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Communicating the client experience #4 – Retain and refer

This is the fourth and final article in our summer mini-series from guest writer Jon Pittham, Managing Director at ClientsFirst, The articles aim to improve how you communicate your client experience and build better client relationships as a result.  In this week’s article, Jon takes a practical look at client retention and acquisition including some tips on how you can boost your success with referrals


If you are anything like the vast majority of advisers, you will tell us that referrals are, hands down, the most consistent way of securing new clients. Even in difficult times, if you are good at generating referrals you’ll be able to pick up enough new clients to sustain your business.

In general, it’s always much less scary to do something frightening after someone you are close to has done it first. And if they had something positive to say about it, any fear you may have had can turn to excitement or – at most – nervous anticipation.

Anxiety about trusting someone with their finances is probably the greatest obstacle a client will face when committing to working with a financial adviser. A recommendation or review from somebody trusted, then, is the best way to dissolve any barrier to committing to a relationship with a financial adviser.

So referrals and reviews are a massive part of any advisory firm. What, then, is the best way to generate them?

My first point is so obvious that I almost feel it’s not worth mentioning… But I am going to say it anyway, just to ensure that it’s not missed in your planning.

Be brilliant! Clients refer when they’re happy and genuinely impressed with your service. Not only does this mean managing their portfolio so that it grows in line with their expectations and takes on a risk level they feel comfortable with: it also means crafting a great client experience.

A service that treats clients like valuable individuals who are treasured and meaningful to the firm and its staff will always generate more referrals than a firm that treats its clients in an impersonal fashion.

Your clients do not want to feel like they are on some kind of financial advice conveyor belt.  Instead, they want every interaction to seem relevant and constructed to personally benefit them.

Going beyond what your clients expect of you is the single most effective way of generating future referrals. Continually raising the bar is what sets the best firms apart from the less successful ones.

You want to provide a client experience full of memorable little moments. Do you think the ‘memorable moments’ you create are notable enough to be sufficient fuel for dinner table conversation? If they’re not then they’re probably not a memorable moment.

What’s more, asking clients who have a strong bond with your firm if you could introduce them to a friend is a great way to create potential enquiries.

Outside of offering an amazing proposition then, what can you do to generate more referrals?

Firstly, do you send your clients a gentle email nudging them to leave an online review? If you don’t, this should be top of the agenda. This needn’t be forceful – if it is, you risk seeming like you are pressuring a client to go out of their way to help you.

One of the reasons Amazon rose to such prominence in its early years as an online bookshop was because of its review option. They succeeded over their competitors because they created an online retail space where consumers felt they could trust the quality of the product. This trust was created by showing their customers exactly what people just like them thought of Amazon’s service and the products they sold.

Having good reviews on an independent site creates an aura of trust in your service before a potential new client even contacts you. It makes public what you probably already know: that you provide a great service, which your clients really value.  Having plenty of Google reviews is a great way to attract many clients who usually rely on the search engine to make choices about services they choose. Both the quantity and quality of the reviews matter.

A brief word of caution though: a positive review is much more likely to come from a client who is leaving one out of gratitude, rather than a client who feels they are having their arm twisted to provide one.

Another excellent way to generate future referrals is by throwing events where clients can ‘bring a friend’. These events should communicate your firm’s outstanding qualities – Iceland cocktail sausages and a cheap, tacky venue are a definite no go.

In the past, I’ve seen IFAs invite ex-England cricket internationals to speak or put on clay pigeon shooting with training, appropriate hired dress and ‘game’ food and drink provided. Be careful that your event warrants attendance and lives up to the high standard of events some advisory firms provide.

Investing in your current client bank is a great way to grow it.

Doing your utmost to secure future referrals is a keystone of any successful IFA firm. If you are not working hard at generating referrals, the time is ripe to begin doing so. Trust me, months (and years!) down the line, your money and effort will pay off.


About Jon Pittham

Jon founded ClientsFirst in 2010, having previously worked in both plc and SMEs. Having started in what he describes as a ‘broom cupboard’, Jon has grown ClientsFirst from the ground up and continues to take an active role in both our own marketing and that of our clients, as well as setting the strategic direction of the business.

Jon’s most difficult ‘management’ task away from the office is keeping three young offspring busy but, when he’s not doing this or anything related to ClientsFirst, he heads out into the great outdoors, with tennis, golf and running the occasional half-marathon amongst his hobbies.

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