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Building a Dream Team

Joining forces with other professional advisors can create a win-win situation.

By Janet C. Arrowood

Teaming with other professional advisors is a great way to market your business, build relationships, share costs, gain expertise and reach more of your target market.

Consider the range of professional advisors with whom you might team. We all think of attorneys and CPAs, but what about other advisors our clients and prospects rely upon? Some are obvious, some less so. Let's look at the possibilities.

Attorneys

Attorneys are the old standby. Having a good working relationship with them benefits you and your clients. Attorneys are being granted more freedom to actively market their services, and like us, have a great need to increase their client base. They are often open to supporting a workshop, if we do the work. The difficult part is getting them to refer clients to us, but it can be done. Having an attorney with the right specialty at your seminars is a great idea; he or she might even share the cost of the seminar.

CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers

CPAs are a given, but don't forget accountants and bookkeepers. Often these advisors have or want to approach clients with pensions or other benefit plans and might be interested in your perspective and advice. They are often open to small seminars designed to educate and solicit clients.

Business-valuation experts

The business market is a target for many financial advisors. Business-valuation experts are often among the first people nontax advisors call when they are selling or buying a business. Once the valuation is done, there is a need for a buy-sell agreement and a funding mechanism. This is a good opportunity for you to team up with three advisors—a valuation expert, a tax advisor and a business attorney. The life and disability insurance sales can often be substantial.

Real estate agents

Real estate agents have access to a steady stream of new people—people with income, jobs and no local contacts. Their clients need all kinds of insurance and information, while as advisors, we have access to clients who tell us about their plans. As a result, we can provide great leads to real estate agents.

Teaming with them provides another win-win situation. You may share marketing costs with a real estate agent, provided your broker-dealer or general agent approves. This way you target new residents ahead of time. Later, you can introduce your new clients to other advisors in your network.

Other insurance and financial advisors

Many insurance advisors are specialists. In fact, the ones who succeed do not try to "be all things to all people." As a result, many employee benefits specialists, for example, may sell little or no individual insurance or investment products. And many specialty agents aren't even licensed to sell life, health or disability insurance. Joint marketing programs with these specialists could get you access to the business owner for estate planning or buy-sell funding. Your counterpart gains access to setting up the benefit plans or specialty insurance plans.

Nonprofit groups and other professional associations

Did you ever want to market disability income insurance programs or other benefit programs to a large, interested, well-qualified group? Organizations such as chambers of commerce and associations of engineers, architects, nurses, doctors, attorneys, CPAs and others are often very approachable about association benefit plans. Membership retention and recruitment is always high on their list, and association benefits are an important part of those efforts. You offer a valuable service and reap a large reward.

Human resources directors or managers

Human resources executives are usually the people who make the recommendations and buying decisions for employee benefits. Going beyond the traditional benefits (group health, disability, life and pension), there is a great marketing opportunity with these over-worked professionals. Considering the recent number of layoffs, companies have a great need to explain benefits and options to departing employees. The human resources staff doesn't usually have the time or expertise to do this. That's where you come in. You become a valuable team member and have access to a large number of qualified prospects who need to review programs such as pension rollovers, COBRA alternatives and life and disability insurance. You handle the outplacement benefits briefing and free up the human resources staff.

Relocation specialists and executive recruiters

Even in periods of high unemployment, 94 percent of people who want to work are working. Relocation specialists have access to people moving between cities because their contacts are human resources managers and executive recruiters. The inbound employees often ask their real estate agents, relocation specialists, human resources staff or executive recruiters for referrals to insurance, financial, legal and other advisors. If you are working with larger companies, you probably have access to information that would benefit these advisors, too.

Bankers

Bank and credit union executives are now selling insurance and investments, but not all have jumped on the bandwagon. Even if the bank is selling life insurance and annuities, it may not be offering disability insurance or medical insurance. (In many states, these licenses are separate from the life insurance license, and bank employees usually don't have the necessary licenses.) Again, you have access to clients and prospects who need banking services and the banks have clients who need your services. Banks also have great conference rooms for holding seminars, and they send out monthly statements that can include stuffers.

Career and business coaches

Coaches work with businesses and individuals who are trying to focus and increase their level of success. They have good relationships with potentially successful business owners, and you have good relationships with business owners who might need an extra push. This is another great opportunity to jointly market your services.

Joint marketing

Joint marketing campaigns can include mailings, seminars, advertising, newsletters, media coverage, open houses and much more. If you decide to market services jointly with other professional advisors, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • First, have a written agreement about who will do what, how bills will be paid, how clients will be allocated and serviced and how disputes will be handled. Each profession has its own formal or informal ethics and rules, and joint marketing requires dealing with both sets of ethics and other legal or personal limitations.
  • Second, be prepared to give more than you receive, at least initially. Most of these professional advisors have far less experience with marketing than you do. They are not as experienced as you are with “thinking outside the box” and coming up with creative and low-cost marketing programs. They may also have been burned professionally or personally by an insurance or financial advisor. The adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” is highly applicable in joint marketing.
  • Third, go in with an open mind and a positive attitude. If you approach teaming with other professional advisors as the wonderful marketing opportunity it is, you could be at the start of a great relationship and maybe a lifelong friendship.

Janet C. Arrowood is managing director of Continuing Education Unlimited, Inc. and a registered representative of The Leaders Group. She may be contacted at jc_arrow@hotmail.com.



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