Marketing for Financial Advisors: Help Grow Your Practice by Growing Your Audience

A no-nonsense, practical guide to navigating the world of marketing as a financial advisor.


The RIA industry is competitive. There are thousands of firms competing for the same pool of clients. An effective marketing plan can be the difference between a growing and a dwindling firm. But as a leader of an independent RIA, the role of marketing falls on you. 

We’re here to help. This is your no-nonsense guide to building a marketing plan that can evolve with your firm. We’ll cover basics to consider from social media marketing to pricing strategies. 

Plus, you’ll learn what might be the most important part of any RIA’s marketing plan.

Let's dive in. 

First, let’s cover marketing 101

What is marketing? It’s more than simply advertising. 

A framework traditionally taught in business schools called the “4 Ps” can give us a starting point for building a marketing plan. 

The 4 Ps consist of:

  1. Product: What unique good or service are you selling?
  2. Price: How much do you charge for your product or service?
  3. Place: What distribution channels do you use to make the product or service available to customers?
  4. Promotion: How do you communicate your product’s or service's value to your target audience?

A fifth P is commonly added: People. This emphasizes the cruciality of the roles the people on your team play in marketing your firm and the importance of understanding the people you serve, your clients. 

A comprehensive marketing plan balances all 5 Ps, both to attract new clients and retain existing clients. You don’t need to be a marketing expert, but you do need to have a full understanding of what you’re selling, for how much, to whom, and where—all while being very clear in how you communicate the value your RIA firm can deliver.

Next, we’ll dive into how you can put all the Ps together to create your own marketing strategy.

How to position your product

Your product is an intangible service. It’s more than simply the wealth management expertise and advice you provide. It’s the entire differentiated experience that you offer clients. That experience is what sets you apart from the advisor down the street who provides similar advice but fails to engage with clients and build trust.

The question is: How do you clearly communicate your differentiated service to the world?

The answer is: Write a value proposition.

A value proposition is a short statement that conveys the unique benefits of your service to your target market. The statement highlights the problem(s) you solve, the benefits you offer, and how you’re different from the competition. Your value proposition serves as a guiding piece of communication for all of your marketing efforts. 

In addition to a value proposition, having the following resources will help you communicate and show your value to prospects and clients:

  • Client stories and testimonials: Being able to explain how you’ve helped others in similar situations will build trust with clients.
  • Educational resources: Communication resources like a well-written monthly newsletter or weekly blog can position you as an expert and grow relationships over time.
  • Simple tools: Easy-to-use tools like retirement calculators or a simple online client portal that helps your clients understand their investing plans can position your services as convenient and tech-savvy. 

The perfect price

The reality is that pricing is never perfect. It’s something you should revisit annually to make sure your pricing strategy fits your business strategy. 

If you’re interested in running a fee-based planning practice, the following fee structures can be applied to meet both the needs of your clients and your business model:

  • Hourly fees: Charging by the hour is typically a good option for investors looking for introductory or circumstantial planning advice, or for those who may not have enough capital for you to consider in an asset-based fee structure. 
  • Flat fees: Fees are a flat percentage of the total value of the AUM on a certain date each year. The percentage charged can decrease as the AUM increases.
  • Tiered fees: Charging varying fees as a percentage based on different levels of the portfolio. For example, charging 1.50% for the first $1 million, 1.25% for the next $4 million, and 1.00% for amounts above $5 million.
  • Asset class fees: Charging different fees as a percentage of AUM for different asset classes. For example, charging 1.75% on equities, 1.00% on bonds, and 0.00% on cash. 

As your firm grows or if you serve different target markets, you may want to evaluate your fee structure to ensure it supports the growth of your business. It’s also wise to research how your competitors are charging to remain competitive while maintaining your margins.

How to be in the right place for the right people

This may be the most important part of your marketing plan: 

Identifying your target market and learning where you can reach them. 

Understanding who you serve, also known as your target market, dictates the development of your strategy. If you don’t know who you plan to serve, you can’t write a compelling value proposition, set appropriate prices, or invest in effective marketing channels. (Stay tuned—we’ll cover marketing channels in the next section.)

To begin identifying your target market, consider the following questions:

  • If you have existing clients, who are your best clients? Clients that you enjoy working with and are profitable clients over many years.
  • If you’re just starting out, who would be an ideal client in your network? Many of your clients will come from existing relationships, so understanding who in your network would be ideal to work with may be the easiest place to start.

Don’t be afraid to be specific and carve out a niche within your target market. The following data points can be helpful to analyze to determine if your target market is big enough to serve:

  • Geography
  • Age
  • Interests and affiliations
  • Career 

Once you have a profile of what your ideal client looks like, you can then tailor all of your efforts to their needs. 

  • Your target market will drive the creation of your value proposition and pricing to ensure it aligns with their needs.
  • Knowing your target market will allow you to determine how to best “distribute” your services, whether that’s using digital communication tools or holding in-person meetings with clients, or a combination of both.
  • To select marketing channels, you’ll need to research where your target market frequents, whether that’s in-person locations or online platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook. 

How to promote your firm

For many, paid advertising is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of promotions. However, you can leverage more marketing channels than only paid ads to connect with prospective clients. A marketing channel is any communication method or means of distribution used to get your firm’s services in front of the right people at the right time.

Common channels for RIAs include:

Social media
Platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, and LinkedIn can be convenient ways to connect with prospective and current clients. As we experience the great wealth transfer from Baby Boomers to their heirs, social media can be an ideal channel to reach a younger audience. 

Examples of typical social media content may include educational videos and articles, information on events your firm is holding, or photos and stories of your firm’s community involvement. It’s crucial to be genuine and connect on a human level on social platforms. There is a saying about social media that “people follow people, not brands” and that is true for your firm too. Make your content personal by featuring your staff, allowing people to build a digital relationship with your advisors.

Event marketing provides a wide range of options to get in front of your target audience. You can speak or host a booth at conferences, host a local in-person educational event, or plan a virtual event. 

An example of a virtual event is a webinar on the topic of inheritance and estate planning. You can even partner with other professionals like estate planning attorneys to expand your networks and increase event attendance. A valuable aspect of virtual events is that the recording can be distributed afterward or even streamed on social media platforms. 

The key with any event is to make sure you are reaching the right audience or you risk wasting your time. For example, you may want to avoid having a booth at a local expo that has a large, broad audience, and instead opt for smaller events with your ideal prospects in attendance.

Email may be considered an older technology, but it is still an ideal channel to help acquire and retain clients. To successfully incorporate email into your marketing plan, consider making your messages personalized and relevant using data collected from your prospects and clients. 

For example, for promotional messages, rather than sending the same email to everyone in your database, take the time to automate campaigns that target specific subgroups with specific relevant messages. 

In addition to promotional emails, you can leverage emails to promote your events, send surveys to collect client feedback, or send an educational newsletter. If you’re consistent and send valuable content, email can be an affordable channel to build trust with your audience.

Referrals from word-of-mouth are the holy grail of client acquisition. This results in clients that are so happy with your service, they go out of their way to send you likely qualified business. 

But how do you go about getting referrals? You have to combine being exceptional at managing your clients’ finances with being exceptional at connecting with them emotionally. They need to trust you and trust that if they refer someone they know to you, you’ll provide the same level of personal service.

Once you have proved that you are an expert at managing finances and have a client’s best interest at heart, you can genuinely create opportunities for word-of-mouth business. For example, you can send your client shareable bakery items to their office or invite them to bring guests to a local event. Be creative, thinking of ways that are unique and genuine to your firm that could help put clients in a natural position to refer business.

Paid advertising
The options for paid advertising have grown tremendously over the last few decades. Before engaging in any form of paid advertising, it is important to understand who you will be targeting with your ads, the cost of running those ads, and the estimated number of clients the ads will drive to your firm. This will allow you to estimate the return on investment of your advertising spend before running ads and compare that to the actual outcome. It can be easy to run untargeted ads that end up costing far more than your firm can afford to bring in one client. 

Examples of paid advertising channels include print ads in local publications, billboards, website banner ads, and social media advertising. One potential strategy is to combine coordinated organic social posts with paid social media advertising, resulting in an integrated effort between all of your social media content. 

Before you do any form of marketing, it’s important to remember that all materials should follow your firm’s compliance procedures and be archived, including social media content.

Take an inventory of your marketing capabilities

As you dive into creating a marketing plan, knowing your strengths and weaknesses will position you for success. Focus first on the areas that you know you are capable of implementing. 

Use this list of questions to assess your firm’s ability to implement each marketing activity:

  • Communications
    • Writing - Are you able to write a blog or newsletter?
    • Contact list - How large is your email list?
    • Public speaking - Does your firm have the talent to present at events?
    • In-person conversation and sales - Does your firm have the interpersonal skills to have successful 1:1 conversations?
    • Camera presence - Does your firm have the talent to present to a camera for webinars, TV interviews, or social media feeds?
    • Communication norms - Does your firm understand the jargon or “groupspeak” used by different target audiences or used on different marketing channels?
  • Advertising
    • Do you have the budget and/or talent for ad placements, graphic design, and website management?
    • Which marketing channels do you understand or have you used in the past?
    • What channels allow you to reach your target market?
    • How will you measure the success of paid advertising?
    • Do you have a marketing compliance strategy in place?
  • Social media
    • Which social media channels are you or your staff currently active on?
    • Which social media channels are your prospects and clients active on?
    • Who will create your social media content?
  • Word-of-mouth
    • Are you able to create opportunities to position your current clients to send you referrals?
    • If you are already receiving referrals, which clients are sending you business and why?
  • Pricing
    • Does your current pricing structure support the ideal growth of your firm?
    • Do your current systems support the ability for you to easily change your pricing or add a new offering?


When assessing the list above, keep in mind your time. The more time you spend on a marketing activity is less time with prospects or clients. You don’t need to become a full-time marketer to be successful. Rather, finding the few marketing initiatives that work best for your firm will allow you to grow and maintain a high level of service for your clients. You don’t need to try to do everything.

Steps for creating your marketing strategy

The following steps provide a simple guide to get your marketing up and running:

  1. Calculate your revenue and client growth goals.
  2. Identify the gaps between your goals and where you are today.
  3. Research and talk to other successful small business owners to learn what works and to set expectations for what success looks like from your marketing plan.
  4. Research your competitors' marketing activities to understand how you’ll stack up in the market.
  5. Research and identify your target market.
  6. Analyze and determine your pricing strategy.
  7. Determine your marketing budget for activities like content production, website management, email marketing, and paid advertising.
  8. Write your value proposition to be used across your marketing communications.
  9. Select and implement two to three marketing activities that are most likely to succeed in achieving your goal.
  10. Review results monthly and quarterly to determine what’s working and what’s not — make adjustments as needed.

The steps above can be repeated annually or even bi-annually, allowing you to recalibrate your marketing efforts as your business evolves.

Marketing pitfalls to avoid

Marketing isn’t easy, but it is easy to make it harder on yourself, especially for smaller businesses with fewer resources. Avoid these common pitfalls to position yourself for success.

  • Don’t focus only on lead generation. Lead generation is the process of generating prospects and turning them into clients. This is important, but if sales becomes your sole focus you lose the brand value that comes with providing educational content and building your brand as a trusted financial expert. 
  • Don’t hire family or interns to save money. As we said, marketing isn’t easy. Just like financial advice, not all marketing advice and output is equal. It’s worth investing in a professional to make sure your firm is well-positioned in the market.
  • Don’t lose focus and try too many things. Start small and test what you think will work best. Running too many marketing efforts at once can result in watered-down budgets and difficult-to-measure results. 

Now you’re ready

There you have it, a framework to get your firm’s marketing plan off the ground. Do your research, start small, and remember to evolve your marketing as you learn what works and what doesn’t. 

We understand that as an RIA, you have a lot on your plate from marketing to every other aspect of your firm. Betterment for Advisors frees you up by providing you with tools to help streamline front-and-back office operations and the investment process. To learn more about how our automated workflows can accelerate your ability to serve existing clients and to engage with prospective clients, get in touch with a member of our team today.

If you're curious about how Betterment can help you grow your practice, schedule a demo with us today.