Unconventional Centers of Influence

Note: As we begin a three-part series on centers of influence, we are pleased to welcome our friend and colleague Bob David (bobdavidlive.com) as our guest contributor.

Are you an advisor frustrated with the results you’re getting from networking with traditional centers of influence (COIs) such as CPAs and attorneys? If you said “yes” to that question, rest assured you’re not alone. Over the years we’ve been taught that the best referrals will most likely come from CPAs and attorneys because they deal in areas that give them a front-row seat to financially impactful scenarios and circumstances.

While this makes perfect sense, smart advisors are also seeking viable alternatives. This is where the idea of unconventional COIs comes into play, and where I think there are abundant opportunities to widen your network in ways you may have never thought of before. I believe makes even more sense when you think in terms of building a supportive ecosystem of unconventional COIs around target niche markets.

Here are 2 examples of how you can do just that, each based on a different niche or target market.

Family-Owned Businesses. Most advisors have family-owned business owners as clients but may have not fully leveraged all the other professionals serving this market. Here are a few to help expand your thinking and your network:

  • Supplier vendors. Have you connected with all the suppliers of the business? Consider that these supplier vendors have existing relationships with other business owners.
  • Business brokers. Do you have clients with family members working the business, but none of the kids have an interest in taking over some day? At some point, as part of a business exit strategy, your client may want to sell.
  • Certified Valuation Analysts (CVA). Business-owner clients may need to value their business for a variety of reasons. These professionals know other business owners and can be an excellent part of your network.
  • Payroll Companies. This often-neglected group can be a strong referral source.
  • Commercial Real Estate Brokers. Do you have business-owner clients looking for new office space?
  • Group Health Insurance Broker. These pros know a lot of small business owners.

Widows. This niche will likely continue to grow as women continue to outlive their husbands. Here are some unconventional COIs to build a supportive ecosystem for widows:

  • Realtors who specialize in low-maintenance housing developments. While some may be attached to their homes, I’ve seen many widows who are ready to downsize after the passing of a spouse. You may have clients who need their services, and realtors certainly come in contact with widows who need yours.
  • Home security system installers. Suddenly living alone can trigger fear and insecurity; having an alarm system can bring peace of mind. And I’ve observed over the years that often very interesting conversations can occur with service providers when they are in your home. Many advisors are surprised when I tell them that they can get referrals from these pros.
  • Luxury travel agents. I’ve seen a lot of widows who love to travel and typically do it with other widows. They just seem to find each other, and these pros come in contact with them all the time. Why not become a “dream merchant” and show your widowed clients how they can afford a traveling lifestyle and you might be in a position to introduce them to a luxury travel agent?
  • Hair stylists and salon owners. Some advisors are shocked when I tell them this, but anecdotally I have seen a ton of referrals come from ladies getting chatty sitting in the chair talking with their stylist.
  • Pet sitters. Have you noticed that many widows are extremely attached to a dog or cat? Psychologists tell us that one of the one of the best ways to heal from the grief of a lost spouse is to have the companionship of a pet in the home. Pet sitters can occupy a highly-trusted place in the minds of widows and often become close with their widow clients, opening the door to conversations that just might be money related.

I challenge all advisors to think about their own target or niche markets and brainstorm about how you can create a network of unconventional COIs. One surprise bonus may be that you discover some of these new COIs become new niches themselves. At the very least, they are professionals who provide needed services to your clients. Just the fact that you know who they are and what they can do will help you stand out from the competition.

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