Marketing & Client Acquisition
3 client acquisition strategies from an advisor and wilderness survival expert

7 MIN ARTICLE

Finding new clients can be hard work. Capital Group's Pathways to Growth: 2023 Advisor Benchmark Study finds that the most successful practices make client acquisition a focus and have established procedures for marketing and targeted prospecting. But acquiring clients can also result from being in the right place at the right time while enjoying activities you already love, or as an offshoot of your special interests.


Scott Oeth is one such advisor. With over 25 years of experience, Oeth is an independent, fee-only financial advisor with Cahill Financial Advisors in Minneapolis. “I base my practice on comprehensive wealth management with a focus on retirement planning and equity-based compensation strategies for executives,” says Oeth. “It made sense to me to develop a specialty of working with corporate executives which really helped with growth, especially early on.”


Here are three key traits that contributed to Oeth’s success that you can use to improve your client acquisition efforts:
 

  1. Hone specialized knowledge to help open doors
  2. Recognize potential clients within your personal affinities
  3. Leverage study groups to strengthen and extend your business
     

1. Hone specialized knowledge to help open doors


“I work with executives across the country who have unique and complex equity-based compensation packages,” says Oeth. “They depend on me to provide them with a thorough wealth plan and develop strategies that seek to optimize their potential returns and manage risks and taxes, while also helping them achieve their financial goals like saving for their kids’ college.”


This niche is no coincidence. Early in his career, Oeth worked as an analyst crunching numbers for a senior advisor with clients whose wealth was tied to some now-infamous corporate meltdowns. “I witnessed firsthand how great wealth could be created by stock options, and how quickly it could vaporize,” says Oeth. “I clearly remember a local executive with a technology company who had earned a million dollars in 1999, and then lost it all along with her job a year later.”


That lesson stuck with him, but at the time there wasn’t a lot of readily available information on how to advise clients on executive compensation packages. “As my career progressed and I began to work with more corporate executives, I wanted to learn more about the ins and outs of executive compensation strategies,” says Oeth. “I read everything I could get my hands on. I reached out and spoke with the few industry experts there were at the time on the subject.” 


Over time, Oeth became one of those experts himself. He went on to receive a specialized master’s degree in financial services and has carved out a niche by providing equity-based compensation advice to executive clients.


“The riches are in the niches,” as the saying goes. After providing this kind of specialized service to one executive at a local corporate headquarters, that client became a very fruitful relationship for Oeth. Because he understood the intricacies of this company’s stock option program, referrals from other executives poured in. “At one point, I was working with 17 households of executives from this one company,” he says.
 

2. Recognize potential clients within your personal affinities


Long before Oeth hit his stride as a financial advisor, he was an All-American volleyball player and has three national championships under his belt. Some of his first clients came from his volleyball community, and it’s still a big part of his practice today.


“Many volleyball players don’t do much more than bump, set and spike when they are young,” Oeth says. “But if you stay with them long enough, many develop great careers, start companies and inherit money. They have made great clients that I have a shared background and I enjoy working with.”


But it’s not just at the net where Oeth excels at finding clients. He is also a wilderness guide and runs an outdoor adventure company called Bull Moose Patrol. “Adventure travel is popular with busy, affluent executives,” he says.  “Several of my high net worth clients found me through the training I offer, or learned about my financial advisor work while we were on the trail together.”


While you don’t want to be that person handing out business cards at recreational activities, your day job as an advisor may come up naturally in conversation or spread by word of mouth within your affinity communities.


Another benefit of tapping into affinity groups is the potential for attracting younger clients. “I’ve worked with consultants who are often surprised by how young my client base is compared to some other practices,” says Oeth. “I seem to have a lot of emerging executives — mid-40s to mid-50s — in the power stroke of their careers, saving a lot of money and earning executive compensation benefits.”
 

3. Leverage study groups to strengthen and extend your business


Many executive clients also engage with accountants, estate and tax attorneys, insurance specialists and other experts. It can pay dividends to develop these networks and learn as much as you can from them.


In Oeth's case, the lightbulb moment came through a study group. “I had made a great connection with a trusted estate attorney who I had learned a lot from over the course of several lunches. One day, I was thinking about how we have a lot in common: We’re both working with a lot of affluent clients with complex money issues,” says Oeth. “That’s when the idea came to mind to form a study group with a half-dozen specialists in complementary money-related fields.”


Over the years, the group grew and got together monthly to discuss a range of topics, and members would take turns presenting. “The attorney would come back from Heckerling Institute in Florida and update us on the latest trust planning issues. The CPA at one of the big accounting firms would talk to us about important changes to tax laws that year. I would bring in investment topics of interest,” says Oeth.


The relationships really deepened, and the learnings helped the group stay sharp, he says. While the emphasis of the study group was always education and the sharing of ideas, another positive outcome was the cross-pollination of client relationships. “Referrals were never formally part of the agenda or the expectation, but over time, members would introduce their clients to other members. So, it was great for that too.”


Another lightbulb moment emerged when Oeth realized he could use webinars and other digital marketing efforts to extend his reach. One thing that frustrated Scott about the study groups and many of the face-to-face client discussions and presentations he gave over the years was that they were people talking in a room and in isolation — shared experiences that faded over time.


“This led me to develop webinars, thought leadership and other digital assets that are shareable and searchable,” says Oeth. “My first thought is always to leverage our content to strengthen existing relationships and enhance our advice. But it’s also a win when Google directs prospects to me and they find webinars, radio episodes and blog posts on executive compensation and other wealth management topics on my blog.”


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