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Category: Leads · 5 min read

How to Navigate the World of Online Referrals

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on March 28, 2019

author profile photo

on March 28, 2019

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The world of referrals has changed. 

While old-fashioned, in-person word-of-mouth recommendations continue to drive results for businesses, digital recommendations have become a primary source of referrals for business owners and consumers alike. A survey from BrightLocal, a SEO optimization company, revealed that 85 percent of consumers value online reviews at the same level as personal recommendations.

Facebook is a primary example of this. They have a tool called Facebook Recommendations, where you can ask your Facebook friends for advice and suggestions on certain topics, such as “Where can I find the best chocolate caramels?” or “Which financial professional do you work with?” It’s very possible that your clients could refer you to their friends on Facebook. Or maybe they’ll tag you in a Tweet thanking you for great service, or leave a glowing review of your advice on Yelp or Google.  

Here’s a hypothetical example of how online referrals can work: Jackson posts on Facebook, asking for recommendations about financial professionals. One of your clients comments on Jackson’s post, referring you. He includes a link to your Facebook page and your website. Jackson clicks on both and does some additional research on you, including looking at online reviews from your past and current clients, and eventually sends you an email about scheduling an appointment.  

For financial professionals, online referrals and reviews may seem foreign and daunting, but it can lead to quality prospects if you have the right tools in place. Here are six tips to help you navigate the world of online referrals. 

85 percent of consumers value online reviews at the same level as personal recommendations.

1. Understand Why People Refer 

Why do people refer certain businesses to others? Ultimately, they do it to help. Their financial professional helped them, now they want others to experience the same service they received. They also refer for selfish reasons, because they want to look good. They want to have the answers and want to show others that they are knowledgeable. They may not do this intentionally, but it’s a valid reason why people refer, so try to use it to your advantage.  


2. Get Your Story Straight 

In order for the hypothetical scenario above to work, your “brand” as a financial professional has to be in place. Your brand is your unique purpose, what sets you apart, and how you operate. When your clients refer you, they should be able to say why and how you helped them. Yes, you’re a financial professional, but dive deeper than that. Why do you do what you do? Write it down and live by it. That’s your brand. That’s your purpose. That’s what makes you different than the financial professional down the block and gets clients to refer you.  


3. Work on Your Website 

Once you have your brand story written down and finalized, add it to your website and Facebook page. Your website should state how you help your clients and what you do for them. It helps to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal prospect. When they go to your website, what do you want them to see? What would get them to schedule an appointment or phone call with you? In our world of online referrals, potential prospects will go directly to your website, so make sure they’ll like what they see. Make your website clear, and try to strike the balance between focusing on your potential clients’ needs and explaining how you can help them.  


4. Build Credibility 

Relationships are built on time and credibility. But how do you grow that credibility? Your brand, your website, and in-person client meetings help, but sometimes there needs to be more. Think about what could set you apart from other financial professionals. What makes you better for your client than someone else? Really get to the heart of your purpose and passion, and then brainstorm new ways to show this. This might mean starting a podcast, having regular contact with your current clients, writing a weekly blog or newsletter, narrowing down your target market to a specific kind of client, or even sharing client testimonials. In the end, the goal here is to establish a relationship and credibility with your clients, so they know who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Once you are doing this, the next step is to promote it. Post it on your social media accounts and post regularly, so your content is easy to find and top of mind for your current and potential clients. All of these things can help boost your credibility and make you the go-to referral with your clients.  


5. Be Ready for Online Reviews 

The tips above can help prepare you for when clients refer you by word-of-mouth or commenting on their friends’ Facebook Recommendations post, but there’s one more thing to consider: online reviews. These days, reviews can make or break your business. While restaurants and hotels are heavily reviewed (on Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor), so are businesses. Do a Google search of your business and see what reviews come up. Are they positive or negative? Positive online reviews can help generate new leads and clients, and 73 percent of consumers surveyed said that positive reviews give a local business more credibility, according to BrightLocal.1 Obviously, negative reviews aren’t great, but they can give you a chance to respond positively to them and improve your business.  

Do a Google search of your business and see what reviews come up. Are they positive or negative?

6. Ask for Online Reviews 

One way to enhance the online reviews about you and your business is to ask your clients for a review. This can be a simple, quick ask, and you might be surprised at how many clients would be willing to help you out. BrightLocal revealed that, when asked, 68 percent of consumers left an online review.1 Make it clear where they should review you online (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, or your website). In the end, this can help build a positive reputation and help boost your chances of future referrals.  

Even though the digital world has changed how referrals are shared, the concept is still the same. When it comes down to it, it’s about your clients sharing the experience they had and helping their friends experience the same thing. By recognizing this and implementing these tips, you can be well-prepared for online referrals and ready to help potential clients whenever and wherever they reach out to you.  

For more ways to grow your business digitally, check out our Digital Builder services, or contact us today.  



1. BrightLocal. “Local Consumer Review Survey.” 2017. 


For Financial Professional use only, not for use with the general public. #19-0152-032120 

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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