How to expand your referral network to grow your business

by Adeline Teoh October 18, 2016

Where does your broking business fit into your client’s life? More often than not, people looking for your services are already in touch with your colleagues in adjacent industries.

Increasing professional referrals is an effective way to market your business without needing to run a big budget campaign. Here’s how to identify and approach potential non-broker partners.

Experts consider recommendations one of the strongest forms of marketing, with a Nielsen study showing 84 per cent of global respondents trust word-of-mouth recommendations. When a friend or family member recommends a service, it gives people qualified information and places their expectations in context.

While most word-of-mouth recommendations come from within your clients’ networks, there’s one network you can take advantage of from the start – your own professional connections.

Identify potential partners

As a broker, your core business is to find suitable loans for your clients. But your clients probably also consult a range of other professional services that deal with their finances, from accountants to financial planners, wealth management specialists to asset salespeople. Each client needs a loan to purchase something, and knowing what that ‘something’ is, is the first place to start when identifying potential referral partners.

A client who wants to buy property as an investment might be in touch with a financial planner, an asset manager, a real estate agent and a property broker, for example. Aligning yourself with these businesses will ensure you receive qualified leads.

If you specialise in a certain area, focus your efforts on partnering with businesses in that segment. For instance, if your specialty is asset finance, get in touch with organisations that deal with the sale and/or hire of equipment and machinery.

You can approach potential partners online via professional networks such as LinkedIn, or in person at industry events such as conferences, meet-ups or award presentations. Don’t be afraid to spend time getting to know new people so you can evaluate whether they’d make good partners.

Set up a referral relationship

When looking for referral partners, it helps if you’re already familiar with their business. You’ll want to know that it’s aligned with your values, and that its clients are in a similar demographic to yours. If you don’t know the business, introduce yourself and make a proposal. Be clear about the services you do and do not provide, and how you position yourself in the market, so they know who to send your way.

Where possible, the referral relationship should be mutually beneficial. If the referrals naturally flow in your direction, you may need to provide incentives for a business to recommend you. Offering your services pro bono or at a discount for a limited period might be a good way for your partner to experience how you operate.

Otherwise, be sure to arrange a gift to say thank you, but be aware that some have restrictions on what benefits they can receive to avoid any perception that their independence has been compromised.

Referees are like an extension of your business, so choose partners you believe will represent you best. It may be a good idea to start the referral system within a defined timeframe, so you can gauge the calibre of the clientele referred to you and whether this form of marketing is worth pursuing. A six-week pilot program starting with one or two partners, for example, could give you manageable, measurable data.

As with any marketing activity, a referral program needs to be carefully planned, executed and monitored, but when done well it can drive valuable, qualified leads towards your business and strengthen your relationships with professionals in complementary industries.

For more information on how PLAN Australia can help you expand your network and grow your business, contact us today.

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