Making the Most Out of Centers of Influence

Your Center of Influence (COI) Marketing Strategy

“The more you talk about them, the more important they will feel. The more you listen to them, the more important you will make them feel.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Grow your business by marketing around key people and organizations who can boost your market access and credibility through referrals, testimonials, and word-of-mouth.

COIs are people who work with people who are like your ideal clients. Consider: what services do many of your best clients often need? As a financial advisor, the answer certainly includes CPAs, attorneys, mortgage professionals, and trust underwriters as well as trades people, family law attorneys, some auto dealers, bookkeepers, travel companies, and others.

Expand your network to tap into the network of other professionals.

A clean, fair, intriguing approach is to educate 100 other professionals on exactly what you do and ask them to educate you on exactly what they do. Why? Because professionals know and come in contact with lots of other people, some of whom are perfect to be your clients. Vet these professionals to ensure the quality of your network. You don’t want a plumber who always causes a backup or an electrician who causes fires. I would limit your COIs to the 10 to 15 of the most important skills your clients may need. If you have a large enough team, you can expand the list.

Many advisors find it challenging to develop relationships particularly with CPAs and attorneys. These professionals don’t want to risk you negatively impacting their relationships. Know, Like, and Trust are still the key drivers along with the high-value and quality expertise they provide. Social relationships are also important.

Limit the number of “strategic relationships” you have with the CPAs and attorneys you work with to a total of only 4 or 5. You cannot likely effectively support more. Nevertheless, you should know of most of your clients CPAs and attorneys and they should know of you.

A “strategic relationship” is one with a professional that:

  • Offers high quality, high value, expertise in the areas of greatest needs of your clients along with high service.
  • Is cost competitive.
  • You have a good personal relationship with
  • You have continuing, regular and on-going communications with
  • Has similar criteria for clients as you do. They are a good fit. They are good to work. They value the services provided.
  • Has a structured approach to solving client problems and fulfilling their needs.
  • Is an effective communicator.
  • Most importantly, considers you a “strategic relationship” which includes a joint introduction commitment, i.e., the relationship adds value to both businesses.

The right COIs provide testimonials (at least for your brag book), information (to increase your knowledge), contacts, introductions, presentation support, themselves as clients, promotion, resources, skills, and clients.

Here are 6 steps to develop strategic relationships that can grow your business:

1. Identify potential COI partners.

2. Vet potential COIs with your clients

3. Make an initial call to COI.

a. Two key questions to continue:

- Are you taking on new clients?
- Do you already have a trusted financial advisor to whom you refer your clients?

4. Have an initial meeting with the COI.

5. Have the COI visit your office to meet your people, discuss your processes and see your technology and facilities.

6. Plan the next steps with the COI.

Final points of advice:

  • Do all the things you do with your BEST clients and move it over to the attorneys and accountants who are your “strategic partners.”
  • You do not need a lot of partners to enhance your business. One study showed the average number of partners for an elite group of FAs was 3.9.
  • Take the approach, “What can I do for you?”; NEVER, “Let me tell you about me.” Track all components of your “strategic” professional relationships.
  • Consider a free client service for your “strategic partners”, e.g., your discovery process.

Related: Using LinkedIn To Acquire New Clients