Making Centers of Influence Work: Conversation with an experienced advisor


Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by John Prendergast

“I send clients to them and nothing comes back”

This week, we got a question from an advisor (initials “RD”) who read our whitepaper on “Why Referral Marketing Failed You and How to Fix It”. I expect lots of advisors have the same question on finding centers or influence to work with.

If you’ve ever thought, ‘How do I find an accountant to work with?’ or have limited yourself to only those professionals who don’t already have a relationship with an advisor, then you’re missing the huge value of centers of influence. You should read on.

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Below, with the advisor’s permission, we’ve shared the conversation he had with John Prendergast, CEO of Blueleaf. Get ready… times are a-changin’.

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“How do I find accountants who are interested?”

RD: My concern is how to find accountants who are interested in sharing clients – ideas on how to find these guys?  My experience so far is it is a one way street – I send clients to them and nothing comes back.  I think the key is to find the accountants who are even interested in sharing back with me.

John:  This is actually one of the points of the whitepaper. The exchange of value (particularly your value to them) can’t be solely about “sending clients”. You don’t have enough to go around and not all of them will reciprocate. However, you can include all of them in joint marketing, a webinar, a newsletter article, a blog post, etc., and if you already share common clients they can leverage your client portal. Look to other ways of creating value. Save the client referrals for those that have already proven themselves as reciprocal referrers.

“What if they have an existing advisor relationship?”

RD: So the question is, how do I find these CPAs who are willing to do this and don’t already have an existing relationship with a financial person they are already sending referrals to?  Do you have a strategy for finding them??

Answer is: Existing relationships shouldn’t stop you

John: Well, in the approach we’re advocating, it doesn’t matter if they’ve got a relationship already or not. The main thing is that they’re aligned with your target market, they serve the same kind of client and they seem open to doing some work together that is mutually beneficial.

I think in the whitepaper we start by suggesting that you ask your existing clients for who they use, then recommend using local associations and working social media connections.

Work on your approach

Finding sources isn’t that hard. The approach is typically the challenging part. We tend to think of approaching people with a direct “Hey, you want to exchange referrals?” offer or something similarly awkward. Not surprisingly this kind of thing falls flat. Typically, following these 2 simple steps tends to work much better:

1) Learn about them – Ask them about their business and who they service, what makes them different etc. I’d also ask them how they market their services and what they’ve found effective etc. This is a critical first step. Any suggestion of working together before this and you’ve jumped the gun. I wouldn’t even discuss referrals in the first conversation. I also wouldn’t bother to ask about current relationships with advisors. By learning about them, you’ll know if they’re a potential fit and be in a position to think about ways to create mutual value.

2) If there is a potential fit, make a proposal to do some joint marketing. Create a webinar, or interesting piece of content that can go out to an audience of new prospects for both of you. Offer to send it to your clients too and ask if they’d send it theirs. Joint marketing is a lower barrier than asking for direct exposure to their clients to do work. It’s akin to gathering data before you ask for a client to commit their assets. It allows you to both get to know one another in a way that can generate clients for both of you. This is the time you can offer to put some content that they write in your newsletter or on your blog. There are many ways like this to create value without needing to do a direct referral.

Once you got a relationship built, maintain it. Create a calendar where you plan a few joint marketing efforts each year. The referrals will come. Even if they don’t, you’ll likely get new clients as a result of the marketing activity. And that is really the point.

The real question is: “How do I leverage their networks?”

The real question here isn’t “How can I get referrals from this accountant?” The real question is “How can I work with other professionals to leverage their networks to grow my business?” It’s a bigger question with many more opportunities to grow your business. A referral in this context is just one way another professional can benefit you. If they’ve got an engaged list of 5,000 potential clients which they give you access to and that generates 3 new clients. That’s 3x the value of a single referral.

I hope that helps.


Click here to download your own FREE copy of the Referral Marketing Whitepaper.

You may also enjoy this blog post:  “Center of Influence Marketing for Advisors Made Simple”


  • Carolyn McRae

    Carolyn is Blueleaf's in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors' lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they're useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!

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Carolyn is Blueleaf’s in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors’ lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they’re useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!
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