Encouraging referrals

The benefits of a center of influence on your Client Advisory Board

Most of the members of your Client Advisory Board will naturally be clients. But there is a role for a few other types of members. In particular, having a center of influence on your board can hold benefits for you and for that other professional.

Speak for multiple clients – One benefit of including another adviser to mutual clients like an accountant or attorney is that they can speak on behalf of multiple clients. Everyone else around the table will be speaking from their perspective and their own experience. While the center of influence cannot speak necessarily from the perspective of a client, they can speak on behalf of many clients. In fact, you may be able to tap into their experience of ideas they have tried or offered that may be similar to things you might consider doing for clients to learn how they turned out.

One of the significant challenges in determining how to respond to client feedback is the difference between what clients say they want or are willing to do and what they actually do. Another professional at the table may have experiences of trying something similar to an idea your board may propose and can share what actually happened.

It can produce more referrals – If you have a referral relationship with another professional and want to inspire them to send more clients your way, inviting them to spend a couple hours listening to some of your best clients talk about how much they value you and why can be a smart strategy.

Deeper understanding of your value – Another professional who refers knows enough about the services you provide and how you provide them to feel comfortable introducing clients to you. But unless they are a client themselves, there may be a lot about the work you do they don’t know about. Hearing in more detail about the kind of work you do for clients may give them more ideas for people they can send your way.

Learn more about who to refer – One of the challenges in developing centers of influence is communicating who your ideal clients are. My research with Julie Littlechild has demonstrated that the more time you spend talking about the profile of your target client the more referrals you will receive. Involving a center of influence in your board will help them gain a deeper understanding of exactly the kind of client that is a great match for you.

Benefits for them – Remember that participating in your board can be a big opportunity for them as well. If you have referred clients back and forth, there is a pretty good chance that your target markets line up pretty closely. Participating on your advisory board is a chance for them to get introduced to some new prospective clients of their own.

Who to ask – The ideal COI to participate on your board will be a client themselves. Most of them will not be, of course, so the real criterion would be that they have referred clients in the past. If they have not, they come in with the handicap of understanding less about what you do and who you do it for. And if they have not referred clients to you in the past it is not as likely that participating on your board will increase the referrals they make to you.

A center of influence, or any non-client that is on your board, gets treated just like any other member of your board. One difference is to be mindful not to ask them questions about specific client facing experiences like reviewing reports and expressing communication preferences for how often to send newsletters and their contents.

There are a couple types of people you might consider for your board apart from clients, centers of influence top among them. Consider who else might provide a worthwhile perspective and who may help contribute to achieving the high-level goals of your board.

 

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