Referral strategy: Find alternative centers of influence

Because centers of influence, such as CPAs and attorneys have the types of clients most advisors want, creating referral relationships with these professionals should be an effective way to generate business. But many advisors are frustrated with this strategy because, first, many advisors find they refer clients to them but never receive a referral in return. Second, these COIs already have a relationship with a financial advisor and aren't willing to refer to another professional. Last, it can take years to develop these relationships, and there are few signs of encouragement to keep them motivated over this length of time.

But even if you haven't had much luck generating referrals from these professionals, don't give up your COI strategy all together. A COI doesn't have to be a CPA or attorney; it's anyone who has the ability to influence a potential client to pick up the phone and call you. It's time to think outside the box when it comes to your COI strategy.

Think about your ideal client. Who do they hire? Who do they engage with? Who do they trust? Who are they delegating to? By answering these questions, you'll be able to come up with an alternative list of COIs. Here are just a few examples of alternative COIs:

  • Business coaches
  • Personal trainers
  • Church leaders
  • Retirement home/Assisted-living general managers
  • Human resource directors
  • Life coaches
  • Nutritionists
  • Personal stylists
  • Plastic surgeons

While creating relationships with alternative COIs may not produce referrals any quicker than traditional COIs, they are less likely to have existing relationships with financial advisors. Creating a strategy for alternative COIs may turn out to be much more effective for your business in 2011 than chasing after CPAs and attorneys.

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Kristen Luke is the principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for financial advisors. Luke works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies. For more information, visit

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