It is not enough to have relationships with centres of influence (COIs). The challenge is to get the most from those relationships so everyone benefits. The potential growth in your business through referrals and a more satisfied client base will be worth the effort.

Here are four key steps to ensuring your relationships with COIs are mutually beneficial:

1. Know each other’s story
Your “story” is what you do, how you help clients and what your client base looks like, says Joanne Ferguson, president of Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto. Your COIs must know these key details about you and you, in turn, must know your COIs’ stories.

You can share your stories with a COI by going through a hypothetical case study together. Walk him or her through your process when working with a client. Explain how you would get to know that person and what type of planning you would do. The COI would then explain his or her process.

Armed with that information, you can determine whether either one of you has any clients who would fit with the other’s style or services.

You’re more likely to be successful in recommending these professionals if you can explain to clients what the COI does and how he or she interacts with clients.

2. Stay in touch
Ferguson recommends contacting COIs once every quarter. Use your contact-management system to remind you when it is time to reconnect.

Discuss any changes that may have taken place within your respective practices and any new offerings that can be presented to clients. You can even take this opportunity to remind your COI what your target market looks like and your advisory style.

3. Include COIs in your marketing strategy
Maximize your COIs’ exposure (and inspire them to return the favour) through your communication program.

For example, ask one of your COIs to contribute an article to your newsletter.

“The lawyer or accountant or other COIs are gaining exposure they otherwise wouldn’t get,” says Richard Heft, communications director with Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto. “The advisor gets to show that [he or she] can offer a better level of expertise to clients.”

4. Get creative
Keep in mind that, in addition to lawyers and accountants, your COIs can include clients who generate successful referrals. Get creative in the ways you can incorporate these individuals into your client events.

For example, if one of your COIs owns a restaurant, organize a “night of flavours,” at which clients can enjoy a tasty meal at the restaurant while listening to you talk about how to spice up a retirement plan.

This scenario benefits everyone involved: the restaurant owner, who will receive exposure; your clients, who will have a great meal while listening to your presentation; and you for connecting with your clients in a different setting.

Just be careful if you have COIs within the same profession, Ferguson says. You don’t want to appear to be playing favourites.