If only I could clone my best clients. It’s a thought that’s crossed every financial professional’s mind at some point. Your best clients are the ones who generate revenue and are easy to work with. If you could gain a few dozen more clients like your 10 best, it would transform your business.
The good news is you can. Your best clients have friends, family, and associates who are similar to them. You just need your best clients to refer you.
Easier said than done. You probably know how it’s difficult to pry referrals out of your clients. Even if they love your service, they may be reluctant to name names (let alone make a meaningful introduction).
Yet some financial professionals who do get referrals use them as their primary source of new clients. So how do you take advantage of referrals to generate new revenue and add high-quality clients?
First, recognize that not all referrals are the same. A referral will generally fall into one of two categories:
- These are referrals that “just happen.” A client passes your name to a friend or associate because they’re happy with your service. The referral occurs without direct effort from you or your team.
- These are referrals that come as a result of a planned, strategic effort on your part. You might ask for referrals, or you could hold a client appreciation event for clients to bring friends.
You can boost both types of referrals, but each requires a unique strategy. Below are tips on how to generate referrals in each group. If you don’t have a referral plan in your office, you should develop one.
“Organic referrals” doesn’t mean you have no control. These referrals occur when a client is thrilled with your service and relationship, and when you’re top-of mind.
How do you stay top-of-mind with your clients? With regular, repeated contact. In the 1990s an anthropologist named Ron Dunbar theorized that the human brain can maintain only 150 stable, ongoing relationships. To be top-of-mind, you need to be one of your client’s top 150 associates or friends.
At first glance, that may seem easy. However, consider how many people vie for your clients’ attention on a regular basis. There are friends and family members. Co-workers. Teachers and coaches. Neighbors. There are “perceived relationships,” which include people they follow on social media or see on television.
You’re competing with all those people for attention. All of a sudden, the list for the top 150 is a bit more crowded.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to maintain an ongoing client relationship. The key is to make contact regularly throughout the year, even when there isn’t a question or concern. You can do that with:
- Review meetings and phone calls
- Email newsletters
- Social media posts
- Client events
- Cards for birthdays, or anniversaries
- Monthly market updates
The more your clients see your name and branding, the more you’ll be top of mind when financial discussions arise with friends and family. Don’t underestimate how often you should contact them. Remember, there are many different people, platforms, and outlets competing for your clients’ attention.
For an organic referral, you have to be top-of-mind. But the client also has to be thrilled with your service and their experience. This isn’t the same as being thrilled with their financial results. A client could have great results, but if they feel the service or experience is lacking, they’re unlikely to provide a referral.
Again, improve your clients’ experience. Exceed their expectations. Surprise them with the quality of your work and support. Make their time in your office memorable.
Think through your clients’ experience when they visit your office. How are they greeted? Does your office have a welcoming, warm appearance? Are clients escorted to a conference room, or are they left waiting in the lobby? Do you have an agenda to keep the meetings brief and efficient?
Try to imagine how the client might feel when they leave your office. If they’re not happy with the experience, it may be time to make changes.
For example, you could:
- Designate parking spots directly in front of the office as VIP spots for your visiting clients.
- Redesign your lobby, meeting rooms, and other client-facing areas to feel warmer and more contemporary.
- Welcome clients with drinks and fresh snacks.
- Implement a disciplined welcome process so clients are immediately greeted and shown to a comfortable, private conference room or office.
- Use wall-mounted flat-screen monitors to make presentations more interactive and engaging.
- Provide new clients with “Welcome to the Family” packets that include paperwork, names of important staff, helpful documents, and small gifts like branded coffee mugs.
You can’t directly control whether your clients make referrals to their friends. However, you can improve the odds by giving them an exceptional experience. Be creative and think of how you can exceed client expectations. This is especially true for new clients, who may be sharing with others that they have recently changed financial professionals.
In Part 2, we’ll talk about a deliberate, planned referral strategy and how you can integrate referrals into your marketing plan.