7 ways to get more referrals and recommendations


An effective marketing strategy is vital for all businesses.

This includes financial advisers, if you want to build your business and increase the number of clients you engage, you need a strategy to make the phone ring with new enquiries.

I regularly write about how websites, newsletters and content creation, as well as adviser directories and social media, can be employed to achieve this aim. However, a recent meeting provided a useful reminder of the importance of an effective referral strategy.

Referrals are the lifeblood of any new business; they convert better than any other type of enquiry and can be very cost-effective to produce. But despite their attraction, I come across very few advisory firms with a defined referral strategy, who therefore fail to maximise this lucrative source of new enquiries.

If the phone isn’t ringing as much as it should with referrals and recommendations, read on, hopefully my hints and tips will help.

#1: Do a great job

Your strategy needs to start by ensuring that the service you provide to existing clients is as good as it possibly can be; no one will refer you if they don’t think you are doing a great job for them.

Regularly reviewing the service you provide, being honest with yourself and posing challenging questions, perhaps with some outside assistance, is good business practice. It will also, over time, help build a business your clients are proud to refer their friends and family to.

Periodic service reviews are also a great time to revisit the principles of TCF and amending processes where there is room for improvement.

#2: Make sure your clients know you want to be recommended

As unlikely as it sounds, some clients might be reluctant to refer you to their friends, colleagues and acquaintances, simply because they are unsure whether or not you are prepared to take on new clients.

Make it clear to existing clients that you are looking to build your business.

There are a number of ways to do this; regular, but gentle reminders work the best, for example:

  • Review meetings provide a great opportunity – see tip #3
  • Stories are powerful too, explaining to an existing client about a new engagement will naturally get them thinking about people they know who are similar
  • Consider adding a note to your email footer or newsletter, to act as a reminder that you would welcome your details being passed on

But be careful:

  • It’s vital your existing clients know the type of person you want to be introduced to. Doing so will help to avoid awkward conversations, after you have declined to engage with a referral who didn’t fit within your target market
  • Make sure existing clients are reassured, that despite your intention to grow your practice, they will continue to experience the same high levels of service you have always provided. No one wants to think the service they receive will be diminished as a result of passing you a new recommendation or client

#3: Develop an Elevator Pitch

Whilst working at Vanity Fair, Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso came up with the concept of an Elevator Pitch, which is best described as a short summary of a product, service or opportunity, explained in the length of an average elevator (yes I know, it’s a lift!) journey.

Most advisers feel nervous about asking directly for referrals. I’d therefore recommend adapting this idea to develop your own referral Elevator Pitch, to be used with all clients at every review meeting.

It needs to cover:

  • The plans for your business and why you would like to be referred on
  • The type of people you would like to be introduced to
  • Why it won’t comprise your already impeccable service standards

It will probably feel unnatural at first, but practice the pitch, refine it and it will soon become second nature.

#4: Build and effective website

Your website is your shop window and has one job, to turn a visitor to it into an enquirer.

So many adviser’s websites though are mediocre and actually reduce the number of recommendations and referrals received.

Picture the scene: A client of yours is in the pub, on the golf course or at a dinner party, the conversation turns to financial matters and your client passes your details, perhaps even your business card, to a friend.

Next morning, what does that friend do? They look you up online.

They might go straight to your website, but more likely they Google you or your firm. If what they see confirms the positive endorsement given by your client, you will probably get a call sooner rather than later. But, if the impression is negative, the chances are they will move on to another adviser.

Your online presence, starting with the Google search results and including your website, social media accounts and even your FCA Register entry, is crucial, they have to re-enforce the endorsement given by the client making the recommendation.

#5: Consider client events

The tips so far have all been relatively straightforward and inexpensive, assuming of course you don’t need to completely rebuild your website!

This option though requires a greater degree of planning and investment.

Events are a great way of rewarding clients for their loyalty and if you ask them to bring a friend too, present the perfect opportunity for you to meet a potential new client.

The nature of event you run depends on the type of client you want to invite and the resources you have available. Make sure though that you have enough time to spend with all of your guests and can circulate amongst them.

#6: Run a testimonial project

You probably survey your clients on a regular basis to understand levels of satisfaction, but how often do you ask for testimonials?

If the answer is ‘rarely’ or ‘never’, consider running a testimonial project.

In my experience most clients are very happy with the service they receive from their adviser and are usually prepared to give glowing testimonials.

These will look great on your website and in other promotional literature and when better to ask, or at the very least remind your client, that you would like to be referred to their family and friends?

In addition to politely asking for a testimonial, I’d recommend adding two questions:

  1. Would you recommend our service to family and friends?
  2. Is there anyone you would like to recommend us to now?

A simple ‘yes / no’ box is all that is required for both questions; although you might consider adding space next to the second question for your client to enter a name and contact details for the person they are recommending you to.

The first question is especially useful and over time, can provide some great marketing opportunities.

#7: Client incentives?

I’m not a big fan of monetary incentives to clients for referrals and recommendations. A thoughtful gift, chosen with the client in mind, after a referral has become a client is always welcome though.

I have occasionally see incentives work, where a donation to charity per successfully converted referral is made.

However, on balance, I would steer clear of such incentives.

Develop a strategy

Above all, if you want to receive more referrals and recommendations, you need to design and implement a strategy.

If this sounds terribly ‘corporate’ it really doesn’t have to be, it can be as simple as:

  • Reconfirm your target market
  • Ensure your website is as effective as it can be
  • Develop a short ‘elevator pitch’ to use at each and every review meeting

You can then add in email and newsletter reminders, client events and incentives as time and resources allow.

The key though is to make a start and to persevere, the strategy won’t be perfect straightaway, but you can refine and change as much as necessary.

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