More referrals, without prospecting?

As an Investment Advisor, you already understand the magic of referrals. They offer instant credibility by affirming your value and the quality of your services. Better still, referrals allow you to gain the trust of prospective clients even before you meet them. You benefit from the halo effect – the prospect trusts you because they trust the person who referred them.

So why aren’t more financial advisors using referrals effectively? Mainly because it can be harder than it looks, feel intimidating and take a back seat to day-to-day business matters. But creating and following a referral-generating plan doesn’t have to be complex or time consuming. While it does take some work, it beats cold calling, incessant networking or constantly being active on social media. Here are five tips on how to increase the quantity and quality of your referrals to expand your client base and grow your business.

  1. Know your audience

    Creating a plan for generating referrals starts with pinpointing who your ideal referral is. Targeting the right people is essential for the success of your referral system. Be selective – not all clients are created equal. Understanding the client profile best suited to your business means you’ll be seeking referrals from those who reflect these criteria.

    Also, identify your best referrers, be they existing clients, vendors, complementary service providers or other business contacts. People you have the longest, strongest and most positive relationships with are also the ones who will most highly sing your praises.

  2. Systemize your referral process

    Referrals aren’t automatic – most happen because you do something to prompt them. Examples include asking a client for a referral after a certain number of visits or when you provide a value-added service.

    Whenever you hear a client is satisfied, request a referral from them on the spot. The best referrals come after someone has had an opportunity to experience the value you’re capable of delivering. You should also consider asking for a testimonial if you’re confident that you’ve gone above and beyond for a client. Keep in mind that you’re more likely to get a client to agree to provide a testimonial when you ask them face-to-face.

    Postcards or emails sent on consistent basis are a way to remind clients that you’re a referral business and that you appreciate their support. With people’s busy lives, this offers a low-impact approach to staying top of mind with your existing relationships, but just don’t do it too often.

    When you get a referral, remember to close the loop by showing your gratitude. Have a way to say thank you, by phone, in person, by sending a handwritten note, or with a small token of appreciation.

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask

    Done at the right time, like after providing value or receiving positive feedback, asking for a referral will feel natural and the person you’re asking will be most receptive. Be direct about it. Say something along the lines of: “I’m trying to grow my business to support more great clients like you. Do you know anyone who would benefit from my services?”

  4. Have a public face on social media

    The objective of social media is to connect people. People who connect to each other tend to have similar interests and/or demographics. That means your existing clients are likely connected to your ideal new clients. Through social media, you can also increase your visibility and demonstrate thought leadership. If you’re able to disseminate content that addresses people’s problems, you’ll inspire them to take action and reach out to you. Social media offers a way of attracting clients while cultivating your reputation as a knowledgeable resource – all at low-to-no cost.

  5. Find your flock

    As they say, birds of a feather fly together. Likewise, your referral network is closer and more accessible than you may think. Getting referrals isn’t just about asking clients; you can also target industry groups with similar job functions and responsibilities. This includes centres of influence who you likely already partner with, such as accountants, lawyers, tax specialists, personal bankers and insurance agents.

    Referrals from professional sources tend to take longer to secure than those from clients. After all, professionals are putting their reputation on the line by recommending you. That’s why it’s important to create and stick to a referral strategy. You won’t necessarily see results overnight; however, over the long-term, professional referrals can be invaluable.


Give them something to talk about

Of course, people don’t refer bad, or even average, service. A referral system is only as strong as your ability to fulfil your brand promise. As you’re thinking about ways to enhance your referral strategy, also consider how to refine your offerings to be more referable. Because the best way to generate more business is to implement a sticky client experience based on exceeding their expectations and giving them reasons to speak positively about you.

Learn more about increasing client referral activity through a disciplined process – contact our Practice Management team at


iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates. Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.