The fastest-growing registered investment adviser firms generate three to five times as many referrals from clients and so-called "centers of influence" as do their peers, according to Charles Schwab's 2013 RIA Benchmarking Study. "We call it relationship marketing -- these advisers have achieved a level of relationships [with clients and business partners] where the community is promoting on their behalf," said Jon Beatty of Schwab Advisor Services.

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