If you’ve taken a walk in a downtown neighbourhood recently, you might have noticed many local restaurants have introduced special summer menus.

By infusing fresh, seasonal ingredients into their menus, these businesses diversify their offerings and give customers reason to come in and try something new.

Financial advisors can also change up their “menus” to increase the range of services they offer to existing clients and attract new ones.

One important item often missing from many advisors’ practices, says Joanne Ferguson, president of Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto, is financial planning.

“[Advisors] who don’t have that ingredient in their businesses are missing out on a lot,” she says.

Ferguson offers the following tips on how you can strengthen your business by changing up your menu this summer:

> Revise your recipe
In order to make inroads in the financial planning field, Ferguson says, change your approach from a rigid one to a more holistic one.

For example, instead of planning a short introductory meeting with a new client or prospect, take the extra time to discover what your clients hope to achieve over the long term through their financial plans.

You might find that this first meeting could take up to 90 minutes — most of it devoted to you listening while the client speaks. This type of first meeting will be considerably beneficial to your business in the long run.

Not only will you know more about your clients’ immediate, medium-term and long-term financial concerns, but you will also have begun building solid relationships.

“Start [this strategy] from the beginning,” Ferguson says, “and make it part of your process.”

> Go fresh, not frozen

Just as you would hope the kitchen in your favourite restaurant prepares each individual dish to order, you should do the same for your clients.

If you have 300 clients in your book of business, that means you should have 300 different kinds of plans, Ferguson says.

No two clients are exactly alike. Each has a different combination of circumstances, such as retirement goals, insurance needs and family issues.

“Don’t use the cookie-cutter approach,” Ferguson says. “It’s a recipe for failure.”

> Serve it with pizzazz
When you are ready to launch your new menu, do it with some pizzazz, says George Hartman, managing partner with Accretive Advisor Inc. in Toronto.

Whether you have added insurance planning or comprehensive financial planning to your bill of fare, Hartman says, hold a special marketing event to draw attention to the changes you’ve made. Your event could be a client cocktail party, a webinar, a podcast or a new e-newsletter.

This is the first instalment in a five-part series on “organic” growth opportunities.

Next: Building your business with disability insurance.