Only a third of advisers have a marketing plan and only a third of that group actively implements it, according to Quantuvis, a Redlands, Calif., practice-management consulting firm owned by Genworth.

Advisers tend to fall into one of two categories, said research manager Natalie Doss. The majority does too little, while a proactive minority does too much. Half of advisers say they are solely — and passively — reliant on their firms referring business, while a further 25% say they are highly dependent.

At the other end of the spectrum, some advisers bite off more than they can chew, engaging so actively in marketing efforts that they can't keep up.

Doss says the secret to success, first and foremost, is to bolster a passive referral stream with an active one. These efforts can be supported with direct mail campaigns, which are in turn supported by brief newsletters, either monthly or quarterly. A free community outreach effort might involve offering to speak to a group as a subject expert. Web seminars for prospects are also cheap to set up and don't involve much effort beyond the presentation itself, Doss said.

The most important thing is to implement a marketing plan consistently, she said. "Each plan depends on an adviser's goals, but if you're looking to drive growth without yo-yo marketing, you need to implement consistency."

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