Home > Digests > Practice Management Digests > The Key to Painless Referrals

Most financial advisors I talk to don’t like asking for referrals. It always feels awkward turning to your client and saying … “Do you know anyone who needs …. ?”

But if you thought asking for referrals was tough, it’s even worse when you’re the one being asked. It’s like suddenly your financial advisor has morphed into a multi-level marketer, you’re in a locked room with him under a bright light, and you worry you’ll soon be asked to hand over your iPhone for your contacts to be mined.

Referrals aren’t supposed to work that way. There doesn’t have to be any pain for you—or your clients. After all, when’s the last time your doctor, accountant or attorney asked you for referrals. Answer: Never.

Referrals should be a natural byproduct of the quality of the work you do for your clients—and the quality of the niche you’ve chosen.

How do you know you have a great niche? The referrals flow. How do you know you’re providing great service to clients? The referrals flow.

So the one main key to painless referrals?

Knowing what you do, whom you do it for, and what makes you different from the rest.

In my business, I’m a financial services copywriter. I write content for blogs, social media accounts and trade publications within the financial services sphere. My clients, who are financial advisors, marketers and business coaches, don’t have time to worry about researching and writing a column, and sweating all the grammatical and syntactical details. They hand over their writing and editing burdens to me—I make their lives easier. And I have 22 years experience in financial trade journalism that sets me apart.

In your business, you’re not just making investment decisions for your clients—your simplifying their lives. You’re in business because while most people know inherently they should be saving and investing for retirement, and there are plenty of do-it-yourself options, they don’t have time to sweat the details. They don’t have the expertise to avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. Your background in economics, portfolio management or even taxes, can set you apart when the clients understand how that experience adds value to what you do.

So, when you think about the core services you offer, try to simplify them down to your core offerings (financial planning, portfolio management, risk analysis) that relate to your expertise—but then perhaps throw in a few add-on or adjacent options. I call this the jingle/snowmobile option.

I’m a longtime aspiring campfire guitarist (seriously) and I’m currently exploring ways to hook up my clients with a musician database to supply inexpensive, non-Royalty music for their video marketing content. This “jingle” angle is way to differentiate myself from other copywriters.

The snowmobile option comes from a story I heard recently about a small-town insurance agent in Canada who listed “snowmobile insurance” in all his small newspaper ads along with the usual auto, health, life, etc. Snowmobile insurance was never going to be one of his core offerings, but he usually got one call a day from someone who had a snowmobile and needed insurance—simply because he was the ONLY agent listing snowmobile insurance on his ad.

What more “exotic” or add-on service could you offer that would set you apart? Charitable giving consulting? Maybe you offer a debt reduction system? Maybe you offer family retreats or have a strategic partnership with a realtor specializing in downsizing and estate sales. Choose something that is adjacently related to your business, and a service needed by your target market.

When you pair your core services with an add-on—you have the key ingredients necessary for referrals. Clients will then know your core competencies, and maybe one more thing about you that makes you memorable. And if you’re not memorable—you’ll never be remembered, or referred.

Bottom line: You never know what’s going to differentiate you from the competition. But you need to be very clear about what you do, whom you do it for, and what sets you apart. That’s the key to painless referrals.

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