by Tony Vidler
When it comes to referral marketing there are basically two types of referrers:
1. happy & satisfied clients
The second category is the one that many advisers struggle with particularly, and the reason they struggle is because they try to cultivate the wrong people as potential centres of influence.
The accepted wisdom is that we should work with other professionals who are working with our ideal target market clients already. The typical centre-of-influence discussion revolves around how to get any old accountant or lawyer as a centre of influence who is working with business owners for example, if “business owners” happened to be your target market.
Unsurprisingly, the efforts of many advisers to cultivate “any” other professional to become a centre of influence generally fails. It starts promisingly enough, as there is a tendency to try it with other professionals who you get on well with already at a personal level.
Or, the adviser tries to cultivate another professional who the adviser themselves has a long-standing advice-based relationship with.
That rarely (if ever) works out. There’s lots of goodwill, and some referrals often flow both ways…but then it usually peters out.
The adviser is trying to cultivate the wrong sort of person as a centre-of-influence to begin with, and it almost always fails to work out as hoped.
It is not enough to find a fellow professional who is working with your target market already, and who you get on well with and have a good level of mutual respect and trust. Those elements are absolutely necessary, but they are not enough. Here comes the revelation….
It is a given that each of the professionals used in the example also give advice to their clients, and do it very well generally. But their business model is transactional. They get paid per successful project or placement, and then work jolly hard to make sure that client comes back to do the next purchase with them.
As far as business models go that has been a successful one for many decades for many professions – but it creates an innate understanding that new engagements with new people is a critical success factor for the professional.
THAT is the missing ingredient that makes the difference between having a successful COI or not. Somebody who needs it to work as well as you do, because their own business model has a need for a continuous series of new engagements.
Those professionals who are working in a comprehensive advice or facilitation arena with their clients (even if those clients are your ideal target market) actually don’t want a whole heap of referrals from an adviser. That creates capacity issues for them inside their own business. They also tend to want to strengthen their own relationship with their clients rather than create the potential for highly valuable clients to transfer allegiances to another professional, even in a different field of work.
To find the potential Centre-Of-Influence who is likely to be a genuine long term asset for your business, and who you can in turn be a genuine long term asset for, you need to find those professionals who are conducting non-competing transactional work with your target market.