In the second post of a three-part series, Head of Knowledge Labs® Professional Development Michael Futterman explains how to transform referral sources into advocates through deliberate, personalized client experiences.

Part one of this series focused on how to identify clients in your practice who are likely to be sources of qualified referrals. We identified two specific attributes to look for in this discovery process:

  1. Clients who fit with your business model, objectives and marketing plans.
  2. Those who express warmth, gratitude and generosity.

Armed with this criteria, we are now ready for step two: Activation. We’ve covered the concept of activation on this blog previously from several different angles: paying attention in a deep and intense way, reviewing known information about a client, and building a repeatable and scalable WOW process. It all comes back to a common theme: building a bank account of goodwill by focusing relentlessly on the needs, passions and interests of the client.

The concept of focusing on client needs may not be novel, but our experience shows that it is not often approached with deliberate action and specific results in mind. One study showed that financial professionals who actively curated the client experience managed an average of $30 million more in assets compared to those who approached it from an ad-hoc perspective.1

Take a Page from the Ride-Hailing Playbook

So what does creating a delightful client experience actually mean? Consider an example from outside of the financial services industry: the humble taxicab service.

Prior to the rise of ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, we would call (or curbside hail) a taxi service and the expected experience was fairly consistent: questionably stained upholstery, nautically themed suspension systems, novel aromas and drivers with diverse interpretations of the “rules of the road.”

Enter the app-based ride-hailing era, where you are kept informed every step of the way of your driver’s whereabouts, the cost of the trip is known in advance, you are offered a choice of titillating conversation or blessed silence, the financial transaction is completed automatically, and you even get a choice of how “luxuriously” you’d like to travel. To put it mildly, the game has changed.

Perhaps most importantly is how quickly our expectation of what something as simple as a cab ride should be has changed since these firms introduced their client-centric approach. When you call for an UBER or Lyft your standard for what is acceptable has rapidly changed (no charging cable? 2/5 stars for you good sir). How this approach applies to financial services and the client experience is simple: It is everything.

Create A Deliberate Client Experience

All aspects of your business, from the seemingly mundane (e.g., your method of greeting clients at the door, the look and feel of your office space, the kind of pens and paper you use) to the hyper-focused (e.g., your process for conducting portfolio reviews and how you plan your client appreciation events are all components of your client experience. And if you aren’t doing approaching each of these components deliberately, that means they are happening accidentally.

Just as companies like Uber and Lyft have developed a refined experience that addresses multiple preferences and delivers an abundance of convenience, your client experience needs to be meticulously planned down to the last detail.

Be Specific and Personalized

It’s not enough to just be deliberate. Building that bank account of goodwill I mentioned earlier comes from your scalable, repeatable client experiences as well as the specific and personalized moments that matter. Whether it’s recognizing a client’s big anniversary, sale of a business or adoption a new puppy, the activation step comes when we exceed what is expected. And the key to exceeding expectations is knowing what is important to your clients and making sure they know that you “get” what they are all about.

By cultivating targeted, well researched experiences that speak to the specific needs, interests and personalities of your existing clients and leveraging the opportunities to go above and beyond when the moment arises, you are building a reservoir of brand equity. You can tap into that reservoir to help transform your referral sources into advocates with less reticence and resistance.

Next: How to Ask the Big Question

The question that remains is, what will you do when you’re ready to ask for a referral? Heck, when will you know it’s time to ask? Will it be after a review meeting? Or when they have their first, fifth or 10th anniversary of being a client? Maybe it will be like a Barry White song – only you will know when the mood is right to ask for the introduction. But it’s unlikely to happen unless you make the first move.

In part three of our series on referrals, we will outline what many financial professionals have been searching for: A plan and process for asking the “Big Question.”

Let Your Passions Ignite Your Business

This program offers a step-by-step process to ignite client acquisition by targeting the "right" prospects and delivering an extraordinary prospect experience to win over new clients.

Igniting Acquisition: FireStarters

18 Acre Perspective and Janus Henderson Investors, Power of Gratitude research study, January 2016.