Our regular financial services marketing contributor, Rachel Staggs, talks to advisers about how a common-sense, proven approach to referral relationships can succeed in helping you build your business…
Recent research, conducted by the Advice Leaders Forum, identified that a large proportion of advisers are concerned about the direct, low-cost product offers seemingly flooding the market today. Suddenly, it seems that everyone can offer insurance solutions!
Competition will always be around. It’s your ability to develop and articulate a sound value proposition that will enable you to rise above it all.
sometimes we tend to forget about the more traditional ways to market an advice business
A great deal is written about ‘new’ ways to market an advice business, and I’m an advocate for the majority of those messages. But sometimes we tend to forget about the more traditional ways to market an advice business – tried and true strategies on which this profession has been built. Many practices are struggling to make these strategies work. I’m talking about referral relationships and strategic alliances, etc. For most, this is the foundation of their business – it’s how advisers get access to new clients – but, for many, it’s still a cause for frustration.
When asked what their marketing priorities are for 2014, 89% of advisers told the Advice Leaders Forum that understanding how to gain endless referrals from business partners and clients was a priority.
Let’s take a look at a typical scenario: the relationships have been put in place, promises made and, in some cases, formal agreements are signed. But three, six, nine months down the track, things just aren’t happening as fast or effectively as planned. What can you do?
Here are nine ideas that can actually work in your business. You may be familiar with a number of these ideas but, for whatever reason, you just haven’t implemented them. Some are perhaps new ideas for you to consider. Whether or not you are familiar with these ideas and strategies, the message remains the same: use this set of ideas as a checklist, action list or a project plan. I suggest you make sure to give each element ample consideration because they will make your referral relationships work much better.
- Meet the sales people. A couple of years ago, a city-based financial planning practice which specialises in risk successfully ‘won’ the opportunity to deliver their services to an accountancy firm in the CBD. The accountants had a large team and access to the financial planner’s ideal clients. The two business owners established the referral relationship. After a few months the risk specialist wasn’t seeing many referrals out of this relationship at all. Keen to understand why, he started to meet with the accountants themselves, only to learn that they hadn’t been told about this new relationship – the owner hadn’t explained it to them! Meet the sales people – the actual people who are going to be the ones most likely to introduce you to new clients. This is a simple message, I know, but you’d be surprised the number of times this doesn’t happen in larger businesses.
- Work from their office. This is a tried and tested method and it works each time. Set aside a day each week when you can work from your referral source’s office. Take your laptop and other work tools with you – with advancements in technology, working remotely has become easy. This method builds relationships, which are fundamental to any long-term beneficial association. Are you doing this?
- Meet monthly. Typically, the relationship starts out this way and then, for whatever reason (laziness?), the meetings cease. Regular communication is key. Set an agenda each month. Use Skype, ‘GoToMeeting’ or other tele-conference technology, or meet face to face. There are a plethora of ways to conduct the meeting to maximise your time. What you can learn from these meetings is gold. Keep them going.
- Execute a signed service level agreement. No-one particularly likes confrontation, so when a service level agreement is established upfront it removes the emotion. It’s a document that you ‘talk to’ rather than having to ‘talk at’ each other. It states the expectations such as the target number of referrals, types of clients, processes, etc. Do you have a service level agreement in place for all your referral relationships?
- Send targeted email campaigns. It’s quite impractical to think that your referral partner can get in front of every single client instantly to introduce your services. However, there’s no reason why targeted email communication campaigns can’t be developed to promote your offering. This approach will work best when the email data is accurate. Others are using it effectively. Have you tried it?
- Contribute to newsletters. Write articles for your referral partner’s client newsletters. A regular post each time the newsletter goes out is an ideal way to get your message across to their clients. It shouldn’t cost you anything either! And remember to include a call to action.
- Share web presence. Look at having a short video of you on their website. Perhaps they can explain that they have formed a relationship with your business. This is trust transference – they endorse your services on their website. And again, remember your call to action.
- Deliver integrated social media campaigns. Link with your referral partner to conduct joint venture marketing, which can give you faster access to more clients. Are you using social media yet? Are you leveraging your referral partner’s social media connections?
- Establish referral processes. What happens when your referral partner identifies an ideal client for you? Are you leveraging technology? Do you use an online booking system? What content marketing piece can they share with the client to introduce your business to them? Have you written an e-Book, a report, or developed a white paper? Do you have a video that can be shared – either with your face to camera or a screen cast? What have you developed in terms of a marketing offer that will ‘wow’ both your referral partners and their clients? Do you want to be different and stay ahead of your competition?
There are many, many ways to leverage your referral relationships. These ideas represent a few of the many options that are available to you. Perhaps you have other tips that you can share?
At the end of the day it all boils down to the 5 Cs:
- Continuous action
30 Minute Referrals Blast Webinar – 26 June 2014
Interested to learn more? Then please come along to the upcoming webinar and I will show you nine ways you can leverage your existing relationships to gain those endless referrals, register for the upcoming webinar:
In her regular Practice Marketing column, Rachel Staggs provides insights to help advisers market their business to potential (and existing) clients.
Rachel Staggs is the founder and Managing Director of SRS Coaching & Consulting, a specialist financial services consulting firm.