The New Year is traditionally a time when presidents put the finishing touches on their business plans and begin working on their goals for the year. Recent surveys indicate that many financial advisers are counting on increased referrals for a significant portion of their business development plans. How successful those efforts will be is determined in large part by how well those strategic plans are written.

If referrals play a key role in your marketing plans for the year, here are some key elements that must be addressed:


This is the reason you get out of bed in the morning and go to the office. If your primary driver is to be successful or profitable, it is possible that you can grow a business that makes money. Having a higher purpose and being driven by helping a particular group of people accomplish particular things can make your practice irresistible and put you on a whole different growth trajectory.

Ideal client

Who is the person at the center of your mission? What needs or wants does that person have that make them different from the rest of us? A marketing plan drafted to speak to everyone is compelling to no one. The more directly you can talk about the special circumstances or desires of your ideal client, the more your target market will realize you have something special for them and respond to it.

Value Proposition

This is what you do for those ideal clients. The more you can address the specific desires or needs that separate your ideal client from the rest of the population, the easier it will be to attract them. The more directly you talk about what your ideal clients value most about the things you do for them, the more other people like them will want you as their adviser.


What products, services, or skills do you have that address the needs of your ideal client and separate you from other financial advisers? What special expertise or capability are you capable of that your ideal clients cannot find elsewhere?

Learning plan

In addition to activity goals like "schedule at least five client appointments per week" or "conduct at least one seminar per quarter" your strategic plan should address how you will get better at what you do this year. Ideally, you will identify a particular expertise or skill that would address a unique need of your target market. Engage with some ideal clients to find out what a virtuoso adviser would look like to them. Identify the difference between that adviser and you and create a plan to become that adviser.

Smart Goals

Identify a limited number of accomplishments that are specific, attainable, measurable, realistic, and time bound. Make sure they enhance your value proposition and contribute to your mission. Be careful of establishing too many. Focusing on the right objectives is a powerful force to help you accomplish them. Two or three is probably enough.

The Next Step

Determine the next action you need to take to advance the plan. A business or strategic plan can be a big project. David Allen has observed that you cannot "do" a project, you can only do tasks. And so accomplishing anything big or small is entirely dependent on knowing what step to take next and then taking it.

Wershing is a blogger for SourceMedia’s Financial Planning, this story originally ran on their ‘The Referral Doctor’ blog.


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