by Tony Vidler
When it comes to building an audience of influencers, advocates, raving fans and interested spectators, it all begins with having your own Tight 5. If you follow rugby you probably got it straight away, but if you don’t follow rugby then this analogy will seem wierd, so humour me for a moment while I explain.
In rugby, the team with the best “tight 5” tends to dominate the set piece and set up the platform for the rest of the team to perform. The Tight 5 are the gnarly strongmen who work as unit to win possession and make sure your team keeps the ball basically. If they don’t perform well as a unit and win their particular battle against the opposition Tight 5, then their team doesn’t get the ball and can’t score points. If you can’t do that, you are no show of winning…and so it is with setting up for long term prospecting success for an advisory firm.
Our Tight 5 as professionals are those who we have incredibly strong professional relationships, and usually very strong social relationships as well, where there is an incredibly high level of understanding and interest in each others success. Our Tight 5 are usually other professionals in complementary fields (but not directly competing), where they are looking to work with the same types of clients or businesses that we do. Our interests overlap. When they extend influence or get new clients there is an abundance of opportunity for us to collectively work with the clients in our respective areas of specialisation. When we get new clients, it is an opportunity for them as well, and so our interests are aligned and our skills are complementary.
Generally speaking your Tight 5 will have similar “growth” aspirations – they are not plateu’ing, but are equally interested in growing their business or sphere of influence too. So there is also an alignment of attitude.
Your Tight 5 will be in the thick of the commercial action – fighting for market possession and prospects just like you. Scrapping to get ahead and control the game as best they can. They know they are unlikely to win by going totally alone and they want to network to build influence and opportunity too. Essentially they are looking for the right people to be in their tight-knit group of closest allies too.
Identify those with similar growth or commercial aspirations, who you genuinely like and who genuinely like you, and who have a work ethic and social reach. Nurture those relationships and help them get where they want to go….and the Law Of Reciprocity will take care of the rest. After all, they are invested in our success and we are invested in their success.
These relationships can ensure your own long term success and largely solve any future prospecting issues for an advisory firm. But why take chances? You can improve your chances of never having to worry about prospecting or future growth ever again by taking things a couple of steps further.
Sticking with the rugby analogy, while the Tight 5 spend the entire game scrapping for the ball there are a few more in the team who are pretty much tasked with doing something with the ball when it has been gathered. The rest of the First 15 need to do their bit too if the team is to win. Many of the rest of the players don’t actually touch the ball all that often during a game, but when they do they make it count. So it is with our next tier of influencers. These Centre’s Of Influence (COI’s) who are sometimes clients, but more often other business contacts that we have good relationships with, may not direct as much business our way but they do direct good quality business too us and do it relatively regularly. Think of those COI’s who give us just 3 or 4 great leads per year…..if you have 10 of them on your team as well as your Tight 5 then there are plenty of opportunities coming into your firm year on year.
The common point is that this is the group have good relationships with us and value what we do, but usually don’t have the same depth of personal relationship with us. It is usually a really strong commercial relationship, but not a lot of social interaction and deep genuine friendship. Essentially, just like the rugby team, they have the same objectives as us but it is just not as intensely personal or as tight-knit as the relationship between the Tight 5 and ourselves. They are advocates however.
To stretch the analogy out to its conclusion we should be mindful that every good sports team has its fans too. Those fans are a factor in the teams success even if they are not personally out there on the field scrapping for the ball and making tackles. Again, these can be divided into two sub-groups: raving fans and supporters. Both matter, but they are quite different in value to us. The raving fans are pretty much guaranteed to buy season tickets and all the supporters merchandise and to cheer us on and stick with us no matter how the season is going. They’ve chosen their team and stick with us pretty much through thick and thin. They are our Top Clients…our “A Clients” if you prefer.
Then there are the supporters. When things are going well the rugby team can fill the stands with supporters. They have the same general interests, but their enthusiasm and participation can wax and wane somewhat. They will buy some merchandise and some tickets to games, but then again, they might not too. It all depends on what else takes their fancy at any given time. In our business these are the “clients” who take a piece of advice here or there, or engage in a transaction as and when they think of it or we happen to be in their mind. They do repeat business, and tend to be relatively long term stayers, but they are just not always there and they will skip our games to go and spend money watching something else, y’know?
Let’s call them “B Clients”. Valuable, but unreliable.
Finally, there are the folks at home who will cheer loudly in the lounge room for the team…basically they like what we do, but their comfort and convenience is paramount. In essence they are passive spectators who will engage when the crowd does – but our team does well from having them (to continue the sporting analogy) as they subscribe to pay TV, and buy a bit of supporters gear here or there, and we get a little bit of revenue from that.
That’s the “C Clients”. Generate some value, but only fair weather friends at best.
For a professional practice to have an ongoing successful business, that consistently performs and delivers “wins” we need to build the same sort of support base as the most successful sporting franchises.
Our Tight 5 are the the people who are constantly in the battle, scrapping every minute of every game for a bit more yardage or to win the ball. These are our primary influencers who drive ideal clients and opportunities into our network – and we do the same for them. We want 5 of them, and they will probably present 20-25 new client opportunties each year.
The First 15 – being the other 10 of the playing squad – are the ones who will continue to drive quality business to us for a long period of time, but not necessarily . Some of the business comes from them as clients, but they repeatedly refer and drive new opportunities to us. They won’t always be delivering ideal clients, but they will be referring us to potentially good clients. We want at least 10 like that….and a few reserves on the bench would be good. Aim for 15 in total….and they will present probably around 30 new client opportunities year in and year out.
We need 150 solid clients who will stick with us through thick and thin. When markets go up, and when markets go down. When prices go up, and when things fall down. They are loyal and will continue to work with us – and provide the occasional referral of decent quality. They are our raving fans, who are spreading the good word about their experience with us through their own networks….and that will lead to another dozen or so new client opportunities each year.
100+ new client opportunities every year are right there. And it all starts with the Tight 5.
But there is other business to be had too if you are willing to do more transactional work. If your business is prepared to cater to the supporters in the stands who turn up when things are going well and who are worth quite a bit of money to the franchise if we get the offer right. We need to build the infrastructure for them, and we need to market to them and tempt them to come to the game. We need them interested in us, talking about us, and constantly considering when they will use us next. In an ideal world we would have 1500 of them on our database that we are communicating with, and trying to tempt to come to the game. There will be another 15-30 transactions per year in that.
There you have it! Just like a successful rugby team we need to think about different levels of participation for all the people involved in the game, and then build the relationships and infrastructure that will cater to the varying needs. Dio that and long term success is virtually guaranteed.