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COIs: How To Develop Them And Why They Matter

One of the most effective and important ways to grow your practice is through client referrals. Strong word of mouth and positive testimonials can go a long way to building your brand and reputation in your community.

Think about it, if a trusted friend or family member recommended a professional, you might be more likely to check them out yourself. This same idea can be applied to nurturing current client relationships and discovering potential clients for your business.

But how can you generate the type of referrals that attract your ideal client and help your business grow in the direction you want? You will need to develop and cultivate a network of Centers of Influence or COIs.

COIs are a network of professionals outside of your organization who have access to your ideal clients. COIs give you the opportunity to affirm current client relationships, open you up to new clients, carve a path for business growth, and become a source for ongoing referrals among your professional network. 

Today, we are going to show you how to develop your COIs and the best ways to leverage them to grow your business. 

Determine your COI All-Star List

All advisors have a network of professionals they work with to help fulfil their client’s needs. For example, general COIs that advisors have contact with are attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, and real estate agents.

Remember, COIs are other professionals who work with your ideal clients. Let’s stop here and ask yourself a question, what makes your ideal clients, ideal? In essence, what makes you and what your business is looking for specific? The answer is your niche! Ideal clients for an advisor working with retirees will be extremely different than those of an advisor working with medical professionals, young families, teachers, founders, and more. 

Identifying and attracting your ideal clients is a direct result of your area of expertise. Use this to propel your search for more specific COIs, the ones that have access to the clients that fall within your niche. Let’s say your firm’s niche is serving physicians. Your COI All-Star List might be medical malpractice attorneys or insurance agents who specialize in malpractice insurance.

Another important thing is investing time to nurture local COIs. For many advisors, local clientele make up a big portion of their revenue. If you work with local families, find COIs who are also in your area and hold the same value system in working with clients. 

People who share working styles, philosophies, and operate under similar principles will make for incredible referral sources because they can trust that you will take care of the clients that they send your way and vice versa. 

Your niche sets the tone for the type of clients you serve best. By leveraging your niche-specific COIs, you can create strong connections that make for richer referral sources.  Every good advisor needs to have CPA’s and estate planning attorneys to refer clients too. The beauty of a niche is that you can seek out COI’s that no other advisor is speaking to. If you focus on working with college bound families with students in high school this opens up a whole new channel of referral partners that no other financial advisor is speaking too. High school counselors, PTA groups, private college admissions counselors, career counselors, ACT/SAT test prep centers, and the list goes on. You can add value for their clients and vice versa. It is a true win/win partnership.

Brainstorm Current Connections

When it comes to COIs, it really is all about who you know. It might seem like you have a small network at first, but when you start to think more about it, you likely already have a set list of current COIs that you are connected with. 

Start by thinking though all of your colleagues (financial planners in your same niche, CPAs, attorneys, etc.) who you know well and respect. Jot them down. Once you have your short list of COIs, you’ll want to do a few different things:

  1. Make sure you’re connected on LinkedIn.
  2. Shoot them a quick email asking to touch base sometime soon (maybe for a virtual coffee meet-up or grabbing lunch together if they’re local).
  3. Ask them if you can add them to your email list—be clear on the consistency of emails you send so they know what to expect.
  4. Consider doing a “content trade” to cross-promote your brands. Post about one another on social media, share blog content, etc. You can also work on pursuing content together whether that is through an interview (blog or video), co-authoring an article, creating a presentation, or co-hosting a webinar.

Creating strong, reliable COIs is all about building connections with other professionals who you trust. There are so many people that you interact with on a regular basis so odds are that with a little nurturing they can turn into wonderful COIs.

Connect With New COIs

This is the fun part! 

Expand your network by researching COIs who serve the same type of clients you do. You might find these people just by asking around, or by searching for them on LinkedIn. Better yet—ask your clients who they work with, and expand your network from there. 

Connecting with people on LinkedIn and/or asking for a 15-30 minute phone call to get to know their business can go a long way toward generating referrals and referrals are one of the best ways to generate new clients. 

Leveraging your COIs and committing to developing new ones will help you grow your business as an advsior. Nurturing COI relationships will help you become more established in your field while helping you attract the right clients to your doors. 

COIs are all about developing relationships. Community is such an important part of what we do as advisors which is why we are passionate about the community we cultivate at CAP. Ready to get involved? Start your free trial today. 

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