All financial advisory referrals come from just 28% of your clients, according to a survey.

But what type of clients are sending you new business?

The survey, sponsored by Genworth Wealth Management, indicated that virtually all referrals come from “engaged” clients, and multiple referrals are the norm.

The study of 1,207 advisory clients, which was conducted by Advisor Impact, classified all of these clients as either disgruntled, complacent, contented, or engaged. The division was based on how client answers to survey questions demonstrated loyalty, satisfaction, share of wallet, and referral activity.

“Not only did all 28% of engaged clients say they had provided a referral,” the study indicated, “each had provided an average of two referrals in the last 12 months.” Among those engaged clients, 16% had provided three referrals, 4% had provided four referrals, and 5% had provided five or more referrals in the last 12 months.

Altogether, 28% of the clients in the survey were classed as engaged, so there is room for growth  — and more referrals.

The big question remains: How do advisors turn the other 72% into engaged clients? They have to provide excellent client service, of course, but “great service is a table stake,” as the report put it. It’s “something that advisors just need to get right in order to have a base of satisfied clients.”

Beyond service, increased personalization is critical.

“In order to personalize the relationship, advisors need good client intelligence,” said Julie Littlechild, CEO of Advisor Impact  That client intelligence will help advisors understand what is truly meaningful, from the frequency of contact to the scope of the offer to the client’s fears and concerns.”

Much of the required information may be gleaned from on-going conversation, according to Littlechild, but formal feedback also can play a role. “Formalizing the process lets clients know that their input is both valued and used actively,” she said.

For example, an advisor might send a survey to clients every 18 months to ask about what they value, need, want and expect from the service being provided.  “The survey provides both a high-level overview to help structure a communications strategy--I will meet with my best clients every quarter—and also elicits feedback from individual clients that will become the basis of a deeper discussion about their needs,” Littlechild said. “The meeting, and ultimately the service, is built around direct input from the client and is therefore a more personalized approach.”

Littlechild also said that there may be a mismatch between the advisor and the client when it comes to basic factors such as values, investment philosophy or communications style. “Then,” she concluded, “engagement is impossible.  However, very few advisors have a process in place to assess fit before a prospect becomes a client. Instead, the mismatch reveals itself over a long period of time.”

Suppose an advisor wants to work with clients who are actively engaged in their own financial lives. “Such an advisor,” Littlechild said, “might send every prospective client some light ‘homework’ to prepare for a productive meeting.” Clients who actually do this homework might be a good fit for the advisor, could possibly become engaged clients, and may go on to provide multiple referrals in the future.

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