Providing exceptional service, encouraging client referrals, and implementing a Referral Program.
Referral programs are a powerful strategy for Canadian Financial Advisors and Planners to grow their client base. Referral programs involve encouraging satisfied clients to refer friends, family, and colleagues to their Advisor’s services.
Now, there is no magic pill for this one — before your practice can ask for or expect referrals, your clients must be having an experience worth talking about. Many top Advisors sustain and grow their practices from referrals alone, so what exactly are they doing differently?
We are going to start with the specific business benefits to having a structured Referral program. Then, we will dig into how you can make your practice more referable. Finally, we will cover how to get started with a structured program and share some best practices for growing and improving as time goes on.
Here are 5 of the top business benefits to having a structured and intentional Referral Program for your Advisory practice.
- Client acquisition and growth:
- A well-structured Referral Program can be a powerful tool for acquiring new clients. Existing clients who are satisfied with the Financial Advisor’s services are likely to refer friends, family, or colleagues, contributing to the Advisor’s client base growth.
- Trust and credibility:
- Referrals often come from trusted sources, such as friends or family members. When a potential client is referred by someone they trust, there is already a level of credibility established. This can significantly shorten the sales cycle, as the referred individual may be more open to engaging with the Financial Advisor.
- Cost-effective marketing:
- Referral programs can be a cost-effective form of marketing. Compared to traditional advertising or lead generation methods, acquiring clients through referrals typically incurs lower acquisition costs. It leverages existing client relationships to generate new business, saving money that might be spent on other marketing channels.
- Higher conversion rates:
- Referrals often have higher conversion rates than leads obtained through other means. Since Referred individuals come with a recommendation from someone they trust, they are more likely to become clients. This can improve the Advisor’s overall conversion rates and contribute to a more efficient and productive client acquisition process.
- Client loyalty and engagement:
- Implementing a Referral Program can improve client engagement and loyalty. When clients feel appreciated and rewarded for their referrals, it strengthens their connection with the Financial Advisor. This positive experience supports long-term client relationships and creates loyalty.
How to make your practice Referable
This is something we talk about a lot and we have numerous resources that can help support you in your endeavour to make your practice as Referable as possible. If you’ve read our stuff before, you already know that our goal is to keep things simple and actionable, so I will keep this part concise.
Before you start asking for Referrals, you need to ensure you are providing an experience that will give your clients a reason to act when you ask.
Start with reviewing this post, How top Financial Advisors & Planners continue to increase their Referral rates.
The key take-away from this post are:
- Elevate your practice with technology
- Engage your prospects
- Educate your clients
- Evaluate your systems
It’s a 4-step process referred to as the Referability Quadrant. Check out the post for the specifics on how to action each item; this method is tried and true, and has been used by top Advisors for years.
Additionally, there are two other resources I would recommend checking out:
- Learn how one Advisor tripled her monthly referrals here.
- Financial Advisor Panel on using a Financial Planning process to build a sustainable & thriving practice.
How to implement your Advisory practice Referral Program
Once you’ve created the process around making your practice referable, you’re going to move on to stage 2, which is going to be simpler than you think.
With the theme of “keeping it simple” continuing, the best way to increase your referrals is to simply start asking the question,“Do you have any friends or family members who could benefit from working together?”.
Make asking this question part of your process. You could roll this into your email campaign for clients, or select successful moments to ask. The important element is to consistently ask for referrals and build it into your process.
Once the basics are covered — you’re doing everything you can to provide the best possible experience and have started to consistently ask the question — you will be ready for something more structured and involved.
How to take your basic Referral Program to the next level:
- Set clear objectives
Define the goals of your Referral Program. Whether it’s to increase the client base, target a specific niche, or boost revenue, having clear objectives will guide the design and implementation of your program.
- Understand compliance and regulations
Ensure that your Referral Program complies with industry regulations and ethical standards. Familiarize yourself with any relevant guidelines or restrictions imposed by regulatory bodies in your jurisdiction.
- Define incentives
Determine if you may want to offer incentives to clients who refer new business to you. Incentives can include discounts on services, gift cards, charitable donations, or even personalized financial planning sessions. Ensure that the incentives align with the value of the referred business.
Many Advisors do not offer incentives so this part is very, very optional. If you have the foundational elements of the Referability Quardrant covered, your clients will be happy to send their people your way, because they want their loved ones to experience the same benefits they already have.
- Create a formal Referral Policy
Develop a clear and comprehensive referral policy that outlines the terms and conditions of the program. Specify who is eligible to participate, how Rferrals should be submitted, and the criteria for qualifying Referrals.
You can also specify when the best/optimal time to ask for Referrals is, and this is something you may need to determine through trial and error. The important part is to consistently ask at the same time/event, so that you can gauge whether it’s effective or not. The optimal time to ask will depend entirely on your practice and client base, and you may find it can even differ from client to client.
But, you can’t measure what you don’t track. Some ideas to consider include:
- Timing the request after a positive financial event, achievement, or successful investment.
- If a client has just provided positive feedback or expressed satisfaction with your services
- Scheduled review meetings, where you and the client discuss their financial goals and progress
- If you / your firm organize client appreciation events or gatherings, these can be great occasions to ask for referrals
- If you (or your team/firm) have gone above and beyond to help a client in a challenging financial situation or to work through a life event
- Promote the Referral Program
Actively promote your Referral Program to your existing client base. Use various communication channels, such as email newsletters, social media, and your website, to inform clients about the program, its benefits, and how they can participate.
- Provide Referral materials
Equip your clients with any tools they need to refer others easily. This could include referral cards, brochures, or digital assets that succinctly explain your services and the Referral Program. If you don’t make it easy for clients to share information about your business, they won’t.
Here at Snap Projections, for example, we have a unique landing page that is accessible only to our clients. They can send this page to their fellow Advisor friends and colleagues, referring them to use the same financial planning software as they do. If the referred Advisor signs up for Snap and stays beyond the 14-day Free Trial and 30-day money-back-guarantee, the referring Advisor gets one month of free service. It’s win/win.
- Implement a tracking system
Establish a system for tracking and managing Referrals. This can be a simple spreadsheet, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, or a specialized Referral tracking tool. Tracking helps you recognize and reward clients for successful referrals.
I’d suggest starting with a spreadsheet to keep it simple, and then move to something more automated only if and when you need to.
- Acknowledge Referrals promptly
Acknowledge Referrals promptly and express gratitude to the referring client. Consider sending a thank-you note or a small token of appreciation. Prompt acknowledgment encourages ongoing participation in the Referral Program.
- Consider offering incentives for Referred clients
If you’ve chosen to offer incentives to your Referring clients, you could also consider offering an incentive to the new clients they bring in. This creates a positive experience for both parties and increases the likelihood of continued engagement.
- Measure and analyze results
Regularly assess the performance of your Referral Program. Track the number of Referrals, conversion rates, and the overall impact on your client acquisition efforts. Use this data to refine and improve your program over time.
Another important metric to track is also the quality of your Referrals. Ideally, you want to get to the point where you can use your Referral program to target your ideal clients.
- Provide ongoing communication
Keep clients informed about the success of the Referral Program. Share updates on the number of new clients acquired through referrals and any special events or incentives related to the program. This reinforces the importance of client participation.
- Review and adjust
Periodically review the effectiveness of your Referral Program and make adjustments as needed. Consider soliciting feedback from clients to identify areas for improvement and refine your approach.
By implementing a well-thought-out referral program, financial advisors can tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing and turn satisfied clients into advocates for their services.
Best practices and additional items to consider for your Referral Program
Formal vs. informal programs: Referral programs can be structured in different ways. Some Advisors have formal programs with incentives for referrals, while others rely on informal referrals based on trust and goodwill. You know your client base best so consider what would resonate best.
Automated systems: Implementing automated Referral systems can help streamline the process. Software tools can track referrals, send thank-you notes, and manage incentives, making it easier for both clients and Advisors. However, do not get bogged down with trying to automate things too soon. Don’t automate until you have created a process that is working.
Incentives: Some Advisors offer incentives to clients for successful referrals, such as discounts, gift cards, or other rewards. While many clients are happy to refer others without any incentive, offering a small token of appreciation can motivate more referrals. This could be a discount on services, a gift card, or a personalized financial planning session. This again is highly based on your client and their preferences.
Communication: Effective communication is essential for the success of Referral programs. Advisors should clearly communicate the program’s benefits and guidelines to their clients. Advisors should clearly communicate to their clients that they welcome referrals. Clients might not realize that their Advisor is open to new clients unless it’s explicitly stated.
Tracking and analytics: Advisors can use tracking and analytics tools to measure the success of their referral programs. This includes monitoring the number of referrals, conversion rates, and the value of referred clients.
Compliance: Advisors must ensure that their referral programs comply with industry regulations and ethical standards. All referral communications should be transparent and honest.
Professional partnerships: Partnering with professionals in related fields, such as accountants or lawyers, can lead to mutually beneficial referrals. Professionals often refer their clients to trusted Financial Advisors for comprehensive financial planning.
When you network with other professionals in related fields, you create opportunities for mutual referrals. These professionals can send clients in need of financial services your way, and you can reciprocate.
Thanking Referrers: Acknowledging and thanking those who Refer clients is essential. A simple thank-you note or a small gift can show appreciation and encourage future referrals, particularly when they are professional referrals. This is separate from offering incentives and should be done in addition to or in lieu of.
Consistent service: As mentioned at the beginning of this resource, providing excellent, consistent service to existing clients is key. Satisfied clients are more likely to refer others, so maintaining a high standard of service is essential.
Client testimonials and case studies: Share success stories and testimonials from clients who have benefited from the collaborative services of you and your partners. Highlighting real-life examples can inspire confidence and attract clients seeking a holistic approach to their financial needs.