"In 2006, of the $27.9 million of assets under management, $18 million was derived from client referrals and new business from existing clients... I also gave them a calendar of events that includes referral dinners, appreciation events and public workshops to which they may bring guests throughout the year."
--R. B. ($28 million a year producer), 2007 Senior Market Advisor
Advisor of the Year Finalist
"Personal referrals are by far the most effective method of prospecting in the financial services industry. This has been the primary way that I have gained new clients...I work hard to cultivate the trust and confidence of my clients...and that compels them to refer their friends and family."
--D. Z. ($25 million), 2007 Senior Market Advisor Advisor of the Year Finalist
"We get referrals by not asking for them, but by thanking people for them...As soon as I stopped asking for them...all of a sudden we started getting a ton more referrals."
--C. R. ($40 million), 2007 Senior Market Advisor Advisor of the Year
What do all three of these familiar top producers have in common? You got it: They took their careers through the stratosphere by figuring out a way to get referrals without using old and tiresome, even boorish, tactics. For most financial planners, the word "referral" is a four letter word. To the top producers in the country it's the one strategy that changes everything.
I believe seminar leads are punishment for not having enough referrals. Marketing through seminars is getting harder by the year. My clients tell me they can go to a seminar for lunch and dinner Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of just about any week in the year. The "plate-lickers" are in abundance, while overall numbers are diminishing. Yes, it's true you can send out more invitations and go to higher-class restaurants to keep the attendance up, but the competition is fierce. Having said all that, seminars are still one of the best ways to prospect in the senior market. Just because it's hard, you don't stop doing it. But, is there anything else? Do you really want to continue spending the time, energy and money doing three to four seminars a month, month after month? Is that what it takes to keep your volume of prospects up? Or is there another way? A better way?
The answer is yes, there is definitely another and uniquely better way. Listen to Dale, the top producer for not only his broker/dealer, but for one of the largest variable annuity carriers in the country. He says, "Last year I did 40 prospecting seminars. This year I did eight seminars and cut my costs in half, while doubling my production." He discovered a tremendous way to layer on marketing strategies that exponentially increase the effectiveness of each one. He discovered the power of relational marketing. That power comes from creating partnerships with some of your best clients.
Creating client partners is radically different than asking for referrals. All the studies show us that your clients do want to refer you, but they hate to be asked. It's a lot like the old saying, "I love to buy, but hate to be sold." Besides, I've seen so many referral programs it makes me want to...well, you get the picture. If you are still asking for referrals, you look like every other snake-oil-selling, plaid-suit-wearing salesman out there. The typical salesman says, "You know, I get paid in two ways...." and the pathetic line goes boorishly on. Asking for referrals is akin to still using a dial-up connection to access the Internet. Stop asking for referrals and start developing "client-partners".
A client-partner is a client who, when the subject of finances comes up in their conversations with friends, simply says, "You might want to talk with my advisor, Dave". If the client says they have an advisor, they just drop the subject. Yet, if their friend says, "Tell me about Dave," then the client-partner tells them, not about the products, but about their experience in working with me, and then simply asks them to attend the next luncheon or seminar that is scheduled. It works perfectly.
Some relational marketing techniques
The following strategies are the tools through which you can create an environment where people begin to introduce their friends to you en masse. Learn how to create an environment where your client-partners introduce their friends to you at a time when they are most comfortable. Agents often ask for referrals, and clients have a hard time responding. The interview ends with a very uncomfortable conclusion, exactly what you don't want if you're trying to create good will in the community. Yet, if you are the person in their mind when they are talking at leisure to their friends and neighbors, you can be assured that they will talk you up. Relational marketing is the most unique strategy to-date that has the potential to flood your office with prospects generated from client-partners who are out there working on your behalf.
Seminars are still a key component of relational marketing because of their ability to set you up as an expert in your field, someone prospects might like to do business with and someone they might be able to trust. They will be greatly enhanced by the strategies of relational marketing with more and higher quality of prospects. With client-partners' involvement at your seminars, the results are astounding. You will eventually only be doing three or four sets of seminars and easily getting two to three times the results based on relational marketing strategies. The idea is to get substantially more out of each advertising dollar you spend. Doubling and even tripling your production while cutting your advertising budget in half. That is what we're after. That's the power of client-partners.
Client focus groups
A client focus group is a unique opportunity to create client partnerships. It is the hub of the relational marketing effort. You will receive valuable input from your clients: information about their passions, interests, hobbies, their environment, and their openness to partner with you. Invite 10-12 of your "A-B" clients to a focus group luncheon, and tell them that you value their input and want them to help you grow your business with people just like them.
The partnership appeal is very simple. You've partnered with them in their success, and are simply asking them to become partners in your success. It's a two-way street. Clients really want to see you succeed, and will refer you in large numbers if they believe it is part of their partnership agreement. It's a very powerful event to have a small number of your clients hear others tell their stories of how you have helped them, and how others are willing to partner with you. They leave, not only committed to partnering with you, but with a practical next step assignment.
Calendar of events
I know it sounds pretty basic, but why don't most planners have a calendar of events that they give new clients and their existing clients? It's the one tool that informs your clients of lunches, seminars, client parties, and more. Without it, they have no way to plan for bringing guests to meet you in a social setting. With it, your clients get a vision for partnership.
Market update lunches
What an incredible tool to have 30 of your clients come to lunch, bringing 10-12 of their friends to hear your take on the conditions of the market and economy. It's a room full of "friendlies" who are only there to get your advice. And when you wrap-up the two financial solutions you are most excited about, the "newbies" sign-up for appointments en masse. The result is an easy sales interview with a new client.
Prospects ask you all the time for references, and your focus group is a great resource to help you. Train your client partners to refer you by having them write a letter of affirmation. Create a "wall of fame" with the letters and your clients' pictures to impress new prospects. Use them in your company's brochures and at seminars to establish your credibility.
Strategic client mailings
What are the odds of a client-partner referring you if they haven't heard from you for weeks after you initiated the partnership? Obviously, the odds are very low. So, it's incredibly important to make contact in some simple manner on a weekly basis. Mailing clients a letter with a new recipe, travel tip, market highlight, small gift, etc. keeps you in the front of their minds. At a time when they are with their friends and the discussion of finances comes up, they will think of you, because you have stayed in front of them on a regular basis, while not becoming a part of the financial noise in the community.
To be sure, all of these are powerful tools to make the most out of every marketing dollar you spend. They are meant to make the best use of the laws of influence and persuasion. Once you begin to use these cutting edge tools, you will begin to see the three-quarters of the senior population that will never attend a seminar come through your office in large numbers.
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