How to design a referral marketing strategy – results from client engagement think tank, part four

In my first three posts on our client engagement think tank, I set the stage for a discussion of a referral marketing plan. What we found in our roundtable discussion with advisors is that many do not target prospects particularly well, don’t use the target markets they have defined in their client onboarding process, and they don’t have a plan to attract referrals from that target group. So now that these observations are in the open, how do you write a plan to systematically attract referrals? Here are a few basic principles:


  1. Do an exceptional job – this may seem obvious, but many advisors I speak to want to know how to get referrals and do not question how the quality of their work may be part of the cause for not receiving more. Rather than ask “Why don’t my clients prefer?” Asked “What can I do better?”
  2. Get client feedback – In order to find out how good a job you’re doing, and what you could do better, have a systematic way of obtaining feedback from your clients. Whether through surveys or advisory boards, have a structured way to ask questions like How my doing? What am I really good at? What unique value do I bring to the relationship?
  3. Define your target market – Many advisors do not do enough work in defining who exactly their best target prospects are. Even many of the articles I have read on target markets only offer the shallowest and most superficial advice. It is not enough to define the target market by profession, a faith community, or an age range. And don’t even get me started on investable assets. You need to go beyond the obvious and develop a more subtle and nuanced description of the people you can service most effectively. One of the advisors I work with initially told me his target market was “women.” To be effective, you need to have unique skills and services that connect with a group. Therefore, that group needs to be less than 52% of the population. Ultimately, we arrived at a description that included “women who have just recently or are about to take control of their family finances for the first time in their lives.” These are not the “suddenly single” or the cases of “sudden wealth.” Many of these women are still married, and the family net worth has not changed. One example is a woman whose husband was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The family and assets have not changed, but she was facing the fact that she was about to be in charge. It is a group of people with similar needs, shared concerns, in need of similar services.
  4. Research the needs of your target audience – Now that you have determined who your target market is, consider what they might need from you do not currently provide. Perform a “gap analysis” on your practice versus the ideal practice for that target audience. Go back to your clients who are in that target audience and get their opinion on your research. Ask questions like “if I wanted to work with other people just like you, what services would I add that would make me the ideal advisor?” Bring them the results of your gap analysis, and ask “do you think I should add services like these?”
  5. Design your communication strategy – Once you have tailored your practice to your target market, design a strategy for communicating your area of specialty and your specialized services. Let your clients know specifically what kind of new client you are focusing on, and what special skills you bring to the table to work with them. Learn how to describe what makes you unique for that target audience so that you can clearly articulate it to the people you meet. Let people know that you worked with your best clients to tailor your practice to that target group.


Clearly position yourself with your clients, your prospects, and the public. Come to own that particular spot on people’s brains, and when someone expresses a need for that kind of advisor they will naturally think of you


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