Client Communications

Engage your clients — and don’t ask

By Tessie Sanci |

Instead of telling clients why they should refer friends and family members to you, you should be incorporating their input into an effective referral strategy, says Stephen Wershing, president of The Client Driven Practice in Rochester, N.Y.

Getting your clients to tell you about the services you provide is a step toward having them tell their acquaintances about you. Wershing shares three techniques that can help increase your clients' involvement in your referral strategy:

1. Ask for client feedback
The main element of your becoming referable is that you have a skill or business style that sets you apart from other financial advisors. While you may know what those differentiating qualities are, it's important to hear it from your clients.

"Even if you understand what's special about you," says Wershing, "they'll give you their language for it."

And their language regarding your skills is probably what their friends and family will relate to most.

Ask your clients why they have stayed with you as opposed to going to another advisor. Be prepared to dig for the answers that are unlikely to apply to just any advisor.

For example, your clients might tell you they trust you, which is wonderful, but not very original. So, ask them to provide specific examples in which you proved you deserved their trust.

For example, a client who has difficulty controlling his spending might mention that he doesn't feel "judged" when he tells you about his problem. What you learn is that you provide a safe and secure environment in which clients can be open about their concerns.

2. Ask for clients' advice
How would your favourite clients suggest ways for you to communicate your services to people like themselves?

This is the "new referral conversation," Wershing says. You are able to engage clients without making them feel like you're trying to sell something.

Instead of demanding information —names and phone numbers of acquaintances — you are asking for their guidance. These clients are more likely to remember the conversation in a positive light and mention you to people they know.

3. Teach clients how to talk about you
You've established how you are different. Now, you must share that through a "referral marketing" process in which you communicate those qualities to your clients. This step  teaches your clients how to describe you to friends and family, Wershing says.

You can inform clients through review appointments, client advisory boards or marketing materials such as your newsletter and your website.

The point is to communicate your distinct expertise frequently, so clients will have those concepts stuck in their heads. When a client's friend says something that triggers those keywords — such as financial literacy for young people or tax-efficient retirement planning —you are the first person who comes to your client's mind.

This is the second installment in a two-art series on improving your referral strategy.