Removing Friction from Your Referral Process

When I was young, I was the proud owner of a very special bike. It was, if I do say so myself, “the bomb”.

Of particular note were the floral banana seat and the streamers on the handlebars. I was, in my own mind, the coolest thing on my suburban block.

And it was fast. At least for a while.  

At some point that thing of beauty started to fight against me as the dirt and grime jammed up the chain. I was working twice as hard to look half as cool, until I figured out how to clean the chain and remove the friction.

It was, in retrospect, an important life lesson. That and something about the fleeting nature of feeling cool.

Removing Sources of Referral Friction

When it comes to generating referrals we’re attracted to new, shiny objects. We want to know what others are doing, what works and what doesn’t. Seems logical.

But it’s also important to understand what’s creating friction in the referral process as well as what may be slowing you down.

  • Sometimes those points of friction are just that – the things you need to remove in order for a referral to happen at all.  
  • Sometimes those points of friction are things that get in the way of greater success – the things that you can do to tweak your process to increase the chances of success.

Of course, removing sources of referral friction isn’t the same as focusing on the big, sexy 'floral banana seat' kind of strategies we hear about to drive referrals.  

But it’s important to understand those sources of friction, otherwise you’ll fall victim to my same fate – working twice as hard for limited return.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to go deep on the sources of referral friction. Each week I’ll identify a single source of friction and an action that will be like pouring fuel on your referral efforts.

#1 Make Your Content Easier to Share

We know, from our on-going investor research, that clients who refer are more likely to share content from their advisors.

  • 69% of clients who had provided a referral said they had shared content from their advisor.
  • 20% of clients who hadn’t provided a referral said they had shared content from their advisor.

And here’s an insider tip. Younger clients are even more likely to share content.  

  • Clients who were 20+ years from retirement were 2.5 x more likely to share content from their advisor than those who are already retired.

The data reminds us that providing shareable content is a good way to drive more referrals. But there’s more.  ‍

Control the Narrative

The issue – and the opportunity – is that we hope that clients will share our great content, but we don’t control the narrative when they do. We encourage them to forward the article, podcast, video or blog post to their friends and family. If they’re feeling compliant, they hit forward on the email.

So what’s the problem?

When a client hits forward, the prospect is seeing the same messaging as your client. And while that's not bad, it's not ideal.

What if, instead, you could use that ‘sharing moment’ to:

  • Help prospective clients understand why you're sharing this specific content and how it connects to the work that you do for clients
  • Describe the work that you do
  • Provide prospects with an option to connect, either by providing an email address in order to receive future content (good) or by booking a meeting (even better).

The Referral Process Tweak

Instead of encouraging clients to share your content, include a ‘click to share’ link in your email. When the client clicks the link, it pre-populates an email with your messaging. The client simply adds a friend’s email address and hits send.

This gives you the opportunity to control the narrative in the email and influence the message that the prospective client is seeing.  

You need to write that email with absolute restraint, of course. It has to be written to reflect what your clients would actually, and comfortably, say to a friend or family member.

What if, for example, your client could click on a link and the message was this.

It’s a very different message and, I’d suggest, leads to a different outcome. Small tweak. Big impact.

Thanks for stopping by.

Related: Your Single Biggest Client Experience Challenge