34 – Gaining referrals from your clients

Clients are hard to find. Once you have found one, look after him or her (or them).

Professional advice is all about long term relationships. The idea is not so much to earn a huge fee for a one-off transaction. It is far better to earn a reasonable fee for an extended period of time.

In this way, it is often said that there is no such thing as a small client. Add up a series of small yearly fees, and all clients eventually become big clients.

What’s more, repeat business will be the basis of any sale price that you eventually receive for your practice. If your records show a history of one-off transactions with clients, no astute buyer will be interested. They will realise that this business requires a steady stream of new clients to make any money. If they have to find their own clients anyway, why would they buy a business off you? They might as well set up next door for free. But if your business shows a large number of people who pay you a fee year after year, then the buyer knows they will be getting an immediate revenue stream as soon as they take over the business.

But that is not the only benefit of repeat business. One of the best things about a long term relationship is that it gives your clients an extended period in which to tell other people all about you.

Financial advice is one of the best ‘word-of-mouth’ businesses around. More than you might think, people talk about money. This is especially the case at those times of life transition: getting married, having kids, getting divorced, retiring, changing job, etc.

There is also nothing wrong with inviting clients to tell others about your services. One easy way is to make the following request: ‘if you are not happy with our service, please tell us. If you are happy, please tell everyone else…’

Some practices offer some form of discount for a client-based referral. The most common type is where a practice makes a first meeting free for clients referred by friends or family.

The best way to cultivate this kind of referral is to ensure that you are in regular contact with your client base. Regular emails, formal or informal newsletters, facebook pages, can all be great ways to create a portable method for your clients to let other people know about your practice.

For example, can you see yourself sending an email like the following:

The recent budget announced various changes that affect people more than they realise. In short, the changes… (fill these in with some useful, technical information).  

To help us get the message out, we are offering free superannuation reviews to all of our existing and potential new clients. Please let me know if you would be interested.

Please also feel free to send this email on to anyone you think would benefit from a meeting. No obligation and, as you know, no hard sell from us.

Tell them to make sure they mention you, though, and we will throw in a Tim Tam or two.

Remember: the best form of advertising is a happy client.

The Dover Group