In the wake of the economic downturn that pummeled markets and investor accounts, you might think advisors would have learned the importance of maintaining contact with clients. And that proactively getting in front of prospects is critical to finding new business and keeping existing clients.

But you'd be wrong, at least according to a recent survey by SEI, a provider of wealth management platforms for advisors. Its poll shows that 62% of financial advisors don't communicate with their clients on a regular basis even though they acknowledge that this flaw is their greatest failing in providing service.

Even more telling, as many as 42% of advisors say they asked one-quarter or fewer of their clients for new referrals. This just makes it all the more difficult to replace the clients who will inevitably leave over time. "Frequent and meaningful communication delivered in a variety of ways is crucial to building lasting trust between advisors and clients, which ultimately leads to stronger relationships," says John Anderson, head of practice management for the SEI Advisor Network. "Yet advisors remain stymied by the task." "Whether they're communicating with clients or prospects, it's the same story—advisors should be more proactive," Anderson says. "The best way to get ahead in today's competitive landscape is to spend more time in front of clients and prospects, providing valuable information."

The survey results become even more illustrative when considered alongside a survey of high-net-worth clients by Spectrem Group. That poll found that nearly 40% of high-net-worth investors expect a call back from their advisors within two hours. And if they don't get that call back, they would consider making a change and finding another financial professional to service their accounts.

To increase the frequency of their contact with clients, some advisors have turned to social media sites and tools to introduce themselves to potential new clients and keep tabs on the ones they already have.

But despite the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, only one in five advisors surveyed said they connected with at least one new prospective client last year. That telltale sign indicates that many advisors still aren't comfortable with the social media platform, and that some broker-dealers are still banning them from using the sites because of technological or compliance issues.

Whether it's with social media or some other method, advisors need to somehow reach out to clients and prospects more frequently. "Most advisors naively think they can run their practices simply by keeping their current clients happy," says A. J. LaVallie of Advisors Group of Chicago. "The reality is there's a hole in the bottom of every advisor's bucket, and it has to be filled with new clients and assets. The down market was a huge wake-up call for advisors that keeping clients is only half of the equation. Successful advisors are proactively reaching out to prospects and converting them."