Have you ever referred a client or prospect to another professional like an accountant or attorney? I'll bet they sent tons of business back your way right? Not!

Let's be real for a moment. I have spoken to literally more than 1,000 advisors about this issue. I believe I can count on one hand the number of times the advisor was happy with the relationship.

However, whenever I discuss marketing plans advisors keep, center of influence (COI) marketing or what I refer to as joint venture marketing is right at the top of their list. The main reason advisors are frustrated with their attempts to create successful joint ventures is simply that they don't know how. The few advisors I meet who are wildly successful with this approach are successful for usually one reason: the relationships they have or have built over time.

So how do you create win/win relationships with other professionals who will go out of their way to refer you to great prospects and future clients? There is a way to approach potential joint venture partners, to take the first step to a successful joint venture, and to build long term success.

First, who should you be partnering with for a joint venture? The other professionals who do business with your target market.

For some unexplained reason, most advisors limit this list to three types of professionals: accountants, attorneys and mortgage brokers. Do you really think these are the only professionals your target market does business with?

I have helped advisors do successful joint ventures with:

  • Property and casualty agents,
  • Life coaches,
  • Business consultants,
  • Department stores and boutiques,
  • Starbucks stores,
  • Florists and plant nurseries,
  • Health clubs and spas,
  • Restaurant owners, and
  • Dance studios.

In short, anyone and everyone who does business with your target market are potential joint venture partners. Your first step is to make a list of people who you already have a relationship with who also do business with your target market.
Your next step is to make a list of people your clients do business with who could also refer you to more people like your clients. If you do not already have a template to create a list of the other professionals your clients work with, send me an e-mail.

Once you have made a list of potential joint venture partners (and I hope you have gone out of the box here), the next move to figure out is your best way to approach them.

As a business coach, I also coach accountants and attorneys. I think it is hilarious when they describe the clumsy attempts of financial advisors who approach them. Often it sounds like this: "Yeah, that guy approached me and expected me to just give him all my clients, can you believe it?"

I have heard this or similar statements more than once. It is a problem. If the person you are approaching has had this experience in the past, how high are their defenses when listening to your idea? Even if you say something completely different, it may not get through because they now lump all advisors into the same boat. Your approach needs to be completely sincere and disarming. Start by calling the people you or your client already have a relationship with and then invite them to connect on LinkedIn.

Next, call and, if it is someone you know, invite them to lunch. If it is someone your client knows, ask to come in to their business and meet them. Extol the benefits your client has shared about their service and say you would simply like to meet. Remember the 80/20 rule here: If you meet with 10 potential joint venture partners, eight of them will likely be duds and two will likely be home runs. You have to go through at least 10 meetings before knowing who the home runs will likely be. After you have had 10 meetings and identified the two people who are likely great partners, the next step is building the relationship.

Does your current proposal sound like this? "I know some people that you can help, and potentially you know some people I can help. I'll send some referrals to you and then you send some referrals to me, okay?"

If this sounds like you, then most likely you are striking out. There is absolutely no accountability in this approach and you are destined to send referrals and sit and wait. Not a good idea.

Here is a different method: "I know some of my clients would be happy to be introduced to you and potentially some of your clients would be happy to be introduced to me. Let's send out letters of introduction to our clients, okay?"

If they balk at sending a letter, thank goodness you found out before you sent them any business. If they won't even send a letter, do you think they will send you a client? Forget about it.

Now, if you are sending letters, they will need to be approved by compliance. Sometimes they will want you to recommend more than one person, which shouldn't be a problem.

The reality is typically only 3% of the population is looking for a particular product or service now. The benefit to sending a letter is that not only will the 3% call you, but hopefully the others keep the letter on file until they need you. Not a bad deal for the cost of postage, right? Imagine if you had an accountant, an attorney, a mortgage broker, a life coach, a health club, a spa, a salon, a boutique and an art gallery all sending letters to their clients recommending you in the next 90 days. If you do this, that is exactly what should happen based on your taking the first two steps. Once you get off to a good start, how do you build long term success?

The answer is simple, co-host live events together. I have seen joint events with a financial advisor, a plastic surgeon and a health club called the Total Makeover Event. I have seen events at boutiques and department stores for a preview of their summer collection, where clients sent sizes in advance. The store and the personal shopping crew promoted the event internally to their customers. The advisor had his clients also bring guests. The result was the advisor presented to a full room of sophisticated shoppers, the boutique did a mini fashion show and everyone got offered free consultations with the advisor and the personal shoppers. You get the idea, right?

If you want joint venture partners enthusiastically referring you, complete these steps in the next 90 days. If you would like the sample templates to implement your joint venture campaign, please send me an e-mail.

Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching Group,
a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.
You can reach him at this email address.