Accountants and estate attorneys can be excellent referral sources for your firm, but that means every advisor in your area looking for an opportunity here, too. Take a pinpoint approach.
In general, the better you understand the people you want to work with, the more success you’re likely to have.
For example, if your niche is women or HNW clients in Boston or Gen X/Y clients, you want to find a CPA that serves that same market.
Likewise, if you are an entrepreneurial professional in a small or mid-size firm, you probably want to work with someone with a similar mindset and size.
Culture and temperament matter here. If you find a good fit with an accountant or attorney, you’re probably going to be a good fit for his or her clients as well -- and vice versa.
Once you create a list of ideal traits you want in a referral partner, here are five ways to build relationships with them to create an effective referral network.
1.) Find them. Ask your existing clients to introduce you to their CPA and/or attorney or ask if you can reach out and mention their names.
Take advantage of your local business associations such as the North Carolina Association of Public Accountants, the Boston Estate Planning Council, and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils’ local search option and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Use social media to do your homework. LinkedIn is an especially great way to network with professionals in your area or who target your niche. Follow local CPAs and attorneys on Twitter to start a conversation about topics that interest you both. For example, if a local CPA is running an event or a seminar, retweet the announcement to your followers, then follow up to see if you could add value to the event.
2.) Differentiate Yourself. Before you set up a meeting or make any calls, make sure you can clearly and quickly articulate your value proposition. Here are some questions you need to be able to answer:
What is your unique selling proposition? What makes you stand out from your competition?
How long have you been in business?
What services do you offer?
Who do you target? Who is your ideal customer?
What do you do to ensure your clients are happy with you and your team?
What is your standard procedure when taking on a new client?
What do you look for in a strategic partner?
What strategies are you implementing with strategic partners?
3.) Make the First Move. Once you have your list of firms and a sense of how you want to stand out in their eyes, reach out. It’s best to start with the firms your clients already work with and then work your way down to the colder part of the list.
I would suggest sending out an email or letter asking for an introductory meeting. It often makes sense for you to come to their office so you can get a better feel for their practice, not to mention make it easier for them to accept.
Once you are in the meeting, talk to them about their business goals and how you might work together to solve the needs of their clients and the benefits of having a referral relationship.
4.) Follow Up. Immediately after the individual meetings send a thank you email and a postal letter about three days after that. In your email and letter, outline three or four ways the two of you can start sharing referrals immediately. Start the process by recommending one person you would like to introduce to your new partner. This shows that you are serious about the relationship and that you are making the first move by offering them a specific introduction
5.) Consistently Over-Deliver. Check in with your partner on a regular basis. Emails are good. Phone calls are better, but nothing beats meeting your referral sources once a month or at least once a quarter. Make sure that you give extra service and care to the first few referrals they send over so they will hear good things from their clients and see immediate value in the relationship.
Building a cross-referral network does not happen overnight, but with this referral marketing strategy you will be able to start generating new referrals within just a few short weeks.
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