The Single Most Overlooked Referral Strategy

I don’t remember the last conference I attended at which multi-generational planning wasn’t on the agenda. It’s accepted wisdom that working with the children of our best clients is a significant opportunity. And I would agree, but not for the reasons you may think.

The traditional thinking is that working with the children of our clients is a good asset retention strategy. The new thinking, I would suggest, is that working with the children of our clients engages those clients and drives referrals. In fact, it may be one of the biggest and most overlooked referral opportunities in our businesses today.

Multi-generational planning is a referral opportunity first and an asset retention strategy second.

Why is Multi-Generational Planning a Referral Strategy?

Here’s what we know. A small minority of clients refer because they have been asked to refer. More often they refer because they want to help friends or family solve problems in their lives and they see you as the solution. As a result, I’ve written extensively about the fact that the best way to increase referrals is to help clients share stories about the impact you have had on their lives.

Think about it this way. If I go out to dinner with my friends, what do you think we talk about? Rarely do investments or insurance come up in conversation, but we do talk about our families. And, when it comes to money, we do talk about our fears for our children. Helping me help my children is your one best way to get me to refer because I have a tangible example of how you have helped in an area that is a point of conversation – regularly.

What is the Multi-Generational Referral Multiplier?

If you look at multi-generational planning through this lens you can see the potential impact as a multiplier.

In the traditional model multi-generational planning is a way to retain assets. You offer to work with the children and hopefully you retain the assets when your client has passed away. In the new model you switch to the engagement and referral lens.  You help my children make better financial decisions and engage me a deeper level and I will share that story with friends – likely several of them. So as much as this is an engagement strategy, the return is potentially massive.

Going one step further, this is a topic that will actively engage both partners.  If you are like the vast majority of advisors, you may not be equally or actively engaging both people and trying to find ways to do just that. This is one of the few topics that brings them together on an issue that is important. Our research has shown that women are more likely than men to refer to their advisor because they are trying to solve a problem for a friend.

Multigenerational planning

Ways to Leverage Multi-Generational Planning

Here are three simple ways to engage clients by supporting the next generation. I’ll share three ideas and offer up some live examples of the ideas in action, along with some resources.

  1. Meet with the children of your best clients.

Some advisors will offer to meet with the children of their best clients to better equip them to think about money. Importantly, these conversations are driven by where the child is at the moment – in high school and thinking about how to save for a car or in university and wondering if a credit card is a good idea. There is no doubt this is a higher touch tactic and likely only relevant for your best clients.

Katherine Liola is the Founder and President of Concentric Private Wealth  and provides great insight into how to execute on this strategy to drive deeper engagement.  You can hear her approach to multi-generational planning and this tactic by clicking the video below.

2. Focus on financial education

You might also consider offering broader educational opportunities to make the process more scalable than the previous idea. In a recent post I shared how something as simple as sharing a great website, like Warren Buffet’s Secret Millionaire’s Club  could be a simple way to support financial education.

Other advisors are making a much bigger investment in the process. Jon Jones, Co-CEO of Brighton Jones shares how his firm wants to get behind financial literacy in a big way.

3. Support Communication

I have a 6 year old. I want him to make good decisions. I want him to respect hard work and money and I have ridiculous conversations with him in some vain attempt to communicate these complex topics. As a variant of financial literacy, consider how you can help me communicate with him about money. I’m sure there are more, but here are two great resources to share with your clients.


Are You Dabbling?

There is no doubt that executing on any one of these tactics will engage your clients at a deeper level and provide significant fodder for more referrals. Some firms, however, will take this strategy to the next level by making it core to their offer.

Ask yourself this question. Is this core to your offer or an after-thought? (Your clients can tell.)

My view is that the businesses that have the greatest success in building relationships with families across generations do so because they have made it core to their offer. When that happens, you become the go-to resource and that translates into more referrals.

Thanks for stopping by.

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3 Responses to The Single Most Overlooked Referral Strategy

  1. Geoff May 24, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

    Great post Julie, I make estate planning a priority and have a discussion using the clients family tree. Helping the clients children will be a natural extension of doing this.

    • Julie Littlechild
      Julie Littlechild May 25, 2016 at 1:27 am #

      Love the idea of using the family tree!

  2. TMG May 27, 2016 at 5:38 pm #


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