As I’ve already explained, an exceptional service model can take your business quite far. Add a handful of strong Center of Influence (COI) relationships, and you may have everything you need to drive your growth.
Here are some tips for making those relationships perform their best for you:
1. Don’t limit yourself to only attorneys and accountants.
If you do, you might be raking over the same tired ground again and again—while missing out on huge pockets of opportunity. Suppose you want to target young tech workers starting their first high-paying jobs. Accountants and attorneys don’t know those people. Who does? Parents, grandparents. Recruiters. Maybe leasing agents. If you’re targeting entrepreneurs, cultivate relationships with VCs and private equity firms. Do you serve families dealing with eldercare issues? Get to know geriatric care providers. You may be wondering how to identify all of these untraditional COIs. That’s simple. If you have done a good job defining your ideal client persona, you should have no trouble figuring out who their influences are.
2. Your COIs are valuable to you. Make sure you’re valuable to them.
Advisors struggle with building COI relationships because they can forget to offer real value. Too often, they start off by talking about their practice and launching right into their standard spiel. Why should COIs care about that? Focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Start by asking: What are your clients most concerned about? What keeps them up at night? What do they ask about—and who is educating them? Also remember to ask about your COI’s concerns as a business owner. Once you have the answers, explain how you can help. If you promise to take their burdens away, you can be the hero.
3. Treat your COIs like top clients.
Advisors wine and dine their top clients, yet rarely think of doing the same for a COI—despite the fact that a rich source of referrals may be worth far more to a business over the long run. Treat your COIs well. Take them out to dinner to show your appreciation. Send holiday gifts to their office. Take them to sporting events, and give them tickets to bring along their own clients.
Most importantly, learn how your COIs want the relationship to operate. Maybe socializing isn’t important to them. Instead, they want to feel confident about the clients they’re sending you; after all, their own reputations are at stake. In that case, put in place a communications strategy to thank COIs for each referral, tell them when you met the client, and updates them when you start managing the client’s assets.
4. Market to COIs—and for them
Plan marketing campaigns that target COIs. Start with thorough background research—finding out what they like to read, whether they are receptive to information, and how you can educate without annoying them. Some advisors also find great success marketing for their COIs, running programs to generate leads for them. For example, if you publish a newsletter, invite a COI to write an article that you circulate to your own clients.
Your service model plus your COI relationships are the two cornerstones of building your business. Augment with other layers of marketing if you wish, but make sure you get the foundation right.