What exactly constitutes a “client advocate?” Advisors are often rather liberal in their definition, including those clients who, from time to time, provide an occasional referral to a friend or business associate who directly asks for it. Others include those clients who tend to provide a continual stream of referrals, even though those referrals are almost always the “wrong” types of clients – those who don’t fit your ideal client profile.
We define advocates as that select subset of your clients who...
Appreciate and understand what you do, who thoroughly understand the benefits to themselves and others by being in a relationship with you, who can clearly articulate both what you do and the benefits of it to others, and who are actively engaged in introducing you to prospective clients for the benefit of you and those individuals.
It’s important to realize that not all your clients can effectively be converted into advocates. More importantly, building advocates is NOT an action, it’s an ongoing process. You can’t just flip a switch to turn on the referral lightbulb; cultivating advocates requires continual effort over time. And while most advisors have comprehensive wealth management, investment management and financial planning processes, as well as client onboarding and client service processes, few have a formalized client acquisition process, and fewer still have a loyal client advocate building process…despite its relative simplicity.
Those who do, however, on average experience 20-25 introductions of their ideal client type annually, resulting in $25MM+ in net new assets each year! So, how do you go about building your process? Start by segmenting your clients into the following three groups:
- Clients who you never want to have a conversation with about becoming an advocate – maybe they’re introverts with no network, or you’re just uncomfortable around each other. Whatever the reason, they’re clients you simply don’t want to engage.
- Clients who require little or no effort to develop into advocates – they’re natural connectors. They can’t help themselves but point the right kind of people in your direction and provide introductions. With these clients there’s no need to upset the apple cart…just keep doing what you’re doing.
- Clients who fall somewhere in the middle – perhaps they send you an occasional solid referral, but you’re just not sure if they meet the criteria for a loyal client advocate.
It’s those individuals in the middle group who you’ve really got to analyze, assess and make smart decisions about.
Can you convert this person from making an occasional qualified referral to somebody who understands how to make a formal introduction and who genuinely wants to be engaged in learning about your business?
To assist you in that effort, we’ve identified seven key qualities (based on the above definition) that all loyal client advocates possess:
- They understand and appreciate what you do
- They can articulate what you do
- They know the benefits of being in a relationship with you
- They want to be actively engaged
- They’re natural connectors
- They’ve got a large network of people
- They have influence over that network
Now, take each client that falls in the middle group and honestly assess their advocacy prospects against these seven criteria. Identify those natural connectors and influencers who have significant networks and start spending more time with them and proactively encouraging them to work more closely with you to better understand your business.
At ClientWise, we’ve spent over a decade researching top advisors to understand and systematize the things that make them successful. Nearly all of them recognize that their very best clients come vis-à-vis introductions from advocates, and they understand how to engage, educate and partner with those top advocates (whether clients or other professionals). What we’ve learned has become the foundation for our proprietary 5-step process (a 24-week program for our clients) that’s already helped more than 50,000 advisors successfully institutionalize a process for developing loyal client advocates.
For a summary of our proven process, The Loyal Client Advocate Approach, download the quick summary guide below:
Coaching Questions from this article:
- Think about your very best loyal client advocates. What is it about their personality, network, influence and relationship with your business that makes them ideal?
- What other clients who aren’t currently true advocates possess many of those same qualities?
- What strategic steps will you commit to taking to more proactively engage those clients and begin laying the foundation for developing them into advocates?