How To Become a Center of Influence

Accountants and attorneys are often considered centers of influence (COI) in the local community. Financial advisors and others cultivate them. Others are less obvious but fill the same role. Leaders of religious congregations are one example. Barbers and hairdressers are another. They are often the subject of jokes like “My barber told me to buy this stock…” yet often jokes and stereotypes are based in truth. How do you become a center of influence? If you are already in this category, how do you polish your credentials and raise your visibility?

Let us answer this question by looking at three stories:

1. The children’s soccer club organizer

This New England advisor (who probably had school aged children) took on the role of organizing the local youth soccer club in his town. This meant he needed to keep a database of the children involved and their parent’s contact information. Attending games and transporting equipment was part of the job description.

He became a COI because of his role as a central figure. He had legitimate reasons to be in touch with parents on a regular basis. The e-mail addresses provided often included their work e-mail. This let him know the name of the firm. Gradually he would gather information, starting with what the firm does, then the parent’s role at the firm and what’s new at work. He might learn about reorganizations or layoffs, which was public information, but not generally known outside the company.

People would take an interest in his profession. He would explain he was a financial advisor, while treating parents with young families as a niche market. “I work well with moms, pops and families. If you ever have financial questions, I would be glad to help.

2. The job hunting resource

Although we are in a tight labor market, there are times in the economic cycles when companies downsize. Like a game of musical chairs, someone can find themselves without a job. This advisor would pickup this news firsthand through a member of his informal network. After learning about the person’s specific job responsibilities and their requirements for their next position, he called around to people in the same field within his network, asking to set up informational interviews with people in the same field. He relayed this information to the job hunter, who took the next step and reached out.

Eventually the fellow got their next job. They had a very good idea “who their friends are” and held the advisor in high esteem. Where their rollover from the previous employer’s retirement plan ended up is an elementary question.

3. The advisor as charitable donor

This advisor wanted to get into the right circles, positioned in their role as a financial professional. The animal shelter needed funds and ran a campaign. The advisor and spouse each donated. Their gifts were matched through the parent company’s matching gift program. This large gift, entirely listed under their names, put them in the higher giving category. They were listed in the group’s publication. The animal shelter held a higher tier donor recognition event at an oceanfront mansion. The advisor and spouse were thanked again. The other donors were impressed that a large financial services firm would care about a small-town animal shelter. The advisor was positioned within their target market in a professional capacity.

These three stories convey three lessons. In the first example, the advisor got to know a lot of people, each with the potential to become clients. In the second, the advisor helped a person find their next job. This story develops enthusiastic fans and word spreads quickly the advisor has connections. In the third story, they take the charitable giving route to position the advisor and firm as community benefactors.

Related: 12 Reasons It Makes Sense To Pay for Professional Advice