Financial Advisor Business Growth and Unrealistic Expectations

financial advisor business growth

When I first started my coaching practice way back in 2004 I had lofty goals. When I look at my Business and Marketing Plan from those days, it seems unreal to me that I have built such a fantastic business that supports me in living my best life. I have built my business intentionally, not accidentally and everything works the way it should.

Financial advisor business growth is not an accident

When I started out, I had realistic expectations about my business. How long it would take to be operating at a profit. How many new clients I could bring in during the first year of operations. How I would roll out my services and garner interest. How I could make a name for myself through expert branding and marketing. During successive years, I wrote a new Business Plan annually with realistic yet challenging goals. I am successful because I have put time and effort into growing my business and I’ve done it with realistic expectations.

Do you have realistic expectations?

Recently I’ve completed consultations with a few advisors who did not have realistic expectations about their business growth. It’s unrealistic to grow by 100% per year unless you’ve won a special consulting project that will fill your business quickly. It’s unrealistic to expect financial success in the first 6 months of your business (unless something unusual happens). It’s unrealistic to expect every potential client to become a client right away. It’s unrealistic to cram your services down your prospective client’s throat because you want the business. You have to EARN the business!

Do you have a strong work ethic?

Running your own business is challenging. Sometimes you have to work late either during the week or on the weekends in order to get the work completed. Sometimes you have to do more work for a client than you want to or than they have paid for, and you have to suck it up and do it. Do you get to work before 8am? In the early years you may have to put a lot of hours into your business to ensure success. Sauntering into the office at 9:30am is not going to cut it. If you prepare yourself for having a strong work ethic, success will come more easily.

Do you have a business mind?

It’s one thing to know how to sell, but it’s quite another to know how to run a business. You have to know your metrics and how accounting works. Revenue, operating expenses, marketing expenses, and the like. You must have a sixth sense about business momentum and whether you’re picking up steam or slowing down. Understanding the sales cycle and the sales funnel is critical to business success. If you’ve never had a business before, this takes some getting used to, but it is possible to learn entrepreneurial skills.

Understanding financial advisor business growth can help you have realistic expectations about growing your practice. It’s not enough to be good at what you do! You have to be realistic, have a strong work ethic, and learn entrepreneurial skills to make it in this business.

Financial Advisor Storytelling For Referrals

In a recent blog post, we looked at financial advisor referral campaigns.  These are campaigns that encourage clients and others to send you referrals.

In looking at referral campaigns, we looked at the importance of providing great service and having a good reputation, as well as the four aspects of referral campaigns.  Check out the post to learn more.  If you’d like to set up a campaign, let me know, and I can help you decide, through coaching, what makes sense for you.  You can actually include a referral campaign as part of your overall business plan.  Here’s a two page mini business plan I offer that can get you started.

In trying to get referrals, there is another idea that I want to touch on here, and that’s storytelling for referrals.

Now, by storytelling, I don’t mean sitting with a book with your clients gathered around in a circle (although, if that’s part of your marketing plan, and it works, by all means).  What I mean is communicating an important story about yourself or your business, that clients and others buy into, and that motivates them to refer you and your firm to potential clients.

What makes a good story for a financial advisor?

A good story communicates something noteworthy and sharable.  It’s a story that conveys a mission and is one that clients and potential clients have an emotion about, a connection to, and it’s something they want to share.  A good story causes clients and others to believe in you, your firm, and what you stand for.  It’s something that clients bring up when telling potential clients about your firm.  It’s also something that, if you are a leader, your staff can form a connection to in addition to the firm itself.

What kinds of stories can you tell?

There are a number of stories you can tell.  When a selecting a story, it’s best to pick one though and stick with that message.  This gives you clear communication and clients and potential clients can easily understand what you’re about.

Some ideas for stories you might tell are:

  • Overcoming adversity. This could be a number of things.  It might be overcoming an economically disadvantaged background.  It might be overcoming an illness.  It might be dealing with a hardship.  The main idea with this kind of story is that clients and potential clients can feel connected to you if they feel that you’ve been through something that they can relate to.  When they form this connection, they might tell others about you, which can lead to referrals.

  • Having a mission. As a financial advisor, you could have a mission that is tied to your financial advisor practice.  For example, you might have a mission of increasing financial literacy among a group that might have low levels of it.  You could also have a mission of helping a disadvantaged group with some aspect of their finances, such as debt reduction or retirement planning.  The idea of telling clients and others a story about a mission is that it gives meaning to your work over and above helping clients with their finances.  Clients and others can feel connected to this and share your mission with others.

  • Having a cause. As a financial advisor, you could have a cause you support.  This could be something like finding a cure for a disease or helping stray animals find homes.  The idea with telling a story about a cause is that it gives clients and others something they can connect to, get involved with, and share with others.  Supporting a cause can also be a way to form a connection to more affluent clients who may contribute to causes and be connected to them in more involved ways, such as by serving on boards.

  • Doing something extraordinary. Do you run marathons?  Do you climb mountains?  Are you a chess champion?  Whatever extraordinary thing you do (and there are lots of things that can be extraordinary), it can make a good story.  The idea with this kind of story is that clients and potential clients can see you as amazing (above, you know, just being an amazing financial advisor, which I know you are!).  When clients see you as amazing, they can form a connection to you, and that can cause them to buy into you and your firm and talk about you to potential clients.

  • The history of your firm. Your firm might have an interesting history.  Was it the first financial advisory firm in a certain place?  Was it involved in something instrumental?  Has it been affiliated with some historic event or noteworthy person?  If so, this could be the story you tell.  Highlighting how your firm was started, and what it has been through and accomplished, can be a great way to form a connection.  Clients and potential clients can see your firm in a more personal way, and this can motivate them to tell others about it.

  • Serving a particular group. Does your firm focus on a particular group (while obviously, of course, not discriminating)?  For example, does your firm specialize in helping women veterans with their finances?  If so, this can be your story.  You can tell clients and others about the group you focus on and particularly care about.  If clients and potential clients are part of this group, they can feel a connection to your financial advisor business.  If they aren’t part of this group, they can still feel a connection to your firm, if they view the group you focus on in a positive way.

  • How you have helped clients. Giving specific examples of how you have helped your clients with unique challenges can be a powerful way to convey how you might also help others. For example, if you’ve recently helped a divorced female client navigate her financial options after divorce, this can be a great story. Did she have to decide whether to sell the family residence? Did she have to decide what to do about health insurance due to losing insurance from her husband? Was she worried about healthcare in her elder years, and how did you help her in this regard with Long Term Care Insurance?

These are some types of stories you can tell.  There are others as well.  When selecting a story, consider one that you have a personal connection to.  Although you could pick any number of things to have a story about, if you select something that is personal for you, it can come across as more genuine to clients and potential clients, and it will be easier for you to get involved in the story.

How can you get involved in your stories?

You’ve probably heard the idea that it’s not enough to just talk to talk, but that it’s also important to walk the walk.  This idea translates into the stories you tell about your firm for generating referrals.

When you have a story about your financial advisor business, it’s important that you become involved in the story.  In some sense, you want to be a character in it.

For example, if your firm supports finding homes for stray animals, then you and your staff could volunteer at an animal shelter and you could have a pet adoption day sponsored by your firm.  You could also collect donations and contribute a portion of your profits to the cause.  You might also spread the word about animal adoptions through communications you have.

Generally, getting involved with a story can involve things like donating money, volunteering, and raising awareness.

How can you communicate stories as a financial advisor?

Once you know the story you want to tell and you are involved with it, the next step is to let clients and potential clients know about it.

There are a number of ways and means through which you can communicate your story.  You can communicate through things like your website, your social media platforms, email newsletters, physical mailings, speaking at events, and more.  The ways to communicate that are part of your referral campaign, can all be used to spread the message about your story.

When communicating your story, one thing to keep in mind is the idea of cohesiveness.  If you communicate your story with a consistent tone, style, format, and message, the idea comes across better than if these things were disparate.  Having cohesive communications can help clients and potential clients form a better connection to your story.

How can storytelling lead to referrals?

When you tell a story, you probably have a number of goals in mind.  You might simply want to share your message with others.  You might also have a connection to your story and want to make a difference regarding it.

Another important goal is generating referrals.  Stories are about forming a connection.  Connections, coupled with good service, a good reputation, and a referral campaign, can motivate clients and others to refer potential clients to you.

The idea is that a story allows you and your firm to come across as more than a financial advisor and a business.  A story allows clients and others to see you and your firm in a personal way.  This helps them relate to you and your business and can motivate them to support you and what you stand for.  This can lead them to telling potential clients about your firm and your story, and that can lead to referrals.


Telling stories can be a great way for a financial advisor to generate referrals.  If you tell a good story, that creates a connection, and communicate it, you can motivate clients and potential clients to share your story and that can lead to referrals.  Doing this can help you and your clients live happily ever after.

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