Developing centers of influence is a great activity year round, particularly if it is done properly. This means developing contacts with trusted advisers who will ultimately provide preferred access to their clients because you have gained their confidence. The most likely trusted centers of influence for your prospects and clients include their attorney, accountant, banker, financial planner, and maybe even their property and casualty agent or broker.

What we are talking about is institutionalizing this type of relationship cultivation and making it a systemic marketing effort - a pro-active, planned series of activities that you will implement, manage and repeat on a routine basis. A logical place to start is your existing clients. Do you know the names and contact information for all your clients' trusted advisers? Reaching out to your current clients to secure this information and to analyze it will open up a world of possibilities. Utilizing a simple client questionnaire, or providing your account management staff with a simple script for use during service calls are great ways to collect this useful information.

 

 

See the possibilities

Suppose after collecting this information for even just half of your clients you start to see a pattern and find that five to ten clients use the same attorney. Wouldn't you like to be introduced to a couple dozen of his or her clients? You already have something in common with their legal counsel: you share clients. What a great opening point of information to convey when you reach out to that attorney to schedule lunch or drinks to talk about your clients' common needs.

Perhaps you can promote joint information seminars regarding timely and topical subject matter involving benefits, benefits legislation, benefits strategic planning, etc.

You might consider starting with the clients that you have in common and schedule the seminars on a regular basis. The person to invite might be the human resource or benefits executive. Or it could be the CFO or business owner. Regardless, conveying information in this type of forum adds value to your existing client relationships for both of you. That will help client persistency. But it will also solidify your relationships and help elevate you to the status of a trusted adviser.

Once you present one topic at your offices and one at the attorney's location, suggest broadening out the audience invitations to include your respective clients that you do not have in common. That's where the bigger pay-off can be for both of you. Because you are being perceived as an authoritative source of information, not someone trying to sell something, this opens up all sorts of possibilities for follow-up discussions with new prospective clients. And you already have credibility with them. You have the tacit endorsement of their attorney since you were jointly presenting information to them.

So if you organized this and employed this strategy on a regular and systematic basis, perhaps quarterly with just one attorney, plus an accountant, or banker, or financial planner, or property and casualty broker, you'd have enough opportunities to schedule a seminar just about each month of the year. Imagine the referrals that could emanate from just this one systematic activity. You just might find that operating in difficult market conditions just got a whole lot easier.

Kwicien is managing partner at Baltimore-based consulting and advisory services firm Daymark Advisors. Reach him at jkwicien@daymarkadvisors.com.

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