancy brochures and collateral material (they don’t work), put your money into relationship marketing.  You’ll deepen client relationships and build your business at the same time.  Again – you can’t save your way to sales. 

Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.  @StephenBoswell  @KevinANichols  www.oechsli.com