The Digital Referral Shift
There is a huge digital shift in how referrals happen today. No longer are advisors sitting and hoping that they provided a decent enough service that their clients will recommend their firm to their family, friends and colleagues.
Being smack dab in the digital age you have already probably noticed that more and more people go to their social networks FIRST and post that they are looking for a service, hoping to source referrals from their connections.
From there, the people in their network (which could be thousands of people) comment on their post about who they would recommend.
Now, not only does the initial person asking see that list of recommendations, but everyone else in their network can see it, as well as, second degree connections of those who posted, commented, or were tagged in that original post.
So, when this happens, do you think if they get 31 recommendations that they will set up appointments to vet all 31? Of course not! This would be way too tedious and a huge waste of valuable time.
Instead, people will look at the list of recommendations, think about which referrers they trust most, and then probably choose 2-10 companies to Google and do their own research on. Based on what they find online, they’ll contact some of them to setup meetings.
For those of you saying “I don’t really care about my website, I get all of my new clients from referrals.” It is time you shift your thinking in the WAY referrals happen in 2019.
How to Get Referrals in the Digital Age
With this shift, how do you as an advisor go about getting referrals? I’m not going to lie – it does take some work, but I promise that the payoff will be enormous. When you utilize the below tactics as a part of your overall inbound marketing strategy and better understand what works best for your firm, you can finally say buh-bye to all the cold calling, wining and dining and other old fashioned ways of referral marketing.
Reviews are a huge part of gaining referrals. According to Inc. 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Or how about 68% of people form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.
Now, I know what your thinking – “online reviews will never fly with compliance.” Think again! The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 really addresses testimonials and the fact that we cannot have client testimonials vouching for our services. However, a testimonial and a review are two very different things, and a lot of that comes down to the way that online reviews are conducted today. And advisors who have collected many strong reviews will be well-positioned online because Google reviews have a huge impact on your organic search rankings.
It is true, however, that online reviews can be tricky in our industry so it’s important to keep in mind that it is okay for advisors to:
- Be reviewed on Google by others
- Run ads on the review site alongside reviews of their firm as long as it’s clear that the ad is sponsored content
- Direct people to the Google page containing reviews in newspapers, radio and TV ads
It is not okay for advisors to:
- Draft, submit, and/or directly or indirectly author reviews in their own name, a third party’s name, or an alias, assumed or screen name
- Pay or otherwise compensate someone to post a review
- Publish review(s) in newspaper, radio, or television ads
- Have an employee or supervised person write and/or submit a review
So, basically, your reviews must happen organically. Additionally, they are not something that you can have someone at your firm do in order to boost your rankings. Having positive online reviews on sites like Google help others hold your firm to a higher standard, making you and your employees want to continue to do great work, and from there, the recommendations will just come naturally.
When it comes to social media you should think of it as two fold – there is social media marketing and social selling. With social selling, you use your social platforms to research your prospects, network and answer questions. Social media marketing on the other hand is where your brand spends time engaging audiences with the goal of increasing brand awareness to promote your services.
So, it is absolutely crucial that your firm designates a team member to devote a small percentage of their time to a combination of both social media marketing AND social selling. While your efforts and interactions on social media may not necessarily result in a client in a week or even the quarter it could result in a significant client win within the year.
Here are a few ways you can do that:
Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Social media is a great platform to get your content out there and to also brag a little bit! For example, lets say your firm had a great interview or a media hit – this is great content to share on your social channels that further exposes you and your firm’s thought leadership and expertise within the industry.
[Pro Tip: Our own research at Twenty Over Ten has found that roughly 50% of advisors who report receiving 6-10 or 11+ or more clients per year from their digital marketing efforts include an “as seen on” section on the homepage of their websites. So it’s equally important to share those press hits on your website too.]
Sharing Will Naturally Occur
Your social media efforts will be a complete waste if you don’t post regularly – both your own content and third-party content. Not only is sharing content from others a great way to form relationships with others thus increasing the chances of an even greater audience seeing your content but it also shows to prospects that you keep up with industry news and trends.
Potential Customers are Already on Social Media
More than likely, if you have already started to engage with prospects on your social channels, then you have quite a few followers already. Use these connections to your advantage – a “gateway” of sorts. Take a look at who their connections are and identify possible new prospects. Share hyper-specific content that caters to their niche, that will give them something tangible takeaways, address their pain points or anything else that is relevant.
Tap Into Larger COIs
Joining groups on social media is a great way to find individuals and businesses that are all looking for the same thing. For example, Facebook Groups allow you to do a search for specific groups based on different keywords based on the niche audience that you serve. Once you are connected or approved to be a part of the group, be sure that you engage frequently by sharing applicable content, preferably content you’ve created that is hosted on your website and other ideas that will draw the attention of those in the group by making your messaging targeted. The bottom line? Get the group members interested in what you have to say, proving that you are an expert in the industry and can be trusted.
Once you establish this trust and expertise, put feelers out there for how someone might respond to using the services you provide. Yes, it does take time to establish yourself in a larger group on social media but if you rush it you could come off as too pushy or “salesy,” which is exactly what you don’t want to do.
For example, let’s say you specialize in helping Boeing employees prepare for retirement. We can go to Facebook simply type in a keyword term like “boeing employees” and filter the results to only show groups we see there are multiple Boeing groups with thousands of members. You could make this even more targeted by including your geographic location in your search (i.e. “Boeing Cincinnati” or “Cincinnati Boeing Employees.”)
And let’s not forget about LinkedIn! This platform also has a groups functionality that you can search specific to the niche(s) that you serve.
The Bottom Line
Getting your referrals the old-fashioned way is perfectly acceptable and hey, for some it really works. But if you’ve hit a wall or are looking for more inventive and creative ways to seek referrals to grow your business digital is the way to go. By leveraging digital tools like social media and online reviews you can finally say sayonara to cold calling, door knocking and free dinners.