The Big Referral Myth: How The Internet Has Changed The Way Advisors Get Business

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 08:10
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The Big Referral Myth: How The Internet Has Changed The Way Advisors Get Business

Tags: Advisor businesses | Anatomy of the Referral | differentiation | enterprise value | marketing | niches | referrals | Social Media

Referrals from clients may no longer be the primary way people find you. Google search is increasingly the way advisors are connecting with clients. This presents an opportunity but also poses a threat. Advisors who embrace the Web and shatter the referral myth will not only survive, they will thrive.

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The clients with the largest assets have always looked to their networks to find best-of-breed advisors. Networks used to consist of friends, family, and long-time family advisors such as attorneys. Today, they don’t just include the internet and social media, they are the internet and social media.
 
Relationships and trust building don’t start until people contact you and you have a conversation with them. People trust the internet today more than they trust referrals. This is because referrals steer them to best-of-breed based on a single experience. Internet searches steer them to the best in the entire country—or perhaps, the world.
 
This is nothing new. It started at least as far back as 2006. I know this because that’s when it happened to me. My largest family client to date found me on the internet—even before social media became ubiquitous. They did a Google search using the words, “family office.” My first book came up. It has “family office” in the title. Then they went to my website. They liked what they read. I got an email. We had a conversation. We met. A month later they hired me. This family had just under $2 billion.
 
The legal and other professions have traditionally gotten business by word of mouth. They weren’t allowed to advertise. The shift in the way clients are using search engines to find the advice they need is a modern-day throwback to that type of acquisition.
 
These days, word of mouth includes the position your website has in search results. It includes the community you build through social media. There are multiple people “referring” you, not just one person. With search engines, investors at any level of wealth have the capability to find best of breed. The advisors who stand out have developed a niche in the areas clients look for and need.
 
The one-stop-shop approach has succeeded notoriously. It has succeeded in confusing investors. They don’t know what is offered and they won’t become advocates for something they don’t understand. The best exercise any business person can put themselves through is to identify what exactly it is that they do. Then they must be the very best at doing that thing. This makes them easy to identify, easy to refer, and easy for clients to find in an internet search.
 
This is why search engine optimization (SEO) is so critical to success. It’s how people find you. Using the right key words associated with your niche makes your site pop up during a client’s search. The search will lead them to you through your site or your blog. Your well-designed site and well-written content will engage them and get them to contact you. That’s when the relationship and trust building begins.

 

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