* 22 YEARS *

Note: This article has been updated for 2021 after two more years of being in the marketing trenches. You can see the updates below about SmartAsset and DaveRamsey.com.

As someone who has devoted a large part of my life to helping financial services professionals generate leads and empower their marketing strategies, I’m well aware that RIAs in particular are ALWAYS looking for new sources of financial advisor leads. It makes sense, as if someone wants to continue to grow their own business, they need a steady stream of new clients coming right to their door. The problem is that this isn’t just often easier said than done… it does require investment, too. Many advisors find sites like SmartAsset or WiserAdvisor particularly challenging. SmartAsset in particular is a paid lead source where someone can buy leads and get them directly for a few hundred dollars or more… with a closing rate of about one out of 10. This, of course, is different than trying to generate leads from your own website. That’s a lot of money to be spending on something that might not necessarily work for you. But does that mean that paid lead gen is a bad idea? Far from it. I have one current client in particular who buys all the leads he can from SmartAsset – that’s how well it’s working for him. Another client, however, tried it and didn’t care for it – he just wasn’t seeing the kind of lead flow that other firms were seeing. So why did the same resource work exceptionally well for one client and not for another? Ultimately, a lot of it likely comes down to the perception of return on investment.

The Importance of Perspective in Lead Generation for Financial Advisors

In our own experience, the ROI that we’ve seen from sites like these is definitely positive – but the closing rate is unquestionably far lower than organic search or referrals. One out of 10 is still an acceptable ROI when you’re talking about $500,000 in assets. However, as always, your mileage may vary. We believe that the key to making sure these types of qualified lead resources work for your own financial services firm is to be open to trying one channel for a set amount of time before you move onto another. You need to be flexible, but also aware. Once it feels like you’ve gotten enough activity to your sales funnel and you’ve found all the potential clients you can, move onto another and start the process again. You may stick with one channel for six months or even a year. Try these types of paid lead sources and directories that your digital marketing firm partner is recommending – assuming that they are working exclusively for RIAs, of course – or what he or she has seen with other clients. See what type of tangible return on investment you can get. If one channel does not perform the way you need it to, don’t be afraid to move on. You also need to be aware that there are more opportunities out there in terms of lead generation for financial advisors than you probably realize. With that in mind, here are a list of qualified lead resources for financial advisors that you’re definitely going to want to explore as soon as you can. Also bear in mind that there is an additional benefit of working with these paid lead sources. If they have a directory that you can get listed in, and they have high domain authority, then you get the added benefit – oftentimes dramatic – of having a powerful backlink into your site.

Paladin Registry

At its core, Paladin Registry is a solution built to match up clients with pre-screened fiduciaries – in other words, financial advisor firms like yours. The registry itself has two types of members – registered investment advisors and investment advisor representatives. Overall, Paladin provides three distinct types of online services to firms:

  1. Registry referrals to qualified prospects, although you can only get this by signing up for a membership.
  2. Website and Internet services designed to produce qualified leads.
  3. Marketing and consulting services aimed at helping those qualified leads convert.

Naturally, service fees vary depending on factors like your service requirements, the number of locations you’re running, and the number of professionals in your firm. However, this may be a good source for you to explore, so be sure to contact Paladin directly for more information.


One of the things that makes NAPFA such a viable resource is that they make it easy for people to initiate contact with ONLY those advisors that are a solid match for their specific needs. But that means you get a lot of information about your potential clients, too – including their financial planning requirements, contact preferences and other pivotal details. This is a great way to generate not just leads but QUALIFIED leads, allowing NAPFA to do a large part of the “hard work” on your behalf. What is interesting is how I have seen these leads come into the client pipeline. For every client, we install a software that we developed called the LeadGen LeadSource Plugin, and it basically tells us where the leads are coming from. This plugin has allowed us to trace where and how the NAPFA leads come in. It’s counter-intuitive but definitely worth it. Reach out to me if you would like to get this plugin for your firm’s site or discuss how NAPFA could be a source of leads for you.

Garrett Planning Network

Garret Planning Network is yet another solution designed to help consumers find qualified and vetted advisors in their specific area – which is again something that you can leverage to your advantage. Joining the network allows you to become a part of a vibrant, supportive and (most essentially) diverse group of financial professionals who have all joined together in service of something far greater than any one of them could be individually. It’s a community of like-minded people who always act with the best interests of their clients at heart, and its powerful reputation can definitely be an asset to your marketing strategy and lead gen efforts.

XY Planning Network

Similarly, we have the XY Planning Network. Joining the XY Planning Network advisor portal is a perfect opportunity to help generate leads in a way that puts you out in front of your prospective clients. Not only do you have a chance to gain visibility and rise above the rest of your competitors, but you also get a chance to become the go-to expert for your particular niche. Advisors on the XY Planning Network are listed by their specialty – so you can go directly after whoever your ideal customer actually is with minimal effort. This can include entrepreneurs, those that are concerned with estate planning or retirement and much, much more.


Maybe the best part about WalletHub isn’t just that it’s a great way to increase your online visibility and join conversations in your industry already taking place – it’s also totally free to do so. You can increase your web presence in a way that showcases your services, engage with members of your community and show off your knowledge, AND increase new qualified prospects – all at the exact same time. At the time of this writing, it has a domain authority of 82, so an excellent backlink if anything. But more than that, they’re ALSO collecting credit score data from people who sign up – thus giving you even more actionable information to work from when you reach out to these prospects for the first time.


This one we’ve already mentioned, but for the sake of completion we’ll go over it again. On average, we find that financial advisors pay about $200 +  per lead on SmartAsset and up to around $2000 to $3000 for every new customer acquired. Before allowing any financial advisor firm onto the platform, SmartAsset confirms that they are A) properly registered with either the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or an appropriate state regulator, and that B) they actually possess any and all licenses that they claim to. In order to join SmartAsset, you cannot have any pending or valid regulatory disclosures within the last decade. At our firm, this is the one we are seeing get the best results.


In the last two years what I have heard from my advisors is that Smart Asset works in either one of these two ways. A little background first. When you get a lead from Smart Asset, two other firms also get the lead and so the prospect is actually bombarded with a lot of calls and emails at the beginning. Here’s where I see Smart Asset working well. First if you are the only advisor getting the leads from Smart Asset, then you can really crush it. I know of a firm that is blessed with that scenario, albeit it is rare. In that situation it is definitely worth the investment. The firm I am thinking of grew AUM fairly quickly. But most advisors that want to use Smart Asset will be forced to share their leads with other advisors. This generally proves to be an ineffective strategy that yields very little success. But I have seen one situation where a firm did have to compete with two other advisors for the leads, but they grew their AUM almost north of 100 million in less than a year, and at that during the corona virus. They had two things that were essential and when used together they succeeded very well. First, they had a very robust nurture in place. They had all the touch points of text, voice and email all set up to work together to stay in front of the prospect and to build trust and authority. Second they had a unique offer. In their case, they were pursuing asset sizes of 1 MIL or more and then they capped their fees. So if a prospect had a liquid net worth of $10 million dollars, they would pay the same fees as if they had $1 million. The combination of the consistent and strategic nurture with a unique offer really has done well for them. To close this out on Smart Asset, I would have to say while it is one of the best paid lead sources out there, it is probably not for you if you don’t have a compelling unique offer with an effective and consistent nurture process.


Dave Ramsey is a lot more than just a trusted authority in the financial services world – he also has vetted professionals on his website that he shows off on a regular basis, too. His website itself is a lead generation solution for approved advisors and if you’re able to rise to meet that criteria, it can be a very lucrative opportunity for you, indeed.


I know of a firm who has been growing AUM with this approach for the last few years and is actually at least 3Xing their investment, year after year. They too have a very robust nurture in place which is really the secret of why it works for them.

This leads me to really make the point about what is a lead. I probably will write a separate article on this topic in the near future because time and space really don’t allow. But most advisors think about a lead as a “bottom-of-the-funnel” lead, one that is ready to discuss services and possibly move forward right now. Certainly this is what we are all looking for. However, from my view the path to AUM is more like building and growing an audience of leads that could be “top-of-the-funnel” or “middle-of-the-funnel” – families and individuals that are interested but further from the sale and definitely need a nurture to stay in front of them to try convert them three to eighteen months out. What I am saying, in short, is that advisors must see the bigger picture about leads and where they are in the funnel and not limit themselves to just bottom-of-the-funnel leads. The advisors that grow AUM with DaveRamsey.com’s leads know this.


Finally, we have WiserAdvisor – a solution that bills itself as an “independent and unbiased matching service” that aims to help people find the best financial advisors to meet their own unique needs. Their financial advisor directory can be organized by state or even major cities, once again allowing you to go after those high quality leads that are already very close to your physical place of business. All told, the purpose of this list is to provide you with a wide array of different lead resources that you can choose from depending on your needs. As always, your “needs” will vary – both in the context of your business and your larger goals in the moment.

Again – many of these lead sources or directories work very, very well for some people and not well at all for others. If your actual return on investment isn’t what you’re after once six or so months have passed, don’t be afraid to move onto another channel. It doesn’t mean that these financial advisor leads resources won’t work for you – it just means that you haven’t found the right “recipe” quite yet. If you’d like to find out more information about the top qualified financial advisor leads resources that are available, including another list of 10 other excellent opportunities, or if you just have any additional questions that you’d like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, please don’t hesitate – contact Midstream Marketing today.

Christopher Wendt Administrator
Christopher P. Wendt is president of Midstream Marketing, a digital agency that generates predictable leads for independent financial advisory firms. Over the last 10 years, he’s spent hundreds of hours applying the LeadGen Formula™, a proven method helping financial advisors generate more leads. You can reach him at cwendt@wendt.enterprises.
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