AAM Minute - Topic At Hand

How to Get the Most Out of Your Referral Sources

Irma Zaldivar, ELLS CPAs & Business Advisors


As you look to grow your business, it is important to develop a strong marketing plan that looks beyond traditional forms of advertising, direct mail, and email campaigns. A reliable marketing method that deserves an allocation of funds is referral source marketing. Using their networks and networking skills are effective methods to broaden your client base. It is, however, important to keep in mind that a successful referral partnership must be reciprocal.


So, how do you initiate the process?


1.       Identify referral partnerships


Look for other professionals who have the same client base as you. Do you want manufacturing clients? If so, you will want to develop a partnership with bankers, attorneys, etc. also targeting that industry. Do you have an estate and trust niche? If so, you will want to build partnerships with estate and trust attorneys. By first defining your ideal prospect, you can then identify other professionals who are targeting the same type of prospect. Find professionals who are established in their market and whose quality of products and services match yours. For example, if you are a large accounting firm, it is moot to partner with a referral source with low producing clients.


2.       Develop a plan of approach


Take a close look at your referral partners and identify what you are looking for with each one. Consider hosting a mixer with a law firm similar in size that targets the same niche as you. Do you want to grow your pension audit practice and develop more partnerships with third party administrators? Once you have developed a target list of potential referral sources, it is time to create relationships with them.


3.       Set up an appointment


A partnership cannot be established with a banker, attorney, etc. that you have only met once or twice. Make it a point to schedule one-on-one meetings with this potential referral source. An effective way to accomplish this is to acknowledge their reputation and knowledge in their business. Do not expect a commitment during your initial meeting. It will take time for these referral partnerships to prosper. Discuss and define your ideal client type and introduce one or two services at each meeting to avoid overwhelming them.


4.       Show your value as a partner


Invite your referral source to join your online networks (e.g. LinkedIn) and include them in association events that might interest them. You also can send them an article they might like to share with their clients or prospects. It is important to introduce them to other people in your network and stay in touch regularly. You might also consider inviting them to visit your office and meet your staff.


Once your referral sources know enough about your business, clientele, and services you offer, they will feel more comfortable introducing you to their prospects or clients. Building these relationship will be challenging, but sustaining the relationship will be the most important. Keep a log of all your meetings with action items clearly noted. Keep track of the clients these referral sources are sending to you. Those that are referring business to you should be informed as to whether their referral became a client or not. Do not forget to recognize and thank your referral sources for their efforts – this will encourage additional referrals.


Remember to take the lead in your relationships with referral partners – be patient and willing to spend the necessary time and effort it takes to cultivate these partnerships!