Bill Good Marketing

How NOT to Ask for Referrals as a Financial Advisor

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    If you’ve been in the industry for any period of time, you know the drill: more referrals, more success.

    But the age-old advice of simply asking for referrals often feels outdated and uncomfortable.

    And you’re definitely not alone if you’ve ever thought there must be a better way. What if we told you that there is a strategy that doesn’t involve the awkwardness of asking directly?

    A method that transforms everyday interactions into a robust network of new clients.

    Welcome to the future of financial advisor marketing, where your expertise does the talking, and satisfied clients do the walking—right into your office with their friends, family members, and colleagues at the hip.

    Forget what you’ve heard about the hard referral “ask.” It’s time for a paradigm shift. One in which meaningful relationships fuel your business’s growth, turning every satisfied client into an advocate for your services.

    As a leading consultant for growing RIAs and wealth management firms alike, we’ve turned this approach into an art form.

    It’s not just about the ask; it’s about the experience you provide and the trust you build. By focusing on the excellence of your service, you’ll watch your client base multiply—without ever uttering the words, “Who do you know that I should be talking to…?”

    Rethinking Client Referrals: Why the Old Ways Aren’t Working

    It’s a tale as old as time in the financial advisor’s playbook: “Want to grow your business? Ask for referrals.”

    If you’ve been in the industry any length of time, you’ve probably been sold the idea that if you’re not asking every client for referrals, you’re leaving money on the table.

    But in reality, asking is not only ineffective. It’s hurting your bottom line.

    What’s worse, this approach can put your clients on the spot, making them feel like they’re just another number to you.

    Now, let’s get one thing out of the way. We sometimes hear the argument that an advisor received dozens of referrals while asking clients. Our question is always, what is the conversion rate on those names?

    Sure, clients might hand over a name to get you off their back, but these aren’t the warm new leads you’re after. They’re cold and impersonal, and they rarely pan out. This method turns ‘referral’ into a word that both you and your clients dread.

    Advice is abundant. Just Google the phrase, “how to ask for financial advisor referrals” and enjoy gems like these:

    • “Act like you are already in their circle.”🙄
    • “Don’t feel sheepish about asking for referrals.”
    • “Always ask for referrals in person.”
    • “You mentioned your sister and brother-in-law last week. Let’s start with them. Do you think they should at least know about what I do? Can we craft a way for you to introduce me to them that will feel comfortable for all concerned?”

    Just reading should make you want to clean your eyeglasses or get the smudges off your monitor.

    You know deep down that this stuff does not work. People whose names are solicited rarely become clients. Why? Because they are not referrals. They are just names, and perhaps only slightly better than cold-call names.

    The Truth about Asking for Referrals as a Financial Advisor

    Here’s the truth that many financial advisors miss: great referrals come from great relationships, not from direct asks.

    When you focus on building trust and delivering results, referrals start flowing naturally. Your clients become your biggest fans, eager to share the wealth—quite literally—by introducing you to their network.

    This strategy is about changing the referral game entirely. It’s about becoming the financial advisor who’s remembered not for the questions they ask but for the value they provide. In other words, you have to be referrable before you’ll get a lot of referrals. And in this game, the best players are the ones who understand that asking for referrals is not the same as earning them.

    In the upcoming sections, we’ll dive deep into how to create a strategy that brings referrals to your doorstep. You’ll learn to use top-of-mind awareness to stay on your clients’ minds, enhance client engagement to deepen your relationships, and subtly promote the idea of referrals without ever making a direct request. It’s time to turn the referral process into a seamless part of your business that feels as natural as shaking hands.

    So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to the heart of building a referral-rich business the right way—without ever having to ask.

    Exceptional Service: The Foundation of Referral Mastery

    The bedrock of a referral-rich financial advisory practice isn’t a secret. It’s exceptional service. It’s the kind of service that goes beyond expectations, making clients feel understood, cared for, and well-prepared for their future. This doesn’t just keep your current clients satisfied; it turns them into a powerful referral source of new business.

    Think about it. When you go the extra mile, your clients notice. They talk about it. They share their experiences with family members at dinner, with colleagues in the office, and with friends on social media. Your name comes up not because they’re trying to help you expand your client base but because they can’t help but brag about the financial planner who has made a real difference in their lives.

    Here’s where your focus on financial planning pays off. Your in-depth knowledge, your tailored financial plans, and your commitment to your clients’ financial well-being speak louder than any referral program could. When you provide advice that leads to a client’s success, word-of-mouth naturally starts to spread. And in the financial services industry, that’s the kind of advertising money can’t buy.

    But how do you ensure your service is exceptional?

    Start with the basics: timely responses, personalized attention, and a clear understanding of your clients’ goals and fears. Build on that by staying educated on the latest in wealth management and by proactively reaching out with new insights that could impact your clients’ portfolios.

    This helps build what we call the Trusted Advisor Identity: that you are a knowledgeable financial advisor, kind and caring individual, and contributing member of the community.

    And don’t forget about the power of technology. You should be using your CRM to keep track of personal details and financial milestones. Use that information to reach out at just the right moments. Make your advisory practice stand out by hosting educational webinars, podcasts, and sending out letters filled with valuable financial advice and market analysis.

    By consistently providing this level of service, you won’t need to ask for new clients—they’ll come to you. Your satisfied clients will become the flag-bearers of your brand, heralding your services as a financial professional who goes above and beyond.

    Staying Unforgettable: How to Achieve Top-of-Mind Awareness

    Imagine this: One of your clients is on the golf course, and their friend mentions they’re concerned with their impending retirement. That’s a clear sign they haven’t done proper financial planning. Without skipping a beat, your client recommends you.

    That, right there, is top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) in action, and it’s a game-changer for financial advisors.

    But how do you achieve TOMA? It’s about making sure that when the topic of financial services comes up, you’re the first person your clients think of. It’s not enough to be a good financial advisor; you have to be the most memorable one.

    You maintain this presence not through invasive advertising or pushy sales tactics but through strategic engagement. Use your LinkedIn profile to share insights or offer your thoughts on the latest financial trends on other social media platforms. These platforms are not just for connecting with new prospects; they’re for staying visible to your current client base, reminding them subtly of your expertise.

    Podcasts and newsletters can also be potent tools. By sharing your knowledge and offering valuable financial advice, you keep your name and your brand in your clients’ minds without being overbearing. Consider sending out quick, actionable tips or deep dives into complex financial topics that affect their net worth and future planning.

    Personal touches matter, too. Host client appreciation events, send out holiday letters (yes, we said letters and not cards – stand out!), or check in with a personal phone call. It’s about creating a consistent presence in a way that’s helpful and genuine. Remember, the goal here is not just awareness but meaningful presence.

    And here’s where it gets interesting: When you achieve TOMA, you won’t need to spend as much time prospecting for new clients. Instead, through strategic, client-focused actions, you ensure that your clients think of you first for financial advisor referrals. They’ll do the talking for you, and their words carry weight.

    By being the CFP or financial planner who’s always providing value, you become the one they can’t wait to introduce to friends, family, and anyone who needs financial guidance. They feel they are doing their family and friends a favor by introducing you. That’s the true power of TOMA—turning every conversation into an opportunity for growth without explicitly asking for it.

    Deepening Connections: Strategies for Enhanced Client Engagement

    Engagement is not just a buzzword; it’s the lifeline of a thriving financial advisory firm. Engaged clients are those who feel a strong, personal connection to their financial planner, and they’re the ones who will sing your praises to potential clients without any prompting.

    Building this kind of engagement means going beyond the annual review meeting. It means understanding your clients on a deeper level—knowing about their family members, their career aspirations, and even their hobbies. It’s about celebrating their milestones, whether that’s sending a card for a special anniversary or congratulating them on a recent business milestone.

    For example: say you have a client who’s a real estate agent, and he’s been recognized among Salt Lake City’s top realtors.

    • A bad advisor would see the news and do nothing.
    • An average advisor might shoot him a congratulations text.
    • A ‘good’ advisor would throw an intimate party and tell him/her to invite their friends.


    Because the ‘good’ advisor sees this as an opportunity to grow. By hosting this small party:

    1. The ‘good’ advisor gets introductions to this client’s affluent friends and family.
    2. The ‘good’ advisor strengthens the relationship further
    3. The ‘good’ advisor gives the client a memory he/she will never forget

    You see, here’s where the idea of financial planning becomes less about transactions and more about personal relationships.

    Try to organize client appreciation events that are memorable and unique, or surprise them with a webinar featuring a respected industry expert. These efforts show that you value them not just as clients but as integral parts of your advisory practice’s family.

    Client meetings are another opportunity to solidify these relationships. Each interaction should leave your clients feeling listened to, valued, and understood. When they leave your office or end a call with you, they should feel so confident in your services that they can’t help but share their positive experience with others.

    Now, consider integrating tools like a CRM system to track the personal details that can help you create these engaging experiences. Use social media to celebrate client successes (with their permission, of course) or share educational content that positions you as an ally in their financial well-being.

    By making client engagement a core part of your practice management, you’ll find that the need to ask for referrals diminishes. Instead, your clients become active participants in your marketing strategy—they become sources of word-of-mouth that’s authentic and powerful.

    Up next, we’ll discuss the subtle art of promoting referrals indirectly. This is where the magic happens, and where your engagement strategy truly pays off, bringing in prospective clients who are already primed to see you as their go-to financial professional.

    The Art of Subtle Influence: Promoting Referrals Without Asking

    Mastering the subtle promotion of referrals is like setting the stage for a play where your best clients are both the audience and the performers. It’s not about the blatant “ask” but about creating an environment where the idea of referring you becomes a natural next step for your clients.

    Subtlety is key.

    My personal two favorite ways for promoting referrals look something like this, and are an excerpt from our free “Referral Consciousness” Guidebook:

    1. Promote referrals over the phone and in person using rehearsed “referral conversations.”

    Whenever you speak with a client, end the conversation by verbally promoting a referral. Here are a few examples of “referral conversations”:

    • Life Changes: “We’ve found that whenever someone goes through major life changes, some of the stress associated has to do with the financial side of the equation. That’s where we come in. When you come across someone going through some big changes, let’s help them relieve some of that stress by finding a way for you to introduce us.”
    • Reminder: “Before I forget, I wanted to let you know that I’m currently taking on new clients again. So, if there’s ever anyone you know who has expressed the need for financial advice, please think of me.”
    • During Market Volatility: “Whenever markets are volatile like this, there is a lot of fear and anxiety among investors. As you know, our team likes to be sure everyone is not just comfortable with their financial strategy, but they are able to focus on better things than the current market headlines. If you come across anyone worried or anxious about these markets, please give them our information. We’d love to help them.”

    2. Promote referrals in the postscripts of all letters and emails.

    Here’s one of those surprising-but-true facts every financial advisor should know: The first thing most people see in a letter is the headline or salutation. The second thing is the postscript. That’s because people will often quickly skim the message, read the postscript, and then, if they’re still interested, go back and read the entire letter. That’s why the postscript is prime real estate to promote a referral. Here are a few suggestions:

    • P.S. I’m always on the lookout for more clients just like you. If there’s anyone you know who could use a second opinion on their investments, I’ve love to hear about them.
    • P.S. Since I love what I do, I’m always ready to do more of it. If there’s someone you know who could use a second opinion on their investments, please think of me.
    • P.S. Helping people reach their financial goals is the most professionally satisfying thing I do. So, if you ever have a friend or family member who would like help with their goals, let me know. I’d love to talk to them.

    Your content strategy should play a role as well. Use your letters, social media posts, or podcast episodes to gently remind clients of the value you provide. Maybe it’s a story about how you’ve helped a business owner navigate the complex world of estate planning, or how your advice contributed to an entrepreneur’s successful retirement strategy. Frame these stories around the benefits received, not the services you offer.

    During your client interactions, listen for cues. If a client mentions how pleased they are with your services, this is a golden opportunity. Acknowledge their satisfaction and let them know you’re always open to helping others.

    This can be as casual as saying, “I’m glad you feel that way. It’s always a pleasure to see clients like you succeed. If you know someone who could benefit from a similar experience, I’d be happy to chat with them.”

    Now, let’s not overlook the importance of incentives. Recognize and show appreciation for referrals that do come your way, whether that’s through a simple thank you note, a meaningful referral gift, or an invite to an exclusive client event.

    These gestures can encourage others to follow suit, as they see the appreciation others receive for spreading the word.

    Remember, when you promote referrals without asking directly, you’re respecting the client-advisor relationship while gently guiding your clients toward advocacy. It’s a respectful, effective approach that builds trust and encourages organic growth of your client base.

    From Theory to Triumph: Practical Steps for Effortless Referrals

    You’ve got the strategy. You’ve seen how changing your approach can transform the way you think about referrals.

    Now, it’s about taking these insights and making them work for you, in your unique context, with your ideal clients.

    Actionable Steps to Success

    1. Examine Your Service Delivery: Look at the services you provide through your clients’ eyes. Would you refer your best friend to your business? If there’s any hesitation, identify areas for improvement and act on them. Your goal is to become indispensable.
    2. Engage, Engage, Engage: Your clients should feel part of something special. Celebrate their successes, recognize their milestones, and make sure they know they’re valued. Engagement is the key to turning satisfied clients into vocal advocates.
    3. Use Technology Wisely: Your CRM isn’t just a database; it’s your secret weapon for personalized, timely communication. Use it to remind you of birthdays, anniversaries, and to check in periodically. These small touches make a big difference.
    4. Educate and Inform: Whether it’s through newsletters, webinars, or social media, share your knowledge freely. Help your clients and their networks understand complex financial topics. Become the go-to resource for financial advice.
    5. Track and Measure: Set clear goals for your referral strategy and monitor your progress. Adjust your tactics based on what’s working and what’s not. Bottom line, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Bill Good Marketing: Your Referral Marketing Partner

    At Bill Good Marketing, we understand the challenges financial advisors face in growing their practice. We’ve been there, and we’ve crafted solutions that work. Our expertise in client engagement, referral marketing strategies, and financial advisor marketing is unmatched. We provide content, tools, and insights that can take your advisor business beyond what you’ve dreamed possible.

    Remember, the journey to a referral-rich practice doesn’t have to be a solo venture. With Bill Good Marketing by your side, you’re equipped with decades of experience, innovative strategies, and a partner who’s invested in your success.

    Embrace the Future

    The referral game has changed, and you’re now armed with the knowledge to play it like a pro. By focusing on exceptional service, maintaining top-of-mind awareness, enhancing client engagement, and subtly promoting referrals, you’ll see your client list grow. And the best part? You’ll do it in a way that feels genuine to you and your clients.

    Let’s embark on this journey together. With the right strategies and a partner like Bill Good Marketing, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Here’s to building a thriving practice, one satisfied client at a time.

    Also, if you’d like to learn more about the strategies mentioned here, feel free to download our “Referrals Consciousness” Guidebook.


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