Want to really grow your practice? Look no further than your own back yard

By Dave Scranton

Advisors Academy


Remember the moral of the “Wizard of Oz” — that to find what you really want, you shouldn’t have to look any further than your own back yard? It’s a good lesson to keep in mind if what you really want as a financial advisor is consistent growth. (And if that isn’t what you want, I can’t imagine why.)

I discovered long ago that you don’t reach your true growth potential in this business by chasing cold leads down the yellow brick road. The journey to real success begins much closer to home, and it starts by looking no further than your own client list. If you’ve been an advisor for a while, you already know what awaits you down that yellow brick road: direct mail campaigns, appointment setting services and a lot of other scatter-shot prospecting methods that generate cold leads and a relatively weak return on investment. Even public seminars aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. You also already know that there is no magic bullet when it comes to lead generation, despite what some supposed marketing “wizard” may try to tell you (or, more likely, sell you).

That’s why I teach advisors that true growth begins with a focus on their own back yard, meaning their existing clients. Maintaining strong client relations and then leveraging those to their fullest potential for solicited and unsolicited referrals is largely how I’ve grown my own business to over $30 million in annual premium, and how I’ve taught others to do likewise.

Philosophically, of course, I realize this is hardly a unique concept, but many of the prospecting strategies I’ve developed around this philosophy are unique. And while I expect a successful outcome each time I use one of these strategies, every so often, the level of success will surprise even me.

Recently, I held one of several client-centered events I hold every year that include a strategic component for generating referrals. In the past, I have used a strategy that consistently enabled me to get between one-half and two referrals per client at the event. Advisors I coach who employ this same strategy generally get these same results: 50 to 200 referrals per every 100 attending clients.
This year, I decided to try out a new variation of my usual referral method, introduced to me by my own business coach. The result was that I not only hit my usual maximum possible success rate, I exceeded it, generating 699 referrals from just over 300 clients in attendance! Another of our advisors who used the same method did even better: over 400 referrals from 125 attendees!

Now, I have to stress two important points here:
  • No client-centered event that I hold — from a client advisory board meeting to a retirement party to my annual client appreciation party — is just about getting referrals. The objective, first and foremost, is to sincerely make my existing clients feel that they are appreciated and are the focal point of my business. That is the real recipe for a successful client-centered event, but I also believe every such event should include a “secret sauce.”
  • The secret sauce, which is the referral-generating component, should never overpower the main ingredients. It should be blended in such a way that it is subtle, tasteful, and even enhances the overall recipe with a little extra flavor.
Of course, many of your clients are always going to recognize the secret sauce for what it is, but if you’ve mixed the other ingredients properly (that is, made it clear the real reason for the event is client appreciation, not referrals), they’re not going to mind.

Keeping all the right ingredients on hand for these events is an ongoing process. It involves things like staying current with client reviews, proactively communicating on a regular basis, having a good client categorization system, and a lot of other practice management must-dos that create an environment in which clients actually want to send you referrals.

This entire approach is the cornerstone of an “attract-don’t-chase” marketing model. That is the key to real growth and success in any business — and that’s how you find it without having to look any further than your own back yard.