Is Attracting Referrals Passive?



Thomas Coyle, in an article in the Wall Street Journal last week, suggested that a strategy for attracting referrals, rather than asking for them, is passive. He went so far as to describe my approach as a “wallflower strategy.” I have heard similar comments before. It makes sense. If you not actively engaged in asking for referrals, it must be passive, right?

I don’t think so.

It goes back to hunting versus farming. Most advisors “hunt” for referrals, but I coach advisors to farm them instead. The farmer does not stalk prey, actively pursuing it until he captures it. But farmers work hard, and pursue a specific, active strategy. Tilling the soil, carefully planting the right seeds at the right time, tending the field until the harvest yields the return on his efforts.

A well designed and implemented referral marketing strategy is a big project that requires hard work. It involves going to the center of your strategic plan, identifying your ideal clients and designing a practice around them. It takes careful crafting of a value proposition tailored to that niche. It requires diligence and tenacity in consistently communicating that value and teaching your staff, clients and centers of influence to use that message in describing you. It involves dedicating time to doing the research to uncover your clients’ connections and affinity groups and network to be able to ask for the right introductions. It takes courage to refer to other professionals the potentially lucrative prospects who are not part of your niche. It calls for creativity in discovering how to serve your target market in ways they did not realize they needed.

No, attracting referrals is a very active strategy. In fact, it takes considerably more effort than taking the easy and unimaginative (if a bit uncomfortable) path of simply pestering your clients for names and numbers.

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