When it comes to generating referrals, we’re attracted to new, shiny objects. We want to know what others are doing, what works and what doesn’t.

    Sometimes, however, the best thing we can do is to make what we are already doing more effective instead of looking for new ways to do things.  When it comes to referrals, that starts by understanding your sources of referral friction. 

    • Sometimes those points of friction are just that – the things you need to remove for a referral to happen at all.   
    • Sometimes those points of friction are things that get in the way of greater success – the things that you can do to tweak your process to increase the chances of success. 

    Of course, removing sources of referral friction isn’t the same as focusing on the big, sexy strategies we hear about at conferences.  That said, if you don’t focus on the details, you may end up working twice as hard for a limited return. 

    Over the next while, I’m going to go deep on the sources of referral friction. With each post, I’ll identify a single source of friction and an action that will be like pouring petrol on your referral efforts.

    Referral Friction Point #1: Your Clients Share Your Content But Not Your Value 

    We know, from our ongoing investor research, that clients who refer are more likely to share content from their advisers. 

    • 69% of clients who had provided a referral said they had shared content from their adviser. 
    • 20% of clients who hadn’t provided a referral said they had shared content from their adviser. 

    And here’s an insider tip. Younger clients are even more likely to share content.   

    • Clients who were 20+ years from retirement were 2.5 x more likely to share content from their adviser than those who are already retired. 

    The data reminds us that providing shareable content is a good way to drive more referrals. But there’s more.   

    ‍Control the Narrative 

    The issue – and the opportunity – is that we hope that clients will share our great content, but we don’t control the narrative when they do. We encourage them to forward the article, podcast, video or blog post to their friends and family. If they’re feeling compliant, they hit forward on the email. 

    So what’s the problem? 

    When a client hits forward, the prospect is seeing the same messaging as your client. And while that's not bad, it's not ideal. 

    What if, instead, you could use that ‘sharing moment’ to: 

    • Help prospective clients understand why you're sharing this specific content and how it connects to the work that you do for clients 
    • Describe the work that you do 
    • Provide prospects with an option to connect, either by providing an email address to receive future content (good) or by booking a meeting (even better).

    The Referral Process Tweak 

    Instead of encouraging clients to share your content, include a ‘click to share’ link in your email. When the client clicks the link, it pre-populates an email with your messaging. The client simply adds a friend’s email address and hits send. 

    This gives you the opportunity to control the narrative in the email and influence the message that the prospective client is seeing.   

    You need to write that email with absolute restraint, of course. It has to be written to reflect what your clients would actually and comfortably say to a friend or family member. 

    What if, for example, your client could click on a link and the message was this.


    It’s a very different message and, I’d suggest, leads to a different outcome. Small tweak. Big impact.

    Julie Littlechild is the Founder & CEO of Absolute Engagement, a firm that helps advisers use direct input and feedback from clients to drive engagement and growth.  You can learn more here.

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