Many financial planners are missing a key step with their clients, according to a recent study from wealthtech provider Orion—they’re neglecting to craft a financial plan.
In fact, 70% of advisors who are able to access planning technology do not serve financial plans to their clients, according to Orion. 
Yet most of the financial services industry is well-versed on the myriad benefits of financial planning. Clients with a plan tend to save more, display higher levels of financial confidence, believe they will achieve their financial goals, are more loyal to their financial services providers and advisors, report greater satisfaction and ultimately refer more clients to their advisors than those who do not have a plan. 
For example, we know that 78% of end-clients who have a financial plan are paying their bills and saving money each month versus 38% of those who do not have a plan. We also know that 68% of financial planning clients have an emergency fund in place, versus 26% of those without a plan. 
Firms, in turn, enjoy more revenue from adding fee-based services, increasing AUM and delivering advisor-based alpha  in areas like insurance, tax planning, mortgages, estate planning, philanthropy and giving, and business ownership issues. Financial planning is also an excellent way for financial firms to clearly demonstrate their value to clients.
Why, then, are most clients being left without a financial plan?
It’s not for lack of technology—in recent years, advisor tech has successfully removed many of the manual processes and much of the time and resource commitments demanded by financial planning. Creating financial plans is now easier, simpler and more scalable than ever before.
The problem might be a lack of adequate communication. While financial advisors in general understand the financial industry, they may not understand how to create and deliver messages around financial wellness and client challenges. They may also struggle to link the solutions they offer to those needs.
The end investor may not realize the link between a plan and financial wellness. Orion argues it is not enough to merely offer planning services: advisors must promote those offerings to help grow and differentiate their businesses and better serve their clients.
Crafting An Effective Communication Strategy
For most clients, this can be accomplished by acknowledging and building upon information they already know and delivering information that they will likely appreciate. Advisors should lead with “what” – what financial planning is and how it differs from investment management—before they discuss the “why.”
Clients deeply familiar with the financial industry, on the other hand, shouldn’t be talked down to—advisors should instead be specific about why planning is important and how it can improve their outcomes.
A communication strategy should start just like a good financial plan—with the exploration and discovery of goals. Goals for marketing and communication include engaging more prospects, increasing AUM, enhancing the firm’s brand, creating better client engagement to increase share of wallet, building better business value and attracting better advisor talent.
Achieving these goals not only requires a strategy, but also the ability to measure progress through key performance indicators (KPI), milestones that can be measured on a regular basis so goals can be adjusted as needed according to performance.
Consider Target Audiences
Advisor gurus like Michael Kitces extol the virtues of operating within a niche of clients, and communications are most effective when they can be precisely targeted to a group of people. Firms and advisors should consider whether there are certain demographics that make sense to target.
Orion recommends firms consider whether communications should be aimed at groups with common employers, professions, hobbies, interest, gender, age, or life stages. Advisors might also target segments like business owners interested in selling or acquiring businesses, corporate executives, real estate owners, or sudden-money people like lottery winners, those receiving an inheritance or young professional athletes.
Each group has complex planning needs associated with them, if not unique to them. Advisors may be able to position themselves as experts in those needs, offering them a clear path towards creating interesting content.
Create Compelling Content
Once an audience has been determined, their pain points can be identified and a clear value proposition can be developed. Content should link how a firm’s financial planning services can help investors meet their goals.
Orion names a few key components of creating effective content:
- Meet your audience where they are—don’t start by selling them, start by educating them.
- Consider the stages of the buyer’s journey, or “funnel.” Most people start at the top of the funnel, with little or no knowledge of an advisor or a firm. Thus, along the journey, content should move from general to specific.
- Be disruptive—more and more wealth management firms are aggressively marketing and adopting digital channels, and more firms are offering financial planning services. Advisors can differentiate by finding new stories to tell.
- Make it personal. Clients and prospects will respond to the human element. To work with an advisor, most will have to be able to trust them with not just their assets, but also their goals, dreams and future wellbeing. The best content will include some of the advisor’s personality.
Determine Your Budget
Communication strategies can be as expensive as a firm wants them to be. The budget needs to be determined in alignment with what the firm wants to achieve. Is their target audience on social media?
Choose Distribution Channels
While budget tends to determine distribution channels, digital distribution can be low-cost and nearly effortless. Firms need to determine which channels will be most effective for them.
Orion offers a few best practices for advisors:
- Keep messaging consistent with a few distinct value propositions that prospects can associate with the advisors’ brand.
- Don’t inundate prospects, clients won’t respond positively too receiving five marketing emails a day and dozens of social media posts.
- Make connections between different distribution channels. For example, a high-level social media post can link to a blog that offers more specific information or tips.
When Orion surveyed their top-performing current clients, 72% said they were interested in leveraging digital marketing technology. 1 Effective technology can automate much of digital marketing, like email campaigns and newsletters.
Such technology can help firms build financial literacy and brand awareness through campaigns, while simultaneously measuring analytics, monitoring new leads, and enabling more effective conversations with clients and prospects.
 Orion Client Data 2019
 2019 Modern Wealth Index Survey, Charles Schwab, 2019
 2019 Modern Wealth Index Survey, Charles Schwab, 2019