Word of Mouth is a Force of Nature


Identifying COIs to force it in your direction

We all know referrals are the most impactful way to grow your business. An endorsement from someone you already like and trust goes a long way in getting you to want to take the next steps with the recommended vendor. Whether it’s a car repair, new restaurant or the latest show on Prime Video – if someone in your trusted network says to do it, they’ve already done half the work for you – the research. You simply need to follow through.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a referral from a trusted friend…A trusted referral is the holy grail of advertising.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The same could be said about a referral from a trusted source to your financial advisory firm. However, the art of the referral can sometimes be difficult to maneuver. Advisors often solely consider complementary service providers as their only ‘referable’ sources; however, the list of potential referral partners is actually quite expansive. This blog will identify the ‘who’ that could be part of your Centers of Influence (COI) list, and in a subsequent blog we’ll dig into the ‘how’ to form relationships to generate referrals and ‘what’ strategies you can implement to stay top of mind.

List of Potential COIs

When you first begin building your COI list, start with your inner circle. Your inner circle will typically consist of professionals that are complementary to you and your client base. Some referral sources are more obvious than others but think not just of your service category (financial planning) but also of the age group that you prefer to work with. Retirees have different relationships than Gen X or Millennials, for example, so go where your ideal clients are likely to be.

Immediate Circle – Complementary Professionals

  1. Estate Planning Attorneys
  2. Tax Planners, such as CPAs and Enrolled Agents
  3. Tax Preparers
  4. Bookkeepers (specifically for business owners)
  5. P & C Insurance Agencies
  6. Mortgage Brokers
  7. Medicare Specialists
  8. Social Security Consultants
  9. Long-Term Care Specialists
  10. Employee Benefits Providers

Next is your outer circle, where you consider each of the various relationships that your ideal client has that you could benefit from too. Money in motion is the optimal time to generate new activity for your firm, whether that means retirement, death of a loved one, career advancements, or starting a family. Often times it takes an army of professionals to help someone through a transitional event and forming that team ahead of time with those who work with your ideal client will help ensure you have a seat at the table when a transitional event occurs.

Outer Circle – When There is ‘Other’ Money in Motion

  1. Divorce Attorneys
  2. Business Brokers
  3. Residential and Commercial Realtors
  4. Funeral Home Directors and related end-of-life service providers
  5. HR Managers
  6. Personal Injury Attorneys
  7. Guidance Counselors at High Schools / College Prep
  8. Business Attorneys
  9. Medical Doctors (Obstetrician or Geriatric, as examples)
  10. Home Builders or Remodelers

By listing out both your inner and outer circles, you will successfully identify the professionals that play a role in financial planning or when their money is in motion. Next, shift gears and consider the activities that your ideal client likely participates in, who they follow or admire, and what they do for fun.

Inner Box – Who Are (or can be) Influencers or Magnets

Some of the people or groups on this list may require a more formal arrangement, such as compensation for their endorsement or through a sponsorship opportunity with their organization, but don’t discount that – awareness with their network or influence through their name recognition may be worth considering. Additionally, think of financial ‘magnets’ in your community that could potentially benefit from your financial planning education or support.

  1. Leaders of local non-profit organizations (specifically those of interest to your clients)
  2. Local professional networking organizations
  3. Local media outlets and / or personalities
  4. Community leaders or local politicians
  5. Executives with prominent employers
  6. Cosmetic procedure providers
  7. Social networking private groups, based on interest
  8. Paid-for membership organizations – private schools, country clubs, business associations
  9. Local celebrities – athletes, entertainers, notable retired professionals in the community
  10. Residential community groups – community centers or organizations, sports organizations

Outside the Box – Birds of a Feather

Who are the individual service providers your ideal clients work with for leisure or hobby-based activities? What service providers create exclusive experiences for your targeted clientele? As the old adage goes, birds of a feather flock together, so why not network with those who encounter your ideal client in personal situations. This list will vary per your geographic location. If you’re in the mountains it could be a private ski instructor versus a golf pro if you live in a warmer climate. Consider where your ideal client is spending their leisure time and form a connection with the point-of-contact of those activities, organizations or groups. (This could prove to be beneficial for you too for client appreciation or education events going forward.)

  1. Golf or tennis pros
  2. Personal shoppers / high-end retail experiences
  3. Health and wellness consultants / nutritionist / life coaches
  4. Travel agents or clubs
  5. Art, memorabilia, or other collectibles curators or dealers
  6. Luxury car, RV or boat dealers
  7. Private instructors – personal trainers, yoga, ski, boating, and similar. (If you work with a younger demographic, consider the private instructors that teach their children, such as sports, music, tutors and similar.)
  8. Private chefs or wine consultants
  9. Private transportation locations (private jet hanger, helicopter, limo, etc.)
  10. Social club organizers – book, wine, gardening, parent, travel, investment, etc.

Knowing who to approach is half the battle. Start with building your own Top 10 COI list by identifying the professionals who are most relevant to your ideal client. If you have any problems determining who to include, ask your best clients for their ‘referral.’ Sometimes to get what you want; all you have to do is ask.

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