Fans Are Great, But Advisors Need Timely, Informed Referrals

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One of our primary objectives in marketing, we are told, is to create fans. Even better, raving fans. If we want to attract referrals, though, it’s better to have people remember what kind of solution you represent than simply to be fans.

The fan (short for fanatic) is a supporter, an enthusiast, a devotee. Having fans is good. It is a benefit to have people talking about you. And what they say when they talk about you is important. So, getting your clients to talk about the right things can be a significant contributor to the growth of your business. Fans say nice things. What we want is for them to say compelling things.

Consider Cubs fans. Once you become one it is, apparently, a life sentence. I have never met an ex-Cubs fan. And when I’ve talked to one, they do not hesitate to profess their unfailing devotion to the franchise. They talk about their team frequently. I hope the players appreciate them – and I am sure they do –  because they are one dedicated bunch.

However, I have yet to meet a Cubs fan who could persuade me to become one. Their message is heartfelt but not compelling. I appreciate their heartfelt connection to the team but I have no strong desire to join them.

Now consider Rob Brown. Nice guy. Professorial. Wears bow ties. A warm and generous person. He is a lawyer, and a good one. And he knows employee stock ownership plans better than anyone else I know – better than anyone else I've ever heard of.

Am I a fan? It is funny to think of Rob in that context but, sure, I guess so. But here's the thing – if I am ever talking with anyone about a company and they say the phrase "employee ownership" I think of Rob.

And I will encourage that person to call him. And so do a lot of other people. In fact, even many lawyers at other firms send their clients to Rob when the conversation turns to employee stock ownership plans. He is the natural choice. If what you need for your incentive plan or your succession plan involves employee ownership of the company, Rob has a solution.

And positioning himself in my mind like that is much better for Rob than simply making me a fan.

For one thing, as enthusiastic as someone may be about their financial advisor, the important thing is not that they bring up the advisor in conversation but that they bring up the advisor at the appropriate point in a specific conversation. If what you want is to attract IRA rollovers, it's much better that your clients bring up your name when someone they know mentions that they are about to leave their employer than it is that they mention your name every so often.

It is wonderful if, when someone asks one of your clients what they think of you as a financial advisor, he says "she's great!" It is much more powerful, if you work with widows, that a client pass along your name and number when she finds out her friend’s husband has been diagnosed terminal.

Being the solution to a particular problem your target clients tend to have also makes it easier to attract referrals from more of your clients. Some people are natural promoters. They are frequently trying to think of what they can suggest to their friends. When they find someone or something that they like they give some thought to who they can tell about it.

A lot more of us do not do it so deliberately. If someone describes to us a particular challenge they face, we will suggest a resource if we know one. Beyond that, we tend not to think too much about it. Being the solution means increasing the likelihood that more people will mention you at the right time, even if those people are not the natural promoters.

Having fans is wonderful. Doing what it takes to make your clients fans is a good idea. It means you are providing them an experience they value.

A more important aspect of your referral marketing plan is what particular solution you represent to your ideal client and how you will communicate that as often and as to as many people as possible. Develop a reputation as the best source for that solution, and you will find many more people you can provide that solution to.


Stephen Wershing, CFP® is President of The Client Driven Practice. He coaches financial advisors to be more effective and successful, and attract more clients and referrals, by developing more client-connected and client-driven practices. 



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