Lead generation platforms are ‘worth exploring’ but advisors prefer other approaches.

If you’re looking for new ways to prospect for new clients this year, be prepared to be disappointed.

It seems most advisors prefer to stick with what they’re already comfortable with – networking and referrals.

Even though there are several lead generating platforms that assist advisors with identifying prospective clients, from SmartAsset to Catchlight and FP Alpha’s Prospect Accelerator, several advisors say the platforms aren’t working the way they’re supposed to.

“I have used a couple of different leads services in the past and found that they were not very helpful because they would not segment by gender, and my clients are women,” Liz Windisch, certified financial planner at Aspen Wealth Management, wrote in an email. “I didn’t feel that there was as good of an ROI as I would like since I had to pay for prospects that I was uninterested in. I asked to only have women sent to me, and the were not willing to do that, so I no longer use leads services.”

Some advisors who do use the services, like Jeff Ferrar, chief operating officer and managing director at Procyon Partners, say they provide OK-quality leads.

“I describe it a little bit like fishing with a gill net,” he said. “You can be doing other things, while SmartAsset (or Catchlight) is out there trying to find you leads, and they’ll let you know when there’s a fish in the net or prospect.”

The two biggest areas his firm gets leads from, Ferrar says, are good old-fashioned referrals from happy clients and referrals from professional centers of influence.

“Referrals are probably still the No. 1 generator of clients,” said Sean Lovison, financial planner and founder of Purpose Built Financial Services. “If you get a referral from somebody, those leads tend to turn into actual clients at a much higher rate.

“The main way that I’m prospecting for new leads is a combination of tried-and-true networking locally, and leads generated from just seeing my name in the news. Two of the leads that I’ve just talked to within the last two weeks were both generated that way,” he said.

Catherine Valega, financial advisor with Green Bee Advisory, said prospecting is all about taking great care of her current clients.

Valega plans to incorporate tax planning into her practice this year, as a new IRS enrolled agent, which allows her to do tax prep and expand her client service offering, hopefully attracting more clients as well.

At the very least, Chuck Failla, president and CEO of Sovereign Financial Group, says lead generating platforms are worth exploring but he also offers a fair warning. “There’s a valid business proposition to be had by those companies,” Failla says. “Just make sure your expectations going into it are good because you need to give it a good six to 12 months before you start really seeing some results. Don’t expect each lead to turn into a client. Sometimes you have to work a good number of years to get those numbers to come to fruition.”