Business growth doesn’t come from wishful thinking. As you know, it takes a lot of hard work. The growth of your business is not an option – it is a necessity. Coordinating the right mix of strategies to gain market share and improve client acquisition rates is essential to advance your firm in today’s economy.
Many advisors share a common thread of business development initiatives: referral campaigns, capturing new assets from existing clients, and forming strategic alliances with other professional teams. During difficult market times, uniting with attorneys, insurance agents, CPAs, and other professionals is one of the best investments you can make for your firm. While cost and skill sharing are notable reasons to form an alliance, an association with suitable partners will extend the depth of your team and provide a means to offer clients a full spectrum of services.
What Is A Strategic Alliance?
To ensure alliances are truly successful for your firm, you must understand what they are and more importantly what they aren’t. A strategic alliance is an agreement between two or more parties to pursue a set of agreed upon objectives while remaining independent organizations.¹ Often advisors attempt to organize informal alliances and merely hope a reciprocal referral pattern will fall into place.
Picture this – it may sound like a familiar situation to you:
You invite a potential alliance to lunch and spend time chitchatting about your firm. You talk about your shared niche market(s) and try to persuade them to understand how your firm is different from the competitor down the street. You end up having a nice lunch and agree to refer clients to one another over a hand shake.
Heading back to your office, you reflect on your meeting and give yourself a pat on the back – thinking you have formed a solid strategic alliance that will provide a flow of referrals to your firm. You may even go so far as to start referring clients to their company. But something happens; you notice you’re not procuring a significant level, if any at all, of qualified referrals in return.
Why and how does this happen?
It’s simple; you have formed an informal arrangement that doesn’t represent a true strategic alliance. An unorganized plan that lacks an imperative reason for others to provide referrals will fall short of your desired result.
Strategic Alliances – Where To Start
Advisors who take the time to invest in building strategic alliances generate higher revenues and profits. Done correctly, it only takes a small number of strategic partners to have a positive impact.
Begin to structure your extended team with other professionals whose efforts are symmetrical with the needs of your clients. Identify professionals that share your niche market and can provide solutions for your clients beyond your existing realm of services. Measure the value of a potential partnership by assessing the quality of solutions you can provide for your client’s problems, needs, and wants.
Brainstorm! You can form alliances with a host of different professionals; get creative and explore your opportunities.
Strategic Alliances = Long-Term Success
Strategic alliances will help catalyze your firm’s growth because they empower each partner to serve clients better. Through the alliance, your clients benefit from the expertise of trusted professionals and feel satisfied knowing you are working together as a team to help them achieve their financial goals.
A successful alliance is a formal affiliation between two parties that creates a vested interest to help the other grow.
In a study performed by CEG Worldwide, it is noted that referrals from other professionals are a key source of new clients for 81.9% of today’s top financial advisors.²
Your affiliation is a formalized, ongoing relationship that encompasses a distinct set of responsibilities committed to by both companies. Commitment from both parties provides the foundation for a deep routed, profitable relationship for all involved. At the core of your affiliation is a set of bona fide benefits to each partner involved – most often in the form of added value to clients and specialized expertise.
Follow The 10-Step Process
Step 1: Identify Potential Partners
Often financial advisors choose to work with professionals that clients have already secured for outside services. Expand beyond this inner circle and explore other firms that focus on people in your niche market. Start by making a list of the top three local attorney, CPA, and insurance firms in your area. Identify potential partners through Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, city information, and any other resources you have access.
Choose counterparts that you can easily collaborate with, develop good connections, and those that will actively introduce you to new clients rather than waiting for an opportunity.
Step 2: Research Potential Partners
Gather data and research your potential alliances. Your goal in this step is to support your position that a strategic alliance with this firm will be mutually beneficial.
Step 3: Make the First Call
In a tough economy where all professionals are feeling the crunch, everyone can use extra help with business development. Contact your selected alliance prospects and schedule an appointment to discuss opportunities for working together. Tell them you will share data about your mutual niche market, how to market to them, and the most effective way to earn their business.
Step 4: The First Meeting
Your goal in this step is to determine suitability to form an alliance.
- Talk about the potential alliance, the benefits of working together, and the opportunity for revenue sharing.
- Share the information you gathered earlier about your mutual niche market, how to market to them, and the most effective way to earn their business. This will support your case for forming an alliance and position you as an industry expert and influencer.
- Provide specific details regarding expectations and what each firm will do to uphold a mutual commitment for your partnership.
- Evaluate and gain a better understanding of your potential alliance.
- Make a mutual decision. If you determine working together will benefit all parties involved, your clients and each firm, schedule your next appointment to finalize your agreement.
Step 5: Identify Specific Opportunities
Brainstorm about every opportunity to work together. Focus on core interests and business themes you have in common. Discuss objectives, obstacles, and expectations for your future relationship. Determine what your alliance should accomplish over the next 12 months.
It only takes a small number of strategic alliances to create a positive impact
Step 6: Establish Revenue/Profit Goals
Determine ideal and minimum revenue and/or profit goals for your alliance. Your ideal goal should represent the revenue and new assets under management it will take to make the program a success. The minimum goal is what must be achieved in order to continue the partnership.
Step 7: Develop an Agenda
Create an agenda that includes any event or campaign you plan to execute with your strategic alliance over the next 12 months. Identify the goal for each item, the strategy you will use to obtain results, when the event will take place, and who will be responsible for implementation.
While creating your strategy, include the following best practices to ensure your partnership is effective and creates an opportunity for new clients.
Step 8: Present the Plan
Schedule a meeting with your potential alliance to present your plan. Review your opportunities, strategy, and the specific steps you will take to reach your goal. Discuss profit and revenue goals as well as expenses. Look for any gaps in your initial plan and make necessary modifications.
Step 9: Commitment and Implementation
Upon mutual agreement, make a commitment and implement your plan. Identify team members who will act as a point person to ensure implementation takes place as scheduled.
Step 10: Analyze and Follow Up
Continually refer back to your alliance plan to monitor and celebrate successes and make changes when you find something isn’t working. You can have the most brilliant plan in the world, but it will do no good if it isn’t implemented and followed up on regularly.
Download Ironstone’s workbook, “Building Strategic Alliances – Best Practices for Financial Advisors”.
The e-book will guide you through each step and includes tables, checklists, and notes area
to keep all of your information in one place.
Patience, Persistence, and Profit
Building a professional network takes time along with a lot of hard work. The benefits you present to your clients in the form of added expertise, collaboration with other professionals, and credibility in the market are worth your investment.
Serving affluent clients requires that you have a suite of services beyond investment advice available. Don’t give up.
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