Leveraging Your NAPFA Membership to Get Clients

9 min read
August 13, 2014

Many new firm owners (along with quite a few established firms) still ask, “Is it worth the money and time it takes to join NAPFA?” Our answer at XY Planning Network is a resounding yes.

We encourage all fee-only advisors to join NAPFA as soon as they're able to do so. NAPFA membership provides a wide variety of benefits and value to advisors, making the time and money required to join well worth it -- and so much so that, at XYPN, we feel it would be crazy not to claim your membership!

And don't forget: one of the benefits members receive when they join XYPN is a paid-for NAPFA membership.

NAPFA Membership Categories

NAPFA has a few membership categories, but the two that apply to new firm owners are Financial Services Affiliate and NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor.

While there are a few differences between the categories, the main thing to know is you must have the CFP® designation to be a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor. That grants you access to their Find-An-Advisor search tool.

For fee-only advisors without the CFP®, you will likely be a Financial Services Affiliate.

 Cost to Join NAPFA Financial Services Affiliate NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor
Application Fee $100 $150
Annual Fee $400 $625
One-Time Weblink Fee Not Eligible $125
Total First Year Fees $500* $900*


*Remember, this is free for XYPN members!

Using NAPFA Membership to Get Clients

As a member of NAPFA, you will receive a ton of awesome benefits. We'll keep our focus on how to use your NAPFA membership to bring in new clients for this article.

It's important to note that over the last 30 years, NAPFA has done a phenomenal job of promoting the fee-only message to consumers. While this has created some polarization in the advisory community, particularly with fee and commission (AKA fee-based) advisors, it has resonated incredibly well with the consumer marketplace and members of the media.

A recent estimate showed that an average of over 1,000 prospective clients per NAPFA firm clicked the weblink in the advisors Find-an-Advisor profile each year. That’s 1,000+ consumers looking for a fee-only advisor in their area. Do you know the value of that kind of lead generation?

The question then becomes, how do you leverage your membership to take advantage of the consumer traffic that NAPFA is generating?

Here's how you can take action to put yourself in front of those consumers who are actively seeking the help, advice, and services you can provide for them.

Looking for a roadmap to start your own independent RIA? Check out our  comprehensive guide to starting your firm!

Write a Compelling Firm Bio for Your Ideal Client

Here in Montana we like to say, “You don’t have to be faster than the bear… you only have to be faster than your hiking buddy.” The same is true when it comes to marketing. You don’t need to be the best marketer; you simply need to be better than your competition.

Do a quick search of NAPFA Advisors in your area and read through the bios of your “competition.” (The quotes are because most aren’t actually your competition – see #3 below).

Write a bio about your firm that clearly describes what your firm does, how you work, and what clients you love to serve.

I challenge you to find more than a couple of bios on the NAPFA site (or any website for financial advisors) that succeed at clearly describing their ideal client. Very few firms do this, and yet it is so important to attracting ideal clients.

Here is an example of a great firm bio that clearly describes who Sunit Bhalla of OakTree Financial Planning works with:

OakTree Financial Planning specializes in financial planning and portfolio management for engineers and other technology professionals. Our goal is to alleviate your financial anxieties so that you can focus your time and energy on more enjoyable aspects of your life.

You want to be sure your firm bio attracts your ideal clients and repels non-ideal clients. As counterintutive as it may seem, great marketing should repel more prospective clients than it attracts.

If you were an engineer, you would call Sunit. If you were a doctor, guess who you would not call? That’s right: Sunit!

Having a specific type of client not call isn't a bad thing. Consider this: if Sunit’s profile just said he helped everyone, guess who would call then? Probably no one, because the engineer will find someone who actually specializes in engineers and the doctor will find someone who specializes in doctors.

That leaves the generalist planner technically eligible to work with either prospect. But the reality is that the generalist will work with neither prospect.

The entire goal here is to get ideal perspective clients to click through to your website because it feels like you are an advisor who is specialized in solving the problems of people just like them.

Create a Great Website

I've heard some NAPFA members say they don’t get many leads from NAPFA. Usually the first thing I do is to go look at their website, and I usually find a template website that really sucks.

The second thing I do is ask if they even know how many people clicked through to their website from NAPFA’s Find-an-Advisor search. To date, no one that complains about lack of leads from NAPFA has a decent website -- or has any idea how many leads they're getting.

Note: If you are in the “I don’t know how many leads I’m getting” boat, sign up for Google Analytics RIGHT NOW. This isn’t optional. And yes, it’s free.

Look, it doesn’t matter how many highly qualified leads click through to your website if your website sucks. It's 2014, not 1998, and the reality is consumers expect to see a quality, easy-to-navigate, aesthetically-pleasing online presence. Having a poor website sends the message that your services are the same quality.

Ultimately, it is your job to convert those leads to clients and the first step is to have a compelling website. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to spend $10k for a great website, either. The top financial advisor websites I know of cost $3,000 or less.

Remember that you don’t need to have the best website of any financial advisor to be successful; you simply need to be better than the other advisors in your area.

For reference, here are a few websites that cost less than $3,000 to create (in fact, the costs were $500, $1,500 and $3,000, but I’m not telling which is which!):

Compare these websites to other financial advisors in their immediate area and you will see why these sites bring in a lot of clients.

Bonus: I bet each of the above advisors can tell you exactly how many readers of this post clicked the link to their website, because they use Google Analytics to track and measure their website results!

Network with NAPFA Members

Because you must have the CFP® designation to be listed on NAPFA’s Find-an-Advisor search, those without the CFP® automatically assume NAPFA membership can’t help them get any clients… but boy, are they wrong.

NAPFA has been so successful at connecting prospective clients with their members that many firms over time have instituted asset minimums to work with clients. While there is no central data source for this, I suspect well over 50% of NAPFA firms have asset minimums in the $500k - $1mil AUM range.

What does this mean for you? It means the NAPFA firms in your area are likely turning away a lot of prospective clients that as a newer advisor you would be thrilled to work with. (This is why I said the firms in your area really aren’t your competition, since they aren’t interested in working with your ideal clients!)

A NAPFA firm recently told me they were turning away 2 to 3 clients every day that weren’t  their ideal clients. That's 650 consumers a year that are actively seeking a fee-only financial planner!

From my experience, however, fee-only advisors hate turning down clients simply because they aren’t wealthy enough. Few enjoying saying, “You don’t have enough money for me to work with you.” That being said, when large firms take a client with $200,000 of assets, they lose the ability work with a $2mil asset client -- so from a business perspective, they need to turn down these smaller clients.

That doesn't mean the larger firms don't do anything to help those they turn away. This is where the importance of networking comes in, because other firms can refer clients they can't work with to other financial advisors who are seeking that type of consumer. You need to develop relationships with other NAPFA members so you become the first person they think of when they need to send a client to someone else.

How do you network with these firms so they will refer the clients that don’t meet their minimums to you? Here are a few steps to get you started:

Step 1: Join NAPFA

NAPFA firms are much more likely to refer clients to you if you are in NAPFA yourself. This is their way of verifying that you are fee-only, a fiduciary, and do comprehensive financial planning.

Step 2: Make a List

Do a search for all of the NAPFA firms within 50 miles (further if you are in a sparsely populated area).

Step 3: Find Minimums

Go to this resource page and pull the ADV Part 2 for every firm on your list you created for step 2. Look under Section 5 for and fee and/or asset minimums.

Step 4: E-mail Firms

Send an e-mail to the firm owner, starting with the firms with the highest minimum and working your way down the list. Feel free to call if you don’t get a response within 5-7 days. We've included template e-mail in a resource section at the bottom of this page.

The Pitch

When I would sit down with advisors, I would suggest, "Instead of telling prospective clients they don’t meet your minimums, say 'we specialize in working with high net worth clients; however, there is another advisor down the street that specializes in working with clients just like you.'" They would then pass along my contact information.

Note that many firms with high(er) asset minimums have a specific person in the firm that screens prospective clients for eligibility. Very rarely do the actual firm owners and/or advisors handle the screening process.

This means that even though the firm owner would refer to you, they never actually talk to the prospective clients that don’t meet their minimums. Be sure you find out who is handling the screening process and have them in the meeting with the advisor if possible. (This is usually an admin, operations, or junior advisor.)

Case Study

All of this is well and good, but how do you know it actually works? Here's some data from my first year in business that can serve as a case study and shwo how NAPFA membership helped launch my firm:

  • Website clicks from NAPFA’s Find-An-Advisor Search: 463 (357 unique visitors)
  • Intro meetings scheduled from NAPFA leads: 13

o   Of those, 9 became clients

  • Intro meetings scheduled from referrals of a single local NAPFA planner: 4

o   Of those, all 4 became clients

At my minimum retainer of $250/month, 13 clients equals about $40,000/yr in revenue. So do you think paying $900 to join NAPFA was worth it? In my experience, I would say so!

Just for fun, assuming they stay clients for the next 30 years (and their fees simply increase by 3%/year for inflation), that’s an return on investing of 67,348% based on the lifetime value of the client.

Like I said to open this post: at XYPN, we feel it'd be kind of crazy not to join NAPFA.


We're big believers in the mission of NAPFA. XY Planning Network feels every eligible advisor should join, and advisors that aren’t eligible should work to become eligible for membership so they can join.

But even if you aren’t interested in the other benefits, I would recommend joining NAPFA just for the lead generation! Especially as a new advisor, it is a wonderful way to bring in your first few clients and kick start the growth of your newly registered fee-only financial planning firm.

Better yet, you can join the XY Planning Network and receive a long list of member benefits, including a paid-for NAPFA membership!


Template E-mail To Send Advisors

[Advisor Name],

My name is [your name]. I have recently opened [the name of your firm], a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm in [your location]. I am a fellow member of NAPFA, provide fee-only financial planning, and [any other services you provide] to [your ideal client].

I'm wondering if you would have time for me to stop by your office and chat for a few minutes? I'd like to tell you a little bit about my firm, and learn more about yours.

I'm looking out a couple of weeks, and am available on [share specific dates where you have availability]. Any chance you have 15-20 minutes one of those day to meet? If not, let me know a couple of times that would work with your schedule.

I look forward to speaking with you!

[Your closing]

Your firm, your terms. It can be done. Show me how.

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