As a financial advisor, you are always looking for ways to add value and bond with your clients. One of the most unique and innovative ways I've found for doing just that also drive referrals years into the future and provide a wealth of insight about their individual goals and values is a legacy profile.

Next time you want to express appreciation to a client consider giving them a piece of their life in written form.

The “Family Star” Legacy Profile

Veteran journalist Jane Wollman Rusoff, who has written dozens of books and articles for Research magazine and The New York Times, can provide something called a Legacy Profile -- a short written history of an individual’s life.

It starts with a personal conversation, over the telephone or in person. Everything is recorded, transcribed and then edited by Jane. Through her years of journalistic experience and a knack for drawing people out, Jane uncovers the essence of the individual, captures anecdotes and weaves the conversation into a beautifully written first-person autobiography “as told to Jane Wollman Rusoff.”

The profiles are offered in a spectrum of price ranges depending on the length and can be a text-only document or an album embellished with family photographs and a luxurious layout.

Being the gifting end of one these heirloom treasures can benefit you in many ways.

1. Makes Clients Feel Important

Everyone enjoys talking about his or her achievements and being asked to do so validates that they’re worthwhile. And once they discover that you have asked Jane Wollman Rusoff -- a highly accomplished professional who has also written profiles on countless celebrities including Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Anthony Quinn and Ringo Star -- to write their legacy profile, they will feel honored by the company they keep.

Jane’s work has appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Esquire. Her credentials alone are enough to make your client feel that his or her life is valued.

But Jane wisely knows that everyone wants to feel like a star -- at least to the important people in their lives. That’s why she named her company Family Star Productions (www.FamilyStarProductions.com).

2. Provides Insights to You as an Advisor

Few things are as helpful to you as a financial advisor as truly knowing your clients, knowing what they value, what their risk tolerance is and what their goals are. The problem is that clients don’t always know the answers to these questions themselves, or they don’t know that they know.

The interview process for a legacy profile digs into the essence of a person’s life experience and the answers to these questions can be quickly gleaned from reading the resulting profile. If you have been struggling with incorporating a life planning methodology or client discovery process into your practice, you might find new insights bubbling up naturally as part of the Family Star process.

3. Cements Bonds With Clients

Going through the legacy profile process can be as fulfilling and emotionally intimate as going through therapy or a spiritual retreat. Families discover things they never knew, and often the subject of the profile discovers personal insight about himself or herself through the process.

Being the person who gave them the opportunity, your client may very well want to share these insights with you or, if not the specific details, perhaps they’ll let you know it was important and valuable to them. These are the experiences that form bonds.

4. Builds Referral Opportunities

Once the legacy profile is complete, the subject usually wants to share it with every family member, most of their friends, and generally anyone who will take the time to read it.

In the process of sharing the profile, the client is also likely to share the story of how having it written came about. You may even want to write a one page forward (or have Jane write it for you), with your own thoughts and insights about the client.

This short introduction can be inserted before the first-person content (the client telling his or her story to Jane). You could even suggest to the client’s spouse or family members that they add their own favorite memories and tributes in the form of short essays that could be added to the legacy profile for a special birthday or important milestone.

This is “stealth” referral building at its finest.

5. Creates Bridge to Next Generation

Ultimately, a legacy profile will become a family document; it will almost certainly live within a family for generations. So not only will you be strengthening your connection with your existing client, but you’ll also be starting the connection with the generations that follow them.

More Insights From Rusoff:

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Wollman Rusoff for my “Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry” blog. For more insights from Jane, listen to the seventeen-minute interview here: http://marie-swift.blogspot.com/2011/08/looking-for-ultimate-gift-for-your.html

What’s Ahead?

In the coming weeks, I’ll provide additional tips and ideas for building relationships and communicating with clients.

I just completed a series on media relations; if you missed that series simply scroll to the bottom of this page and you will see the archived content there.

This fall, I’ll be speaking at a number of conferences. Look for me at the following events:

-- September 15-17: FPA National Convention in San Diego.  Presenting “Twitter Live with Industry Thought Leaders” on the Professional Pavilion Stage (noon lunch break in the exhibit hall on Friday 9/16/11) and hosting a special Round Table Discussion on the “State of the Financial Planning Profession” with Bob Veres, Cameron Thornton, John Brackett, Michael Kay, Stephanie Bogan and other Industry Leaders in the Community Building (3:15 pm in Community Building Room 7A on Saturday 9/17/11). Learn more at: http://www.fpanet.org/ or just watch my Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry blog at http://www.marieswift.com/.

-- September 24: Fairfield University in Fairfield CT. Presenting a full-day workshop on Building Your Online Presence for FPA-CT and FPA Hudson Valley. FPA members, non-members and business people in the community are all invited to attend (attendees to not need to be financial advisors). Details at http://www.marieswift.com/ and http://www.fpact.org/

-- October 13-14: Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco. Attending and providing conference services onsite. Find the invitation criteria at: http://www.tiburonadvisors.com/

-- October 24-27: NAPFA Practice Management and Investments Conference in Brooklyn. Conducting half-day Social Media Boot Camp as a pre-conference offering as well as a session on public relations and a round table discussion on marketing, PR and social media during the main conference.  Details at: http://www.napfa.org/

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Marie Swift is a nationally recognized consultant who has for over twenty years worked exclusively with some of the industry’s top financial institutions, training organizations, investment advisory and financial planning firms. Her “Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry” blog provides additional insights and advice. Find it at http://www.marieswift.com/. Get breaking news at www.twitter.com/marieswift or connect with her via Facebook or LinkedIn.