A majority of advisers depend on client referrals for business growth, so it’s surprising that many just leave things up to fate.
Yet advisers who are the most successful in building advocates out of their clients are the ones that have specific tactics. Here are 11 proven approaches, in the words of successful advisers, that can help your new business efforts.
1. Be Charitable
“We have turned our client referral program into a loyal advocacy program — simply, we have identified our top 20 who can convey our services and at the same time have the willingness to be advocates. An example is one of our clients hosting a cocktail reception at their home naming us as the guest of honor.
“We typically try and support a charity at these events. Last April, one of our clients that were affected by Hurricane Sandy wanted to have a cocktail reception in which we invited all of their friends and family members who were also impacted. We made the night about them and donated a sum in the name of each family to save the Shore Foundation.
“This is the kind of stuff that they are proud to share with others and therefore creating a ton of referrals!”
Doug Lockwood, principal at Harbor Lights Financial Group Inc.
2. Have A Video Strategy
“One of the best ways to obtain referrals from clients is to stay top of mind. I accomplish this by sending out written newsletters as well as videos every few weeks. I discuss interesting topics in a clear, concise and often humorous way.
“The newsletters are prepared by me and have a unique voice — they are clearly not canned. By providing something creative and special, I am always able to keep in front of my clients.”
Bruce Wiener, owner of Wiener Financial Management
3. Leverage Social Media
“LinkedIn and Facebook have been tremendous sources for our practice. Clients are open to just doing a ‘virtual introduction’ right through the social media platform. It’s really cool!
“Financial advisors shouldn’t be afraid to ask their clients to make an introduction through social media sources. More and more, it’s becoming the norm on how to make a referral happen. Giving your clients five business cards won’t really help you.”
Ted Jenkin, Co-CEO and founder of oXYGen Financial Inc.
4. Set Up An Advisory Board
“In trying to always enhance our business, we have created a group of ideal clients that meet regularly to help provide advice for our business. This is a group of clients that have referred us in the past. For a lack of a better description, they are raving fans of what we do.
“They are also sophisticated and have great advice on how we can make ourselves more referable. Not only do they give insight into how to better promote our holistic approach, but they are out talking about us all the time.
“One piece of advice they gave us is that we need to be a little clearer with what we want from our clients and we need to let them know we have capacity to grow.
“We hear things like, ‘I feel privileged to be part of the board. Thank you so much for including me.’ We also let them know how important they are to our practice. This mutual level of respect has developed some of the best referral sources for us.”
Chuck Bean, president of Heritage Financial Services LLC
5. Host Appreciation Bring-A-Friend Events
“Hosting client workshops and client appreciation events that are slightly unusual appears to have helped propel our practice’s growth over 40 percent in 2013. Clients and centers of influence are invited to attend with a friend that may have needs of our services.
“These events may include wine tastings, beer tastings, gourmet cooking classes (which is a couples night out), financial fitness Fridays (with a wellness expert and behavioral finance discussion), women and power workshops, and a Navy Seal presentation.
“Most recently, we did an Olympic downhill skiing event on a big screen hosted at a microbrewery with over 40 attendees.
“The friends that clients bring are often prequalified, and the clients know these are business-building events that help spread the wealth to their friends and family. Follow-up is essential. Ask the referral if it is OK to offer a complimentary subscription to our monthly newsletter and ask for permission to call and arrange a ‘no-obligation’ meeting for a ‘second-opinion’ on their financial situation and investments.”
Jeffrey G. Kitzberger, founding partner of Olympus Wealth Partners Inc.
6. Have A Defined Target Market
“I focus my blog posts and other newsletter content on my niche: savvy women and their families, so it’s a continual reminder about what I do and who I work with. My newsletter list includes current clients and prospects, friends, family and acquaintances, as well as clients who I have done financial planning for in the past and who I hope will need my services in the future. I make sure that I don’t add anyone to my list that has not opted in.
“Almost all of my referrals from clients are for other women or women who take the lead in the family finances. I think having a niche makes it very easy for people to refer to you. There is no confusion about who you serve and what your expertise is. My Web site and marketing materials are entirely focused on women, although, in the end, I don’t discriminate.”
Cathy Curtis, owner of Curtis Financial Planning LLC
7. Make It A Routine Topic
“The best idea is to have a referral strategy for each meeting. It might be as simple as reinforcing how we have added value in the past and then to find out if there is anyone that we could help. It may be following up with a name that was given to us in the past or that they may have mentioned.
“We send out an agenda for meetings in advance to the client. One of the items on the agenda is to discuss who we could help. That seems to help with the conversation when they come in. The key is to be proactive about referrals.”
Wade Chessman, president of Chessman Wealth Strategies
8. Be A Go-To Expert
“Probably the biggest inflow of new clients over the last 30-plus years has come from our relationship with a large corporation. We know and understand their employee benefits really well.
“This focus has spread throughout the local office, and as a result, we continue to receive referrals, most of whom spoke to an existing client of ours who shared their experience with us.”
Jamie Upson, EVP at Wealth Management Group LLC
9. Be A Problem Solver
“The best way I get client referrals is by solving a client’s biggest, most vexing problems. Generally these involve multiple disciplines. For example, I recently won a big client by being the one advisor who could get her lawyer, accountant and other financial advisor to communicate with each other regarding the settlement of her husband’s estate. For years, the trusts weren’t fully funded, the assets weren’t properly titled and the income wasn’t being handled right for tax purposes. By being able to talk the languages of these varied disciplines, I was able to win most of the client’s investments and ensure the estate was being handled properly.
“When she then encountered a friend needing similar assistance, it was easy for her to refer me to help.”
Carina Diamond, managing director of SS&G Wealth Management
10. Deliver Great Service
“Our primary source for referrals is through our existing clients.
“Rather than focusing our marketing efforts on attracting new ‘unvetted’ prospects, we elect to provide an abundance of value-added services to our existing clients. I’d rather spend my money keeping clients rather than finding clients.
“Through our events, continued communications and high-touch services, we believe that we provide a service standard that can’t be found anywhere else in our community. As such, our existing clients brag about their experience here and tell their friends. New prospects are already sold on us before they ever walk through the door.”
Marc Freedman, president and CEO of Freedman Financial Associates Inc.
11. Use Technology To Make A Good First Impression
“The use of technology is becoming an essential part of the client referral process. We find that our prospects who come from existing clients look us up online and like what they see. Because we did some rebranding work a few years ago, we make it clear who we work with and what we do for them. For that reason, they pretty much come in ready to hire us when we do get to meet them, as they have researched us online.
To help make a great first impression for folks that are out of town or just cannot make it to our office, we use video conferencing. We have found this to be more effective than just having a normal phone call. We are confident this technique helps improve our odds of bringing on new clients.”
Ann Pendley, director of business development at Payne Wealth Partners
Although this article is focusing on client referrals, do not forget centers of influence as a great way to get referrals. Here are two bonus tips.
Bonus #1: Have An Extended Team
“We have had much success getting referrals from our COIs (centers of influence). We identify accountants, attorneys, bankers and TPAs that we want to have deep relationships with. We then educate them on our value add, such as planning and investment management. We have four to five face-to-face meetings with a COI in a year’s timeframe. Our long-term planning around these relationships has reaped countless referrals to our firm.”
Jim Betzig, COO of Beirne Wealth Consulting
Bonus #2: Explain Who Is A Fit For What You Do
“COI’s are just people. They are going to refer business to people they a.) know, b.) like, c.) trust to be honest, competent, and d.) who they think will serve their own clients well. That therefore argues that you first have to get to know them and develop a relationship with them. They need to understand what you do and how your approach may or may not be different from the next advisor. They also need to know your strengths as an advisor, so they can figure out which clients to send you, distinguishing by both personality match and skills match. Your job in marketing to them is to help highlight those things that would make you right for the few ‘right’ clients of that COI.
“I think it is important to give them a hook, something to remember you by. It will most often be the kinds of clients you specialize in and how you serve those particular clients in special ways. Trying to be ‘all things to all people’ won’t give them anything to go on.”
Norman Boone, founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.
Hope these tips help strengthen your own referrals strategy!