The source of where you get your prospects has a massive influence on your business. But too many agents are focused on increasing lead generation without evaluating the quality of the opportunity. 

There are plenty of ways to generate leads digitally, but they will never hold a candle to the word-of ­mouth referral. Most agencies, however, don’t have the volume to create enough of a flow to grow at the pace they desire. 

This is where niche networking comes in. Creating relationships with influencers who can drive high ­quality referrals through your door is the least expensive and most powerful marketing strategy a small business can deploy. 

No matter what your business focus, tenure or resources, here are four simple steps you can take to scale referral networks within a niche:

1) Determine your ideal client.

Your ideal client is your bull’s-eye prospect. Everything you do should be to garner more prospects like your ideal client.

Choose your ideal client based on the cross section of three considerations: Your expertise and experience, your product offerings and the ROI on the particular client. Don’t pick a category if you’ve never been exposed to it – you should have familiarity and a gut feeling that it’s your bread and butter. Make sure your products match up with what your ideal client needs so you have an easier time adding value. And understand that your time is valuable. If it takes a ton of time to quote, wait for underwriting and then convert the prospect to a client for a small revenue-generating sale, it’s probably not in your best interest from an ROI standpoint.

2) Reverse-engineer to the influencer.

Who are the influencers in the professional life of your ideal client? An influencer is someone your client trusts and relies on consistently.

For example, if your ideal client is a high net­worth individual, influencers might include family office planners and attorneys. If your ideal client is a commercial landlord, it might be commercial realtors or bankers. If your ideal client is an IT company, an ideal influencer might be a CPA firm that specializes in IT companies. If your ideal client is a moving company, a strong influencer could be the entity who sells or leases their trucks.

3 ) Become an expert in the influencer community.

It’s not enough to just show up and introduce yourself – and it’s even worse if you show up and explain why they should refer their clients to you. 

To make inroads with influencers, you need to first learn their language, understand their processes, recognize their pain points, and become well acquainted with their opportunities. The only way to scale referral relationships within a niche is to help as many influencers get what they most want as possible. 

This may mean removing obstacles, providing education and training, offering marketing support, helping with drip strategies or assisting with client appreciation events. The only way you can do this is to find out what matters to them, and the only way to do that is to spend time in their world. Join associations, networking groups and social media groups, and meet them with your interviewer hat on – not your sales hat.

4) Rinse and repeat your proven process.

Design a step-by-step process in checklist format for how you plan to scale networking within your niche. This should cover best practices for how to obtain meetings, how to master the in-person meeting, what to do post-meeting, and how to nurture your new relationships once they start referring you.

Since you now know all about your influencer community’s pain, processes and opportunities, you should be able to position value that matters. If someone tells you they wish they could meet more of a particular industry professional, figure out how to make that happen for them. If your influencer says they wish they had more time to drip on old clients for new services, come up with a strategy to help them achieve this. If someone wants help financing a specific marketing initiative, evaluate the opportunity, create an agreement and make it happen if you see fit. If people want help with social media, go take a course yourself and then offer the support for free to your influencer community. 

Value is different to everyone. Your job is to find out what they want, then go produce. 

Matt Naimoli and Zack Gould are co-founders of G&N Insurance and the podcast “BobbleOn,” which releases valuable content weekly to help agents across the country improve their systems, enhance their culture and make better marketing decisions.

This article was published in the October 2019 edition of Colorado Insurance News (COIN). To view more articles and read the whole COIN, click here.

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